On Fire: Tactical tweak pays off on road with another point

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The Chicago Fire tied the MLS record for draws in a season this past Saturday night, playing the New York Red Bulls to a 2-2 tie at Red Bull Arena. The Fire attacked well in the match, following up their two-goal performance last week at Vancouver with another solid offensive showing.

Here are three other storylines from Saturday night that you may have missed.

Tactical tweak

The Fire changed their formation again on Saturday, switching from the lone striker alignment they’ve used in their past two games to a 4-4-2. Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko started the game at forward, with Marco Pappa and Sebastián Grazzini playing as attacking midfielders while Pável Pardo and Logan Pause slotted in at holding mid.

HIGHLIGHTS: Chicago, New York tie 2-2
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The tactical change worked relatively well in the first half, with Pappa and Grazzini popping up all over the field to play the speedy Oduro and Nyarko in behind on the Fire’s two goals.  

“I think it was a good tactic,” Oduro told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “Obviously we weren’t trying to sit back with our situation. We were just trying to go as hard as we can and I think they didn’t expect that coming in. So we were able to take them by surprise [a little bit].”

Too conservative, too early?

The Fire didn’t stay in their 4-4-2 for long though, dropping Nyarko back to right midfield and leaving Oduro alone up top when they were up 2-1 at the start of the second half to try and eliminate some of the space New York were getting on Chicago’s right flank.

Unfortunately, the move didn’t help all that much. The Red Bulls kept the pressure on and Chicago had to further tweak their tactics when Nyarko came off with an apparent injury in the 56th, dropping Oduro back to midfield and playing the bigger, slower Orr Barouch up top.

The sub hurt on two fronts as Nyarko is a better midfielder than Oduro and Barouch didn’t provide the movement that Oduro did up top.

“I think things changed when Patrick Nyarko came out,” Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said. “We had to change the way we play. Later in the game, we got tired a little bit, we dropped a little too deep and gave them space to operate.”

Gargan debuts

Defender Dan Gargan made his Fire debut Saturday night, starting and playing the full 90 minutes at right back. The former Toronto FC man, who was acquired in a trade on July 28, was solid in his first appearance in a Fire uniform, doing a decent job holding down the right flank despite not getting a ton of help from the midfield — especially in the first half.

Expect Gargan to continue to get starts at right back if Pause, who started the Fire’s recent games against Philadelphia and Vancouver at right back, remains at holding mid.

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