Fire’s new defensive scheme works

Written By BY BRIAN SANDALOW For Sun-Times Media Posted: 06/06/2014, 03:00pm

It hasn’t been perfect. It certainly hasn’t been pretty, and it hasn’t led to any wins, but the Fire’s new defensive posture might be a sign of progress.

On Wednesday in Colorado, the Fire (2-3-8, 14 points) finally picked up their first shutout, tying the Rapids 0-0. That came three days after a 1-1 draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy in which Landon Donovan capitalized on the Fire’s lone mistake for a late equalizer.

Against the league-leading Seattle Sounders (9-3-2, 29 points) on Saturday night at Toyota Park, the Fire are trying to build momentum while getting used to a system that focuses on making it harder for opponents to get through the middle of the field.

“The cohesion is not there exactly; it’s a fairly new system that we started this week to try to get us more solid in the middle of the field,” captain Jeff Larentowicz told reporters after the game Wednesday.

“All in all, it’s the first shutout of the year, it’s a point on the road, and we’ll move on to the game on Saturday.”

The Fire will be helped by the absence of Sounders star Clint Dempsey, who’s away with the U.S. national team as it prepares for the World Cup. But even with Dempsey gone, the Fire will be challenged by a team that includes former Fire players Marco Pappa, Jalil Anibaba and Chad Barrett. The Sounders lead the league with 29 goals and a plus-8 goal differential.

At least the Fire might be able to rely on a back line that is finally starting to mesh. Because of injuries to Bakary Soumare and Gonzalo Segares plus Lovel Palmer’s suspension and illness, the 1-1 draw with the Galaxy was the first time since the second game of the season in March that the expected starters were together. The only defender who has been on the field every game is former Sounder Jhon Kennedy Hurtado.

At training Tuesday, Soumare didn’t seem so surprised with the group’s success against the Galaxy.

“It’s not like we haven’t played [together],’’ Soumare said. ‘‘We spent a whole preseason together. This is the back line we had through preseason. Those are guys I’m familiar with.”

NOTE: The Fire announced they loaned goalkeeper Alec Kann to the Charlotte Eagles of USL PRO for the rest of the season. The Fire can recall Kann during the loan period.

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