Sometimes it’s nice to have a very solvable problem. When a team has a clear weakness that they can look at and say ‘we see that, and we have an answer’. I’m sure the New York Red Bulls would kill for an answer to their uncountable woes. But this isn’t about the Red Bulls (again), this is about the Chicago Fire.
The Fire have turned into defensive juggernauts ever since they gave up four goals to the enigmatic New York City FC at Toyota Park. They followed that match with a masterful 1-1 draw, where the Fire were shown red in the 31st minute with the score knotted at one and they managed to hold out. In Orlando.
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Then they went on the three-match clean sheet streak that they are so rightly proud of before losing to Montreal 2-1. All in all, three goals surrendered in five games is something to be proud of.
It’s clear that Chicago has a composed defense that can do what they failed to do all of last year – keep the ball out of their net. Even with Sean Johnson out, the Fire have been rocking out defensively. The problem is the offense. In their past four games only Kennedy Igboananike has managed to score twice. Other than that, the Fire have been held in check.
Here we find ourselves at the problem that the Fire can point at and say ‘no problem’. David Accam, who has become the bread and butter of this Chicago attack, has been out injured since the draw against Orlando. In the first two matches he scored two goals and added an assist. Serving as a second striker with Igboananike was a deadly combination. Their athleticism and ability to hit on the break was an intimidating force.
The fact that Chicago have managed to pick up points without this deadly duo is proof enough that Veljko Paunovic has a good thing going in Chicago. The only problem is that they need Accam back, which seems a longer road than they would like.
“Unfortunately David Accam is still in the same stage of recovery, which is not good news for us,” Paunovic said, via CSN Chicago. “We are sad about it because the team needs David. We expect that as soon as he recovers, from the point of view of our style and how we want to play it’s going to be an improvement, but David is still going through that process of recovery. We have to wait.”
Of course, you could then make the argument that the Fire do have a problem – that they rely too much on one guy. But it is what it is. So long as the Fire can keep Accam and Igboananike side-by-side and so long as their defense maintains the fantastic shape that they have been keeping, there is reason to believe that they could be in the running.