Chicago Fire Opening Day Win Was Great, But Inconclusive

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CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 11: Chicago Fire forward Nemanja Nikolic (23) celebrates scoring a goal in the first half during an MLS soccer match between Real Salt Lake and the Chicago Fire on March 11, 2017, at Toyota Park in Chicago, IL. (Photo By Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Little can be garnered from the Chicago Fire’s home opening win. The Fire celebrated victory, but played against sub par opponents in sub par conditions. Kickoff temperature was just 28 degrees at Toyota Park and the play didn’t get much warmer. Real Salt Lake were missing a number of players through injury and did not show much attacking threat. The Fire can be happy with four points in two matches. The Men In Red will now look forward to a big test of their defence as they encounter Atlanta United for the first time.

Chicago Fire Opening Day Win Was Great, But Inconclusive

Saturday’s opening match in Bridgeview featured two early goals from the home team. Nemanja Nikolic bagged his first MLS goal in his home debut to open the scoring. The goal was well finished in the 11th minute but was actually quite bizarre. Most of the players had stopped playing expecting an offside call on Nikolic. The referee had somehow seen that the ball was knocked towards Nikolic by a defending player. No offside was possible on the play and RSL may feel a bit embarrassed to have not played on. The new designated player then slotted the ball coolly past Rimando in the RSL net without a whistle.

Arturo Alvarez supplied the second Fire goal just four minutes later. The second year Fire midfielder cut inside RSL captain Kyle Beckman expertly and got himself to the top of the box. Alvarez then received some good fortune as his shot deflected off a defender into the open side of the Real Salt Lake goal. Game over in the 15th minute.

Dax McCarty had his say about the performance “We scored two good goals and then after that the quality really dropped off, holding on in the second half. The second half was nowhere near good enough. Try to take the positives from the first half and obviously we have to work on some things still.” McCarty is showing his leadership here and was again very vocal in organizing and rallying his team on the pitch Saturday.

Fire are Still a Work in Progress

The Fire showed Saturday that they have good speed and have the ability to transition from defense to attack quickly. The final product is a work in progress as many of the counter attacks broke down without producing quality chances. The Fire only recorded four shots on target Saturday and only six shots in total. The season could be an exciting one offensively if the Fire can build some chemistry in the final third of the pitch. Fire fans will hope to regularly see McCarty turning midfield tackles into attack. Supplying the likes of Accam, Nikolic and de Leeuw into the attack should produce quality chances.

Defence, Defence, Defence?

The defensive side of the ball did not see much investment this past offseason. The Fire have yet to pay a severe price for their defense. Columbus and RSL did not convert on their limited chances. Real Salt Lake were only able to get one shot on target and only rarely penetrated the Fire’s penalty area. The visitors best chance came in the 78th minute when substitute Chad Barrett played a dangerous low cross in front of the Fire goal. RSL forward Yura Movsisyan got himself in front of the Fire defense but was unable to finish from five yards out. Given Atlanta’s drubbing of Minnesota Sunday, this Fire defense will face the biggest test of their young season. The Men In Red will play their first match against the new Atlanta on Saturday afternoon in the warmer confines of Bobby Dodd Stadium.

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