Punchless Fire missing Grazzini's creative presence in loss

Gonzalo Segares and Marco Pappa

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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Chicago Fire midfielder Sebastián Grazzini is out of the country, and the Fire’s ability to score goals appears to have gone with him.

For two games on the road without their No. 10, the Fire played conservatively and brought four points home from Kansas City and Houston despite scoring just one goal.

After holding less than 40 percent of possession in those two games, the Fire vowed they would push the game on Sunday against the Galaxy. But despite holding 60 percent of possession against LA, Chicago were shut out for the second straight game in the 2-0 loss and never found a way to break through a Galaxy backline that stayed compact.

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“It’s been a whole lot of games playing with [Grazzini], and we really got used to him, I’m not going to lie,” midfielder Patrick Nyarko said.

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The Fire played with an organized game plan during their two road results, and the Galaxy did the same on Sunday.

With size in the midfield, Nyarko said, the Galaxy took the Fire out of their comfort zone.

“Bruce knows how we play and how we’re dangerous, we get it out to the backs to Pável [Pardo] and Logan [Pause] and the wingers or the forwards,” Nyarko said. “They were pressuring our backs and our midfielders hard.

“If it came into them, they try to force a turnover, and I think they did that extremely well. The only option we had was to hit long balls. … We weren’t going to win that kind of game.”

The Fire did have a few golden chances, but Jalil Anibaba’s open volley from the corner of the six-yard box went wide and so did Nyarko’s point-blank header.

It appears the Fire may be without their Argentine playmaker – who is under contract for the rest of the season but taking time away from soccer to deal with “personal issues” – for some time. Chris Rolfe isn’t yet able to fill that void.

“I’m probably most comfortable playing as a second forward,” Rolfe said. “But I think given some more opportunities to play that position where Grazzini was I think I could feel it out a little more. Obviously, as you saw today, I’m still in that process of kind of sorting through that.”

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Midfielder Alex came on late, but the Fire weren’t able to regain their attacking mojo.

Alex’s role may become more prominent if Grazzini doesn’t come back. Nyarko thinks the Brazilian will eventually fit well in that role.

“I think Alex is that kind of player,” Nyarko said. “Given more time to settle in, I think he will bring back that specialness that Sebastián brought to this team.”