Minnesota United earn first MLS road win over flailing Chicago Fire

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Chicago Fire
August 27 2016: Chicago Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic before a MLS soccer match at RFK Stadium, in Washington D.C. D.C United defeated the Chicago Fire 6-2. (Photo by Tony Quinn/IconSportswire)

The Chicago Fire’s return to winning ways was put on hold as struggling Minnesota United stunned the Men In Red Saturday night. Minnesota’s first trip to Toyota Park as an MLS team became the clubs first ever MLS road victory. The Loons weathered a storm of Chicago possession in the first half and countered to perfection with Abu Danladi scoring two first half goals. The Fire made two halftime subs in a desperate attempt to get back into the game but the Fire fell short. Chicago’s star man David Accam netted the lone second half goal, but as it turned out, only in consolation. The Men In Red’s slide continues as their loss to Minnesota is their sixth defeat in their last seven outings.

Minnesota United earn first ever MLS road win over Chicago Fire

The Men In Red faced and failed against a clogged up defensive team once again. Minnesota did well to snatch two counter attack goals in the first half after withstanding significant pressure from the Fire. Chicago’s forwards did not play off each other particularly well throughout the game. In the first half a number of sweeping balls from Nikolic ran wide with nobody attacking the back post. Errant shooting and over dribbling in the attacking third also led to the Fire’s frustrations in front of goal. Chicago only put four of their twenty shots on target against the Loons and they paid the price. By the end of the game, Fire players were pulling their hair in disbelief and got chippy with their opponents. Minnesota United still displayed the flaws that have kept them at the bottom of the table. The visitors only completed 69% of their passes in the game and were sloppy in possession repeatedly. The Fire were unable to capitalize on such mistakes.

Fire need their missing men back

The absence of the outside backs that were in the Fire’s team in June are needed to stop this slide. Matt Polster as right back and Brandon Vincent on the left played a big part in the Fire’s winning streak during the first half of the season. The Fire haven’t won since Vincent went down during the pre match warmups in Yankee Stadium on July 22. The second year player was playing up to the level of his veteran midfield teammates and was far more stable in defense than Patrick Doody has been. Conner on the right has not had the impact that Polster did either. Not to mention Chicago needing center back Joao Meira to return from injury soon too. The Portuguese defenders replacement Christian Dean only played 45 minutes Saturday night reportedly due to an injury.

Paunovic Panic?

The Fire are now much closer to being on the outside of the playoff positions than the top. Losing six of seven games makes the coaches seat warm up in many jobs around the world. The Fire’s next two games are tough ones with next week’s trip to Montreal and a visit from the New York Red Bulls coming a week later. The Fire were well beaten 3-0 in Montreal in mid August and lost 2-1 to the Red Bulls way back in April. The Red Bulls squeaked out a 2-1 win in Dax McCarty’s homecoming game but are in much better form now.

Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic must adjust something in his team to get them back to winning ways. Most of all, Nemanja Nikolic needs his confidence boosted up in a severe way. The Hungarian striker has rarely looked a danger to score after being a goal machine earlier in the season. The Serbian coach must channel the team’s current frustrations into a positive outlook. Paunovic said after Saturday’s game that the Fire were not “sharp or efficient” and said the bad run of form is due to a “mental thing“. Looking at the schedule and the standings, Chicago could become a playoff outsider if they don’t turn it around in the next two weeks.

 

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