After waiting a year and a half, Patrick Doody takes advantage of his chance

After waiting a year and a half, Patrick Doody takes advantage of his chance

For a season and a half Patrick Doody waited for his chance under coach Veljko Paunovic.

He finally got it last weekend against Sporting Kansas City, playing for the first time since his rookie season in 2015. He got another start, and three assists, in Saturday’s 4-1 win against New England.

“He still has a lot of things to improve, keep working, stay on the ground, but he did well,” Paunovic said. “Obviously we’re happy with his performance. In the second half he was kind of more relaxed because he was further from me on the other side of the sideline. It was a good performance from him and it’s great to have depth in that position. Obviously that was his second start this year and he’s adjusting very well. He’s giving the team what the team needs, solidness in defense and in attack he’s determined and has that great curveball and great crosses like the one that he served when Michael de Leeuw scored. That’s what we expect from him and he delivered that, so that’s great.”

Doody assisted David Accam’s goal in the 3-2 loss in Kansas City last week. Against New England he assisted Juninho’s first Fire goal, with some help from a Bastian Schweinsteiger dummy, and sent in a pearl of a cross to de Leeuw, who headed in the Fire’s third goal.

After setting up de Leeuw’s goal, Doody’s teammates piled on him in celebration of his standout play.

“I tell a lot of guys, if you’re not playing, one of the key things that you need to do is get the respect of your teammates,” Doody said. “Sometimes that’s all you can do is be a good teammate. Knowing that the guys in the locker room trust me and have confidence in me, that goes a long way. It’s a really good locker room and I’m really lucky to have these guys with me.”

Doody, who is a homegrown player from Naperville, capped off his standout night by dribbling into the corner in added time, but finding room to cross into the box. From there, Luis Solignac collected the ball and scored to give Doody a hat trick of assists.

Doody’s playing time came with Brandon Vincent, the starting left back since the start of last season, going down with a quad injury in warmups before a match in Portland on July 5. On that day, Michael Harrington was the last minute replacement, but he labored to finish the match.

Doody has since stepped in as the start and, while he was burned for a goal in Kansas City, has produced on the attacking end.

“It’s all about just trying to be ready,” Doody said. “Brandon has had a great year, an outstanding year, and it’s unfortunate what happened to him. Through this whole time I’ve just been trying to be ready and grateful that coach gave me an opportunity. I’m trying to keep staying out there, that’s how it is.”

Doody is in his third year in the league and has made nine appearances and eight starts with the Fire. He has spent much of his time with the Fire on loan, most of which has been with Saint Louis FC. Doody had another stint in Missouri earlier this summer.

His man of the match performance on Saturday will help make the case that he can stick in MLS.

“Everyone in here has something to prove,” Doody said. “This is my third year with the team. Obviously being a homegrown guy, it means a lot to me being on this team. I knew this year was going to have to be a big one, especially after how last year didn’t necessarily go my way. I’m really grateful for the opportunity. I have a lot that I really want to get better at, but tonight was a special night.”

Fire sign veteran MLS forward Alan Gordon


Fire sign veteran MLS forward Alan Gordon

As far as notorious players in MLS with a history of scoring big goals, Alan Gordon is one of the first names on that list.

The Fire signed the 36-year-old forward on Friday, continuing to add depth to a roster that appeared paper thin throughout the preseason. Gordon, who had been on trial with the Fire for part of the preseason and even after the season opener, signed a one-year deal.

Gordon adds plenty of experience from being in the league since 2004 and having scored 55 goals with five different teams. For the past few years he has been used primarily as a substitute, but has still maintained his reputation for scoring goals late in games.

At 6-foot-3 he brings plenty of size and strength to the team and is one of the best players on headers in the league. Last season the Fire failed to score directly off a set piece, which was both due to consistently poor service from corner kicks and a lack of players adept at finishing them off. Gordon should give the Fire a late-game option in that area.

Elliot Collier had impressed the Fire enough to earn a contract as a third-round pick and an international player and even came off the bench in the opening loss to Sporting Kansas City, but it appears the team wanted more experience at forward with Gordon.

Wild season opener shows plenty of things to work on for Fire

Wild season opener shows plenty of things to work on for Fire

If you were looking for entertainment, goals, plot twists and storylines, the Fire’s season opener had all of those boxes checked.

What it didn’t have was even a point for the hosts against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday at Toyota Park.

The first half showed a Fire team which very much looked like the “incomplete” roster that general manager Nelson Rodriguez referenced just before the season. KC led 2-0 and the Fire failed to get a shot on target, showing a lack of chance creation and any semblance of a dangerous attack.

The second half showed a Fire attack which was capable of turning the heat up on the visitors, but also a defense which couldn’t defend. Sporting's 4-3 win revealed that there’s plenty of work to do for the Fire to resemble the team that finished third in the MLS regular season last year.

“Especially in the first half we saw that we weren’t ready to compete with a team that had an advantage that they had one competition game before us,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “That was the main difference in the first half, but the adjustment in the second half was tremendous. I think just showing that we can score three goals that quickly and create even more opportunities was a positive.”

However, Paunovic wasn’t about to let his team off the hook by only speaking about positives.

“What we learned today is that we have to get better on every side of the game and in every aspect of the game,” he said. “We are not there. We didn’t have a good game. I think overall a lot of innocent and naive mistakes.”

After trailing 2-0 at halftime, the Fire revved things up in the final 25 minutes and Bastian Schweinsteiger keyed the first goal with a slick assist to newcomer Aleksandar Katai. Nemanja Nikolic showed the scoring instincts and finishing ability that won him the league scoring title a year ago by scoring two more goals to give the Fire the lead in the 82nd minute.

Then it all fell apart, with two KC goals within four minutes of Nikolic giving the Fire the lead. Dax McCarty, your thoughts?

“You’re 10 minutes away from the headline and the storyline being Chicago Fire show great character, make a fantastic comeback, win the game 3-2 and yet here we are sitting here, somehow losing that game, which is insane,” McCarty said. “It’s totally insane.”

The defensive struggles, which Paunovic pointed out mirrored last year’s early playoff exit in a 4-0 loss, will need to get resolved internally. Johan Kappelhof, Brandon Vincent and Matt Polster all started on a competent defense last year and McCarty and Schweinsteiger helped play damage control in midfield. This isn’t what the weakness of the team was supposed to be yet after one game, it’s all anyone on the team could talk about.

“We gave up four goals,” Kappelhof said. “That’s not good. Simple.”

While more additions may be coming in-season, as Rodriguez has mentioned, and injuries haven’t allowed the Fire to start 2018 fresh, this game wasn’t a good sign for what’s to come for the 2018 Fire. A lack of any offensive creation in the first half and a lack of defensive concentration, as Paunovic put it, throughout the game showed a team that has plenty of pock-marks currently.

“We don’t know how to defend, quite frankly," McCarty said. "From back to front, front to back, the defending aspect of our game was pretty poor. A lot of things to learn."

The good news is even if the Fire take some time to correct the errors from Saturday’s season opener, MLS is a forgiving league. A majority of the league, 12 of 23 teams, makes the playoffs and league-wide parity means teams can go through slumps and still end in good standing. A year ago, the Fire lost six games out of seven and still had the third best record in the league. It’s OK if the team takes time to iron out some organizational issues defensively, just don’t take too long.