The Chicago Fire have a chance to set a defensive club record on Saturday.
After setting a new club record for most goals conceded in a season (58) just last season, it may be hard to believe it’s a positive defensive record the Fire are on the verge of setting.
Yet with 356 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal, the Fire are just 39 minutes away from the longest streak in club history (395 minutes).
That’s a far cry from the moment the streak started. When Orlando’s Cyle Larin scored just four minutes into the Fire’s second match of the season, the Fire looked more likely to challenge last year’s defensive record than go on a long shutout streak. When Larin scored the Fire had allowed five goals in 94 minutes, but nothing has gotten past goalkeeper Matt Lampson since.
“I think it’s been consistency from our whole team and team defending,” Lampson said. “There’s been a serious passion for not letting goals in and you can see it in every game. The effort that every guy, particularly in the back four has put in to not let the other team score. No shots, no crosses. That’s the reason why we’ve been so successful and hopefully as we continue to grow we’re going to maintain the same mentality.”
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It must be said that the Fire’s attack has gone into the tank the same time the defense has improved. That might not be completely coincidental. With David Accam injured coach Veljko Paunovic might be sending his team out slightly more conservatively in the hope of grinding out a low-scoring win.
However, the Fire are confident in the way they talk about this streak.
“I think it’s just individual accountability and taking pride in it,” Campbell said. “With everyone working to get back and doing their part in it, it makes it so much easier. Then the communication and everything falls into place, but with all the new guys having everyone work at the same rate and work to get back on defense it really helps collectively.”
After some shuffling in the first few matches, Paunovic has sent out the same defenders in front of Lampson for consecutive games. Rookie center back Jonathan Campbell has been paired with Johan Kappelhof, 20-year-old Brazilian Rodrigo Ramos has stepped in at right back and MLS veteran Michael Harrington has slid over to left back after starting at right back in the first two matches.
Those defenders, as well as Joao Meira and Brandon Vincent who have also received starts, and Lampson were all brought in during the offseason.
“We’ve all come in at the same time, we’ve all grown up together, we’ve all made mistakes together,” Lampson said. “Hopefully you want to make mistakes and win, but when that happens you’re going to grow and you’re going to be a successful defensive team and it starts from Gilberto (a forward) up top all the way down to me.”