BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Chicago Fire tactical and video sessions may be closed to the public, but Fire players this week provided a window on those meetings and what's going wrong in 2010.
Following training on Thursday, they spoke about the essence of the game plan ahead of Friday night’s match against the Columbus Crew (9 p.m. ET), and each Fire player sang the same tune when asked about the core issue ailing Chicago’s game: movement off the ball and movement of the ball.
They say there’s not enough of it and it’s not fast enough.
“We have to play a lot quicker,” veteran C.J. Brown said. “The movement off the ball needs to be better and it’s playing faster. Getting the ball off your feet. Boom, boom, boom. Movement of the ball is going to be huge for us. If we do that I think we’ll have a very good chance in this game.”
It’s not rocket science to figure out that players on a team can only synchronize their off-the-ball runs and passing with greater familiarity. However, with several new roster additions in preseason and midseason, the Fire have never gelled and this has reflected in the team’s results, including getting shut out five times in their last six home matches.
“We need to create better opportunities and that’s going to come from our movement off the ball,” forward Calen Carr said. “Moving for each other, working for each other and playing the simple pass. Sometimes we make it more difficult than it needs to be.”
The individual talents of each player have gone to waste because the team as a collective has been unable to coordinate its play on the field. It’s been a far-from-well-oiled machine.
“We preach about defense transitioning into offense,” Patrick Nyarko said. “There are a lot of instances when we break out from defense [into attack] and guys are not in the right spots and so we don’t create enough chances. … But we know we can do it.”
In fairness, there have been noticeable improvements in recent matches, but they have come too late to salvage the Fire’s 2010 season. Chicago are one negative result away from being knocked out of postseason contention for only the second time in club history.
However, it’s not just a cliché when teams like the Fire say they want to finish strong: They want to prove that this group can eventually figure out how to work together.
“In the last couple of weeks, we played as a team and fought as a team and that has made things much easier,” Freddie Ljungberg said. “We’ve got some great results and played some good football.”