Sporting Kansas City’s direct style bodes well for Fire
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media July 6, 2013 12:56AM
Chris Rolfe has three goals in the last two games and has been a key in the Fire’s counterattacking. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images
Updated: August 8, 2013 6:42AM
During its streak of nine games without a loss, the Fire has found success in a possession-style game and being judicious in pushing forward — a style that’s likely to fit the bill against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday at Toyota Park.
Kansas City plays a direct brand of soccer and sends numbers forward, which will give the Fire opportunities to create chances via the counterattack, a staple of its offensive philosophy.
‘‘The way that we’ve been playing lately, like last Wednesday [a 3-2 win against the San Jose Earthquakes], we’ve been playing a little bit more possession-minded,’’ said forward Chris Rolfe, who has three goals in the last two games. ‘‘We’ve been more strategic on when to counter and not just push every time. So I think we’ll probably continue to do that against this team.’’
Though it ends with Rolfe and forward Mike Magee, the counterattack can only start if the back line is solid with the ball. In particular, second-year center back Austin Berry has seen his game evolve offensively. Last season, when he was Major League Soccer’s rookie of the year, he had to adapt to the speed and grueling schedule of professional soccer. This year, he has been more assertive in attacking the gaps in the midfield and has sparked some offensive chances.
‘‘That’s something that me, personally, I’ve been trying to work on, and we try to work on as a team because we have the guys out wide and guys up top that are dangerous that when they get on one-on-one situations, they can create chances for us,’’ Berry said.
Earlier this season, the Fire struggled to finish its chances. But with Rolfe regaining his mojo and the addition one of the league’s best finishers in Magee, the Fire again is an elite counterattacking team.
Kansas City is aware that it’s vulnerable to the counterattack, yet still boasts one of the league’s best defenses, grounded in an ability to get organized quickly and give teams only a small window to try to push the ball forward.
Awareness will play a key role for the Fire.
‘‘They’re a team that pushes numbers forward,’’ Fire coach Frank Klopas said. ‘‘So if the opportunity is there, on the break, for sure you have to look at it in transition.’’