While the Fire obviously won against Colorado on Wednesday it still wasn't the prettiest of games. Offensively Chicago was excellent. Chances were created, penalties converted and Mike Magee had a very close offsides decision go against him. Yet the defense was shambolic. Somehow Colorado didn't score an equalizer even with several fantastic opportunities to do so. MAGIC BASED OFFENSE
Mike Magee is turning into an MVP candidate. Patrick Nyarko, Alex and Dilly Duka are benefitting from his presence. Duka had his best game in a Fire jersey Wednesday night. Speedy down the wings and confidently getting into the box. Nyarko is clearly benefiting from the shift of attention. He is free to maraud all over the place. Alex combines well with the two wingers and seems to be developing a bit of chemistry with Magee. If/when Chris Rolfe can get his game figured out he too should benefit (he showed some signs of life against Colorado). Gonzalo Segares is also better offensively. More confident getting forward as he has a player WHO ACTUALLY MAKES RUNS now to get onto the end of his crosses.
Set pieces have improved. Magee and Alex tend to take them. Paladini takes over Magee's side when he is in (another player who Magee makes better). Austin Berry is becoming a dangerous weapon in the box. We are starting to look like a threatening offensive team from the run of play and on dead ball situations.
This is different than the past. Yes Magee is the hot striker that Dominic Oduro was at the end of 2011. The difference here is that Magee has better skills than Oduro. He can drop back, get the ball and create for his teammates. He is a leader on the field in a way that the Fire haven't had since Blanco left. Fiery, will cuss out a referee in a heartbeat. More importantly he is a winner. A key component of back to back MLS Cups for the Galaxy.
Lets hope Mike Magee continues to blossom into a viable MLS MVP candidate.
WHERE THE FUCK IS THE DEFENSE?
Defensively this team is a bit of a hot mess right now. The rather punchless Colorado offense was able to create quality chances. Several of them. This is a giant concern. A golden opportunity in the Thirty-Seventh somehow went right at Sean Johnson. Anywhere else and that is a goal. The heart attack inducing chance that hit the post in the Ninety-First. Which really should have been the equalizer they were searching for. Edson Buddle was looking much like his old self except somehow not finishing (insert favorite Buddle joke here). After re-watching the game I have no idea how we escaped with a win.
So what is exactly wrong? Baky Soumare has not been the stabilizing force that many thought he would be. His physical abilities have slipped. He is a step slow to close down, has some wild tackles, and his distribution has been spectacularly bad the last three games. An even bigger concern than all of that is the partnership between him and Berry is not gelling well.
Moving Austin out of his customary left central defender slot has thrown Berry off occasionally. Soumare hasn't been good enough to cover for that change. They look to not be on the same page when it comes to keeping a disciplined back line. Soumare is almost always dropping a yard behind Berry allowing runs to slip in between the two of them. While their partnership is still in early days improvement is going to be necessary for improved play to continue.
Jalil continues to be just OK at right back. He has games of quality followed by games of lesser quality. The Colorado game is not going to go on Anibaba's highlight real. A major positive is his ability to stay on the field. He doesn't get needless cards, always works hard and provides a big body on set pieces. The Fire can win games with him at RB as long as the CB pairing is firing on all cylinders.
Pause, Larentowicz and Segares have all been pretty good. In particular Sega has been fantastic. Offensively potent and defensively sound he is having his best year in a Fire jersey since returning from Cypress. Larentowicz looked above average in the game against Colorado and has been putting together a string of good performances since the DC United game. A return to full fitness from Pause will only help the Fire defense going forward. It is undeniable that they are better organized when the Silver Fox is on the field. Having the Fire's best defender healthy and ready to go for the remainder of the season is important.
So how can this be fixed while still keeping the offensive mojo going? At this point I think you just keep sticking with the backline as it is and hope they gell. It isn't out of the realm of possibility. Soumare and Berry are both talented and one expects them to figure it out at some point. Pause returning to the starting lineup to lend defensive leadership should help out as well. I do wonder if we will see Logan start at RB yet this season. I'm not a fan of that but at this point I can't blame Klopas for wanting as many good defenders on the field as possible.
The next three games should prove fascinating.