BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Mo Adams hadn’t appeared for the Chicago Fire in more than seven months and hadn’t started in more than eight. He came through with a man-of-the-match performance Saturday.
The Fire midfielder stepped into the lineup next to Dax McCarty in central midfield and helped the team beat the New York Red Bulls 1-0.
He didn’t register a shot and he didn’t have any assists, but his 39 pass attempts led the team and his 71.8 percent completion rate on those passes was second best. Adams helped anchor the defensive midfield in the Fire’s first shutout of the season.
“I played a scrimmage last week against Lansing and (coach Veljko Paunović) said, ‘That’s an area of the game which we’re maybe lacking, that defensive midfield role. We need you, and that plays to your strength to try to hold it tight,’” Adams said after the match.
Adams said his primary responsibility was limiting Red Bulls playmaker Kaku. Twice in the first 20 minutes of the match, Adams won the ball from Kaku in key moments. In the 11th minute, he tackled the ball away from Kaku in the final third soon after he received it. McCarty won a foul during the ensuing battle for the loose ball.
Minutes later, Adams pressed Kaku in the Red Bulls’ half. It led to a Fire attack. The resulting play was an Aleksandar Katai shot that didn’t miss by much.
Adams had another pressing play in the attacking half in the 24th minute. Sean Davis didn’t get rid of the ball quickly enough and Adams stepped up to close him down. Adams won the ball to set up another attack. Nemanja Nikolic took a shot from distance.
“His performance was fantastic,” Paunović said of Adams. “I think he gave us a strong presence with his athleticism and his defensive mindset, combined with Dax’s leadership and guidance. I think we had a very strong midfield.”
Adams’ ability to cover ground and be physical in challenges for the whole match gives McCarty less of a workload in those areas. The same applies to Bastian Schweinsteiger, who played centerback in the match.
Adams was named the Fire’s man of the match. Not bad for someone who appeared to be on the outs when 2018 finished. The No. 10 overall pick in the 2018 draft played 15 matches, 10 of which were starts. Not bad for a rookie overall. However, he didn’t play in the final seven matches of 2018 and started just one of the final 19.
The 22-year-old found himself bouncing around on loan. The Fire officially loaned him to Memphis in the USL March 21. He didn’t play a match with Memphis before returning to the Fire. He said moving back and forth and the uncertainty of where he will be doesn’t bother him.
“Always stay ready so I don’t have to get ready, whether that’s me being here or me being in Memphis,” Adams said. “I’m always going to be the same person. It’s a disrespect to myself if I don’t put 100 percent every day.”
After this performance, Adams could have a leg up to be the third defensive midfielder on the team behind McCarty and Schweinsteiger. Paunović typically plays two, but Schweinsteiger could see more time at centerback going forward. By playing well against the Red Bulls, Adams may have saved himself from another trip to Memphis, for now.