2022 MLS season: Despite hot start, Fire see room for improvement

Few fans could’ve reasonably expected the Fire’s first four games to go any better. They’re 2-0-2 (8 points) and have established an identity and posture the club hasn’t shown in years.

That doesn’t mean coach Ezra Hendrickson thinks the Fire are a finished product.

“Well, it’s going to take a while,” Hendrickson said. “One of the things I mentioned when I took the job is that there will be growing pains. Fortunately for us, we haven’t really run into any of those growing pains as yet.”

Whether or not those growing pains come and how the Fire respond to adversity remains to be seen, but Hendrickson and his team have plenty to build on entering Saturday’s match against FC Dallas (2-1-1, 7 points). However, as Hendrickson said, there are also areas where they must get better.

So far, the Fire’s defensive mindset has carried them. They were the last team in Major League Soccer to concede a goal and have shown themselves to be difficult to play against. However, they’ve only scored five goals, and their attack must show more punch.

“We are definitely not satisfied with the way things are going,” Hendrickson said. “We are happy but we know that there’s some weaknesses that we have to improve on because we know what it takes to be playing come October, November, and right now, we still have a lotmore to do to get to that point. So yes, we are happy but not satisfied.”

It would be surprising if the Fire viewed themselves as a finished product, especially just four games into what was expected to be a transitional year. Hendrickson is in his first season, and the Fire added two new attackers in Xherdan Shaqiri and Kacper Przybylko (with a third, Jairo Torres, arriving May 1), along with new captain and starting left centerback Rafael Czichos.

Even with the strong start, the Fire are still in the process of getting to know each other after another offseason of change, even if they are meshing quickly both on and off the field.

“I think the guys that we brought in jelled straightaway,” said defender Wyatt Omsberg, a surprise standout who has seized the right centerback job in place of the previously injured Carlos Teran. “They were all willing to buy into what Ezra said and to the culture that we were trying to create. They have adjusted really, really well.”

That culture — not to mention tactical discipline defensively and strong individual performances — has the Fire off to their best start through four games since 2009. Yet like his coach, Omsberg sees more development ahead.

“I think we probably still have some more to grow because there are a lot of new guys who haven’t been here for too long, and maybe we’ll add a couple more,” Omsberg said. “Everyone has done a good job, the returning guys, and especially guys who have come in have jelled really well. We just have to keep moving forward with that mentality.”

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