Drew Conner shows off skills in Instagram video, but won't admit how many outtakes he had

Drew Conner shows off skills in Instagram video, but won't admit how many outtakes he had

Highlight reels and mix tapes of skill moves are nothing new and they always look fancy and flashy when the edited versions come to public view.

Fire midfielder/defender Drew Conner released his own version earlier this week on Instagram. It looks really cool:

Conner shows off a few rabonas and some dribbling and juggling moves in a tightly edited video.

“I grew up juggling and doing a lot of tricks," Conner said. "I catch some heat sometimes for it because obviously some of that stuff isn’t very useful in a game, but I always liked going out by myself with the ball when I was a kid. I still have some of those tricks.”

Conner laughed when asked if there were some outtakes.

“A lot of people didn’t see all the takes where I hit the ball over the net either,” Conner said.

So how many outtakes were there?

“No comment," he said with another laugh.

This just goes to show that if you want to look cool on the internet having skills is only half the battle. You have to have a killer video editor as well.

Notes from the rewatch: Fire flip a switch in the final half hour against Seattle

Notes from the rewatch: Fire flip a switch in the final half hour against Seattle

The Chicago Fire picked up a big win against the Seattle Sounders on Saturday.

It wasn't a win against a rival, or even a conference foe jockeying for playoff position. It also wasn't against a full-strength team playing well.

It was big because of the way it happened (a three-goal margin with plenty of action both ways) and who it was in front of (a soldout crowd and a national TV audience).

Despite the temporary euphoria Fire fans left Toyota Park with on Saturday, the players and coaches on the team admitted it wasn't a complete performance. The Fire were largely outplayed in the first half and caught some breaks to go into halftime tied. Seattle hit the crossbar in the first five minutes and the Fire were fortunate to be given a retake on the penalty kick that Nemanja Nikolic eventually scored.

Coach Veljko Paunovic talked about adjustments the team made at halftime that made the difference. Here are some notes on that as well as Drew Conner's tough assignment against Joevin Jones.

Rotating up front

Paunovic said the halftime adjustment of moving from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 played a key role in turning things around from the first half to the second half. Seattle had more than 60 percent of the possession in the first half, but the Fire had the edge in possession after halftime.

The biggest difference between the two formations was having Dax McCarty line up as the lone defensive midfielder, meaning he takes a more central role. Clint Dempsey scored Seattle's goal by drifting a bit into midfield to receive the ball and had free space to step into a shot. That's the area the Fire were trying to cover with the subtle formation change. It also freed Schweinsteiger to play a big higher up the field in a more neutral midfield role as opposed to primarily positioning for defensive purposes.

 

That change helped clear things up defensively, but the attack remained similar. The Fire's four attacking players, Nikolic, David Accam, Luis Solignac and Michael de Leeuw, were swapping positions frequently throughout the match.

Accam was on the right wing the first 12 minutes and then went back to his usual spot on the left wing, swapping back with Solignac. Accam and Nikolic did shift around with Nikolic drifting wide and Accam moving into the center as well. Michael de Leeuw began centrally and moved more to the right wing in the second half before getting subbed out.

The combination of having four attackers and having them swap positions allowed them to cause some chaos in Seattle’s defense. Throw in McCarty and Schweinsteiger being able to quickly change the point of attack, something the Fire didn’t always do well last year under Paunovic, and the free-moving attackers were able to take advantage when there was an opening.

It’s also worth noting that Seattle was without stud centerback Roman Torres and was playing a regular starter in the central midfield, Cristian Roldan, at right back.

Maybe on another day Seattle’s defense could have coped better with what the Fire threw at them, but they were not able to do so on Saturday.

Tempo change after halftime

Another shift after halftime that came as a result of the Fire's adjustments was the tempo of the match. Both teams had nine total shots at halftime in a back-and-forth 45 minutes.

The Fire had extended periods of possession in the first 15 minutes of the second half, but the only shot of the second half before Accam's goal in the 60th minute was an off target effort from Clint Dempsey. This was a drastic change from the first half.

The Fire methodically picked Seattle apart on the second goal. Schweinsteiger started the play with a first-time lofted ball that hit Conner open on the right to switch the play. Conner, de Leeuw and Schweinsteiger combined well to unlock Seattle’s defense. This goal opened the tempo of the game right away.

In the next 20 minutes after the goal, the Fire had five more shots, including the third and fourth goals. Matt Polster and Jonathan Campbell subbed into the match and the Fire went to a 5-3-2 that was another tactical change.

