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Knee Jerk Reaction: The Fire in Chicago

When there are more questions than answers, jump to emotionally driven conjecture and over reactions.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Chicago Fire Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Today after the match I came home from my friends house and took a nap. It was a short one but that game exhausted me to the point that I needed to check out for a minute before I sat down to write.

I’ve asked some questions on twitter and think that this is could be the right place to discuss some of them, though I think that there is something that needs to be said and gotten out of the way right at the get-go.

This game was a fluke. That’s not to say that we didn’t make mistakes and that the lack of scoring shouldn’t be a massive red flag (will discuss later), but Murphy and his stupid law took hold of this game straight away and RSL were never able to shake it off.

I won’t spend too much time breaking down the Chicago goals so let this suffice:

1. Unlucky play that 99/100 times doesn’t happen that way.

2. Garbage defending from 4-5 players and 1 player wayyyyyy out of position.

So, to the questions and the all important knee jerk reaction.

Why aren’t we scoring goals?

This has plagued RSL since late last season. We’re cursed. It’s probably that simple. If you have any rituals or prayers that you can show to the guys please share them.

Jokes aside, this is a serious issue and the underlying cause could really be anything. It’s easy to boil it down and blame it on the strikers, coaches, or the soccer gods themselves — curse them all. I don’t think it’s fair to blame any one player or just Jeff for the lack of scoring. Even bad teams with bad coaches score goals. I mean, look at Chicago today.....(too soon?). When you look at the team so far this year, yes I am excluding last season, the ideas are there but the execution is either a poor choice or a half a step too slow/fast. That’s a huge thing in soccer. Now, could that be a symptom of the team not really having a full preseason together as a first 11? Could it be the tactics that they are being told in training? Could it be that we’re only two matches in with a new creative play-maker that may play entirely differently than the team is used to after 10 years with Javi? Shorter pre-season? Lack of tactical awareness just generally? Playing too slow? I mean.....I could go on and on. I think we will see more over time but this is something that should be watched, very very carefully.

What is this teams identity?

Again, I won’t go too deep here right now. Listen to the podcast for more or maybe I’ll write again this week in-depth around this one. What I will say is that this has been a question for me for some time. Not to deify Kreis any more than we already do, but under his tenure we knew who this team was both tactically and at it’s very core. Things since have evolved and we both play and build the team very differently than we did in those years. Through that evolution we’ve lost our identity and I think that surfaces very visibly in how we attack and defend in a match. Now, I mentioned earlier that maybe part of the scoring issue in the last two matches has been, in part, getting used to Rusnak (who was brilliant today) — and maybe we can build an identity around him and his playing style. What I mean by that is you can see the ideas evolving on the field as the ball is played around in the attacking half. Players checking into space or making runs to open up for the ball. Those runs and how we cycle the ball become who we are on the field. The diamond was our identity under Kreis. Somewhat free-wheeling rotation in the midfield that allowed Javi the space and creative control to feed the attackers who were, due mostly to the play in the midfield, able to shake defenders and score goals.*

*Warning - this is a gross over-simplification. I’m aware.

The point being, inside of this 4-2-1-3 (that’s how the team lists it) we just haven’t figured out that spacing and last ball to make it all come together. We don’t know who we are, it seems.

The knee jerk is pretty straight forward. If we don’t figure that out soon, we will lose more games and continue in the goal-less drought. But I think we’re gonna figure it out and we as fans need to have a little more patience with the players as they settle into 2017.