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07 June 11:02 pm

Select shots from the Fire's loss to the Sounders presented by MiAllstate.

 

06 June 3:39 pm

As the Chicago Fire and Seattle Sounders clash Saturday at Toyota Park, more than a few players will be lining up against their former teammates. A photographic trip down memory lane...

Drafted by the Chicago Fire in 2005, Chad Barrett made 82 Regular Season appearances for the Fire before being traded to Toronto FC in exchange for the rights to Brian McBride in mid-2008. Barrett has bounced around the league, playing with TFC, LA Galaxy and New England Revolution before settling in Seattle this season.

The former Fire first round draft pick has performed well in Clint Dempsey's USMNT absence, scoring a goal in each of the last two games for Seattle. 

Marco Pappa makes his first return to Toyota Park since being sold to Dutch Eredivisie side Hereenveen in August 2012. Things didn't work out for Pappa in Holland and he returned to MLS this season where Seattle grabbed him via allocation (though the Fire did make inquiries into bringing him back to Chicago). Pappa sits tied with Piotr Nowak for fourth on the club's all-time goal list (26) and is best remembered for some absolutely highlight reel strikes during his time in Chicago, one of which won the 2010 MLS Goal of the Year.

The Fire's first round selection in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, Anibaba was a starter nearly his entire time in Chicago, appearing in 96 MLS matches over the course of three seasons. The defender was traded to Seattle the night before this year's MLS SuperDraft but has appeared in just five matches for the Sounders so far this season. 

Though he's a Sounder now, we will always remember his 2011 Chicago Fire Goal of the Year strike, "THROUGH THE GUISE OF SMOKE!"

Prior to being one piece of the deal that came to Chicago in the Anibaba trade, Patrick Ianni spent five seasons in Seattle after being acquired from the Houston Dynamo in 2009. The UCLA product made 83 MLS appearances and won three straight U.S. Open Cup titles with Seattle prior to January's swap. Ianni has provided depth for the Fire in defense this season and likely would have a few more appearances if not for a bout of sickness this past week.

The other piece to the Anibaba trade, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado is the only Fire player other than Sean Johnson to play every minute of every game and has likely been the best on the back line in 2014. Like Ianni, Hurtado joined Seattle in 2009, appearing in 108 matches, helping the Sounders to three straight Open Cup titles -- he even played 90 minutes in Seattle's 2-0 defeat of the Fire in the 2011 final. 

"I'm excited to play against my former team," Hurtado told Chicago-Fire.com Friday. "I have only words of gratitude to the people at the Sounders, the fans, my friends back there. I spent five happy years there, my boys were born in Seattle, so it is a special place. Tomorrow is a new change. I'm here in Chicago, I play for the people here, the fans that live and die with us and we have an important game against Seattle before the World Cup."

06 June 8:15 am

After picking up a second draw in four days, the Fire head back from Denver with their heads held high after collecting a good road point. The last match before the World Cup break will offer a considerable challenge as league-leading Seattle Sounders, a team in good spirits after a 4-0 drubbing of RSL last weekend, come to Toyota Park Saturday night (LIVE on My50 at 7:30pm CT). Here are some things to keep an eye on from a tactical perspective…

Limiting the involvement of Chad Barrett – stopping the supply to the former Fire striker

In the absence of Clint Dempsey, former Fire striker Chad Barrett has stepped up and performed extremely well for the Sounders. Despite his size and the fact the club have Kenny Cooper in their ranks, coach Sigi Schmid has deployed Barrett as a target striker in recent matches to great effect.

Barrett seems to have modeled his new found role after San Jose Earthquakes striker Steven Lenhart, often using his head or chest to cushion the ball in the direction of his fellow attackers such as Obi Martins and Lamar Nagle. Barrett has also chipped in with two goals in his last two matches for the Sounders.

Barrett is deceptively good in the air too, and with players like Brad Evans and Marco Pappa putting in crosses, the Fire need to be aware of where Barrett is on the field at all times. Against RSL last week, Barrett often found space by peeling off and making runs to the back post undetected. He was almost found a number of occasions and but for some better crosses/through balls, he might have a lot more than one goal.

Similar to players like Marco Pappa and Justin Mapp, the Fire fan base is openly divided about Barrett’s contributions as a Fire player. One thing’s for sure, he would like nothing more than contributing to the Fire’s downfall on Saturday night.

