BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Moral victories don’t put points in the standings, but the Chicago Fire are trying to take a positive view of the lead that turned into a season-opening loss to the LA Galaxy.
On paper, the Fire look to have a talented attacking core and a questionable defense. The loss in LA showed both of those things appear to be true at this point in the season.
The 2-1 loss was fueled by defensive lapses in the final quarter of the game. Despite that, there were positives to take, from the Fire’s perspective. The Fire’s attack looked dangerous in the buildup, if not in front of goal. Wingers Aleksandar Katai and Przemysław Frankowski were dangerous throughout the game. Djordje Mihailović displayed the continued improvement in his game centrally.
The Fire won the possession battle and totaled 17 shots. After C.J. Sapong scored the first goal of the game, the Fire had chances to go up two.
“It felt like we were creating great chances,” midfielder Dax McCarty said. “We have an opportunity in the second half to go up 2-0. I think if you take a couple of those opportunities, we can kill the game and we probably walk out of there with three points, but it wasn’t to be.”
However, the Galaxy racked up 13 shots and were dangerous late. When they piled on the pressure, they scored two goals and grabbed the win.
“I think we were aggressive with a 1-0 lead to be honest,” McCarty said. “I really think it’s as simple as taking the chances that you create and trying to go up 2-0.
“At home you never want to take your foot off the pedal. Obviously there’s little, slight differences being on the road, being at home, but for the most part trying to take your chances once you create them. That’s the best way to be able to kill a team off.”
The loss in LA showed that the Fire may not win many 1-0 games. The Fire may need to push for more high-scoring results.
When asked about the Fire’s attack, coach Veljko Paunović said this is “maybe the most” improvement from season-to-season he’s seen on that side from the Fire. He then quickly, voluntarily changed topics to the defensive side of the ball.
“We still have to fix the defense and again, it’s not only the defensive line, it’s the whole team’s mindset in defense when we don’t have the ball,” Paunović said. “You cannot just let the players fly in our box and the ball is flying around the box a couple of times and we are not capable of clearing because we are not committed enough or focused enough. Communication also plays a part and I think we also failed in that in the last game.
“We have to see the urgency this Saturday.”
Saturday’s home opener against Orlando is the first of three straight matches at the renamed SeatGeek Stadium. The Fire will receive a boost from the return of Nemanja Nikolić. The striker traveled, but didn’t play in LA after his wife gave birth earlier in the week.
A win would spark optimism for the young season. Another thing that could spark some optimism among fans is that McCarty saw similarities to the free-flowing 2017 Fire squad. That team finished with 55 points and scored three or more goals nine times.
“There was certainly a little bit of déjà vu and some glimpses certainly of us being able to do the things that we did in 2017 this year,” McCarty said. “Obviously you look at the similarities. You add a guy like Frankie, he gives you the pace that maybe David Accam gave you, that we didn’t have last year. Quite honestly adding a guy like C.J., we never really had a striker like him in my time here. He’s going to really complement Niko I think really well.
“Then obviously getting (Bastian Schweinsteiger) back into midfield. That’s a big help for our team in terms of trying to control the game and having his savviness in the middle of the park.”