Because of the stop-start nature of the 2020 season, the Fire are still trying to mesh.
So to develop some more continuity, coach Raphael Wicky didn’t rotate his team for the 0-0 draw at FC Cincinnati on Wednesday after the 3-1 loss last Saturday at New York City FC. But that created other issues.
“We tried to build the team,” Wicky said. “We tried to find some consistency. So we started with the same team besides [goalkeeper] Bobby [Shuttleworth] that played in New York. But, yeah, I felt some guys had a little bit of heavy legs, which is normal after all these games, and the subs came in very, very well.”
That’s part of the challenge for Wicky and the Fire, who host the Revolution on Sunday night. They’d like to build familiarity and get everybody used to each other during a much-needed long run of games, but the games have come with little time off.
Midfielder Fabian Herbers said playing games without interruption helps tremendously. Players get to see how their teammates move on the field and whether they like the ball in certain circumstances.
“It’s important to know all these tendencies,” Herbers said Tuesday. “Yes, we have been training a lot together by now, but in a game, in a real competitive game, it’s always a little bit different. So it’s good. It certainly helps us — all the games, getting to know each other, getting to know each other’s tendencies and using that to our advantage to score goals, to create chances and to go forward.”
At the same time, the Fire and other teams are working through a condensed schedule that has them playing multiple times in a week. On Tuesday, midfielder Alvaro Medran said the Fire ended up a little tired against Columbus when they restarted the season but were doing OK.
“Now we are adapting to the rhythm,” Medran said. “The coaching staff has done a good job of taking care of us and getting us ready. We are getting into a rhythm of games, and when we go out to play, we feel like we have fresh legs. So they are doing a good job taking care of us, and it’s just a matter of getting back into the rhythm of games.”
Luckily for the Fire, they will have almost a full week off after the game against the Revolution before hosting Columbus next Saturday. Barring any complications, that game will be their sixth in less than a month, but one with regular rest.
That will give the Fire more time to recover but also jell.
“We’re going to slowly get to our optimal level, and little by little we’re going to keep getting better in the field,” Medran said. “Yeah, we’ve seen that there are some mistakes that we’ve made, but they are easy to fix. So we’re going to fix them and keep going and just keep progressing and developing as the season goes on.”