Published on March 5th, 2017 | by Jeff Engelhardt0
Chicago Fire vs Columbus Crew Player Rankings
Note: Players are ranked from best to worst (XI being best, I being worst). Substitutes are not ranked unless they play as many or more minutes than the player they replaced.
The first glimpse of Chicago Fire’s 2017 looked like it might be a long, lifeless stare into a mirror that was only interested in reflecting images from 2016.
In the first 45 minutes, the team was disjointed, there was little to no pressure on the ball from the defense and the rare chance that came about was promptly wasted. But then something funny happened. The team decided to shatter that image at halftime and they came out inspired in the second half.
The high pressure style the team showed in the preseason came back. Players ventured forward and took chances. The middle of the field was no longer a free pass for Columbus to push forward unencumbered. And the result was a well earned 1-1 draw that should have players and supporters feeling pretty positive heading into the home opener on Saturday.
Last year a slow start like the one the Fire experienced Saturday would have been a weight on their shoulders that only grew heavier as the match went on. It was promising to see the team show the ability to make adjustments and overcome the mental hurdles that mistake after mistake can create.
What caused such a sense of urgency and fight in the second half? Look no further than Fire On Ice’s Man of the Match …
XI: Dax McCarty — This match isn’t 1-0 at halftime or 1-1 at the end without McCarty. Columbus likely would’ve steamrolled the Fire in the first half without McCArty’s constant presence in breaking up plays. He was the only player with a strong 90 from whistle to whistle and I have a feeling he didn’t let the team hang its collective head at halftime. His defense also directly led to the equalizer.
X: David Accam — This apparently is controversial. He didn’t receive much love on social media for his game, but without him, the Fire simply do not get a result. He delivered in a game where Nemanja Nikolic (and others) squandered a couple chances. No one was finishing for the Fire. Accam did. And he made a couple defensive contributions, including breaking up a pass that led to the team’s best first-half chance.
IX: Jorge Bava — Yes his distribution was a problem, including a whopper in the first half that was right to Columbus and almost resulted in a Federico Higuain goal. But his stops on Justin Meram in the opening minutes of the game and on Ola Kamara in the second half were absolutely massive. Chicago doesn’t draw without either of those stops.
VIII: John Goossens — Perhaps no one made a bigger difference than Goose in the second half. After a nearly invisible first half, Goossens set the tone early with a shot just off target in the second. He settled into his role with Dax defensively and ultimately made the key pass on Accam’s goal. It was a tough ask to step into Juninho’s position and he did it well in the second half.
VII: Joao Meira — His passing out of the back (66 out of 69 completed), especially in the first half, did help ease relentless pressure. I don’t think he was the fifth best player in MLS on Saturday like the Audi Player Index thought, but he was quietly solid. I still think the communication between him and Kappelhof lacked on the Ethan Finlay goal.
VI: Nemanja Nikolic — While not the start he may have hoped for, he was aggressive and had a couple good chances. He is going to need to convert those in the future, but for an MLS debut, it was promising. Some of the timing issues were just as much on Michael de Leeuw as they were on him.
V: Brandon Vincent — I enjoy watching a player make progress during a game and that’s what Vincent did. He gave Harrison Afful plenty of space in the first half, but did much better in the second. He became more effective after Accam worked with him more in the 4-3-3 formation. Good finish after a shaky start.
IV: Michael de Leeuw — Just way too quiet for too many stretches in the game. He had a red hot preseason, which made his performance Saturday a bit surprising. He struggled to get in good positions, drifted offside and is just generally capable of much more. He did draw a foul in a good area and delivered a pass that should’ve been an assist on Nikolic’s first-half attempt.
III: Johan Kappelhof — Like de Leeuw, Kappelhof is mostly this low because he is capable of more. He, along with Meira, got beat on that Finlay goal. Kappelhof had seven clearances and one interception. He can do more. Meira added nine clearances, four interceptions, four recoveries and a tackle to his impressive passing display. Meira was the workhorse in this one.
II: Arturo Alvarez — I almost feel bad for putting him this low because he had to work his butt off in the first half. With Michael Harrington badly struggling, Alvarez dealt with trying to dig the ball out of bad areas on the right flank all half. He coughed up the ball too much, but his effort was commendable. Hopefully he can put together a more productive outing Saturday.
I: Michael Harrington — He was terrible. The cross that led to the goal came after Justin Meram shook off his defense. He failed to close down on the ball a whole bunch. He simply should not start. Credit where it is due though, he sent a cross in to Nikolic for a header in the box and sent that perfect ball in on Luis Solignac’s foot, which should’ve been scored. But still far from acceptable.