Limiting the Sounders set piece opportunities – not allowing Pineda and Pappa to put in dangerous deliveries

Though the Fire have improved greatly at defending set pieces, the Sounders will give them a stern test on Saturday evening.

With the twin threats of Gonzalo Pineda and Marco Pappa, Seattle posses two of the best dead ball takers in MLS. The Fire will also need to deal with players like Brad Evans, Zack Scott and Chad Marshall, defenders who are very good in the air.

On set pieces, the Sounders usually have two routines. The first is to whip the ball into the box and look for someone like Marshall or Barrett to get a head on it. The second is to float the ball into the box and look to attack the second ball after a Sounders player heads it back across the box in the direction of where the free kick came from.

The Fire gave up 13 fouls in Colorado and were very aggressive against Robbie Keane last Saturday at Toyota Park. The Men in Red have made a number of mental mistakes on set pieces this season so limiting the number of fouls in the Fire’s defensive third will be critical on Saturday night.  

Targeting Seattle’s central defensive pairing – keeping the ball on the ground and using our attacking pace

With what the Sounders central defenders have in experience and aerial ability, they certainly lack in pace – something the Fire should be looking to target on Saturday night.

Marshall, Scott and Djimi Traore are all very accomplished defenders but aren’t always comfortable in 1v1 situations, especially against an attacker with pace. With this in mind, I wouldn’t be surprised if Frank Yallop goes with a lot of pace and trickery when choosing his attacking players for this match.

An attacking midfield trio of Benji Joya, Harry Shipp and Grant Ward with Quincy Amarikwa playing ahead of them would be very difficult for the Seattle defense. All four players are very good in 1v1 situations and Ward and Amarikwa aren’t afraid to take players on.

On Saturday night, the Fire should be focusing on attacking Seattle centrally and if the players mentioned can pick up the ball in the space between Osvaldo Alonso and the Sounders central defenders, it could result in the breakthrough.

Prediction: The Fire head into the World Cup break with another point – 1-1 with a goal from Benji Joya.

Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @irish_steve.

WATCH: MLSsoccer.com's Scouting Report: Fire vs. Sounders

05 June 12:23 pm

On this day 12 years ago, future Chicago Fire forward and strikers coach Brian McBride scored one of the most beautiful goals in U.S. World Cup history, diving to put in future Fire defender Tony Sanneh's cross from the right to give the Americans a 3-0 lead over Portugal in the team's opening match of the 2002 World Cup.

Re-live the match:

05 June 11:42 am

Select shot's from the Fire's draw with the Rapids presented by MiAllstate. 

Photo Credit: USA Today Sports Images

04 June 8:56 am

 

After a gutsy draw in the heat against LA Sunday, there’s no time for rest for the Fire as the team jet off to Colorado to play the Rapids on Wednesday evening (8pm CT on My50/TWCSC). Colorado come into this game on a hot streak, scoring seven goals in the past two matches. With another game on Saturday against Seattle before the World Cup break, the Fire will be looking to come back home with something. 

Here are a few things to look out for from a tactical perspective.

Continuing the disciplined defensive line – not allowing the Rapids players to get in behind

In Sunday’s match against LA, the Fire backline played extremely well as a unit, with players keeping their shape and not getting pulled out of position. Importantly, the players kept a good defensive line, preventing the LA attackers from getting behind. LA tried this tactic quite often each time, they were caught offside.

With players like Dillon Powers and especially striker Deshorn Brown, Colorado look to get behind the opposition defense at every opportunity. Powers and Brown play in a similar way to Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, with coach Pablo Mastroeni essentially giving the players a free role to operate wherever on the pitch.

With this in mind, the Fire could play a similar formation to what we saw on Sunday, with homegrown player Chris Ritter playing alongside Jeff Larentowicz in a 4-2-3-1 formation. This worked to perfection against LA, where the central midfield/defensive block of four (Soumare, Hurtado, Larentowicz and Ritter) prevented Donovan and Keane from getting much time and space on the ball to create.

Against Keane especially, the Fire players played a very physical game, constantly launching into aggressive tackles against the Irishman who was clearly irritated at this tactic. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar tactic played out on Wednesday night.

If the Fire’s defense and central midfield can put in a similar performance to the one against LA, the Rapids will find it very hard to break the Men in Red down.

