Fire defense needs to limit set pieces

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire defense allowed four goals for the second time in MLS play this season when they departed Houston with a 4-3 loss to the Dynamo on Saturday.

The number of goals was not the most troubling thing, but rather the way in which Houston scored its tallies -- on set pieces. That was something the Fire were prepared for with Houston, but the Dynamo still cashed in.

"The thing that we talked about is the only time that they were going to score is on set pieces, and they did it four times," Fire left defensive back Gonzalo Segares said. "It's frustrating because we talked about it."

"That's their game -- set pieces," Fire center defensive back C.J. Brown said. "We, as in I, have to do better at it."

Brown stressed the "I" probably because the man he was marking, Dynamo forward Brian Ching, had a hat trick. And moving forward, Brown was quick to point out that the best remedy for defending against set pieces is simply eliminating them.

"At the end of the day, I think it comes to limiting the opportunities to have free kicks -- preventing the corner kicks, preventing the free kicks," Brown said. "Doing better at that would help us a lot more. And just as an individual being focused on your man."

There were some unfortunate sequences from the Fire's perspective. Twice the ball popped out perfectly for Ching to get a goal. And even Lovel Palmer's goal off of a free kick, Chicago set up its wall and Segares simply could not make contact when he left the wall to try and block the strike.

"When I stretched my foot to try to block it, it went right between my legs," Segares said. "And of course as I'm popping out, I left a hole in the wall, and that's where the ball went through. ... Things bounce one team's way, and that just goes with the game."

"We've got to be a little more focused on getting a hold of a man and shutting them down until the play's cleared," Brown said. "On the initial plays, I'm with Ching. But after it hits something, bounces around, it's anybody's man. You need to stay tight as much as you can until that ball is out of the box."

Chicago's defense now has to prepare for a trip out west without starting center back and 2010 MLS All-Star Wilman Conde. Conde will miss Saturday's match against Seattle Sounders FC because of yellow card accumulation.

Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos is mulling two options -- either bringing in Krzysztof Krol or Kwame Watson-Siriboe directly for Conde's slot, or moving Segares to center back and utilizing Krol at left back.

In the net, it is expected that Sean Johnson will continue to get the call following his first MLS loss. Johnson has continued to play with decisiveness and has come up with some clutch saves ever since he has taken hold of the starting spot.

"He's made some very good reactive saves, which you want in a goalkeeper," Brown said. "I always say that you're going to have to make one or two big saves for us every game. That's just a given. And then we'll try to do whatever we can to limit those opportunities."

Not limiting those opportunities was the downfall of Chicago's last match, plain and simple.