Blog

Chicago Fire

11 April 7:58 am

Whether you like having just a few libations with some of the club’s most ardent supporters, enjoy the beautiful landscapes of rural Indiana, Michigan and Missouri, or just really like seeing the Chicago Fire play away from home, Section 8 On Tour Bus Trips (#S8OT) have something for everyone.

Returning this year, the Independent Supporters Association is offering all Fire supporters an away season ticket, which guarantees round trip bus fare and match tickets for this season’s Fire away games in Columbus (May 24), Kansas City (July 6) and Toronto (August 23) for just $200.

While the execution of an Away Season Ticket isn’t something new to Section 8 Chicago, it does return for the first time in a number of years because of the way the MLS schedule fell for the club’s three closest away trips according to ISA Chairman Jeff Marinacci. 

“The stars aligned for us,” he told Chicago-Fire.com this week. “When we saw the schedule, having Toronto on a summer weekend makes it an easy sell. Though Columbus or Kansas City are good road games, Toronto just offers so much more, the trip is worth doing outside of just going to watch a match.”

Toronto nightlife no doubt has more to offer than Kansas City or Columbus but what Marinacci is referring to is the fact that the past few seasons, the team has played away in Toronto at midweek in September, making it difficult to coordinate a strong contingent of Fire supporters to travel by bus.

 This year the Columbus and Toronto trips both fall on Saturdays, while the Kansas City trip falls on the Sunday of Independence Day weekend making the travel much easier all around.

As they do on all buses, Section 8 Chicago is subsidizing an additional $35 per person on the 2014 Away Season Ticket on top of the $50 subsidy provided for individual bus travel to these matches.

“Our commitment to spending our money is to support the guys on the field home and away,” he said.

A great deal no doubt, not what if someone buying can only make it on one or two of the trips instead of the full complement of three? Marinacci said that while there is no partial away season ticket (and no refunds), the ISA will accommodate ticket transfers as coordinated through communications@s8c.org.

Now through mid-May (when bus tickets for the Columbus trip will cut off), Section 8 Chicago is in a heavy push to sell the Away Season Ticket for the year. As part of that push, the ISA will be raffling one off during Saturday’s Watch Party at A.J. Hudsons

Next Saturday, the ISA will raffle off a second Away Season Ticket, purchased by the Club, at their tailgate in the north lot prior to the Chicago Fire/New England Revolution match.

If you’d rather just support a great initiative to get more Fire fans out on the road this season, go ahead and buy your Away Season Ticket by clicking here.

10 April 3:29 pm

Ahead of Saturday's clash at Montreal's Olympic Stadium, neither Fire head coach Frank Yallop or the Impact's Frank Klopas will be happy with their team's defensive efforts five matches into the season, though they may have varying opinions about the number of goals their teams have produced.

See below the spots on the field both the Fire and Impact have scored and conceded from heading into Saturday's game:

CHICAGO FIRE BREAKDOWN

Goals Scored: 8 Goals Against: 9
Run of Play: 4 Run of Play: 2
Dead Ball/Set Piece Sequence: 4 Dead Ball/Set Piece Sequence: 7
Penalty Kick: 1, Corner Kick 2, Free Kick 1 Penalty Kick : 1, Corner Kick 3, Free Kick 3

MONTREAL IMPACT BREAKDOWN

Goals Scored: 5 Goals Against: 9
Run of Play: 5 Run of Play: 6
Dead Ball/Set Piece Sequence: 0 Dead Ball/Set Piece Sequence: 3
Penalty Kick: 0, Corner Kick 0, Free Kick 0 Penalty Kick : 1, Corner Kick 0, Free Kick 2

 

10 April 8:38 am

After a heartbreaking draw against the Union last weekend, the Fire travel north to Montreal to face another side looking for a first win of the season Saturday (2:30pm CT on My50/TWCSC). The game has added spice with former coach Frank Klopas facing the Men in Red for the first time as opposition coach.

Here are a few tactical observations to keep in mind on Saturday.

Continued focus on the wing play - taking advantage of Shipp's positioning

In last Saturday’s match, Patrick Nyarko returned to the starting lineup and impressed. On the other side of the field, Harry Shipp looks much more comfortable when he cuts inside, as opposed to hugging the touchline and taking on players.

Shipp's set piece play alone is worth a place in the starting eleven, but his ability to pick a pass is also a dangerous weapon. Shipp's tendency to drift inside also benefits the Fire for other reasons.

First, in the absence of a creative central midfielder, it’s not felt as much when the rookie comes central and occupies those positions. Against a team like Montreal that boasts an impressive attack, the use of two defensive-minded midfielders can be necessary (as I will explain in more detail later) but with Shipp filling the gap, the Fire don't lose much in an attacking sense.

Shipp's positioning also opens the door for Greg Cochrane to show his attacking talents from the left back position. Cochrane has fit seamlessly into the Fire back line and his excellent crossing ability has been on show in recent matches.

With the Impact's wide players like Mapp reluctant to track back on a consistent basis, the Fire could again benefit from attacking in the wide areas.

Continuing to win the ball high up the field - catching Montreal in transition

In the first half last week against New York, the Impact sliced through the Red Bull midfield as if they had three extra players on the pitch. Klopas emphasized transitioning the ball from defense to attack as quickly as possible and for most of the first half, that worked to devastating effect.

Montreal should've been well ahead at halftime but actually went into the break behind 2-1. The reason for this was because the Canadian team was caught trying to force the ball forward too quickly, resulting in turnovers, which the Red Bulls capitalized on twice in three minutes. I expect the Impact to try this tactic again on Saturday.

Players like Mike Magee and Quincy Amarikwa both like to hound the opposing team when they are in possession in their defensive third. The Fire's first goal last week was a perfect example of this, with Amarikwa nicking the ball from a defender before setting up Magee for an easy tap in.

