The Chicago Fire isn’t a team that sits back and counters on the road. Chicago’s approach is to attack and attack against home teams that aren’t used to that sort of aggressiveness from visitors on the road.
The Red Bulls certainly didn’t look like they were ready to deal with the Fire’s attack, which dominated play through most of the first half. A 1-0 halftime deficit gave the Red Bulls the false hope that they could still turn things around, but a second-half barrage erased those hopes and revealed just how flawed the 2008 Red Bulls still are.
Chicago’s 5-1 demolition of the Red Bulls pushes the Fire into a three-way tie for first place in the East with New England and Columbus as it approaches some well-earned rest and a bye week. The Red Bulls must recover, figure out what went wrong, and find a way to go to Houston and win.
The problems for the Red Bulls were all there to see on Sunday. They don’t have a playmaker, a dangerous left winger, a reliable left back or a stalwart central defender. The collective has played above its head through the season’s first seven matches, but Chicago succeeded in exposing all the team’s flaws.
The Fire also happens to be built perfectly to beat the Red Bulls. With Gonzalo Segares capable of neutralizing Dane Richards and the central defense tandem of Wilman Conde and Bakary Soumare boasting the athleticism, size and strength to contend with Red Bull strikers Juan Pablo Angel and Jozy Altidore, it was tough to see the Red Bulls ever really threatening the Fire back-line.
The actual goal barrage by Chicago had more to do with the Red Bulls own failings than their own potency. Yes, the Fire boasts one of the league’s most dynamic attacks, but far more of Chicago’s goals on Sunday came courtesy of awful defensive breakdowns than from beautiful sequences by the Fire.
Juan Carlos Osorio might have been guilty of tinkering a bit too much on Sunday. His decision to start Carlos Mendes in central midfield for, as far as I know, the first time in his career, was truly mind-numbing and a testament to the limited options afforded to Osorio. Starting a career central defender and rookie in central midfield against a player like Cuauhtemoc Blanco should have been considered insane if not for the fact that the Red Bulls just don’t have any other good options.
Would Jozy Altidore, Seth Stammler and Dave Van Den Bergh made a difference today if all had been able to start? Very possibly, but even if all three played it wouldn’t resolve the shaky defending we saw today.
The Fire did to the Red Bulls what it did to D.C. at RFK Stadium and New England at Gillette Stadium, simply overpower them with a collective tenacity, speed and skill that overwhelmed them all. Now if Chicago could play like that at Toyota Park we could basically pencil the FIre in as MLS Cup favorites. The Fire will accept the Road Warriors label for now, but will need to start delivering these type of dominating performances at home eventually.
What did you think of today’s match? Which players stood out? Which players stunk up the joint? Share your thoughts below