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Wednesday, May 22

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Fire Wed Jun 06 2012

Fire's Busy Month Ends With a Whimper

Finally, some games.

After a less-than-busy start to the season, it was hard to get a real impression of this year's Chicago Fire. Well, they've packed eight games into the last four weeks and the results were decidedly mixed. It started out well enough, with the Fire posting a draw against highly rated Real Salt Lake, a loss on Portland's postage stamp of a field, and wins against Sporting Kansas City, Chivas USA, and FC Dallas. Then the wheels fell off the bus. Or maybe the bus just ran out of gas. However you mix your metaphors, the last week hasn't been pretty. They've lost on the road to Columbus, a minor league team from Michigan, and New England.

So, while the Fire have the next two weeks to rest up and prepare for a fairly big home game against the New York Red Bulls on June 17th, it's time to reflect on the good and the bad of the past month.

Good: The wins have all been 2-1 score lines. They all featured the Fire coming back after going a goal behind. Hopefully this will build confidence for the rest of the season. There is nothing better for team spirit than knowing you can win the close games and knowing you're never out of a game.

Not So Good: The Fire keep going behind in games. That tendency caught up with them against Columbus and New England.

Good: At times the creative elements of the Fire's midfield have really clicked. Patrick Nyarko can make anyone look stupid and is a few decent crosses short of being one of the league's best wingers. Marco Pappa is erratic, but capable of real moments of brilliance. And Argentine midfielder Sebastian Grazzini might just turn into the playmaker we've all been waiting for. He scored a beauty of a goal against Dallas:

Not So Good: The Fire hasn't shown the attacking depth to really take advantage of their midfield. No team is taking Dominic Oduro lightly this year. So far, another goal scoring threat hasn't emerged to take the pressure off Oduro. Orr Barrouch and Federico Puppo haven't looked convincing, and the returning Chris Rolfe has only had a cameo so far after injuring his ankle practically as he was getting off the plane from Denmark. And in the Columbus game, the team looked lost as Grazzini rested.

Good: In second-year-pro Jalil Anibaba and rookie Austin Berry the Fire has found two very good, young defenders. It doesn't hurt that Berry can score too, as he showed with his late consolation against Columbus.

Oh, and so can Jalil, who tallied the equalizer against Portland:

Not So Good: In second-year-pro Jalil Anibaba and rookie Austin Berry the Fire is relying on two very young defenders. At times they've looked shaky with several bad giveaways and lapses in concentration - notably in the opening minutes against Dallas, and during a nauseating stretch 70 minutes in against New England. You can sense the need for an experienced head like Cory Gibbs or Arne Friedrich to help get the team through those rough spells.

Good: The Fire has two weeks off while we watch the US play Guatemala and somewhere called Antigua and Barbuda. The Fire can refocus their energies and if everything goes well Arne Friedrich and Chris Rolfe could get fit to add to the team's depth.

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