On Fire: A new formation, but same result in Chicago

Sebastien Grazzini

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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Though they didn’t get the three points they needed, the Chicago Fire were relatively pleased with how they played in a 1-1 draw with Philadelphia on Wednesday night, their 13th tie of the season.

New midfielders Sebastián Grazzini and Pável Pardo had a big impact on the team, moving and passing well, playing quickly and — in Pardo’s case — even scoring a goal. Here are three other storylines from Wednesday night that you might have missed.

Pardo reacts to MLS debut 

Pardo went the full 90 minutes for the Fire in his debut, playing decently in his familiar holding midfielder spot and scoring the Fire’s lone goal in the 54th minute. The Mexican midfielder was relatively happy with his performance, telling reporters that his MLS debut went better than he thought it would.

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“It was good,” Pardo said. “I thought it would be worse because I haven’t played in like two months. It was hard, but I don’t think I did a bad job.”

Pardo, who began training with the Fire last Thursday, said he wasn’t surprised that he went the full 90 minutes despite not quite being fully match fit. Chicago interim head coach Frank Klopas said he’s not concerned about Pardo’s fitness either, meaning that the two-time World Cup vet will likely go another full 90 when the Fire play Sunday at Vancouver.

“I was less concerned with his fitness,” Klopas said of Pardo. “Even though he’s [only] been with us for a week, he’s a guy with tremendous experience, a great pro, always taking tremendous care of himself or else he wouldn’t have played so many years at that level. He was smart, even in the first half he knew where to run, where to be, not waste energy and not be foolish when you’re running around.”

Formation change works well

The Fire played in a 4-5-1 for the first time under Klopas on Wednesday night, using Pardo and Daniel Paladini as holding midfielders, Patrick Nyarko and Marco Pappa as wingers, Grazzini as an attacking central midfielder and Dominic Oduro as the lone forward.

The tactical change worked relatively well, with the Fire controlling more possession than usual and playing solid defense against the Union’s midfield.

“It was good,” Fire defender Gonzalo Segares said of the new look. “We lose a guy up top but we gain the mobility with Sebastián. He’s moving all over the field, looking for those little holes in which he can turn and create chances.”

Grazzini coming out in the 66th minute didn’t change the formation, with Pappa sliding into the Argentine’s central role and Oduro dropping back to winger to make way for the burly Cristian Nazarit up top.

Pause reacts to position switch

Fire captain Logan Pause moved from holding mid to right back to make room for Pardo and acquitted himself well at his new position, getting into the attack with decent frequency and defending well.

He still needs a little bit of work at right back — his crossing could certainly improve — but it wasn’t a bad reintroduction to the backline for the veteran, who played at right back more frequently early in his career.

“It’s just a completely different role,” Pause said. “Playing holding mid, you’re kind of just that anchor and right back allows me to get up and down a little bit. My first couple years I played a lot of games there and I feel comfortable wherever I’m needed to help the team.”

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