Chicago and Seattle entered Toyota Park Saturday night looking much different, albeit for different reasons, than when they met in week 3 of the season. The result would also be different than the match in Seattle, with the teams playing out to a scoreless draw in front of an energetic Chicago crowd.
Frank Klopas said numerous times this week that he would not try to reinvent the wheel or make any significant changes to personnel coming into the game against Seattle, his first as interim coach replacing the sacked Carlos de los Cobos. Indeed that would be the case, as the lineup would mirror last week’s lineup against San Jose, save for Corben Bone being inserted in place of Marco Pappa, who is away for most of the month of June with Guatemala on national duty.
The Fire came out in the early going controlling possession, creating opportunities to build up on the offensive end and take the attack to Seattle. Work rates were high, and passing was crisp and purposed throughout the first half. Numerous chances in the first half were yielded by Seattle, created by good runs down the wings by Bone and Dominic Oduro. In the 12th minute, excellent ball movement between Oduro and RB Bratislav Ristic created a solid one-timer for striker Diego Chaves, one of two one-timers by the Uruguayan in the half that would end up in the hands of Seattle GK Kasey Keller. In the 27th minute, however, Chicago got probably their best chance of the half, and perhaps the game, when a feed from Corben Bone off a corner kick deflection resulted in Daniel Paladini blasting a shot from 25 yards out that nearly beat the veteran Seattle keeper to the upper left corner.
Passing and possession in the first half fell to the side of Seattle, however the half seemed all Chicago, with the exception of solid 3rd and 10th minute shots on goal from Seattle that tested Sean Johnson. The patience Chicago showed in the first half in ball movement and their part of the possession game was good to see, as there was definitely an air of “when” and not “if” Chicago would score a goal with all the offensive pressure they were applying to Seattle.
The second half was noticeably quieter on both sides, with chances not coming nearly as often as they did in the first half. Both sides exchanged a few scoring opportunities throughout the half. The best chances on either side came from Dominic Oduro for Chicago, who blasted a quick left footed shot from 20 yards out that was deflected just to the left of Kasey Keller. Similarly, Seattle 54th minute substitution Fredy Montero saw his free kick in the 66th minute go just to the right of goal.
Overall, Chicago fans have to like what they saw from the Men in Red Saturday night. Chicago had more energy and intensity, and their run of play was solid throughout most of the game. Diego Chaves continues to be in the right place at the right time, getting a few good chances at goal per game as he has all season. Chicago’s defense of set pieces and corners was exponentially better, the squad switching to a man marking rather than the zonal defense that Chicago was infamously known for under Carlos de los Cobos. Cristian Nazarit has been a welcome addition to the lineup, as it seems only a matter of time before he ends up on the scoresheet, and Gonzalo Segares and Dominic Oduro continue to be solid in their respective positions. In addition, Sean Johnson showed glimpses of his 2010 form that eventually earned him a US national team call up by Bob Bradley last year. Easily the bright spot of the match Saturday, however, was Daniel Paladini, who seemed to have a break-out game of sorts. Paladini, who started his first game with the club on April 30th against MLS Cup champs Colorado Rapids, showed why he has remained in the lineup. His work rate is high, and Daniel tonight exhibited why he can be dangerous from the center mid position, both with his ball distribution, as well as his solid striking ability.
Frank Klopas has been at the helm with this club in place of Carlos de los Cobos for all of four days. It’s true that as Technical Director Frank assembled much of the current team through his scouting and direct input on signings and many of the new faces seen on the pitch in 2011. While many expected to see three points coming away from Saturday’s match, it cannot be ignored the palpable difference on the pitch from the first third of the season, to this match. A more intense Chicago side is sure to bring positive results in the coming weeks, as they prepare to face three beatable teams on the road, before heading back home to face Real Salt Lake. If Chicago can create the same kind of intensity in the coming weeks they generated Saturday, they will most certainly start coming away from matches with more points, and could easily, with a solid run of upcoming games, find themselves back in a playoff run that has eluded them to this point. Time will tell if that is the case, but the prospect of it seems more realistic than it did just a few days ago, and that makes for exciting times in Chicago.
(image courtesy of Getty Images)