For the second consecutive week, the Chicago Fire lost a one-goal lead in the second half on Saturday night, tying the Colorado Rapids 1-1 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
But despite the familiar result, the Fire preferred Saturday’s performance to last week’s disappointing home draw against Houston.
And they had good reason to. Chicago looked better against the Rapids than they did against the Dynamo, improving their attack as the match progressed and defending relatively well against a Rapids side that had given the Fire a lot of trouble in past matches.
“I think that we were able to move the ball around better tonight,” Fire defender Gonzalo Segares told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “We were able to move the ball really well from side to side.”
Segares credited Chicago’s improved play to a formation change that saw the Fire move from last week’s 4-4-2 to a 4-1-4-1. The move opened up space on the flanks for Chicago, who generated nearly all of their chances from the wing.
“Having [center midfielders Corben Bone and Gastón Puerari] drop back gave more space to [wingers] Marco Pappa and Dominic Oduro,” Segares said. “They didn’t have to drop in so much defensively so they could play a little bit wider and once we recovered the ball they could just go forward. I think it gave them a little bit more freedom.”
Oduro and Pappa took advantage of their increased freedom in the 43rd minute. Oduro ran onto a Puerari through ball on the right wing, sprinting past Colorado left back Anthony Wallace before striking a low cross that Pappa hit home at the near post.
“We were able to find Dominic behind Wallace and we were able to exploit that for the goal,” Segares said. “I definitely think that the formation helped us move the ball around a little bit better and it gave them trouble. I’m pretty excited about that.”
While they are encouraged by their improved performance, the Fire do still have a few things to work on. They didn’t possess the ball as much as they would have liked and, as has occurred in past games, they lost two points due to a critical mistake in the back and botched a breakaway up top.
The missed scoring opportunity came in the 14th minute, when Segares failed to put away a one-on-one chance against Colorado keeper Matt Pickens. The near miss was Segares’ second blown breakaway in the last three games.
“I just got to start practicing with the forwards,” he said. “The ball just stayed behind me when I tried to hit it. I should have hit it across and I went near post and Pickens made a save.”
The costly defensive error wouldn’t come until the 49th minute. Center back Yamith Cuesta got caught ball watching, allowing Rapids forward Omar Cummings to pick out wide open strike partner Andre Akpan in the box for the equalizer.
“We were not tight with the forward right there in the box,” Segares said. “Again it’s those little mistakes that have been haunting us for these past games and are making us drop points. We’re not happy all the way. I think we had a great game plan and I think we were doing it to perfection and had one loss of concentration and they punished us.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.