What Problem Reappeared For the Fire Against Tottenham? Defense.

Fire can't seem to get their defensive rhythm going this season
by Kiran Balan   |   Monday, July 28, 2014

Ladder 97 – column on Chicago Fire & the Chicagoland area soccer scene.

With their North American summer tour coming to an end, English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur marched out of Toyota Park 2-0 winners over the struggling Chicago Fire. 

In the build up to the match, Spurs fans from across the nation descended into Bridgeview to see their team put in a strong pre-season performance, with the Premier League season only 4 weeks away. Many young players were able to get a run out and were keen to impress new manager Mauricio Pochettino. Spurs fans were also able to get a taste, tactically and stylistically of what the former Southampton manger has to offer his new club.

On the Chicago Fire side of the pre-match build up, the match was seen more of where the team can improve tactically and defensively following a highly disappointing 5-1 loss to San Jose Earthquakes, who currently sit at the bottom of the Premier League.

During the pre-game press conference, Chicago Fire coach Frank Yallop said that every player would get some minutes in the friendly and that this would help the coach assess the tactics and fitness of the team heading into a crucial couple of weeks of MLS action.

Tottenham, who are currently working to bring many of their youth players into the first team did loan one to the Fire earlier on in the season. Young and versatile midfielder Grant Ward, who is on loan at the Fire from Tottenham is keen on making a big impact for the Fire impress the new coach and was hopeful of breaking into the Spurs squad once his loan comes to an end.

If anything, the starting lineup for the men in red did show drastic changes were going to take place defensively and that new formations and lineups were going to be considered. 

One of the biggest changes was seeing Fire captain Jeff Larentowicz drop into a center defender role from his usual defensive midfield position. It remains to be seen if he will be used as a central defender in the upcoming MLS fixtures.

Defensive mistakes have been the Fire’s undoing this season and the 2 goals the Fire gave up exemplified their defensive struggles. Jeff Larentowicz was at fault for the first Tottenham goal as he was stripped of the ball in front of his own goal from Lewis Holtby, and Holtby cooly played a square pass to a wide open Harry Kane to make it 1-0. 

The Fire did have their fair share of chances on the night, but their defensive problems were more noticeable and far more worrying. Late in the second half, Bakary Soumare was beaten by the speedy Aaron Lennon in a 50-50 ball and the winger was able to round the keeper and slot it home to make it 2-0. Toyota Park at that point was vibrant with Spurs fans singing and celebrating their team’s inevitable win.

With the Fire heading into a crucial point of the fixture list, the friendly showed that many questions remain defensively for the Fire. A team that should be in mid season form is clearly struggling to find any form at this point, and one can only hope that the coach Yallop finds the answers to his defensive problems soon. 

But the game was not all doom and gloom for the Fire,  Ward had fairly strong performance during the game and he will want to build on that especially coming off his first MLS goal against San Jose.  

Fire fans were also able to see new signing Razvan Cocis make his debut. The highly touted Romanian midfielder did impress in the 30 minutes he played. He was very calm on the ball and provided some incisive passes on offence. Although he is unlikely to feature in this Wednesday’s match against Vancouver Whitecaps, he is a player the Fire will look to link the play between the defense and offence. 

Cocis provides a wealth of talent and knowledge from his time playing in Europe and will be a great mentor for the young midfielders in the squad, especially with the season’s crunch time right around the corner.

NEXT UP:  July 30 — Chicago Fire vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Illinois. 8:30 p.m EST, My50 Chicago, TWCSC Wisconsin. 


Illinois State University
Club Domestic:
Chicago Fire
Club Foreign:
Columnist for his hometown MLS team, Chicago Fire. When he’s not flying down the left wing for ISU FC or in a pick-up game, he can be seen watching the beautiful game. A die-hard Chelsea and USMNT fan, he is keen to growing his soccer knowledge.