The Chicago Fire drew in their fourth straight game last Saturday night, playing Chivas USA to a 1-1 tie at the Home Depot Center.
Chicago weren’t pleased with the result. The Fire began the game strong and were able to take a lead into the locker room at halftime, but fell flat after the break and gave up the equalizer in the 46th minute.
This holiday-delayed On Fire takes a closer look at Saturday’s match, diving into three of its main story lines.
1) Finishing frustrations
Attacker Dominic Oduro put the Fire ahead in the 26th minute on Saturday, racing behind the Chivas defense on the left wing before beating goalkeeper Dan Kennedy to the far post from a tight angle.
But Oduro also missed a pair of golden opportunities in the first half, blowing two one-on-one chances with Kennedy that — if finished — could’ve given the Fire all three points.
“We had four clear opportunities to maybe put the game away, and we didn’t,” Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said after the match. “When you do that, the other team hangs around. I felt like the game should’ve been won in the first half.
“We limit opposing teams to one goal, and with the chances that we had, we have to be able to put some of those away and get three points."
Oduro, who told MLSsoccer.com Saturday that he was “really disappointed” with his finishing, botched a breakaway in both the eighth and 42nd minutes.
“I think the goalie cut off the angle for me a little bit,” Oduro said. “I just have to put the ball on frame, hopefully it goes in, but he made some great saves. He did a great job and I should’ve done a better job… Again, he had some great saves so kudos to him, but I think I just need to work on some little stuff and that’s what I’m going to keep doing.”
2) Second half swoon
The Fire started the second half incredibly flat Saturday night, looking lethargic and giving up a quick goal in the 46th minute.
Midfielder Nick LaBrocca put Chivas on the board, hitting a well-struck half volley off the bottom of the crossbar and in from 25 yards out. Chicago didn’t close LaBrocca down on the play, allowing the veteran midfielder all the time and space he needed to line up his solid strike.
The Fire didn’t improve much after giving up the tying goal, failing to create anything of note in Chivas USA’s end and allowing the Rojiblancos to control most of the play in the final frame.
The poor second half performance ruined the good start for Chicago, who have struggled to put together complete performances all season long.
“The second half was a different game,” Klopas said. “We came out, we gave up the fast goal; we didn’t start quick enough. I just think in the second half they pushed us, they were the better team and in the end it’s a fair result.”
3) King Counter
The Fire have showed all season that their most dangerous attacks come on the counter, and Saturday’s match was no exception. Chicago created most of their opportunities — and all three of their breakaways — on the counter, exposing Chivas’ high defensive line with their speed up top.
“We knew they were going to step high, so the whole thing was to try to sneak in between and we were able to do that a couple of times,” Oduro said. “We just have to finish chances, and personally I hold myself accountable to that.”
Poor finishing or not, Chicago should stick to their counterattacking strategy. It’s shown to work well and, for a team like the Fire that struggles to create through the middle, it will always be a good option.
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.