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16 May 8:00 am

The Fire finally picked up three points last week in dramatic fashion with a 5-4 win over Red Bull in New Jersey and will look to make it two on the trot when they welcome defending MLS Cup champs Sporting Kansas City to Toyota Park on Sunday (2pm CT My50/TWCSC-WI/UniMas).

Sporting brings a depleted squad to Chicago but their first loss at home in some time at the hands of the Union on Wednesday night means they come to town with a bad taste in their mouth. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective.

Taking advantage of a depleted SKC defense – testing the makeshift back line

On Sunday, Kansas City will take the field without either member of their famed center backs – Aurelien Collin (injury) and Matt Besler (international duty). Right back Chance Myers is also a doubt. On the outside, Seth Sinovic could be the only regular starter in the back four to play on Sunday while Brazilian Igor Julião had a solid debut in Wednesday’s match against Philly.

In the past, SKC have dealt with the loss of Besler due to national team commitments but losing both center backs is a large blow. SKC’s patched up defense must have Mike Magee and Quincy Amarikwa licking their lips. Last week we saw Harry Shipp play an absolutely brilliant defense-splitting pass to put Mike Magee in 1v1 with Red Bull ‘keeper Luis Robles.

Against SKC, Shipp and whoever plays in the center of midfield alongside Jeff Larentowicz should be looking to play those types of passes in behind the SKC defense to the onrushing Magee or Amarikwa.

Repeating last week’s second half tactic on Sunday – putting high pressure on SKC

Amarikwa described Frank Yallop’s tactical switch at halftime of the New York game the best. When asked, he said, “We came in at half time and knew we were sitting in too much. We were giving New York too much respect to play and we know we can score goals. That’s what we’ve done consistently this year. So, we said in the second half we’re just going to high press, what do we have to lose, and I think it really caught them off guard.”

The exact same tactic should be in place from the first whistle against SKC. In Wednesday’s match against the Union, Sporting gave up the ball on far too many occasions, many times with minimal pressure applied by the opposition. The Union sat back and used the counter attack to their advantage but for the Fire, forcing a new-look SKC into mistakes will be critical.

If Benji Joya gets the start again in the center of the park, I expect to see more from him in this regard. Joya is slowly but surely improving the defensive side of his game but against a team like SKC, I expect him to take a page out of the Dax McCarty playbook and not allow the SKC players any time on the ball.

Joya has the comfort of Jeff Larentowicz behind him so taking a few risks and pressing higher up the field could reap rewards

Providing more support to the outside backs – wing backs exposed again against NYRB last week

As I discussed last week, a lot of the problems for the Fire defensively stem from attacks coming from the wide areas. That was again the case against the Red Bulls in Saturday’s game. It was obvious that NYRB coach Mike Petke told his team to try and isolate Greg Cochrane on the left hand side. During the first half, the Red Bulls attacked almost exclusively down the Fire left. Cochrane certainly held his own but he lacked support from Harry Shipp who was playing in front of him.

On the other side, Lovel Palmer had a tough game in New York. The Red Bulls were again allowed space and time to put in crosses and it really hurt the Fire. Case in point being the Red Bulls first goal, where Eric Alexander was given yards of space to pick out a cross and he duly found the head of Tim Cahill, the best header of a ball in the league.

Against a team like Sporting KC, who put an emphasis on getting their full backs forward to support the outside attackers, the Fire need to try and minimize the amount of 1v1 situations between our outside backs and the SKC wide men.

Prediction: The Fire are hitting KC at the right time: 2-1 Fire with goals from Mike Magee and Benji Joya.

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

WATCH: No cardiac arrest after 5-4 win in New York

13 May 8:56 am

Simon Borg's Instant Replay video series on MLSsoccer.com continues to be destination viewing. In this week's episode, Simon cites the updated FIFA Laws of the Game to explain why Harry Shipp's first goal on Saturday vs. New York stood despite offside shouts from just about everyone in Red Bull Arena.

He also looks at another play the Fire may have gained an advantage on...

 

13 May 7:53 am

As we've all learned, GoPro cameras make everything look so much cooler. The guys over at Chicago Fire Rec Soccer have taken that to heart by putting together some of the best highlights from their leagues each and every week. 

