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.
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.