Keeping tabs on Marvell Wynne -- locking up the right hand side of the Rapids attack

Over the Rapids’ last two matches, right back Marvell Wynne has had stellar performances getting forward on the right wing. For most of his career, Wynne has made a living getting forward and putting in dangerous crosses.

With Gonzalo Segares playing only after getting injections in his injured ankle,  it would not surprise me if Mastroeni targets the Fire’s left and sets up to have Wynne getting forward all night. If the Fire continue to play with the two holding midfielder formation, it provides more cover for Segares.

On the left hand side of midfield, Dilly Duka put in a much improved defensive performance against LA and if he again gets the start Wednesday, I expect to see a similar effort. Another tactic is to force Wynne to defend and not allow him to get forward and support the attack.

The threat of Quincy Amarikwa getting in behind the Colorado defense can be a strong deterrent. If the Fire can also get the ball to Duka in the attack, it will also force Wynne to focus more on his defensive duties.

The Fire’s new attacking threat from the right – the Grant Ward/Lovel Palmer combo

Last weekend, Coach Yallop started young Englishman Grant Ward on the right hand side of an advanced midfield trio with Harry Shipp playing centrally and Duka on the left. Though naturally left footed, starting Ward as an inverted winger means he is free to cut into the middle onto his stronger left foot.

With Harry Shipp on the other side of the field in previous matches this season, Ward frequently moved into the middle of the field against LA, linking up with Amarikwa and co. Not only does Ward’s attacking shift to the middle create problems centrally for teams, but it opens up a lot of space on the wing for Lovel Palmer to get forward.

Yallop praised Palmer after the LA match and for good reason, the right back providing a constant threat down the outside. Just as the Rapids will be hoping Wynne can be the difference for Colorado on their right, a strong attacking performance from Palmer on Wednesday evening could be the difference for the Fire.

Prediction: Even though the Fire are banged up and facing a hot Rapids squad, the team come away with a big victory – 1-0 Fire with a goal from Quincy Amarikwa.

Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @irish_steve.

02 June 9:55 am

When Quincy Amarikwa earned a 67th minute penalty kick in Sunday’s 1-1 draw vs. LA Galaxy, it occurred to me that the Fire had received a lot more spot kicks in 2014 than they have in recent seasons.

Upon further review, the Fire have received six penalty kicks in 12 matches this season, averaging one every two games. It’s safe to say the Fire wouldn’t have earned as many opportunities without the ability of Amarikwa to draw so many penalties…

Have a look...

Date/Result Penalty Earned Penalty Taken Converted Miss/Save
3/16/14 - 1-1 at POR Quincy Amarikwa Jeff Larentowicz X  
4/5/14 - 2-2 vs. PHI Juan Luis Anangono Mike Magee   X
4/19/14 - 1-1 vs. NE Victor Pineda Juan Luis Anangono   X
5/18/14 - 2-1 vs. SKC Quincy Amarikwa Mike Magee X  
5/18/14 - 2-1 vs. SKC Benji Joya Mike Magee X  
6/1/14 - 1-1 vs. LA  Quincy Amarikwa Jeff Larentowicz X  

While the table serves as a reminder that the Fire probably would be further up the table if not for a few penalty saves in April, let me also point out that the rate of penalties so far this year is a club record to this point in any of the team’s 17 seasons of existence. In fact, there are only five other seasons in which the club has earned six or more spot kicks the entire year.

See below:

Season Overall Conversion Rate Conversion Through 12 Games
2000 5/10 0/3
2003 7/9 3/4
2005 4/7 1/1
2001 4/6 2/3
2006 3/6 1/2
2014 4/6 4/6

The penalty earned by Amarikwa Sunday was his fourth since joining the Fire last season.  It's a relatively small sample size, but the team has never missed a penalty that #QuincyTime has earned as Mike Magee also scored on the penalty he won last July in a 4-1 romp of D.C. United. 

Amarikwa seems perfectly built to be a player that can draw dangerous opportunities for his team. Strength on and of the ball along with lightning quickness that turn what look like "meh" opportunities into beautiful chances mean defenders have their hands full whenever he's on the field. 

There have been a few times where he's fallen gracefully (and been punished for it) and Sunday's penalty call *may* have occurred just outside the area but there's little doubt that something will probably happen in or around the box whenever Amarikwa is on the field. 

