The Chicago Fire miss Arne Friedrich all game, every game.
And they miss their defensive leader the most in the moments of chaos, like the quick set piece that burned them last week against Philadelphia or the second cross after a corner kick that led to the only goal in Saturday's 1-0 loss to the Union.
“Most of all, [we've missed] leadership,” center back Austin Berry told MLSsoccer.com. “He's so good at his position, but he's also good at keeping other guys in the same position.”
Berry and fellow center back Jalil Anibaba have improved game-by-game this season, but with an offense like Chicago's, which hasn't scored in three games, the back line has to be perfect to salvage a point or win three.
In the third minute of Saturday's 1-0 loss, the Fire were able to routinely clear away a corner kick, but as Bakary Soumare passed the ball to Sebastien Le Toux on the left side, a few Fire players stayed back, uneven with their teammates. When Le Toux played the ball in, three Philadelphia players were wide open, including the league's leading goalscorer, Jack McInerney, who buried a header.
“I don't think we got out quick enough when the first ball went out, and we didn't stick with our marks on the second ball back in,” Berry said. “It was kind of a combination of those.”
The Fire offense, which has been shut out in six of 10 games, wasn't able to muster an equalizer.
After winning a few games to end a season-starting, four-game winless streak, the Fire have lost three in a row. Berry said pressure has been ever-present since that awful start.
“We expected more out of ourselves,” Berry said. “We've just got to keep working hard. We've got to use that pressure to build into our performances.”