Check out the video below and get more info on CFRS leagues, as well as registration by clicking here.

 

11 May 6:49 am

Sometimes in the stat world you need an assist. Sometimes in the MLS stat world, you quite appropriately may need a second assist.

This came for me Saturday night when Fire Analyst Kevin Egan tweeted to ask this question following a wild 5-4 win in New York:

Perhaps knowing I was too busy bowing at the altar of a boy wunderkid, Hot Time in Old Town founder Tweed Thornton did the quick research: 

Having finished the lamb sacrifice (kidding!), I woke up this morning to do some more research of my own. Kevin and Tweed were correct, not only did we see the first-ever Fire rookie/Homegrown score a hat trick Saturday night, we also saw the quickest four-goal barrage in the club's 17 season. Wow!

Here's a list of the ones that came (sort of) close:

Date Opponent/Score Minute Span Total Minutes Goal Scorers
5/10/2014 5-4 W at RBNY 49-64 15 Amarikwa 49, Shipp 53', 58', Nyarko 64'
7/4/2001 7-0 W at KC 72-88 16 Nowak 72', 81', Stoitchkov 83', 88'
7/1/1998 4-1 W at DAL 7-36 29 Kubik 7', Razov 16', Kosecki 20', Podbrozny 36'
5/13/2000 4-1 W vs. SJ 5-40 35 Kovalenko 5', Kubik 12', og 13', Razov 40'
4/3/2008 4-0 W vs. NE 4-39 35 Barrett 4', Frankowski 22', 39', Blanco 37'
5/23/1998 5-0 W vs. COL 21-57 36 Brown 21', Razov 51', Podbrozny 55', Kosecki 57'

 

08 May 5:35 pm

As I did much of last year, I was excited to be invited back to Soccer House, headquarters of the U.S. Soccer Federation, for Thursday’s third round Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup draw.

I was joined on Prairie Street by Indy Eleven President Peter Wilt, who was there to witness his club’s first Open Cup coin flip.

If you read some of my Open Cup draw articles last year, you might have seen a very complicated process which involved bigger groupings of geographical possibilities, numbering pieces of paper and drawing from envelopes before any coins were flipped.

None of that was the case on Thursday as Competition Secretary Paul Marstaller was able to fit all potential third round matchups in to "logical geographic pairings" so only coin flips needed to take place.

For the Open Cup nerds out there, this may disappoint you and if you'd rather go no further, I suggest you just read U.S. Soccer's official release on the potential third round pairings. If you would still like to know some of the interesting intricacies of the day's happenings, keep reading: 

  • Five lower-league professional sides did not apply to host third round matches: USL PRO's Harrisburg City Islanders, Orange County Blues, Arizona United SC, Oklahoma City Energy FC and NASL's Atlanta Silverbacks.
  • As they did last year, USL PRO's Dayton Dutch Lions did apply to host but their field does not meet U.S. Soccer's competition requirements (a common theme here). Their second round opponent, North Chicago side Schwaben AC also applied to host but their venue does not meet requirements as well. 
  • Why would both clubs apply to host if they didn't meet requirements? While it's unlikely it would happen, supposing the opponent that pair was matched up with also didn't meet field or venue requirements or didn't apply to host, U.S. Soccer could then award hosting rights to either club. In the case of Dayton/Schwaben, because Indy Eleven applied to host and their home venue meets requirements, a coin flip did not occur for this matchup. 
  • Another interesting example of this was on the last flip of the round in the matchup of Cal FC / LA Galaxy II and PSA Elite / San Diego Flash. Of the four teams, only LA Galaxy II's venue met requirements, while both PSA Elite and San Diego Flash applied to host although neither team's field met requirements. So in the case that Cal FC won, the winner of the PSA Elite / San Diego Flash match would host a third round match up by default.
  • With USL PRO's Charleston Battery having the only suitable host venue in their potential match up (they play the PDL's Panama City Pirates in Round 2), they automatically were rewarded hosting rights should they advance to a third round matchup against the winner of Jacksonville United FC / Orlando City U23s. Jacksonville United did apply to host but their home venue was deemed not to fit stadium requirements. However, should Charleston lose and Jacksonville win, the NPSL side would host Panama City in the third round. Should both Panama City and Orlando City win, because neither applied for hosting rights, U.S. Soccer would quickly quoroum with both clubs to figured out a host for a third round match. 
     
