On Fire: Attack impotent again despite man advantage

The Chicago Fire extended their league winless streak to 11 games Thursday night, playing 10-man Sporting Kansas City to a scoreless draw on opening night at Livestrong Sporting Park.

This Friday’s On Fire breaks down the result and looks ahead to the Fire’s next match, a road game at Columbus on Sunday.

Man advantage?

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Kansas City 'keeper Jimmy Nielsen’s 67th-minute red card gave the Fire a great opportunity to end their winless run. Nielsen gifted Chicago a man advantage — from then on, they should’ve been able to hold the ball, create opportunities and test the Sporting defense.

Problem was, Chicago didn’t do any of that. Their attack, which was stagnant before Nielsen’s ejection, didn’t improve despite going a man up; instead, it suffered from a lack of movement and ideas. The Fire didn’t try and get behind the Sporting back four often enough, generating nearly all their chances through long-range shots by holding midfielder Daniel Paladini.  

“Everything was pushed in front of them and we made it a little too easy for their defenders and a little too predictable when we had the ball," Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “I think we just always have to look to the forwards to get behind. [We can’t] just keep it in front and make it easy. Our movement has to be better.”

Shutout streak moves to two

Though their attack was impotent, the Fire were able to take solace in the fact they held a clean sheet Thursday for the second straight game.  

“It’s great,” Fire 'keeper Sean Johnson said. “We played really solid defensively. We stressed over the last couple games being compact, being on the same page and I think it worked tonight. It’s definitely a good thing when you can string shutouts together, when your unit's cohesive.”

The Fire can still improve their defense, though. The team was occasionally sloppy and dodged a few major bullets Thursday night, the biggest of which came in the 85th minute when right back Bratislav Ristic could’ve easily been whistled for fouling Sporting DP Omar Bravo in the box.

View on the Crew

The Fire don't have a lot of time to think about Thursday night’s game as they start preparing for Sunday’s match at Columbus.

If Chicago’s winless streak ends against the Crew, it will probably happen without some regulars in the starting lineup. Klopas told MLSsoccer.com Thursday night that he’ll likely rest some usual first-teamers on Sunday when the Fire play what will be their third match in eight days.

“It’s a short turnaround … so we have to see how everyone’s feeling,” Klopas said. “This was a hard-fought game, and with the humidity it takes a toll, but we’ll assess everything [on Friday] and we’ll put out a lineup that can win the game for us.”  

Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com.  Email him at sam.h.stejskal@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.