BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Chicago Fire midfielder Alex was content with his first start of his MLS career on Saturday night, a 71-minute performance in a 1-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Still, there were a few times when he looked for his shot when teammates were free for a pass, and other times when a pass he would normally zip to the feet of his attacking partner wasn’t quite on point.
When asked what he thinks what can improve, given a few more starts, Alex was quick with a short answer.
“Rhythm,” the Brazilian told MLSsoccer.com through a translator.
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Even with Alex’s desire for improvement, the flow of the Fire offense seemed to improve leaps and bounds from their first three games without their creative playmaker, Sebastian Grazzini.
With Alex filling Grazzini’s role of facilitator and Chris Rolfe playing on the outside instead of the central position he’s played for the last three games, the Fire held over 53 percent of possession despite playing with 10 men after the 69th minute.
Fire head coach Frank Klopas liked what he saw from the attacking midfield trio, which also included Patrick Nyarko.
“They’re dynamic players, they’re good on the ball,” Klopas said. “They have the freedom to interchange with diagonal runs, with Chris sometimes in the middle, and Patrick on the outside.”
In his only other three starts of the season, Rolfe had played the role of the central attacking midfielder, which Grazzini left open when he went back to Argentina last week.
After Sunday’s 2-0 loss against the LA Galaxy, Rolfe said he was still getting used to playing the role of facilitator. On Saturday, he was able to play in a more comfortable spot on the outside with midfielder Marco Pappa out with an upper respiratory infection.
But the rhythm of the offense, which was flowing in Grazzini’s final two games, can still improve.
“A lot of combinations, picking up that extra pass [can improve],” Nyarko told MLSsoccer.com. “Sebastian, [forward Dominic Oduro] and myself, we read each other perfectly, with runs and where Sebastian likes to play the ball and all that stuff. Over the course of the year, that came to us naturally.
“That’s where we need to improve,” Nyarko added. “He can read our runs better and show us where he needs to place the ball and we’ll read those runs for him. That’s the next step.”
But defensive midfielder Logan Pause knows that the synchronization in the Fire’s attacking third will improve as they continue to jell together.
“The more time they get,” Pause said, “the better they’re going to be.”