No time like present for Fire to get going in right direction
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media April 5, 2013 11:58PM
The Fire’s Sherjill MacDonald (right, with the Revolution’s Jose GonÇalves) played well last season against the Red Bulls. | Getty Images
RED BULLS AT FIRE
The facts: 4 p.m., ESPN2
Updated: May 8, 2013 6:38AM
In the two weeks since its 4-1 home loss to Chivas USA, the Fire has had plenty of opportunity to spin the worst start in franchise history into optimism.
The Fire will return to action Sunday at Toyota Park against the New York Red Bulls, a team against which it went 2-1-0 and scored five goals last season. But there wasn’t a player on the Fire willing to use the team’s success last season against the Red Bulls to deflect the pressure the team will face Sunday. Having notched only one point through four games, the Fire knows it faces a critical game.
‘‘[Last season] was a long time ago,’’ Fire forward Sherjill MacDonald said. ‘‘I think New York has a different team now. Of course, it’s nice to look at the old games. But this is a totally new game, and we have to be ready for that.
‘‘The last game against Chivas, I was feeling good. I think I had one of my better games . . . so I just have to keep maintaining.’’
MacDonald, in particular, found success last season against the Red Bulls. When the teams played Oct. 6 in New York, MacDonald scored both goals in the Fire’s 2-0 victory. More impressive was that he scored those goals on only two chances.
The Fire, which has scored only one goal this season, hasn’t struggled to create chances. It’s finishing those chances that has been the principal cause of its poor start.
‘‘It’s different personnel that they have,’’ coach Frank Klopas said of the Red Bulls. ‘‘[Forward Thierry] Henry is obviously still the big key [and midfielder Tim] Cahill. I think with them . . . you can’t give them a lot of opportunities because they have a lot of quality. For us, it’s staying disciplined, really staying compact and being organized defensively, then also being a team that’s going to be good in possession and not turn over the ball.’’
The Fire had success precisely in that area against the Red Bulls last season. Not only was its offense
potent, but it also was successful in controlling the ball. The Red Bulls were rarely able to counter, something that caused the Fire problems in its game two weeks ago against Chivas.
‘‘When you think back on it, we did have some good moments against them, but it’s a completely different year for us,’’ forward Chris Rolfe said.
One that can start to trend
upward with a victory Sunday.