BRIDGEVIEW Ill. – The Chicago Fire tied Real Salt Lake 0-0 at Toyota Park Wednesday night, setting an MLS record with their fifth consecutive home draw.
The match was a tale of two sides of the ball for Chicago, who defended well but struggled to get anything going in the attack.
This Thursday’s On Fire looks at three other important storylines from Wednesday’s game.
1. Barouch gets his first start
Rookie forward Orr Barouch (pictured above) made the first start of his MLS career Wednesday night, taking the spot vacated by suspended striker Cristian Nazarit.
The 19-year-old Barouch, who has made a name for himself as an impactful late-game sub, played 70 minutes in the scoreless draw and looked decent – if not altogether dangerous – against RSL’s tough backline.
“It meant a lot,” Barouch said of getting his first start. “I thought I did pretty well. I thought I could’ve, or as a team we could’ve, attacked a little bit more.”
Nazarit will be serving the second game of his two-game suspension on Sunday against New York (2:00 pm ET, ESPN), and it is likely that Barouch will start once again.
2. Quiet under Klopas
In the five matches that he’s been interim head coach, Frank Klopas has only seen three goals scored – two by the Fire and one by the New England Revolution.
While Klopas has been encouraged by Chicago’s improved defensive performance, he has to be worried by their lack of offensive output. Yes, the Fire have been a bit unlucky at times, hitting the post and getting stopped by some big saves by opposing goalkeepers, but the fact of the matter is they’re not creating enough chances.
The lack of chance creation, and the corresponding lack of goals, has meant that the Fire are tying games that they could easily win. The team isn’t taking advantage of their strong defensive play and – considering the hole they dug themselves into earlier this season – that could be important if they have any playoff aspirations at all.
“We've just got to be sharper up front,” Fire defender Gonzalo Segares said Wednesday night. “I think that once we start scoring and getting goals, we’re going to be a good team and harder to beat.”
3. Center midfield struggles to create
Though Chicago’s center midfield tandem of Baggio Husidic and Daniel Paladini did a great defensive job Wednesday night, they were not very effective when they had the ball at their feet. The duo didn’t create much, their distribution was relatively poor and they weren’t very good off the ball, either.
The fact that RSL slowed down Chicago’s main offensive weapons, wingers Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko, only highlighted the center midfield’s lackluster offensive effort.
“It was tough at first for us,” Klopas said of the center midfield’s play. “They’re [Real Salt Lake] a team whose strength is in the middle of the field, and I think we had a little bit of a hard time.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.