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After getting defensive, Fire look for second straight win

The Fire pitched their first shutout last week and are looking to stay stingy against Djordje Mihailovic and CF Montreal.

The Fire’s Boris Sekulic challenges Inter Miami’s Joevin Jones during last week’s game.
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Maybe coach Raphael Wicky and the Fire found something against Inter Miami CF.

For the first time all season, the Fire kept the opposition off the scoreboard. Even without star attacker Rodolfo Pizarro, the Inter Miami attack led by the Higuain brothers — Gonzalo and Federico — figured to be too much for the Fire.

That wasn’t the case.

The Fire (1-4-1, four points) held Inter Miami to one shot on goal. Unlike other instances in the Wicky era, the Fire played a smart 90 minutes in coming up with their first victory of the season.

“The whole team was very compact, worked very hard, worked synchronized together,” Wicky said. “That’s what we’re trying to do every game. And on top of that, we really didn’t [make] any easy mistakes today. I think the team was very focused and concentrated.”

One of Wicky’s talking points has been that defense is a team concept, and errors up the field can lead to the ball ending up in the Fire net. Those scores, he maintains, aren’t solely the defenders’ fault.

Nothing of the sort happened against Inter Miami. The Fire were disciplined, and that was true of everyone on the field.

“It’s the teamwork,” Wicky said. “It’s not only the defenders.”

Last Saturday, the Fire appeared to somewhat alter their shape. Instead of playing their standard 4-2-3-1, they shifted to a 4-3-3.

Captain and center back Francisco Calvo discounted the apparent change in formation that saw the Fire begin with a three-man midfield of Fabian Herbers, Mauricio Pineda and Alvaro Medran. Whatever the case, the midfield seemed to mesh well with the back line of Boris Sekulic, Wyatt Omsberg, Calvo and Miguel Navarro.

“We played our football; we kept believing in our idea,” Calvo said. “[It’s] the idea that our staff is bringing to us, that we like, and we grabbed a big three points for the club today.”

To win consecutive games for the first time since Sept. 23 and 27, the Fire will have to beat Club de Foot Montreal (2-3-2, eight points) on Saturday at Soldier Field. Formerly the Montreal Impact, one of CF Montreal’s top players has been attacker Djordje Mihailovic, a former homegrown player with the Fire who was dealt in the offseason.

Mihailovic, with two goals and an assist, should present another challenge. But after the Inter Miami victory, at least the Fire have some momentum and recent proof that they can stop talented opponents.

It would also help if the Fire could control the ball like they did against Inter Miami. They had 57.4% of the possession and dictated play, and combined with the Fire shutting down counterattacks, that led to few chances for Inter Miami to challenge goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.

Those are all positive indicators for Saturday, the Fire’s last game until June 19 because of the FIFA international window.

“It’s difficult when you lose a game and have to wait so long to play the next game,” Pineda said. “So it would be really good to go into that break with two wins in a row.”

NOTE: The Fire announced Friday that their Aug. 14 match at Soldier Field against the Columbus Crew is shifting to Aug. 15, and that the Oct. 31 game with the New England Revolution will now be played Sept. 22. Both alterations were made because of conflicts with Bears home games.