"It made it a little easier to play out of the back and exploit some of the wide spaces, which made us get into their half a little bit easier and create chances,” Polster said.

Drew Conner vs. Joevin Jones

After a tough matchup in LA for his first career start, Conner went up against arguably the league's best left back going forward in former Fire player Joevin Jones. Jones toasted Conner twice in the first five minutes to create chances near the box and set up a shot for Nicolas Lodeiro in the ninth minute, which Lodeiro badly scuffed, when Conner backed off to respect Jones' speed. It was an ominous start, but Jones didn't get forward much after that.

It wasn't exactly Conner's doing as much as cover and adjustments. The Fire having more possession in the second half certainly helped.

In terms of 1v1 defending, it wasn't a bright spot for Conner, but most right backs in the league have trouble staying with Jones. The positive sign for the Fire was the ability to adjust and cover for Conner when the first 10 minutes showed that was needed.

Drew Conner moves positions to get his first MLS start

Drew Conner moves positions to get his first MLS start

For years Drew Conner was warned this might happen.

Growing up as a defensive midfielder, Conner was told by coaches early in his career that a move to right back was something he needed to be ready for. That move finally happened this season as the Chicago Fire’s homegrown player made his first MLS start at the LA Galaxy on Saturday and did so at his new position.

“In college and all throughout my youth career, coaches always kind of hinted that it would happen at some point, that I would transition into that position,” Conner said. “I think you kind of see it sometimes with a lot of defensive mids that come out of college and come into the league.”

The combination of the Fire’s glut of central midfielders and a lack of depth at right back made the move a somewhat obvious choice for coach Veljko Paunovic. Michael Harrington, who has typically played more left back than right back in his career, started the first eight matches of the season at right back.

Conner had been learning the new position since the start of the season. After only making appearances on loan as a rookie in the USL last season, Conner had made four substitute appearances for the Fire in 2017, including a 12-minute stint at right back against New England on April 15.

“Since right after preseason I’ve kind of been jumping in that position in practice,” Conner said. “So I’ve been getting a lot of reps there in training. When I got on the field I was kind of just focusing on keeping that line and keeping my hips open and watching the wide mid.”

Based on where he was playing in training leading up to the LA game, the Cary native had an idea that he would be starting. Paunovic confirmed Conner’s suspicion in the airport before traveling to LA.

[MORE FIRE: Matt Lampson believes he is 'vastly improved' from last year]

The Wisconsin product’s first assignment involved going up against Romain Alessandrini, who already has four goals and four assists in his first nine games with the Galaxy, Premier League veteran and England national teamer Ashley Cole and then speedy winger Emmanuel Boateng when he subbed into the match just before halftime.

“All those guys are really quick so when the centerbacks, the center mids got the ball I just made sure I had a couple yards of starting space and was able to keep with them,” Conner said. “I think I played pretty well. I thought my positioning was pretty good. The second half they kind of started to overload that right side, starting overlapping more. Their wide mids started cutting in so there was some chaos going over on my side, but as far as most of my 1v1 challenges were pretty good. On the ball I thought I was pretty clean going forward.”

Conner went 75 minutes before being subbed out for Jonathan Campbell. His teammates agreed that Conner had a good first MLS start.

“I think he did quite well,” Bastian Schweinsteiger said. “It’s not easy when you play your first match and against LA. It’s not easy, but I think he did a good job. It should give him confidence.”

“I thought Drew played really well,” Dax McCarty said. “First start on the road in LA against some really, really talented attacking players in (Giovani) Dos Santos, (Gyasi) Zardes and Alessandrini. I thought he held his own really well. He probably saved a goal for us in the first half on the cross when he stayed with the runner and put a lot of pressure on him. So overall a really good performance from him and hopefully he can build on it.”

Conner’s dad made the trip to watch the game, but that wasn’t exactly due to the special occasion of his first start.

“My dad pretty much goes to all my games,” Conner said with a laugh. “Even the ones in college I don’t think he missed a lot of away games. I pretty much assume he’s coming to every one.”

Before this season Conner’s only experience playing defense was a short stint at right back last season when he was with St. Louis in the USL. He said he had no complaints about the position switch, but does still hope he can return to the midfield.

“You see some of those (defensive midfielders) like Callum Mallace, for example,” Conner said. “He played at Marquette. He played for the Montreal Impact. He played a lot of right back his rookie and second year and now he’s moving back into the center. I think defensive mids are very versatile players and you can kind of put them anywhere and they’ll do a decent job.”