• Dan Berridge

Analysis: Chicago Fire (a). Goalless In The Windy City.

I have been following this sport for a long time. I've seen Nottingham Forest lose at home to Scunthorpe United in the pouring rain. I've seen Orlando City get pummeled at home. Same for the Pride. I know this isn't the most exuberant of opening statements; it's downright depressing. My point is, I've seen some dreadful games in my time. So I have some previous in watching poor quality soccer (don't we all?). I'm sorry to say, this was far from a spectacle.


To be completely forthright, this was up there with the worst games I've seen (in terms of quality) following any of my teams. And I include our hosts in that somewhat melodramatic assessment. It was a tough watch; even if the outcome wasn't exactly unfavourable. A point on the road against this Chicago team isn't a bad result.


Both teams struggled to maintain possession in rugged conditions. The Lions, in particular, found successful passes hard to come by. Especially in the first half. Orlando City only completed 69% of their passes in the first 45. Chicago had 4 of the 5 most successful passers in the first half, whilst Antonio Carlos was the sole Orlando representative in the top 5 (figure 1).


Orlando just couldn't maintain possession, and were losing it all over the park (figure 2). It became imperative just to get out of Illinois with a clean sheet still in tact. That being said, Chicago offered very little. Pedro Gallese made 1 smart stop, but that was about it.

Figure 1 shows the top 5 most successful passers from the first 45 minutes.

Figure 2 shows Orlando's turnover positioning matrix, first 45.


The second half wasn't much better than the first, although there was a marginal improvement towards the very end of the game. That being said, however, the game overall was a frenetic affair, low on quality all over the field. Orlando's pass success rate improved fractionally to 73%, but they were still unable to carve out any clear openings.

Of course, Orlando did have the ball in the net at one stage. But we'll get to that later.


So, what went wrong?


In all honesty, it was just a bad day at the office. I think the line-up, formation, the way Orlando approached the game was all fine. We just didn't execute it well. It was almost like the players were afraid to hold onto the ball for too long. There were a number of occasions where Orlando tried to force passes that just weren't there. For example, in figure 3, right after the restart, Cesar Araujo tries to get us on the move down the left, but there's coverage and he mishits the pass.


This gave Chicago the impetus almost immediately. If he's a little calmer, he has opportunity to turn and either play the ball wide to Ruan on the right, or find one of his centre backs. Instead he plays a ball that just isn't on.

Figure 3 shows a game still from just after the restart.


Another example can be found in figure 4. Moutinho gets the ball and has acres of space out wide. He ends up massively under hitting his cross, which nearly leads to a potential breaking opportunity for the Fire. He actually has time to put his foot on the ball and be a little more patient. This happened a lot during the game, and led to needless concessions. We've already touched on how many turnovers Orlando had in the first 45; this continued after half-time with 38 overall concessions, compared to 22 for the Fire, who weren't that great themselves.

Figure 4 shows a game still from towards the end of the game.


Another impressive rearguard action


Despite all of that, I felt it was another impressive rearguard display from Orlando City. Although Rodrigo Schlegel was, perhaps, a little fortunate not to give away a penalty with his high boot. Antonio Carlos was in particularly imperious form, completing 3 interceptions and making 4 clearances. Schlegel made 1 interception and 3 clearances. The defensive improvement on last season, though it's still early doors, is encouraging. It's something Pareja spoke to after the game (see reaction). Orlando have been working on their defensive shape. The inclusion of Cesar Araujo in midfield definitely helps.

Araujo did a great job of shielding the back 4, and dropping in as cover when necessary. If you look at the heatmap in figure 5, you'll see how much ground he covered. I know I highlighted him for a sloppy pass earlier, but overall he had a solid game. I believe he's a big part of why Orlando has started the season so defensively sound; they have an XGa of 0.62 on the season so far, after 2 clean sheets.


PRO'd again


You know what? I can't. Sorry. I know I said I'd get to this, but I just can't. Idiots.

Figure 5 shows Cesar Araujo's heat map, whole 90.

Top player


Pedro Gallese

The Peruvian stopper wasn't exactly overworked, he only really had 1 save of note to make, tipping a goal bound effort over the bar in the first half. However, Gallese was a commanding presence at the back for the Lions. He distributed the ball well (85.7% pass completion) and he was 2/5 on long balls. Nobody really stood out for the Lions, but Gallese was as dependable as ever. Tied Bendik's record of 13 clean sheets for the club.


Player ratings


Starting XI


Gallese -7- Solid.


Ruan -6- Defended well, but struggled going forward.

Antonio Carlos -7- Another reliable performance.

Schlegel -6- Lucky not to concede a penalty, but was otherwise OK.

Moutinho -6- Defended well but guilty of rushing things on the ball.


Araujo -6- Will prove to be an astute signing.

Urso -6- Typically industrious, should have his first goal of the season.

Pereyra -6- Got about well but wasn't at his best.


Torres -6- Quiet evening for the youngster.

Michel -5- Not a night he'll remember fondly.


Pato -6- Completely isolated.


Substitutes


Akindele -7- Offered a different avenue for attack.

Kara -6- Missed a great chance 1 v 1. Was called back for offside but I'm not convinced it was.

Perea -6- Came in late to help see the game out.

Reaction


“I liked our intentions, I liked our second half much better in terms of how we used the spaces and created some collective players there, in a very physical match against a team who already has an idea [of how they want to play] and has very good players. That control that we had in the second half was to get closer to our goal and actually score one. So we’re going to take this point as a part of our process. I’m proud of the players that came onto a difficult field and a difficult match and had a good performance overall.”


*All statistics courtesy of whoscored.com and footystats.org

Game stills courtesy of mlssoccer.com

Game photography and post match media availability footage courtesy of Orlando City SC.