I've spent some time this week on Twitter pondering whether or not New York Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill would receive any additional suspension for a swing he took on reigning 2013 MLS MVP Mike Magee in the waning moments of Sunday's home opener.
The thoughts crossed my mind after seeing the two game suspension that Fire defender Lovel Palmer received the previous week for a foul that didn't look nearly as egregious as the one Cahill committed on Magee. My suspicions were only heightened when the play didn't make it into MLSsoccer.com's weekly "Instant Replay" feature earlier this week.
Watch it again below:
The MLS Disciplinary Committee decided Wednesday that the foul Cahill committed was only deserving of the yellow card that referee Drew Fischer showed to the Australian international and that no further disciplinary action would be necessary.
Admittedly I'm a homer and I'm sure there has at some point in the 19-year history of MLS there have been more egregious plays that have gone unpunished but it was hard not to feel like Lovel Palmer, who will be suspended again for Saturday's game at D.C. United, was the one losing out in this whole situation.
As I learned Wednesday night, clearly I should have just called on the services of young Keira Magee, who with the help of her father, quite plainly put the whole situation in perspective better than multiple tweets from the club's Team Writer ever could:
— Mike Magee (@magee9) March 26, 2014
Anyways, it may be time to get the below hashtag some love on Twitter...
It's Opening Day on Sunday and I'm making my normal pre-game rounds at the Section 8 Chicago tailgate. As I parade through the gaggle of the club's most vocal supporters, I stop and welcome back familiar faces from Ultras Red Side, one of the bigger groups inside of Section 8.
As we chat about our hopes for the game and what kind of spirits are keeping us warm, one Antwon Galante reveals a fresh tattoo he had done the night before.
"I had it planned for a while now but I wanted to get it for the new season -- fresh ink and a fresh start for 2014," Galante told me by phone on Wednesday.
The new tattoo features a large Fire logo on his right wrist and above it, an illustration of "The Harlem End" where Section 8 Chicago is based in Toyota Park.
"Obviously I wanted to pay homage to the Fire but also pay tribute to Section 8 and The Harlem End," he said. "It's a special part of our stadium and it's been like a second home to me."
While the tattoo was still obviously raw (and a little painful for Antwon), I quickly took out my iPhone and threw it up on the @ChicagoFire Instagram account. Shortly after @MLS did a #regram of it and Antwon was famous in the #MLSInk world.
You come into work on Wednesday and see the whole #cf97Ink hashtag has started to be populated on Twitter by others that have made that life-long decision to have some type of Chicago Fire-related art adorn their body.
A few more...
— Frank Cardenas (@wbo5elguapo) February 27, 2014
— Jëff Kräusë (@DFBJeff) March 26, 2014
— Chow (@chow3) March 26, 2014
— Stephen Young (@SteveY8) March 26, 2014
— Elle (@elle_tiburon) March 26, 2014
Extra credit goes to the person that doesn't have #cf97Ink but goes and gets it by the end of the day...
The Chicago Fire Soccer Club welcomed community partner, City Year Chicago at Sunday’s home opener against the New York Red Bulls. City Year, an education-focused non-profit organization that combats the nation’s dropout epidemic by uniting young people of all backgrounds for a full year of full-time service in high-need schools. Because of the Fire’s support and the support of all of our team sponsors, City Year Chicago is able to place 206 corps members in 20 schools, impacting 5,000 5th through 9th grade students through academic supports, mentoring programs, after school activities and parent engagement initiatives.
As the partnership continues in 2014, the Club extended an invitation to all 200 members of City Year Chicago to attend the Fire’s first home game at Toyota Park. Those who were able to attend joined Fire owner Andrew Hauptman on the field prior to the match for photo op and recognition.
The Club will also have presence at City Year’s Family Engagement Night Tuesday evening as members of the Chicago Fire Foundation and Community Relations Department will be in attendance.
On Tuesday I wrote about Fire newbie Greg Cochrane filling in admirably for veteran left back Gonzalo Segares during his club debut in Sunday's 1-1 draw with New York. You can't always fit every good quote into a story so without just throwing them all away, I decided to include them here...
JC: How has getting time in the CONCACAF Champions League with LA Galaxy so early in your career helped you?
GC: When you’re going down to other countries you’re playing in hostile environments where the fans throw stuff at you. From that point of view, I also got to see a lot of different styles – Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador – every country has their own flavor and I was able to pick up a lot of different stuff from those games, try to get better and keep improving
JC: When Mike Magee joined the Fire last year, he said playing with the likes of Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and David Beckham everyday gave him a certain confidence. Would you agree?
GC: Definitely. Training with those guys every day, Robbie and Landon and Omar Gonzalez are on national teams. They’re the best in their countries and are top class players. You learn so much from them and so when you come to other teams, it gives you confidence to keep doing what you’re doing.
JC: As a left back, who do you model your game after most?