Like in the MLS Fantasy Challenge, perhaps "Penalties Earned" should become an official statistic in Major League Soccer. Until that happens, perhaps you should take in the latest episode of #QuincyTime

29 May 3:13 pm

After a lackluster performance in Columbus last week, the Chicago Fire need to pick themselves up for a massive week ahead, starting with Sunday’s game at home against the LA Galaxy. Landon Donovan’s USMNT snub means he will be looking to prove Jürgen Klinsman wrong all while adding to his MLS scoring record. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective…

Winning the midfield battle – a change of formation against LA may be necessary

While there is an obvious attacking threat that needs to be stifled, LA’s defense is leading the league with only nine goals given up all season. A key to that has been the play of the Galaxy midfield, dominating possession and not allowing the other team to attack.

With this in mind, a change in formation from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1 could be in the cards. This would provide more support to Jeff Larentowicz in the middle and would also match up well against LA’s narrow midfield. A holding midfield duo Larentowicz and one of Logan Pause or Matt watson would not only put more on pressure on Juninho and co., but would also mean another player to pick up Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane when they drop deep – which I will explain in more detail later.

Pause has had some stellar performances off the bench of late and is pushing for a starting place. Ahead of the proposed Watson/Pause/Larentowicz duo, I would like to see Grant Ward and Benji Joya on the outsides with Harry Shipp operating behind the striker, presumably Quincy Amarikwa in the absence of Mike Magee. Shipp is most effective when he drifts inside and links with the strikers.

With Patrick Nyarko missing and Dilly Duka not doing enough defensively last week, a Ward/Joya tandem on the wings would not only provide some dynamism in the attack but also provide more protection for the Fire’s  outside  defenders. Dan Gargan and more so A.J. DeLaGarza are constantly getting forward, and benefit from the Galaxy’s narrow midfield.

This formation would put a lot of pressure on Quincy Amarikwa to man the forward line alone, but the 4-2-3-1 formation would mean less emphasis on the striker to hold up the ball and would allow Amarikwa to what he does best: harass the opposition’s defense.

Some may see this  formation as a negative one, especially when the Fire are at home, but against a midfield as strong as LA’s, I think this could give the team its best chance of winning.

Slowing down the Donovan/Keane juggernaut – doing a better job than against Higuain last week

After watching the clearly inspired performances of Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane last weekend against the Philadelphia Union, it’s impossible for me to write about anything else for this preview. Donovan was clearly a man on a mission to surpass the MLS scoring record following his surprise snub from the final U.S. World Cup squad.

The Union were unable to handle the combination play and movement of Donovan/Keane as one dropped deep to collect the ball while the other would make a defense-splitting run.

Dropping deep, especially by Keane, allows players like Gyasi Zardes to move into that space and look for passes from the Irishman. Last week, I highlighted the attacking threat of Federico Higuain and the Fire did not deal with the Argentine well, allowing him to dictate the game and set up both of the Crew goals.

A much better job needs to be done this week but unfortunately, the Fire need to deal with two players instead of one. The Fire midfield, as I mentioned earlier, have an important role to play in attempting to stop Donovan/Keane from getting the ball when they drop deep for it.

The Fire defense also needs to be stingier. Too often, including on both of the goals, Columbus players were able to get in behind the Fire back line - something that needs to be addressed and prevented on Sunday. If the Fire do a better job of stopping Donovan and Keane than they did last week against Higuain, it will massively improve the Fire’s chances of picking up a positive result.

Prediction: Fire start a testing week with a positive result - 1-1 with a goal from Benji Joya. 

Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @Irish_Steve.

28 May 4:30 pm

Coming soon to Chicago-Fire.com, the #cf97 TrueCar Grand Prix! Select players along with Head Coach Frank Yallop, Technical Director Brian Bliss and Fire broadcasters Dan Kelly and Kevin Egan took to K1 Speed in Addison this afternoon to film a two-part video series for Chicago-Fire.com

If the tweets mean anything, clearly an exciting day of racing has been had... 

 

Stay tuned to Chicago-Fire.com to see how everyone did!

28 May 3:46 pm

 

Last week MLSSoccer.com introduced the Brazil Bracket Challenge presented by Capri Sun!

It’s simple and fast… log in, boldly pick your bracket and compete against other Chicago Fire fans as the World Cup kicks off next month.

Sign up for the Chicago Fire Supporters League and test your World Cup knowledge against fellow fans!