Let's try this again: Fire sign a new player for more defensive depth


Let's try this again: Fire sign a new player for more defensive depth

With injuries hurting the Fire's defensive depth, the club signed a new player to alleviate the problem.

Sound familiar? That's because it's the second time the Fire made a move like this in just over a month.

With only three center backs under contract, the Fire added Christian Dean via a trade from Vancouver in August. With Joao Meira being out for a month and Dean suffering a broken foot, likely a season-ending injury, against Minnesota on Aug. 26, the Fire once again needed defensive depth.

On Thursday, a day before the league freezes rosters in advance of the playoffs, the Fire signed Jorge Corrales. Corrales had been under contract with the Tulsa Roughnecks, the Fire's USL affiliate. Corrales will remain with Tulsa, via a loan, but is under contract with the Fire as an emergency option available to be recalled if further injuries occur to the Fire's back line.

Corrales, 26, is a left back who was in training with the Fire as a guest player/trialist in late July. His addition may mean the Fire front office is concerned with recent muscle injuries to the two left backs already on the roster. Brandon Vincent missed seven games with a quad injury and made his first start since the injury against the Red Bulls on Saturday. Patrick Doody was out for Saturday's game due to a hamstring injury and was limited to running at practice this week.

“We’ve had the chance to see Jorge quite a bit this season,” general manager Nelson Rodríguez said in a statement released by the club. “We were impressed by his play with Tulsa and in training with us."

“This move presents Jorge with a great opportunity, and it works well for everyone involved,” Tulsa coach David Vaudreuil said in that club's statement. “He has had an outstanding season for us thus far and has shown the ability to perform at the MLS level. We look forward to Jorge continuing his strong play with us this season as we try to lock down a berth in the USL playoffs."   

Corrales is signed with the Fire through 2018, which makes the future of someone like Doody appear up in the air. Unless Corrales also shows he can play center back, or if the Fire plan to have him on loan for another year, it seems unlikely the Fire would have three left backs under contract. Corrales, a Cuban, also has options for 2019 and 2020.

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.