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.
- WATCH: #QuincyTime Blooper Reel
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
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:
Select shot's from the Fire's draw with the Rapids presented by MiAllstate.
Photo Credit: USA Today Sports Images
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.
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.
|Season||Overall Conversion Rate||Conversion Through 12 Games|
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:
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.
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...
— Chicago Fire (@ChicagoFire) May 28, 2014
— Chicago Fire (@ChicagoFire) May 28, 2014
— Chicago Fire (@ChicagoFire) May 28, 2014
— Kevin Egan (@kev_egan) May 28, 2014
— marco franco (@shmushmarco) May 28, 2014
Stay tuned to Chicago-Fire.com to see how everyone did!
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.
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This week, after a frustrating match in Columbus, it was revealed that the Fire are so decimated by injuries the assistant coaches had to fill in a practice scrimmage last week to make up numbers. Granted, even past their playing shape, the coaches C.J. Brown, Clint Mathis, and Brian McBride would win most 3v3 tourneys in this city today, but it shows just how handcuffed Frank Yallop’s roster can get when the injury bug hits.
Yallop said he won’t use injuries as an excuse, which is great, that’s what every coach says, but I don’t like it. I think that injury is a great excuse. It’s not an excuse for playing poorly, because every excuse for playing poorly sucks. Rather, injuries can be excuses for other things. For roster shake ups, for weird substitutions, for tactical changes, for second chances, and so on.
QUESTION: Would Rookie of the Year candidate Harry Shipp have gotten this much tick to prove himself if Alex and Dilly Duka weren’t hurt to start the season?
Injuries are totally natural and can be a blessing when they force a team to break from what's comfortable, but basically they’re unpredictable and infuriating. I mean, every team and player has them, but no team or player has them exactly the same. So it’s the way teams, coaches and players deal with their inevitability that makes injuries what they are as well as an interesting excuse.
Once they hit, do you go to the market to find replacements or call on young players? Do you stack the squad with depth at the beginning of the season, or hope to ride out the injuries when they come? What about the players with previous injury issues - do you monitor their minutes? Alter their training regimen?
So far, I’ve found Yallop’s approach to injuries fascinating and impressive. The work he did to improve the squad this year is a real strength. Remember that after the frustrating results vs. Philadelphia last season, we were talking about the Patrick Nyarko/Chris Rolfe striking partnership.
This Fire team’s depth should be able to deal with an injury bug and the kinds of personnel changes a full season requires. That’s why it was nice to see Dilly Duka get a run out on Saturday, even if he’s short of match fitness, and Grant Ward get a chance to show why his name caused so much excitement during preseason.
All year, Yallop has rewarded players for playing well, simple as that. So you know that any injury also means an opportunity for someone else. When preseason starters like Gonzalo Segares and Alex were hit by injuries, they were replaced by rookies Greg Cochrane and Shipp, who’ve proved themselves to varying degrees.
On Saturday the Fire were without Alex, Bakary Soumare, Patrick Nyarko, Mike Magee, and Lovel Palmer, for reasons as diverse as calf soreness to kidney stones. Good luck preparing for those scenarios in preseason video sessions.
The other interesting thing about injuries is that they’re a totally natural thing. Their existence is the proof that what we watch and turn over as pastime is actually an excruciating tug of war between physical performance and physical possibility. Somewhere in between there is the place where muscles and ligaments break down, where a body suffers. Injury bugs are a reminder that we’re watching athletes push themselves to their limits.
Ben Schuman-Stoler is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @bsto.
The Fire head to Columbus on Saturday night (6:00pm on My50/TWCSC) looking to make it three wins in a row after laboring to earn a victory at home against Sporting KC last weekend. The Crew started well under new coach Gregg Berhalter but haven’t won in eight matches. Here are some tactical things to look out for.
Another week, another weakened defense – taking advantage of the Crew’s makeshift back four
The Fire took full advantage of Sporting KC’s defensive absences last weekend and I expect the team to look to follow suit on Saturday night. Columbus will be missing two of their Costa Rican defenders, center back Giancarlo Gonzalez and left back Waylon Francis while Michael Parkhurst will return after being cut from the U.S. World Cup squad.
Last week, the Fire looked to put pressure on the KC back line and it worked very well, forcing two penalty kicks in the first 15 minutes of the match. I look for the Fire to be more consistent with the high pressure tactic instead of starting with it, then sitting back before taking it back up again.
Like last week, the Fire are catching Columbus at a good time and need to be ruthless. If the team had managed to pick up a third goal last week, the last twenty minutes or so wouldn’t have been as nerve wracking. If the team does manage to take a lead, looking to double it instead of sitting back and letting Columbus dictate should be the plan.
Both Quincy Amarikwa and Mike Magee found space in behind the KC defense last week and if they can be found again by the likes of Shipp and Joya, the Fire could certainly leave Columbus with three points.
Mass changes on the right? – Dealing with the possible injury losses of Nyarko and Palmer
The Fire’s injury report published late this week brought some unwelcome news in the form of injury to Patrick Nyarko and sickness for Lovel Palmer. The Fire’s starters in right midfield and defense could both miss out on Saturday which would be a big blow considering how well both played last week.
Palmer had been criticized by some for his defensive performances but he had a fine game against Sporting KC. Nyarko was also a standout player last week, both tracking back to help out Palmer defensively and helping to pressure the KC players off the ball.
With both players potentially missing this week, Coach Yallop has a tough decision on his hands. Matt Watson has had some time at right back this season when Palmer was suspended but Logan Pause or even the fit-again Steven Kinney could feature.
On the wing, Victor Pineda may get the start while Dilly Duka could also make the move from his usual left wing position. Duka replaced Nyarko last week and looked good in the attacking third, cutting in onto his favored left foot. If Duka does get the nod, I look for him to track back more and help out whoever our right-back is defensively.
The Fire outside defenders have been left isolated too often this season which is one of the reasons the team has given up 19 goals to date. With the possibility of two stalwarts in the Fire lineup missing, the Crew’s plan will be attack as often as possible down the Fire right so a strong defensive performance from Nyarko and Palmer’s replacements is imperative.
Keeping Higuain on a tight leash – not allowing the Argentine to create for the Crew
For me, Federico Higuain is probably the best creative midfielder in all of MLS. His vision, passing range and set piece deliveries are unique and he would improve any team in the league if he joined them.
Like Magee, Higuain likes to drop deep to get the ball and is also very comfortable operating in the space between the opposition midfield and defense. He essentially has a free role with Columbus and covers quite a bit of ground, making him hard to track.
Last week’s 3-3 draw with Portland also highlighted Higuain’s scoring threat, chipping the 6’4” Donovan Ricketts from outside the area to earn the Crew a 3-3 draw. With six goals and three assists on the year, Higuain has been directly involved in 70% of the Crew’s 13 goals in 2014.
In matches this season, the Fire have generally done a good job keeping the opposing team’s most influential players quiet which is mostly down to stopping the person from getting the ball. Assistant coach C.J. Brown emphasized this point during the buildup to the Columbus match.
With this in mind, most of the burden will be on Jeff Larentowicz to try and keep Higuain under lock and key.
Prediction: A high scoring draw (2-2) with goals from Mike Magee and Harry Shipp
WATCH: Athletico Coaching Corner