  • USL PRO's Wilmington Hammerheads applied to host but their field was also deemed unsuitable. Paired with NPSL's Chattanooga FC in the second round, should Wilmington win, they would host by default as Atlanta Silverbacks did not apply to do so. 
  • Because of some of these differing scenarios, coin flips did not occur as matchups defaulted to a suitable host team. 

Complete Third Round U.S. Open Cup Grid (as I saw it today).

BOLD: Applied to host; Venue meets requirements
ITALICS: Applied to host, Field width doesn't meet requirements
BOLD ITALICS: Applied to host; Venue doesn't meet requirements
N/A - Matchups where coin flips did not occur because of hosting defaults

HEADS FLIP TAILS FLIP
Greater Binghamton Thunder (NPSL)/Reading United (PDL)   W. Mass. Pioneers (PDL)/Rochester Rhinos (USLP) X
Brooklyn Italians (NPSL)/Jersey Express (PDL)   New York Cosmos (NASL) X
NY Greek Americans (USASA)/Ocean City Nor'easters (PDL) X Richmond Kickers (USLP)/RVA FC (NPSL)  
Harrisburg City Islanders (USLP)/Lehigh Valley Utd. (NPSL) X Icon FC (USASA)/Baltimore Bohemians (PDL)  
NY Red Bulls U-23 (NPSL)/Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USLP) X RWB Adria (USASA)/Michigan Bucks (PDL)  
Carolina Dynamo (PDL)/Charlotte Eagles (USLP)   Carolina Railhawks (NASL) X
Wilmington Hammerheads (USLP)/Chattanooga FC (NPSL) N/A Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL)  
Jacksonville United (NPSL)/Orlando City U23s (PDL)   Panama City Pirates (PDL)/Charleston Battery (USLP) N/A
Ocala Stampede (PDL)/Orlando City (USLP) x Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL)  
Red Force (USASA)/Laredo Heat (PDL)   Fort Lauderdale Strikers (NASL) X
Dayton Dutch Lions (USLP)/Schwaben AC (USASA)   Indy Eleven (NASL) N/A
NTX Rayados (USASA)/Austin Aztex (PDL)   San Antonio Scorpions (NASL) N/A
Real Colorado Foxes (PDL)/Des Moines Menace (USASA) X Minnesota United SC (NASL)  
Oklahoma City Energy (USLP)/Tulsa Athletics (NPSL)   Arizona United SC (USLP)/Portland Timbers U23 (PDL) X
Orange County Blues (USLP)/Fresno Fuego (PDL)   Sacramento Republic (USLP)/Ventura County Fusion (PDL) X
Cal FC (USASA)/LA Galaxy II (USL Pro) N/A PSA Elite (USASA)/San Diego Flash (NPSL)  

Thank you again to U.S. Soccer for allowing me to play witness to the draw once again. Chicago-Fire.com plans to bring coverage of the fourth round draw procedure when it occurs next week. 

08 May 8:33 am

The first round of the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup kicked off across the country with seven matches (and a forfeit) Wednesday night.

Of note, three games went to extra time with two of those going to penalty kicks. One of the matches decided in a shootout was that of local side RWB Adria downing NPSL darlings Detroit City FC 3-1 on penalties after playing to a dramatic 2-2 draw.

Hot Time in Old Town's Sean Spence live tweeted the match from Livonia Stevenson High School in suburban Detroit where Adria took an early lead through Vlad Baciu in the 20th minute. Fueled by the always raucous DCFC partisans, the home side took a 2-1 lead with second half goals from Tyler Arnone and former Colorado Rapids defender Kevin Taylor in the 71st and 77th minutes respectively.

Baciu bagged a dramatic brace in the dying moments of regulation to send the match to extra time where both teams saw two players sent off and neither could find a goal in the 30 extra minutes. Adria played the spoiler connecting with three of their penalties to see out Detroit City FC and set up a return date to Detroit next week where they'll face perennial U.S. Open Cup spoilers Michigan Bucks next Wednesday, May 14.

Adria will be joined in the second round by another local Chicago side, Schwaben AC, who host USL PRO's Dayton Dutch Lions in Arlington Heights next Wednesday at 4pm CT. 