GC: Right now my two favorites are Leighton Baines for Everton and Jordi Alba for Barcelona. They’re not the biggest of guys and neither am I but when you see guys like that succeeding at the highest level, you know you can do it too. Jordi at Barcelona is busing all over the field and Baines is one of the best left foots in the world serving a ball. I try to emulate both of them.
JC: How difficult would you describe the past few weeks, joining a new team and having to move to a new city all while trying to earn your spot in the team?
GC: It’s been a fun experience. I try to take eeverything and put it in a good light. It was nice that the Fire were coming out to LA the first week so I didn’t have to rush to put anything into storage. It gave me a couple days to process the fact that I was traded and meet up with the team. Here, you’re in the hotels and you don’t have a permanent residence yet – that’s part is frustrating. It’s fun, I’ve enjoyed it so far – all the guys are real welcoming. It’s good to feel welcomed right away – it makes you feel like you can play like yourself and be yourself.
On playing his first game at Toyota Park
The vital information on your 2014 Chicago Fire ahead of Sunday's home opener vs. New York Red Bulls...
Tickets still available for Opening Day, Sunday at 2pm CT vs. New York! Click here!
The Chicago Fire Mobile App has undergone another makeover with some great new enhancements for Matchday! Check out the Top 5 below and make sure to use them for Sunday's Season Opener!
1) Ticket Account Manager
Off the pitch, some of the biggest news this season has been the introduction of the Season Ticket Holder card. As Fire Sr. Vice President Mike Ernst best said in the New Season Ticket Card FAQ, “it’s all about providing convenience for our supporters.”
To build on that convenience, the Chicago Fire Mobile App powered by Cricket Wireless now allows fans access to their Ticket Account Manager. Once you enter your username and password, check the box to remember your login and easily manage your tickets, scan them at the gate at Toyota Park, or email them to a friend.
On iOS devices, users can even send their tickets to Passbook.
2) Updated Stadium Map
This particular feature is not new to the mobile app, but it has been completely overhauled to provide a better in-stadium experience for users. The interactive stadium map of Toyota Park allows fans to quickly view various seat locations around the stadium, concession stands, and more.
3) Concession Information
We believe fans shouldn’t have to miss out on any of the action while they are in their seats. Instead of spending time walking around the concourse trying to find a hot dog (Chicago style, of course) or a domestic draft for $2 beer night, fans can pull up all of Toyota Park’s concession menu’s on their mobile app to quickly locate their choice of food or drink. The app lists out the locations of each concession stand and its full menu with pricing.
4) Supporter Songs Catalog
One of the greatest sights and sounds in soccer is seeing and hearing thousands of supporters chanting songs to cheer on the team on the field. There are plenty of well-known chants that fans are used to hearing every matchday. Check out the Supporter Songs feature to familiarize yourself with both Section 8 and Sector Latino’s catalog of tunes.
5) VOTE for Man of the Match
Last, but certainly not least, the Mobile App now allows fans to cast their vote for the Fire’s Man of the Match. Have your say on who you think the team’s top performer was over the course of 90 minutes and stay tuned after the final whistle to see which player is named MOTM. The player with the most votes will be announced as MOTM in-stadium, on My50/TWC, and on Chicago Fire social media.
(Ticket Account Manager and MOTM voting coming soon for Android). Download the Fire mobile app via iTunes and Google Play!
After picking up a fantastic point in Portland, the Fire head back to Chicago to face the New York Red Bulls in the team’s home opener Sunday afternoon (1:30pm CT on My50/TWCSWI).
The Men in Red will be looking to avenge the 5-2 season-ending defeat at Red Bull Arena last season - a result that kept the Fire out of the Playoffs. Here are a few things to keep an eye on from a tactical perspective.
Possible changes on outside - will Sega be fit to play?
After picking up a knock against Portland, Fire stalwart Gonzalo Segares is currently listed as questionable on the Athletico Injury Report with an ankle sprain for Sunday’s game. In his possible absence, the Fire coaching staff have a big decision to make.
On the one hand, the team could slot Hunter Jumper into a position he played in sparingly last year, famously scoring the winning goal against Kansas City in August and serving up an assist against the Red Bulls early last year. Reading into Frank Yallop’s lineup selections for the first two matches, a more likely scenario would be bringing newly acquired left back Greg Cochrane into the back line.
Cochrane was on the bench for the season opener and brings more experience than Jumper, playing in 12 games for the Galaxy last season. Whoever the starter is on Sunday will have to keep pace with the tricky Lloyd Sam on the Red Bulls right side. New York’s strikers also have a tendency to drift wide, opening up space for midfielders, which can result in 2v1 situations for the outside back to deal with.
As a unit, the Fire defenders had a much more composed match against Portland last week in comparison to the season opener and against a high powered attack like New York's, the coaching staff will be focusing on making this possible change to the back line as smooth a transition as possible.
Continuing the no target striker formation - with a focus on retaining possession in the attack
Last week, the Fire's no target striker formation worked quite well, with the team not letting one player get isolated in the attack. That being said, the team did play many long balls and empathized picking up second balls.
