Fire preparing to start stronger
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media June 11, 2013 10:04PM
Chicago Fire forward Chris Rolfe, top, hops over Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman to get to the ball during the first half of their MLS soccer match in Sandy, Utah, on Saturday, May 25, 2013. (AP Photo/The Salt Lake Tribune, Kim Raff) DESERET NEWS OUT; LOCAL TV OUT; MAGS OUT. ORG XMIT: UTSAC313
Updated: June 12, 2013 12:17AM
The Fire’s style of play the last two seasons has made for good theater, but the team’s 2-2 tie against the Portland Timbers on Saturday at Toyota Park reminded the Fire that drama doesn’t equate to a winning formula.
Though the Fire was able to rally after being down two goals, the takeaway from the game was that had it not been for the team’s poor play in the first half, the Fire easily would have come away with a win.
The Fire was more assertive in the second half, by far its best half this season. In the last few days of training, the team has focused on ensuring it starts the fourth-round U.S. Open Cup game Wednesday against the Columbus Crew at Toyota Park the same way.
“I don’t know how we allowed ourselves to show Portland that much respect,” midfielder Patrick Nyarko said. “I mean, they are a great team, don’t get me wrong. But I feel like we showed them a lot of respect to allow them to play their game in the first half. If we had pressured them a little bit more in the first half, it would have been a different story.”
Last season, the Fire was able to rally after giving up early goals. This season, the team has struggled to come back.
Though most of the players believe the problem is correctable simply by changing their mind-set at the start of games, the team continues to struggle possessing the ball.
When the Fire is unable to retain possession, it often leads to counterattacking opportunities for the opposition, which was the case in the first half against the Timbers. Possession evened out after the Fire pushed the game in the second half.
“It’s obviously a team issue. Sometimes we play a little too frantic, and that goes for everybody,” forward Chris Rolfe said. “So even when you bypass the midfield and it, say, goes up to me and [forward] Mike [Magee], a lot of times we’re not doing our job properly.”