To have happen to the Lions what they used to do so well as the Cardiac Cats is gut wrenching, to say the least. Remember friends, this is a team that did not record any draws on the road last season. It was a bit of a stark contrast to the first match in about every way. So, what did we take away from the 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire in the Lions’ first road trip of 2019?
Defense Needs Time
The players on the pitch certainly seem trained well to play the 3-5-2 formation, but the communication and cohesion of the back three needs to hurry up and solidify. For the first 20 minutes of the match, Chicago pressed the back three hard, and the scoreline could easily have been 2-0 quickly with how easily they were able to take advantage of the “new” Lions’ center backs. Shane O’Neill, Alex De John, and Kamal Miller did well, but will need to continue to grow together as a unit, and quickly, to help the ultimate goal of making the playoffs.
Questions at Keeper
I am not sold on Brian Rowe. Could it be the fact that once again we are watching a brand new defensive unit, playing a new system that highlights issues? Rowe has seemed slow and flat footed at times. His distribution has been a bit chaotic, and I have yet to see him standing between the woodwork projecting a dominant mentality. It could be nerves, it could be a new team, it could be the aforementioned defensive needs. Whatever it is, it is another position that needs to be solidified better, and soon.
New Midfield Taking Shape
I have to say, after only watching this team for two matches, I am really beginning to buy into the new Lions, the new formation, and the new tactics. Although Chicago held the advantage in possession (and shots, and passing, and almost everything else), the danger the Lions possessed was obvious. It became even more obvious after Ruan entered the match. Also, Sebas is a fantastic defensive midfielder that has really impressed me so far, Will Johnson is still just a machine that never stops running, and Sacha Kljestan looked more up to speed this match.
Never Give Up
Dom Dwyer’s goal was proof to never, ever, give up on a ball. If the Lions had played with that mentality for the rest of the match afterward, who knows what would have happened? The last 10 minutes of this match were filled with halfhearted plays, lazy passes, and mental breaks that kept giving the ball back to the Fire. If a high press, and controlling the run of play is what worked, then why shift into hunkering down, especially when you are up a man? Never give up.
Nani is the Man
I think it was a great call by the team to send Nani out Saturday as the captain. Watching him, although his performance was not spectacular, showed that he still is more than capable of being one of the best players in MLS. He is a very tactical player, so it will take a little more time for him to understand his teammates, the runs they make, the spaces they fill, and the timing they need, but it will come. You could see him talking to players, talking to coaches, and discussing the match with the referee throughout the 90 minutes. He carried the armband well, and I hope to see it around his arm more as he grows with this squad.
It was a bittersweet point to take, but the Lions need to be looking forward to next Saturday. It is just the second match of 2019, so there is no need to panic yet. What did you take away from the Lions’ first road point of the season?