Quick Thoughts On: United v. Fire

Apologies if this is a bit scattershot, but the web feed was pretty rough (though much appreciated) and I'm enjoying some Cabernet Franc with my footie tonight...

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Chicago controlled much of the possession and had more and better chances, but Hamdi Salihi did what he's been paid the DP cash to do. He got one half-decent chance, albeit from a tough angle near the edge of the box after a long ball out of the back, but he buried it to seal a 1-0 victory for United.

United's first half was abject. Chicago's burners up top were consistently getting behind the United defense, with only Willis (PK saved, 2-3 decent saves in the run of play) and Chicago's wayward finishing to thank for a 0-0 deadlock at the break.

The second half saw a much better performance with the wing attackers getting more involved and more sustained possession in general for United. Still, Chicago had a couple of good looks and might want to see a replay of Oduro's chance that pinged down off the bar and looked suspiciously close to crossing the line.

That said, United's "second team" did not show an appreciable drop-off from the starters despite the entire squad (bar Willis) being replaced in fits and starts. Given that depth and finishing have been the major foci of the FO's offseason, you've got to say that what we saw on the field justified their efforts.

As for formation, United came out in a 4-2-3-1 that shifted to a 4-4-1-1 or 4-4-2 at times based on De Rosario's freedom of movement and the wings getting pushed back by Chicago's outside backs. Generally, it looked like:

Willis in net with Jakovic (White) and McDonald (Dudar) in central defense. Russell (Korb) and Woolard (Guilherme) manned the flanks, while Saragosa (Rozeboom) and King (Shanosky) held down the deeper midfield positions. Salihi (Santos) operated alone up top with the trio of Najar (Cruz), Pontius (DeLeon), and De Rosario (King, latter Richter) supporting.

After the goal, and particularly after De Rosario came off,  United's more attacking midfielders dropped deeper into a 4-5-1 as they looked to protect the lead and hit on the counter. Though United weren't the dominant force possession-wise, the number of short goal-kicks and considered distribution from the back seemed to suggest that possession was being stressed. That said, both Russell and Dudar (and White on the winner) displayed a preference (and ability) to hit more direct balls out of the back.

Individuals that stood out (for good or ill)?

Jakovic looked particularly vulnerable against Nyarko's quickness (until Dejan kicked him out of the game...sigh) and quick balls over the top.

Dudar looked calm and in control at the back. Some of his balls were too ambitious and didn't come off and his passes back to Willis sometimes looked under-hit to me, but generally he was solid, particularly in snuffing out potentially dangerous situations with admirable cool.

Salihi had some decent moments of hold-up and combination play (as did Santos in relief), but scoring the one half-decent look he had is what he's getting the big bucks for.

Guilherme looked great on the ball and worrying without it.

Shanosky doesn't quite look ready -- too easy to push off the ball and not always smart with it.

Rozeboom, however, should be signed immediately. He looked calm and confident winning balls, distributing, and directing traffic. Don't know that we need him, Saragosa, Kitchen, and Morsink, do we?

Willis saved the early PK, was in good positions throughout, and looked every inch the capable backup he proved last year.

Saragosa might as well have been Morsink. Lunging tackles, misshit passes, deserved yellow (rash tackle at the end of a sequence after his poor pass lead to a transition chance for the Fire). Has to say something that the center of midfield wasn't so over-run when the rookie Rozeboom came on at the half.

Najar showed in spurts in the second half just how dangerous he is on the ball.

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There's work to do, but the early indications are positive. Despite being largely outplayed, United found a way to win; the striker they brought in to get the goals got one; and the lack in drop-off when the subs were introduced speaks to the quality of depth that the club as made it a point to add this off-season. While the possession play was disjointed and the defense was left chasing far too often (though not every opponent will be as blessed with speed up top as Chicago), these are both problems you expect in pre-season, particularly with a number of new faces being integrated.


  1. Any ideas as to why Bosko was left out? Reports out of camp were very positive.

  2. Injury precaution because of a lingering or new knock would be my best guess. I think I heard the United guy of the pair on the stream say that he was being held out as a precaution but was expected to start Wednesday versus the Battery.