These games should be of interest for Fire fans as the regional groupings make sense for a potential fourth round match up (where MLS teams enter the tournament).

Other Notes:

  • The tournament saw it's first forfeit in a decade as USASA side Corinthians were forced to withdraw from their match against the San Diego Flash due to not being able to obtain international clearance for their players in time to play the match. TheCup.US has more information on this intriguing story
  • Kudos to U.S. Soccer for upping their coverage of the tournament this year by introducing a "Game of the Round" which streamed on the Federation's official site Wednesday night. The chosen match saw the USL Premier Development League's Western Mass Pioneers down USASA side GPS Massachusetts 4-1 to advance to the second round. Catch the archive of the match here.
  • With the first round done and second round matches set, U.S. Soccer will conduct the tournament's third round draw at Soccer House in Chicago this afternoon. Chicago-Fire.com will once again be a witness at the festivities and have a full account of how the matchups happened later Thusday. 

For more information on the 2014 U.S. Open Cup, please visit USsoccer.com and the tournament's unofficial site TheCup.us.

06 May 12:17 pm

If you're any type of soccer nerd, you may know the record for most lopsided defeat in a FIFA national team match match came on April 11, 2001 when an Australian side pushing to move outside of the Oceanic Football Confederation made a point by defeating tiny American Samoa 31-0.

Needless to say, the defeat brought large embarrassment to the tiny U.S. territory whose population is just a hair over 55,000.

Enter former D.C. United, Toronto FC and U.S. U-20 coach Thomas Rongen who threw connections with the U.S. Soccer Federation took the reigns for American Samoa during OFC qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The Dutchman worked wonders by leading the small nation to its first ever international win when they defeated Tonga 2-1 in their opening match of qualifying.

American Samoa tied their second match 1-1 vs. Cook Island and narrowly missed advancing out of the group, falling to Samoa 1-0 in the 89th minute of their final match.

While the side didn't advance, cameras followed Rongen throughout his short stint leading the team and made the movie "Next Goal Wins" which recently debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival.

This is where you come in... There will be a local screening of the film at the Regal Gardens 7-13 in Skokie on Wednesday, May 21 at 7:30pm. In order for it to happen, the theater needs RSVPs by the end of the day Wednesday.

Tickets are just $10.50 and can be purchased by clicking here.  

WATCH the trailer for the film below: 

06 May 8:54 am

The Chicago Fire were honored to have a very special guest take part in the club's First Kick at Saturday night's game vs. Real Salt Lake. 

Jack received a liver transplant from Lurie Children's Hospital when he was five months old. Now in Kindergarten, Jack is a healthy five-year-old who plays AYSO soccer with his team the Blue Bombers. 

Check out this video of Jack's experience from Saturday's match:

05 May 3:27 pm

With his goal in Saturday's match vs. Real Salt Lake, Fire forward Mike Magee continued to climb the club's goal scoring charts at an impressive clip.

The 22nd minute rebound on Harry Shipp's initial shot was Magee's 17th for the Fire in MLS play, tying him with footballing legend Hristo Stoitchkov at 10th on the club's all-time goal scoring list. But for his 63rd minute hit off the cross bar,  Magee nearly moved into a tie for 10th on the list with Brian McBride, Dominic Oduro and Chad Barrett.

Here's an infographic detailing where Magee stands, with the important stat being how quickly he's gotten there compared to those around him. 

As you can see from the chart below, nearly every goal Magee scores this year will move him further up the ladder, underlying that the club really hasn't had a long-term scoring threat since Ante Razov left the team after 2004. How high on the chart below do you think Magee can go by season's end? Tell us in the comments below.

Rank Player (Years) Goals Games Played
1 Ante Razov 76 155
2 Chris Rolfe 48 176
3 Josh Wolff 32 84
4 Marco Pappa 26 112
- Piotr Nowak 26 114
6 Dema Kovalenko 22 90
- Damani Ralph 22 51
8 Nate Jaqua 21 92
9 Jesse Marsch 19 200
10 Brian McBride 18 59
- Dominic Oduro 18 66
- Chad Barrett 18 82
13 Mike Magee 17 28
- Hristo Stoitchkov 17 51