Midfield switch helps Fire jump to No. 8
With their second straight victory on Saturday, the Chicago Fire jumped from 12th to eighth place in ESPNSoccernet.com's weekly power rankings.
Chicago (2-2-1) is coming off a dominant 2-0 win over the visiting Houston Dynamo (2-2-1, ninth in the power rankings). And for a second straight match, Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos went with a 4-5-1 formation on the pitch. As long as this set strengthens the team's midfield play, which was evident over the weekend, Chicago likely will maintain this approach.
Midfielders Baggio Husidic and Peter Lowry were the Fire's goal scorers, and having the extra midfielder in this setup was a huge benefit.
"It helps a lot. It takes a lot of pressure off the two center [midfielders] in there if we have another guy coming back to help us," Lowry said. "And it allows for freedom to make runs forward out of the midfield. It can be hard to pick up."
The one pitfall -- though their depth also could be seen as a huge asset -- is that Chicago has had to leave one of its former Fulham forwards on the bench in these past two matches. Against D.C. United, Brian McBride came off the bench late in the second half and had an assist and goal. Against Houston, Collins John entered in the second half for McBride, though neither player found the back of the net.
The chances were there, though. McBride regularly had scoring opportunities in the first 45 minutes against the Dynamo, and credit is due to some crisp cross passing and contributions from pretty much every position.
"The ball moved very well from side to side," McBride said of the Houston match. "I think we were able to catch them, especially in the first half, on some switches. And with Patrick's (Nyarko) and Justin's (Mapp) and (Marco) Pappa's ability to take advantage of one-on-one situations, it causes a lot of problems for the other team."
De los Cobos said after the game that he might go with a two-forward set somewhere in the future. As long as the team is getting winning results, don't expect that transition to happen so soon.