The Chicago Fire kicked off their 20th MLS campaign by earning a point away in Columbus. The Fire did well to battle back from a goal down and come away with a draw in the first match of the 2017 season. Chicago’s David Accam equalized Ethan Finlay’s first half goal in the 73rd minute in a match which featured MLS debuts of both clubs goalkeepers and jerseys. A tactical change made by the Fire around the thirty fifth minute mark changed the balance of the seasons opening match.
Fire Earn Draw in Cold Columbus
The Men In Red couldn’t get ahold of the ball and were being abused on the wings when Ethan Finlay headed in the opening goal Saturday. Columbus’s opener could have come from any of the half dozen dangerous crosses sent into the Fire box in the early minutes. The Crew goal did come when midfielder Justin Meram crossed into a ready and willing Ethan Finlay who nodded home in the 17th minute. The Crew then continued to create chances in the moments following the opening goal. The reported 15,023 supporters that braved the 35 degree weather may just have thought that they were in for an easy three points.
A Vital Adjustment
After a half hour of being outplayed Chicago Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic made a tactical change that got the Fire back into the match. “Thirty minutes into the first half, we switched to 4-3-3 and that helped us to spread a little bit more in the midfield line, so David Accam could be closer to Brandon Vincent and help him to cover Harrison Afful, because he was obviously very dangerous in the first half. We also dropped Dax McCarty to help out in the defense and cover Federico Higuain better. And then a huge, huge commitment from the guys, it’s all up to them. Whatever we, the coaches imagined or whatever we want to do, whatever is the plan, it’s about the player so I think fantastic reaction, I’m proud of our players and our comeback was great.” After the match coach Paunovic also used the terms ‘committed’ and ‘showing pride’ to describe his team’s performance in turning around the deficit.
Dax Makes His Fire Debut
Dax McCarty looked every part the solid midfielder the Fire wanted during his 90 minutes in Columbus. The former New York Red Bull captain shared his thoughts on his Fire debut saying “Overall, really happy with the result. Obviously, anytime you go on the road and get a point it’s a good thing, especially first game of the season. It’s a new team, lot of new players, against a really good team, Columbus, they are always very good at home very tough to play against. We have got to be happy with the result, obviously, tale of two halves I thought. First half, I thought they outplayed us. Tactically we were a little bit off in terms of our pressure; we just let them play too easily and they broke us down numerous times and they rightfully had a one-zero lead. Second half, we changed up our formation a little bit, changed up our pressing and I thought we played really well. I thought we came out, made them uncomfortable and we pressed them really well in the second half we had a lot of possession, created a lot of chances and scored a great goal and probably it was anyone’s game at the end there. I thought Luis Solignac had a really good chance to finish the game off and they had a couple of half chances, but overall, really happy with a point.” McCarty displayed his veteran leadership Saturday, being very vocal and shouting directions to players throughout his first game with Chicago.
The Ghanaian Goalscorer
Fire forward David Accam was a threat on the wings throughout the match. The Ghanaian speedster grew in confidence as the game wore on in the second half. Accam showed great composure in finishing when he leveled the score in the 73rd minute.
When reflecting on scoring in the first game of the season the attacker said “It feels great. For me, my confidence is going higher and higher. I am happy to get on the score sheet in the first match of the season.” The forward then added “I think one point in Columbus is not too bad, especially with how we started the game. So for now I am happy with it…[next week] is our home opener and for me I think the fans expect us to win the game and I think we will give the fans a great show.” Toyota Park opens its doors next Saturday when the Fire play host to Real Salt Lake.