Fire hope clinical finishing continues against NYCFC

The Fire scored twice in the first 10 minutes Tuesday and were able to dictate play for their second win of the year.

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The Fire’s Alvaro Medran smiles during Tuesday’s game.

Courtesy of the Fire

Through six games, the 2020 Fire were beginning to look like the 2019 group by creating chances but not scoring. It’s an issue that kept last year’s talented team out of the playoffs and cost Veljko Paunovic his job, paving the way for many of last offseason’s on-field changes.

Then on Tuesday, the Fire beat FC Cincinnati 3-0. No, the second-year team likely won’t be the toughest test the Fire face this season, but their finishing was an encouraging sign entering Saturday’s match at New York City FC (2-5-0, 6 points).

“We were struggling in the past games to really be clinical in front of goal,” said midfielder Fabian Herbers, who scored Tuesday’s opener. “We just didn’t get our chances and were losing some games even though we had the chances to win those games, actually, or to at least get a tie out of those games. (Tuesday), we showed that when we are clinical in front of the goal, that we can really dominate teams and be a good team and win games.”

The winning games part had eluded the Fire (2-4-1, 7 points) recently, and their lack of execution in front of goal was a reason why. It knocked them out of the MLS is Back tournament when they couldn’t score against Vancouver in their final group-stage match, and they squandered an early chance against Columbus last Thursday that could’ve set a tone against one of the league’s best teams.

Tuesday, that wasn’t the case. The Fire scored twice in the first 10 minutes and were able to dictate play for their second win of the year and return to Soldier Field with a victory.

“So, like I said in the last couple of weeks or in the last couple of months, it obviously helps when your first chance is a goal and we had as well,” Fire coach Raphael Wicky said. “The first big chance in Columbus was ours, we had a big chance, we don’t score there. So, it’s obviously always important that we don’t need five or six chances to score a goal.”

Perhaps just as encouragingly, all three goals Tuesday night came from the midfield, and all three were different types of scores.

Herbers, whose goal was awarded after a review, timed his run well enough to stay onside and volleyed a pass from Gaston Gimenez. In the 10th minute, Alvaro Medran doubled the Fire’s lead by scoring from 30 yards out. Ignacio Aliseda provided the final margin in the 67th minute by finding space in the inside the 18-yard box and finishing a team buildup.

Through a translator, Medran said “that shows we have a really good midfield who can adapt to any situation and any position.” 

“Coach just wants us to adapt and this shows how well we can play and adapt together,” Medran said. “We can keep going from here.”

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