BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The Chicago Fire could have used any of a number of mitigating factors to explain the season-opening tie against the expansion Montreal Impact last weekend: the field surface, the large crowd or even the fact that Montreal had a week's head start.
But when the Fire take on the Philadelphia Union at Toyota Park on Saturday (8:30 pm ET, WATCH LIVE ONLINE), there will be no excuses if the Fire want to prove they’re different from the 2011 team that tied a record-high 16 games and won just one of its first 11 home games.
“It’s important to start off the right way, especially because last year, we had a lot of trouble at home,” Fire defender Gonzalo Segares told MLSsoccer.com. “We lost a lot of points [last year], and that really hurt us. We got a point on the road, and now we’ve got to keep that momentum going.”
To do that, the Fire are going to have to do better than the lone shot on goal in the first half during last week’s season opener. The scoring opportunities were few and far between as Montreal got numbers back against Chicago’s speedy forwards.
“They just dropped and decided to give us more space,” forward Patrick Nyarko told MLSsoccer.com. “We’ve got to recognize that. We know what’s coming, and we have to prepare for it. We need to adjust how we play, and get in behind defenders. If that means more combinations, more touch-and-go’s, more quick balls, just to get advantages going.”
Although manager Frank Klopas doesn’t think the rash of ties in 2011 were an indication of any flawed mentality or tactic, the results show that there was a difference from the beginning of last season to the end of the campaign.
The players recognize it and they want to show that the 2012 edition isn’t the same team from 2011 opening day. A win on Saturday against Philly would go a long way toward accomplishing that goal.
“Last year, where we came short was the start of the season,” Nyarko said. “When Frank took over in the middle of the season, we tied a couple of games, but we built that winner’s mentality. If we got things done right from the beginning of the season, we would have been in the playoffs. So there’s great concentration in getting things done right from the start of the season.”