BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Chicago Fire coach Frank Klopas tried to get offensive with his midfield lineup early in the season, but his attempt was futile in three scoreless games before pulling the plug and reverting to a two-defensive midfielder formation.
But that didn't stop him from trying again. And this time, with the addition of forward Mike Magee and attacking midfielder Alex's insertion into the lineup, the Fire have seen some semblance of attacking success, scoring nine goals in their last four competitive games after bagging just seven in their first 10.
“It gives us a little more dynamism in the attacking half,” midfielder Patrick Nyarko told MLSsoccer.com ahead of the team’s match against the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday (8:30 pm ET; MLS Live). “You get creation coming out of the wide flanks and you get a lot of creation coming out of the middle, especially with our forwards and how they play. I think it gives us more balance on both sides of the pitch, as opposed to holding defensive midfielders, where creation has to come out of the sides.”
The change in attacking success may have as much to do with personnel as it does formation. Magee has given Chicago the spark they needed, and while putting Joel Lindpere in the middle simply didn't work, Alex has shown that he can make an impact behind the forwards.
“He's a guy who gives us a lot going forward with his ability with the ball to beat players off the dribble,” Klopas said, "to create chances not only for himself but for his teammates."
Of course, Klopas could very well shift back to a formation with two defensive midfielders at some point. But for now the shift has given him a chance to rest two of his veterans, Logan Pause and Jeff Larentowicz. The pair have swapped in and out of the lineup over the last few weeks.
“We're playing with a more attacking mid now, but in two games it might change,” midfielder Dilly Duka told MLSsoccer.com. “It's about maintaining health and the legs.”
Nyarko thinks that switching players in and out of the lineup could have huge ramifications down the stretch after the Fire tailed off at the end of last season. The Fire will play three games in eight days, starting Wednesday night at Toyota Park, and they'll play five league games in July.
“I thought that really cost us at the end of last year, because guys were getting tired and we lost our edge a little bit,” Nyarko said. “It's going to be a packed middle of the year right now … I believe that we should rotate guys around just to keep guys fresh.”