Fire plans to toughen its approach against KC pounders
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media May 11, 2012 11:57PM
Forward Patrick Nyarko (left) says that the finesse-oriented Fire “cannot just play pretty and expect to get results.” | Abelimages~Getty Images
Updated: June 13, 2012 8:11AM
The game Saturday against Sporting Kansas City at Toyota Park will feature tactics the Fire has seen from other opponents. But the club is hoping it won’t be feeling a case of déjà vu at the end of the game.
More than any other club the Fire has faced, Sporting Kansas City likes to employ a physical, direct style of play.
When the Fire lost 2-1 at home to the Seattle Sounders on April 28, that approach threw the team off its game.
“[Sporting Kansas City] believes in their system, and they pound, pound, pound and hope you break down for them to take advantage of it,” forward Patrick Nyarko said. “But we need to stick to the game plan for 90 minutes.”
While the club has been committed to its style of play — staying defensive and compact and using its speed in the counterattack to generate offense — the Fire knows it needs to set the tone Saturday.
With players such as Nyarko and playmaker Sebastian Grazzini in the central midfield, the Fire tends to play with more finesse.
That has served the club well as it sits fourth in the Eastern Conference with 12 points, nine behind conference-leader Sporting Kansas City, which won its first seven games but has lost its last two.
As opponents more regularly try to kick the heels of Fire players, bump them on their runs and push them in the box on set plays, the club knows its play needs to become more multidimensional.
“We’ve got to learn to play both ways,” Nyarko said. “We cannot just play pretty and expect to get results. If the going gets tough and we’re in those kind of games, we need to match that intensity. Especially being at home, we need to impose our will on the game.”
Defensively, the Fire already has shown it can stop numerous offensive styles.
Particularly, it has been solid defending in the midfield and in the box on crosses and set pieces. That discipline will be important against a patient Sporting Kansas City team.
The center-back duo of Austin Berry and Arne Friedrich brings a physical presence to the Fire back line.
“In the last game here, we did a good job, especially defending,” Friedrich said. “Not just the back four, it was a good team [effort]. So this is our target for the future.
“For me it’s always important to work as a team, and when we stay close and tight on the pitch, we shouldn’t have to run too much.”