Notes from the rewatch: Patrick Doody's breakout game and Juninho's controversial goal

Notes from the rewatch: Patrick Doody's breakout game and Juninho's controversial goal

Brandon Vincent has been lauded for what he has given the Chicago Fire's attack this season, but it took Patrick Doody to surpass his assist production from left back.

Doody had three assists in Saturday's win against New England to go with one assist he had in his first appearance the previous week in Kansas City. Vincent has one goal and three assists this season. Here's a look at Doody's big game and what he gives the Fire as opposed to Vincent and the controversy on Juninho's go-ahead goal late in the first half.

Patrick Doody's breakout game

Patrick Doody's first game in a year and a half had its ups and downs. He assisted on David Accam's goal in the second half in Kansas City, but he also got burned by Graham Zusi on KC's second goal. His second game of the season was more about the positive with three assists and cleaner defending.

Doody's first assist, Juninho’s goal, was a fairly simple pass from Doody. He picked his head up and saw Schweinsteiger. Passing to Schweinsteiger is rarely a bad option. Schweinsteiger saw one better and dummied the ball through for Juninho.

The second assist, Michael de Leeuw’s header, is a highlight reel caliber cross from Doody. Coach Veljko Paunovic referred to it as a “curveball” after the game and it’s not hard to see why. The ball curled out of reach of the goalkeeper and had enough depth to go over the centerback’s attempted headed clearance.

What’s good to see from Doody on this play is that he took on his defender. Doody moved more centrally to provide Dax McCarty with a passing option. Center mid Scott Caldwell stepped up to defend Doody. To get back to the wing, Doody had to take a big touch wide. He had enough separation from Caldwell to put in the cross and de Leeuw did the rest.

The third assist showed more aggression from Doody. He pushed forward to get to the corner late in the game. The cross itself may have been more hopeful than directed, but Solignac did the work to turn it into an assist.

Doody probably isn't as good in possession or defensively as Vincent, but his crosses are better. Vincent has improved in virtually all aspects this season, but Doody is probably still the best crosser on the team. His quality service on the wing has been apparent in practice, but he has been able to show it off in games finally. Now that teams are going to be well aware of what Doody can produce from crossing areas, defenders will be marking him differently. Let's see if he can still produce.

Controversy on Juninho’s goal

Juninho scored what held up as the game-winner and it was his first goal with the Fire, but New England wasn’t happy with the goal. It wasn’t the goal itself, but a foul that happened 20 seconds before it.

David Accam had the ball on the left wing, took a heavy touch and ran into Revolution defender Andrew Farrell as Farrell cleared the ball away. The Revs wanted a foul called. The ref waved for Farrell to get up.

Meanwhile, Schweinsteiger picked up the loose ball from Farrell’s clearance and dribbled right back at New England’s defense. Farrell gets to his feet a few seconds before Schweinsteiger goes back to that side with a pass to Patrick Doody. Doody then sets up Juninho for the goal.

“I think the second goal, really, really hurt us because we just felt like there was a foul on the play,” New England coach Jay Heaps said after the match. “Other than that, it’s going up the other way, we get to halftime 1-1 and we can still regroup.”

In the new era of video review in MLS, this play is something that could have been reviewed. One of the vague terms the league has been using is “attacking phase of play.” Goals can be reviewed not just for something that was clearly missed by the ref on the shot or the assist, but if at any point there is an infraction in the “attacking phase of play.” In this case, you could argue that Schweinsteiger picking up the ball is the start of the attacking phase of play, therefore the possible foul on Accam may not have been reviewable. Even so, Paul Tenorio said on the broadcast that the video assistant referee did check the play, but did not call for further review.

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.