BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The Chicago Fire entered Sunday's match against the Philadelphia Union carrying the heavy weight of three consecutive losses. But one bright spot for the Fire amid their early-season struggles has been 2014 MLS Rookie of the Year contender Harrison Shipp.
After scoring Chicago's first goal of the year last week in the loss to San Jose at Avaya Stadium, Shipp continued his strong run of form, wowing the home fans with his quality and bagging his first assist of the season on Adailton's game-winning set-piece header in the 1-0 win at Toyota Park.
On paper, Shipp slotted in on the right side of midfield in coach Frank Yallop's 4-4-2 formation vs. the Union. But Yallop knew Shipp could find success anywhere on the pitch, due in large part to the play between Shipp and Michael Stephens, who started in centrally next to Shipp, but interchanged with him often throughout the match.
“Harry's a player that sees the game a little differently than most players,” Yallop told reporters after Sunday's 1-0 win. “He drifts around, he's got to find his space, but I think Mike does a great job of complimenting him, and slotting into the spots Harry leaves.”
Shipp acknowledged those complimentary styles as well, and saw them as key to Chicago's success against Philadelphia's back line.
“We were trying to make things flow,” he told reporters after the game. “I started out wide on the right. A lot of times I'm going to end up all over the field, and Mikey's someone who's going to do his job, but he's also going to cover for me.
“A lot of times we're going to end up in similar spaces because he's covering defensively for me and sliding out right when I happen to go to the left and the middle. He's a simple player and he thinks well.”
Shipp's intelligence and movement helped generate scoring chances throughout much of the first half, ultimately leading to Adailton's 37th-minute header.
“Guys were popping up all over,” Yallop added. “We were getting in behind them, sliding people in, and all those things you really want to happen, happened in the first half. Harry's one of those guys that reads that kind of attacking stuff well.”
For a Fire team that had struggled to an 0-3 mark in the season's early stages, that dynamism against the Union was a welcome sight.
“The longer you go [winless], the more pressure you feel. Now we're able to just calm down and focus on playing,” said Shipp. “I think the big thing is, if we string together a couple wins, we've got six points after [next] weekend. We're not in a terrible place, if that's the case.”