Fire expect to find secondary scoring in 2021
To turn their ballyhooed advanced metrics into real goals, move up in the standings and make the playoffs for the first time since 2017, the Fire will have to find reliable production beyond Robert Beric.
Robert Beric can’t score every goal this season. The Fire hope they have other players who can support him, something they lacked in 2020.
Last year, Beric scored 12 goals in 23 games to easily lead the team. After Beric, the highest scorers were Fabian Herbers (four), followed by Mauricio Pineda and Przemyslaw Frankowski (three each). Herbers is a valuable role-player, but all of his goals came at home over a one-month stretch, Pineda is a defender whose main responsibility isn’t offense, and Frankowski’s inconsistent finishing left him with just one goal until scoring twice in the season finale.
To turn their ballyhooed advanced metrics into real goals, move up in the standings and make the playoffs for the first time since 2017, the Fire will have to find reliable options other than Beric. They think they have that in Frankowski, designated player Ignacio Aliseda, new signings Stanislav Ivanov and Chinonso Offor, plus a healthy Luka Stojanovic and holdovers Herbers and Elliot Collier. Maybe even deeper-lying midfielders Alvaro Medran and Gaston Gimenez, arguably the Fire’s two best all-around players, could chip in more scoring.
The Fire, obviously, don’t need to be reminded of the importance of finding more reliable scorers.
“We don’t really want to be dependent only on one player,” coach Raphael Wicky said. “Now saying that, of course we all know that Robert was the guy who most often scored. But I want the midfielders to score goals.”
The secondary attacking options beyond Beric, however, have questions.
Aliseda had an up-and-down 2020 season, scoring once in 1,402 minutes. Ivanov and Offor are in their first MLS seasons, and the league can be tough on newcomers, something Aliseda experienced last year. Collier, meanwhile, has one goal over two MLS seasons.
But one of them has to step up, or else opponents will key on Beric. And last year, when Beric went through a seven-game dry spell, the Fire went 1-5-1, further emphasizing what his production meant to the team.
“I think hopefully Beric can repeat what he did last year or even do better,” Herbers said, “but I think we need to help him collectively and if each of the offensive midfielders and wingers has their fair share of goals, I think we can look pretty sharp and have a good run.”
Aliseda thinks he can ramp up his production. Following a difficult 2020, the 21-year-old attacker is optimistic about what he can contribute.
“Personally, I’m feeling very good this year,” he said through a translator. “I’m feeling much more confident, and now this season, we’re all playing together, training together, and if we are all together in this, then we are all going to be able to support each other and get more goals as a group. I think sometimes goals are a little bit of luck. Sometimes you go on a lucky scoring streak, but I know this year we are going to give a lot more both as a group, and me personally, I’m going to give a lot more.”