Solid defense, stalled offense the story for Fire at home
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — The Chicago Fire were strong on defense but stagnant on offense Wednesday night, playing Real Salt Lake to a scoreless draw at Toyota Park.
The Fire back line held Salt Lake’s dynamic attack in check, suffocating RSL’s diamond midfield with some high-pressure play. Salt Lake was limited to a few meager chances as the Fire recorded their fourth shutout in five games.
WATCH: Full Match Highlights
But for as good as they were on defense, Chicago seriously struggled in the attack. Salt Lake squeezed the Fire offense on the sidelines and Chicago couldn’t adjust, failing to switch the ball to the open weak side often enough to take advantage of RSL’s unbalanced defense.
Chicago, who never came very close to scoring, felt that their weak offensive performance outweighed their good defensive play and left the match disappointed.
“It’s frustrating,” Fire defender Gonzalo Segares told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “They came and did a good job. They pinched us on the right side and we were not able to move the ball fast enough to come around and come in on the weak side.”
“We’ve just got to be smarter,” Segares added. “We’ve got to mature in the sense of knowing what they’re doing and trying to counter that and find different ways in which we can get through that difficulty.”
Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas lamented Chicago’s poor attack in his postgame press conference, blaming slow ball movement and a shortage of creative ideas for the lackluster offense.
“The last couple days we worked on being very quick and [on playing] one- or two-touch combination plays,” Klopas said. “We wanted to always look to switch the ball away from pressure and I felt we weren’t as sharp and we forced the ball and made turnovers. Our ball movement was slow and our ideas were not clear.”
While the Fire emphasized their poor offensive play after the match, it is important to note how strong they were in the back. Chicago held the normally high-flying RSL attack to just two shots on goal and never allowed their possession game to take off.
“I think we were pretty good, we were pretty sharp,” Segares said. “We had a lot of good communication and overall I thought we did a good job containing their guys. For me, they’re probably the best team in this league, they’re really good at moving the ball around and I think we did a good job on them.”
Now Chicago turn their attention to Sunday’s match against Eastern Conference leaders New York, against whom they’ll try to end their run of five-straight home draws, a league record.
“Every game at home is important to win,” Segares said. “We’re not proud of that record, but we’ve got a young team and we got to keep working.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.