Fire

By the numbers: Gauging Fire defender Adailton's effectiveness

adailton10202015.png

By the numbers: Gauging Fire defender Adailton's effectiveness

When Adaílton made the switch from Brazilian Série A's Esporte Clube Bahia to the Fire last December, a dream came true. When the Salvador native was forced to come to grips with an injury midway through 2015 that derailed any hopes of getting a full season under his belt, he knew it would be difficult to accomplish his objective - to renew his contract automatically.

Adaílton, 32, last featured in a 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution on July 25, and first emerged with what was diagnosed as an adductor strain. He received an injection, and later underwent core muscle repair surgery on Sept. 1. Daneil Cyrus, Eric Gehrig, Ty Harden, Jeff Larentowicz and Matt Polster have all contributed at center back in his absence.

The Brazilian defender's future in MLS will be unresolved come the end of the month with regard to contract negotiations, but at the moment, he's relieved to be involved with the group again.    

"The progress is going very well," said Adaílton, who has engaged in warmups and light ball work as recently as Wednesday. "I think that I just need one more week to be ready. Unfortunately, the season is over, and it was something that I was counting on. [It's been] a long time [since] I trained with the guys, and I miss that so much. ... I'm just happy to be healthy again."

[RELATED: Fire notes: Bliss urging Men in Red to play spoiler to Red Bulls]

Through his first year with the Men in Red, Adaílton was able to forge a competent partnership with Larentowicz - both were paired 13 times together during the regular season - and briefly with Gehrig. The results? 

“When you look at statistics, and again, statistics don’t always tell the story, but they can give you a trend," interim coach Brian Bliss told reporters Tuesday via teleconference. "When he played, and whether he was paired with Jeff or whether he was paired with Eric Gehrig, our overall goals against and chances yielded was better. When he exited with his injury and surgery we definitely, on a statistical side, took a nosedive in terms of chances conceded and goals conceded. Can you pin it all on that, and him? Maybe, but he was, I would say relatively effective for us up until he got hurt."

Per Squawka.com, the numbers bear out Bliss' assertion, and a marked disparity in the Fire's defensive output with and without Adaílton's presence.

[MORE FIRE: Bliss talks 2016 roster outlook; CHIvNY start time pushed back]

WITH Adaílton

Games: 17

Record (W-L-D): 5-8-4 (19 points)

Average chances conceded: 119/17 games = 7 per game

Average goals conceded: 23/17 games = 1.35 goals/game  

WITHOUT Adaílton

Games: 16

Record (W-L-D): 3-11-2 (11 points)

Average chances conceded: 160/16 games = 10 per game  

Average goals conceded: 32/16 games = 2 goals/game

[NBC SHOP: Buy a Fire jersey here

With the Fire's regular season finale against Supporters' Shield contender New York Red Bulls (17-10-6, 57 points) on the horizon, Bliss said the Brazilian is not healthy and ready enough to play, however.

Asked if he envisions Adaílton, who made $244,500 in guaranteed compensation this year, according to the MLS Players' Union, as part of the team's plans come 2016, Bliss said it's possible. He has an option that could be exercised, but no concrete decisions have been made on that front. 

“Could we have him back at potentially a lower number? That’s a possibility, too," Bliss answered. "Could he part completely? That’s also a possibility. He’s made a contribution here. I think he’s been effective at times, but we’ll have to evaluate that once Nelson [Rodríguez] gets on board this week, and talk through it.”

Added Adaílton, who acquired his U.S. green card earlier this month: "My wife, too, she said one thing for me this weekend, that the only time she's going to cry is when we are going to leave USA. Nothing is lost. I still hope something's going to happen. I really want to stay, [but] it doesn't depend on me. ... I cannot do anything else, just pray and wait for [the coaches'] decision." 

Fire sign veteran MLS forward Alan Gordon

gordon-signs.jpg
USA TODAY

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.