Saturday, March 11, 2017

Chicago Fire 2-0 Real Salt Lake: It's Just the Mistakes Sometimes

Smooth 'n' creamy.
Well, that was pretty straightforward: Real Salt Lake gifted the Chicago Fire a couple cock-ups, and did a more or less creditable job of keeping out RSL, if abetted by at least one shocking miss by Salt Lake’s Yura Movsisyan, who looks more like an MLS 2.0 guy with each outing. I’d call RSL’s attack more coherent – especially over about 30 minutes in the second half (and is that “tale of two halves thing just something observers don’t even have to note anymore? Doesn’t that seem closer to the norm than wire-to-wire dominance?) – but superior approach play doesn’t win a team games, no matter how superior.

So, that’s that: Chicago scored one weird goal (Nemanja Nikolic’s; Sunday “Sunny” Stephen ruined a pretty damn clear offside call by poking into his path) and a great, if preventable second on an Arturo Alvarez solo mission, and they walked off 2-0 winners. I tell you, man, Alvarez has been Chicago’s most consistent attacker since the middle of 2016. That said, big credit to Dax McCarty for the ball that forced Sunny’s error; cut through two lines like room temperature butter…

Some notes on both teams…like I said, I want to keed these things simple.

Chicago Fire
- I have real questions about how far they can ride Johan Kappelhof and Joao Meira (even though I think the latter settled). I think they’ll struggle against bigger forwards – or just better ones than Movsisyan. Did fine today, though.
- Nikolic doesn’t get much good service in good places, and I wonder how much that boils down to Michael de Leeuw playing in the middle three in a 4-2-3-1?
- Props to Brandon Vincent. The Fire’s second-year fullback looks worth his draft number.
- I noticed/felt like Chicago forces passes to Dax when they get shaky in possession, and I think it’s tripping up both him and the team as a whole.
- David Accam is the soccer equivalent of a shotgun: imprecise as hell, but still quite useful.

Real Salt Lake
- I want to re-emphasize this: Movsisyan, who missed a near-sitter at the 78th minute (if with some useful harassment from Michael Harrington), isn’t up to even a pinch of snuff.
- Justin Schmidt, a rookie defender, did OK today. So did David Horst, a reliable enough veteran (and who stalled and cleaned up a late Accam break), but Schmidt did really, really well defending Nikolic in isolation when the game opened up late (around the 76th). Good sign.
- Nice as Alvarez’s run was on that second goal, RSL defenders made his job way easier by lunging in throughout the move; Alvarez actually found that first piece of space because an RSL midfielder lunged on a ball and opened it up. It’s possible to be too aggressive, y’all.
- Every time I’ve seen RSL in 2017, preseason and in-season, they look better when Luke Mulholland is on the field; his work-rate and capacity to combine make everyone around him better. I’d be starting him.
- Jordan Allen limping off could hurt both his shot at taking over a needed role for the team, and for RSL as a whole.

And…yeah, think I’m done. Good start for Chicago, but the only broad caveat I’d offer comes with my present belief that they got 4 points from 6 by facing two teams (Columbus Crew SC and RSL) that I don’t rate that highly. Just put that in your back pocket going forward, I guess.

I think that neither RSL nor Jeff Cassar are going to have a great 2017.

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