Opinion

Published on April 10th, 2017 | by Jeff Engelhardt

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Player Rankings: Fire vs Crew

The Chicago Fire needed three points Saturday and they got it.

With it only being the fifth match of the season, a “must win” isn’t necessarily accurate, but home games are especially important in this league and become even more significant when a road trip from hell looms on the horizon.

Chicago used a full team effort to down the Columbus Crew, taking a 1-0 victory and four out of a possible six points so far from their most hated rival. It was a good day.

As I’ve stated in previous pieces, the way these player rankings are composed is with starters ranked or substitutes who play more minutes than the player they replaced. Because of that, the stellar outings from Daniel Johnson and Drew Conner will not be ranked, but they deserve a special shout out. Conner did hard work for his extended shift and created some serious chances while Johnson flashed more of the flair that has people clamoring for the youngster to take on a larger role.

So props to them. Depth has been a big problem for the Fire in the past, but it looks to be in much better shape despite the lack of experience Johnson and Conner bring to the table. Coaches also don’t get recognized in these rankings, but I loved what Veljko Paunovic did Saturday. He was locked in with all his decisions and I really look forward to see how he follows that up Saturday against New England.

So now to the rankings:

XI: Dax McCarty – Just watch and enjoy (he was also tremendous defensively).

X: Bastian Schweinsteiger – Sure, he didn’t score 17 minutes into the game (he would’ve been our top ranked player last week if not for our sabbatical) but he has an undeniable presence. Remember how Columbus bossed the midfield without Juninho in the first meeting? Well that didn’t happen this time with Schweinsteiger keeping it together in the middle. When he moved further up the field in the second half, the Columbus pressure eased and the Fire started creating chances. Difference maker.

IX: Nemanja Nikolic – Goal scorers always deserve a high grade, especially in a 1-0 game. However routine a goal may seem, the Fire don’t win if Nikolic doesn’t convert. He did his job and hopefully gained some confidence moving forward. His runs are there. As long he times it right, they should start to add up soon.

VIII: Johan Kappelhof – It was a clean sheet, which means the defense did something right. In a three-man back line, Kappelhof shut down the right side with Michael Harrington further up the field. Kappelhof’s passing was good as well on the day. The best of the solid defensive bunch.

VII: Michael de Leeuw – After the preseason he had, I was wired to grade de Leeuw on what he would do offensively but he has been great defensively this season and perhaps was at his defensive best Saturday. There are probably fancy stats that could show how well he played, but just watch him hustle. It made a difference. Three fouls won and only five missed passes help too.

VI: Michael Harrington – This is not a joke. He had a good game. He only missed four passes added five clearances and had seven recoveries – all better than his wingback partner Brandon Vincent. Clearly he is more comfortable in the 3-4-3 that was deployed Saturday and maybe it is the short-term solution. He even looked better defensively, denying a couple crosses and hounding Justin Meram out of bounds at one point.

V: Joao Meira – A typical Meira game. Worked hard defensively, had a handful of clearances, very few missed passes and one aggressive foul. He has turned into Mr. Steady back there after a pretty wild freshman season. He also had the easy lay off pass to Dax on the goal, but hey, it still counts.

IV: Brandon Vincent – Played well in the wingback role also, though an increased amount of pressure came down his side in the first part of the second half. Showed off some really good passing in the first half. He can just be quiet at times, which is OK when everyone is keeping the shape like Saturday.

III: Jorge Bava – It was a clean sheet but he only needed to make three saves, none of which were entirely difficult. Something still seems uneasy about his performances. Maybe it’s when he hangs out with the ball too long at his feet and almost let’s Justin Meram take it from him and score. I don’t know.

II: Jonathan Campbell – I hate to be this hard on him, because he was the most forward-minded of the back three when it came to passing. But he had only one clearance, one interception and that horrendous misplay in the box that should have led to a Columbus goal. He was let off the hook. It was terrible and it’s why he is here. Also only played 55 minutes.

I: David Accam – Also harsh, but he is a superstar player and held to a higher standard. He didn’t live up to it Saturday. Only completed eight passes, two of which went forward. Did have the one nice move to get his shot on goal but was otherwise pretty quiet. I appreciate his defensive help, but again, you just expect better touch from him. He won’t be here often, just far too good.

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