The rumors of Schweinsteiger, Honda, and Guardado all came to nothing but surprise signings of Juninho, McCarty, and this Polish superstar called Nemanja Nicolic had my head spinning. After a rollercoaster of an offseason in Chicago, the starting lineup on opening day actually looked promising.
Bava; Harrington, Kappelhof, Meira, Vincent; Alvarez, Goossens, McCarty, Accam; de Leeuw, Nicolic
With Juninho out for a one game suspension and Polster out on injury, Chicago showed they have depth in the midfield, that is something new to Fire fans. Although it was an exciting lineup compared to the last few years, I was cautious because my heart has been broken enough times from building up any hope for this team. The team took the field and finally the 20th season of MLS in Chicago had begun. It was a good thing I didn’t get my hopes too high because in the first half The Men in Red looked exactly like they did in 2016. Possession was bad, Columbus dominated chances created and The Fire were significantly outshot, it didn’t even look like the team we saw preseason. Chicago went down 1-0 early on in the game off of a nice cross that Mohammed Abu was able to finish with his head that gave Jorge Bava no chance.
It is a good thing that soccer has two halves because Paunovic said something to the team at half that seemed to work. All credit to Pauno for getting his players rallied and figuring out the formation change to the 4-3-3 in order to better control the midfield and Higuain. The tables were completely turned for the second 45 and things finally looked up. This was the most exciting soccer I have seen Chicago play in recent years, and this includes their single away victory at Montreal last season. Chicago was pressuring the ball, they were clearly the fitter team, they created chances, got significantly more shots off, and most importantly they moved the ball around like a professional soccer team should.
Soon after this transition it was Goossens who played a lucky ball that rebounded onto David Accam’s foot. Accam managed to juke out a defender and curve the ball far post to tie up the match. The rest of the match was some sort of anomaly because Chicago decided to be the team that wanted the three points instead of sitting back and absorbing pressure. The most notable chance came when Chicago got on the break which created a serious of opportunities in the box that resulted in Brandon Vincent hitting it over the net. Another chance came when Luis Solignac took the ball down on his foot a few yards from goal. Solignac brought the ball down on a dime but then got tied on his own boots. The shot was never taken, he will want that one back. The final whistle would eventually blow at the scoreline of Chicago 1 – 1 Columbus but not before Goossens went down with an injury in the final seconds. With the return of Juninho next match, this should not be a huge deal but Goossens is a very injury prone player who can help the team off the bench or for depth when healthy. The front office’s main worry about him is this health problem and him going down in the first match of the season is not a good sign for his future in Chicago, hopefully it is nothing.
Time to look forward to the home opener in Bridgeview next week against Real Salt Lake. Salt Lake will be an interesting battle for the midfield with Juninho and McCarty going up against the best central defensive midfielder in the league, Kyle Beckerman. Remember MLS is all about winning at home and getting a point on the road.
MLS Regular Season
Chicago Fire (0-0-1, 1 pt.) 1:1 Columbus Crew SC (0-0-1, 1 pt.)
March 4, 2017 – MAPFRE Stadium
CLB – Ethan Finlay (Justin Meram) 17
CHI – David Accam (John Goossens) 73
CLB – Mohammed Abu (caution) 41
CHI – John Goossens (caution) 81
Chicago Fire: Jorge Bava, Michael Harrington, Johan Kappelhof, Joao Meira, Brandon Vincent, Dax McCarty, John Goossens (Drew Conner 90+6), Arturo Alvarez (Luis Solignac 74), Michael de Leeuw ©, David Accam, Nemanja Nikolic (David Arshakyan 90+3).
Columbus Crew SC: Zack Steffen, Harrison Afful, Nicolai Naess, Jonathan Mensah, Jukka Raitala, Mohammed Abu (Artur 76), Wil Trapp ©, Ethan Finlay, Federico Higuain, Justin Meram, Ola Kamara (Adam Jahn 70).
Quote of the day:
“We have to get Toyota Park back to being a fortress. We have to make sure teams are scared to come play us there.”- Dax McCarty