Fire

Notes from the rewatch: David Accam turns into playmaker against Red Bulls

Notes from the rewatch: David Accam turns into playmaker against Red Bulls

The Chicago Fire lost another game away from home on Saturday, but despite the result it wasn’t like so many of the other road defeats in coach Veljko Paunovic’s tenure.

The Fire had a slight edge in possession against the New York Red Bulls (51-49 percent), which is especially impressive considering the Red Bulls are one of the few teams in MLS which prioritizes possession. In addition, the Fire had more shots (14) and shots on target (6) than the Red Bulls, which had 10 shots and three on target.

Missed chances doomed the Fire to a second straight loss, but the Red Bulls missed some quality scoring opportunities as well. Here’s a look at those and a couple other things from Dax McCarty’s return to Red Bull Arena.

David Accam’s passing

Accam has been the focal point of the team’s attack for the past two years, but the addition of Nemanja Nikolic, along with Michael de Leeuw joining in the latter part of last season, has made the Fire’s attack more balanced.

The Fire can build through the midfield with the newcomers in that area as well, meaning Accam isn’t chasing down as many long balls and has needed to find other ways to contribute. Accam, often questioned about his decision-making and passing ability, has a pair of assists this season from quality passes and had even more of that in New Jersey.

Against the Red Bulls, Accam was credited with five key passes and could have easily had an assist or two from them. His through ball set up the Nikolic shot in the 30th minute that resulted in a shot on goal. Five minutes later he lofted a ball over the top to Luis Solignac, who was then free on the right wing. The Fire could have had a penalty when Solignac’s first effort hit the arm of a defender, but the chance probably should have been converted regardless.

Two more Accam crosses were completed in the second half that gave Nikolic and Solignac each an open chance in the box, but neither was put on frame.

Accam was the Fire’s best playmaker on Saturday, which is something different from the Ghanaian winger, but the Fire’s finishers didn’t reward him with any assists.

Missed chances

This is the area many Fire fans focused on after the loss. The Fire coulda, shoulda, woulda won this game with more clinical finishing.

This is definitely arguable. As mentioned above, Accam created most of those chances and they couldn’t finish those.

The Fire had at least four solid chances that either resulted in a missed shot or an easy save for Luis Robles.

When Nikolic cut back on a defender following Accam’s through ball in the 30th minute, he may have had a chance to square the ball to Solignac for an open shot. Nikolic did put a solid shot on target, but Robles was able to make the save.

There’s the Solignac chance in the 35th minute when he loses control of the ball before firing a last ditch shot that gets blocked.

Solignac and Nikolic each had open shots from Accam crosses in the second half, but didn’t make clean contact when they were open in the box. Solignac’s was especially tempting.

However, the Red Bulls had some missed opportunities as well. Before scoring the game-winning goal, Kemar Lawrence sliced an open shot from 12 yards out over the bar. Later, Tyler Adams ran onto a ball in the box and had time to set himself up for an open shot, but skied it. The best chance was when Fire goalkeeper Jorge Bava left a big rebound on a long shot from Sacha Kljestan and somehow Felipe couldn’t corral it to score into a mostly open net.

The point is, yes, the Fire could have scored more goals, but the Red Bulls also had some good chances they missed.

McCarty’s return to Red Bull Arena

In the buildup to Saturday’s game McCarty said he wanted to say goodbye to his former teammates and fans.

This isn’t really related to the game itself, but McCarty did take the time to say something to many Red Bulls players, even joking with Lawrence about the game-winning goal. He also spent time signing autographs and taking pictures with fans who stayed after the game. Things like this are why McCarty was popular with Red Bulls fans.

Fire rumored to be connected to former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas

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AP

Fire rumored to be connected to former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas

They don’t call it silly season in Europe for nothing.

The offseason rumors that pop up and, in some cases, happen make for good entertainment around the world of soccer. Sometimes those rumors are connected to MLS, whether or not the chances of them coming to fruition are high.

The latest example of this is Steven Goff of the Washington Post tweeting out a juicy rumor involving the Chicago Fire and former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Goff doesn’t sound very confident in it happening and there are plenty of reasons why, but there are also reasons why it could make sense. In this case, it makes sense for Casillas to be looking for a home to continue his career. When his contract at FC Porto expires at the end of this European season in June, he will be 37 years old.

It’s been two and a half years since he left Real Madrid, where he spent the rest of his career, and he’s not the elite goalkeeper he once was. If Casillas wants to keep playing he may not be able to stick at a Champions League club like Porto, and that’s where the MLS rumors come into play. It makes sense for Casillas to have interest in joining MLS.

On the Fire’s end, the team isn’t loaded at goalkeeper, although there are three keeprs under contract (Matt Lampson, Jorge Bava, Stefan Cleveland) with the possibility of a fourth (Richard Sanchez) also returning. The numbers logjam could be rectified without much problem if the Fire have a chance to snag Casillas.

His experience as a World Cup and Champions League winner (like Bastian Schweinsteiger), would be a nice addition to the team, regardless of age. Casillas was one of the best goalkeepers in the world and won Spain's La Liga five times and the Champions League three times in addition to winning the 2010 World Cup.

The question from the Fire’s perspective is if he could justify the high cost he would likely come with. Goalkeepers aren’t often highly paid players in MLS with the way the salary cap works. More flexibility has been added with more and more resources being given to teams from the league, but the cost of a player like Casillas may be difficult to justify at goalkeeper, even if he would provide another marketing and attendance boost like Schweinsteiger did.

This rumor makes for a good headline, but may not have much basis in reality. Still, there's a decent chance Casillas' name will continue to be connected with a move to MLS until he signs his next deal.

Fire's protected list for expansion draft hints at possible moves

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USA TODAY

Fire's protected list for expansion draft hints at possible moves

The MLS offseason doesn't take long to get in gear.

The Fire traded Arturo Alvarez earlier on Sunday, the same day which the list of protected players was to be announced ahead of Tuesday's expansion draft for Los Angeles FC.

LAFC will take five players in the expansion draft, which is set for 1 p.m. on Tuesday. A team can only lose one player. Each team can protect 11 players and homegrown players aren't eligible for selection. For the Fire that means Drew Conner and Djordje Mihailovic can't be taken.

The Fire protected David Accam, Jonathan Campbell, Johan Kappelhof, Dax McCarty, Nemanja Nikolic, Juninho, Matt Polster, Richard Sanchez, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luis Solignac and Brandon Vincent.

While Sanchez and Schweinsteiger are out of contract, the Fire have said they are negotiating with both players. Protecting Juninho is a bit of a surprise because it implies that the Fire have some intention of keeping him for next year, or at least keeping his rights to be traded.

The Fire left David Arshakyan, Jorge Bava, Brandt Bronico, Stefan Cleveland, Jorge Corrales, Michael de Leeuw, Christian Dean, Daniel Johnson and Matt Lampson unprotected. De Leeuw would be a worthwhile pickup for LA if it thinks he is worth it after his ACL tear suffered late in the season.

With only five players being selected it's fairly likely no Fire players are taken by LAFC, but it's arguable that de Leeuw will end up being one of the best five players available. The 31-year-old tied for the team lead with eight assists and scored three goals.