Flop against DC doesn't worry stingy Fire defense

Arne Friedrich

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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Before last Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to D.C. United, the Chicago Fire defense hadn’t had an all-out collapse. Mistakes in the back had mired the Fire for stretches early in the season, but the team still managed to play 24 games without allowing more than two goals in one game.

But last week, the Fire defense fell apart, allowing goals on plays where United players simply sprung free of their defenders and connected on crosses in the penalty area.

“Everything was wrong,” center back Arne Friedrich said. “Our shape was wrong, we played bad soccer. Everybody faded. Everybody had a very bad performance.” 

D.C. put four past Chicago

Head coach Frank Klopas didn’t think it wasn’t necessarily tactical or organizational issues that plagued the Fire in their last game before a 10-day break leading up to Sunday’s bout with Houston (7 pm ET, Galavision).

Rather, the Fire players weren’t sticking to their marks at the critical moment.

“I think we were in good spots, and sometimes we were just caught ball-watching,” Klopas said. “We were unaware of where the man and the ball was.”

The game was the Fire’s second without defensive midfielder Logan Pause, who broke two ribs in a collision in the Fire’s game against Philadelphia earlier this month.

In his place was Daniel Paladini, who scored one of the two Fire goals. While Pause plays strictly as a “destroyer,” breaking up attacks, Paladini ventures forward more, changing the Fire defenders’ responsibilities slightly.

Defender Austin Berry thinks Pause’s absence has affected the Fire defenders simply because they’re used to playing with their captain.

“Playing with each other, we get more comfortable,” Berry said. “We get to know our tendencies. Danny’s just kind of new into our back six, so it’s taking a little time to get used to his tendencies, but I think [Paladini will] do a good job there.”

It’s possible, though unlikely, that Pause will be back for Sunday’s game against the Dynamo, when the Fire have a chance to leapfrog third-place Houston in the standings.

But Friedrich is confident that, regardless of Pause’s status, the Fire’s worst defensive performance of the season was a one-time occurrence. 

“Even the great teams in the world have one or two games in the season where everything went bad,” Friedrich said. “This was our game. I’m pretty sure we won’t see it again.”