Against New York, a similar target-less striker formation is an attractive option, but the focus must shift from long balls to more possession in the attack. The Fire were able to do this at times against Portland, with Quincy Amarikwa linking well and getting behind the Timbers defense on numerous occasions.
New York relies too much on Dax McCarty to break up opposing team’s attacks and if the Fire can get players in between him and the defense, it can be very beneficial. In the Red Bulls last game, the Rapids were able to play through McCarty a number of times but didn't have enough players in support to take advantage. If the Fire can continue to keep the attacking players narrow and close to each other like they did against Portland, they will certainly create chances.
Being wary of forwards peeling off - not allowing the Red Bulls strikers easy tap-ins
Ball watching can be one of the most frustrating things for coaches and fans to witness on the field. Though exclaiming that a defender should be watching his man and not the ball is easier in theory than practice, too many soft goals are given up each season because of it.
In the games involving both the Fire and the Red Bulls last weekend, cases of ball watching occurred, with much different results for each club. In Portland, Timbers attacker Gaston Fernandez was able to slip into the box unnoticed by a number of Fire defenders who only saw him when it was too late: after Sean Johnson parried the ball into the striker’s path resulting in an easy finish (see below).
In New York, Thierry Henry, the master of slipping away from defenders, did it again against the Rapids and headed home the lone Red Bulls goal (see below).
The Fire must continue to focus on not letting players like Henry peel away on the back post and lurk unmarked.
Prediction: The Fire's good home form from last season continues over to 2014. 1-0 Fire with a goal from Mike Magee. (Steve’s record in 2014: 1-1)
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @irish_steve.
WATCH: Shipp, Joya preview Sunday's match vs. Red Bull
After a lackluster performance last weekend out in LA, the Fire are in Portland for what should be a much sterner test against a Timbers team unbeaten in home regular season play for over a year (1:30pm CT on My50 / TWCWI). The Timbers will also be looking to avenge the 2-2 draw in the team's only meeting last season where a brilliant Fire comeback left Caleb Porter seething. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective.
A tweak in formation option A: Packing the midfield
Against a Portland team playing their usual 4-3-3 formation, a safer option for the Fire, especially away from home, is to play another holding midfielder alongside Jeff Larentowicz in an attempt to pack the midfield. Portland rely on late runs from players like Will Johnson and another holding midfielder would ensure the Fire would be able to track these runs more effectively.
Logan Pause would be the prime candidate to partner Larentowicz in the engine room. Portland always look to get playmaker Diego Valeri on the ball and rely on his through balls to create many of the team's chances. Pause and Larentowicz read the game extremely well and are masters at intercepting the kind of balls Valeri will be looking to play.
This option requires that the Fire drop one of its attacking players, which in this case could be Chris Rolfe who is battling an injury. The approach could be seen as a negative one, but playing against a team unbeaten at home for over a year and one that scored the third highest amount of goals in the league last season, the Men in Red also need be realistic.
A tweak in formation option B: Eliminating the target striker
A more progressive option for the Fire this weekend would be eliminating the target striker completely in favor of a smaller and quicker attack. This move would see Juan Luis Anangono, a player isolated during large stretches of last weekend's match, drop to the bench in favor of a quicker, more dynamic player such as Quincy Amarikwa, a player on the cusp of a starting eleven place.
In last weekend's match against the Union, Portland were undone on more than a few occasions by some neat and quick interplay by the Philly midfielders and strikers. With this smaller formation, the Fire will have more opportunities to play this type of game.
The interplay between players such as Duka, Rolfe, Joya, Amarikwa, Alex and Nyarko could certainly cause the Timbers problems with Benji Joya's goal last week serving as a classic example of this: Amarikwa playing a brilliant through ball to Alex who in turn found Joya at the back post for a tap in finish.
While this formation would certainly make the Fire quicker, it should also provide the Men in Red with an opportunity to have more possession and even slow the game down at times, especially if the away team manages to take the lead. With possession below 45% in last week's loss, an emphasis on keeping more of the ball is also necessary.
Set pieces: a weakness for both teams
Both the Fire and Timbers have had problems defending set pieces in the past and that was apparent again during the first match of the season for both teams. Fire defender Bakary Soumare admitted fault after his mark was able to head home the winner for Chivas while Portland also gave up a goal from a corner against the Union.
The Fire's defensive play from crosses and set pieces was certainly suspect last weekend and coach Frank Yallop made no secret of his disappointment at how his team gave up goals in this manner.
Though Portland are not a very big team, players like Diego Valeri and Gaston Fernandez are some of the best set piece takers in the league and a more cohesive performance by the Fire back four is needed on Sunday afternoon. On the other side of the ball, with the Timbers also looking frail on set pieces, I expect the Fire to load the box when the dead ball opportunities arise.
Prediction: 1-1 with the Fire goal coming from Alex
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @irish_steve
WATCH: Clint Mathis on what it will take to earn a result in Portland