Fire’s defense coming together, with Arne Friedrich leading way
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media July 2, 2012 11:49PM
Arne Friedrich (23) of the Fire and C.J. Sapong battle for the ball. | David Banks~Getty Images
Fire at Dynamo
The facts: 7:30, Ch. 5.2
Updated: July 2, 2012 11:54PM
When Arne Friedrich arrived in Chicago, the center back cautioned that the Fire’s back line wouldn’t become an instant success.
Instead, the German national emphasized the kind of process that doesn’t necessarily yield immediate results.
While the Fire’s defense has been among the best in MLS this season, it didn’t realize its potential until Saturday, when the team beat Sporting Kansas City 1-0, giving credence to Friedrich’s declaration.
“It’s not just the back four, it’s the holding [midfielders],” Friedrich said. “We were working on that in the last couple of weeks. And this is what I told you when I came in. It’s not a thing that changed in a week or in two weeks. We have to repeat it all the time, and in my eyes, it’s getting better and better. This is the key in my eyes. You win championships if you stay close together [formation-wise].”
The feeling within the team is that the Fire’s defense can become more difficult to break down.
The defense has kept the team in most games this season, and now it’s winning them by shutting opponents down in the final 10 minutes. The Fire has lost by two goals only twice, in road games against the Colorado Rapids and New England Revolution.
When the team takes its three-game winning streak into Houston tonight to face the Dynamo, which hasn’t lost a home game this season, the Fire’s defense will need a repeat performance. A victory would give the team a four-game MLS winning streak for the first time since 2005.
Playing together for four months should yield the kind of consistency the Fire needs as it inches closer to the top of the Eastern Conference.
“Practicing our shape and our organization I think is huge for us, especially being on the back line when Arne comes in,” goalie Sean Johnson said. “He’s a bit more experienced [in organizing the team]. But we’ve got talented guys to put it all together.”
NOTES: Midfielder Rafael Robayo didn’t travel with the Fire to Houston because of a shoulder injury that an X-ray revealed isn’t serious. He’s expected to be ready for the game Sunday against the Los Angeles Galaxy at Toyota Park.
◆ Midfielder Sebastian Grazzini didn’t travel with the team, either. He still is dealing with undisclosed family issues.