If the Fire can force the Impact into turnovers high up the pitch, it could prove costly for the Canadian team.

Attempting to contain Montreal's fearsome attack - staying compact and limiting mental mistakes

Just when we thought an attack featuring Marco Di Vaio, an in-form Justin Mapp and Felipe was going to be a challenge, the Impact went out and acquired promising American youngster Jack McInerney.

This move could see the Impact change formation to a two striker statute with Di Vaio and Jack Mac up front or see McInerney play in one of the wide attacking roles behind the target striker. In any case, the fluidity of the Impact's attack will be a major challenge for the Fire to contend with on Saturday.

None of the Montreal attacking players stay static for long, with Felipe essentially having a free role in the hole, Di Vaio often pushing wide, and Mapp cutting inside with the ball at his feet on a regular basis. With this in mind, the Fire defense needs to stay organized and compact and not allow Montreal to drag players out of position.

This has not been a problem for the Fire this season, with most of the team’s nine goals against coming from lapses from set pieces. A clean sheet Saturday afternoon would be a massive achievement.

Prediction: The Fire score early and finish the game off late 2-0 with goals from Magee and Hurtado.

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

07 April 4:27 pm

The Chicago Fire Reserves ran out 4-0 winners over Marquette Sunday morning at Toyota Park. First teamers, Juan Luis Anangono, Victor Pineda and Orr Barouch all chipped in goals but perhaps the best was Academy product Andrew Gutman's combination with Qudus Lawal on the left to take things to 3-0 in the in 75th minute.

Catch that goal 20 seconds into the video below: 

07 April 12:02 pm

Mike Magee (a great dancer) can redirect a cross like it's nobody's business.

In this edition of slow it down, Quincy Amarikwa (also a great dancer), picks Amobi Okugo's pocket with flying colors, runs the ball down the field and crosses to Magee... you know the rest.

Voice of the Fire Dan Kelly put it best by describing Magee's play on the goal as being like, "A shifty little feline after a seven hour nap." You may be confused after reading this, but I promise after you watch the video below, it should all make sense. (unlike the duo's dance moves)

Let's slow it down!

07 April 10:51 am

Mike Magee will tell you he should have had at least two goals on Saturday.

Whether it was finishing on that awkward back and forth play that saw him with an open look at goal while Sheanon Williams was down in the box in the 88th minute or the game-ending penalty and rebound save from Zach MacMath at the death, the fans and he himself feel like he should have had another.

And it's not necessarily easy to point that out about Magee but thankfully, he tweeted this yesterday:

So now that that's out of the way, it's worth noting something else: Mike Magee did open his 2014 Fire account off a great feed from Quincy Amarikwa in the 16th minute Saturday. That goal was a small milestone as it pushed Magee inside the Top 15 (actually tied for 14th place) on the club's all-time goal scoring list with Lubos Kubik and Cuauhtemoc Blanco at 16 (MLS Regular Season) and 19 (All Competitions) goals respectively. 

You took a pause real quick right there and realized that the Fire have only had 16 players hit those numbers over the course of 17 years. Now you realize that the club hasn't really had a consistent goal scorer over multiple seasons since the likes of Ante Razov, Josh Wolff and Damani Ralph came through. 

There's no doubt that Magee got to those odd milestones quicker than Blanco or Kubik but he also beats Razov, Wolff and Ralph to those numbers by a considerable margin...

The tables:

MLS Regular Season Goals - Fastest to 16

Player Years GP to 16 Goals Total Fire Goals
Mike Magee 2013-present 25 GP 16
Ante Razov 1998-04 33 GP 76
Josh Wolff 1998-02 35 GP 32
Damani Ralph 2003-04 35 GP 22
Brian McBride 2008-10 42 GP 18
Dominic Oduro 2011-12 42 GP 18
Hristo Stoitchkov 2000-02 44 GP 17
Dema Kovalenko 1999-02 49 GP 22
Chris Rolfe 2005-09; 2012-14 53 GP 48
Cuauhtemoc Blanco 2007-09 58 GP 16
Lubos Kubik 1998-00 68 GP 16
Nate Jaqua 2003-06 73 GP 21
Chad Barrett 2005-08 75 GP 18
Piotr Nowak 1998-02 77 GP 26
Marco Pappa 2008-12 87 GP 26
Jesse Marsch 1998-05 183 GP 19

Fire All Competitions Goals - Fastest to 19

Players Years GP to 19 Goals All Competitions Goals
Mike Magee 2013-present 29 GP 19
Josh Wolff 1998-2002 47 GP 39
Ante Razov 1998-2004 53 GP 95
Damani Ralph 2003-04 55 GP 28
Dema Kovalenko 1999-00 56 GP 34

So while you could probably go back in Magee's short Fire tenure (he hasn't even been here a calendar year) and point to a few more opportunities that would see his goal total even higher, he's still on a record scoring clip for the Fire. 

And Mike, keep your head up after that penalty kick save. We expect to see lots more of these celebrations this season: 

05 April 8:28 pm

Frank Yallop, Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer
 
On the response by the team to a tough draw
 
“Obviously very disappointed to not come away with 3 points today, especially going 2-1 down in the game, fighting back to 2-2, and having a penalty kick with no time left; I think it was almost storybook, but it would’ve been great for us to win the game in that manner. Having said that, for a neutral, great game to watch; you guys are watching it, it’s a difficult pitch, we need to sort that out. Other than that, I had a talk with the guys at halftime. I questioned them a little bit about ‘Did we really want to win? Did we really fancy our chances to come back into this game?’ I thought we responded well, I thought we showed heart, and that’s all I’m asking for, and we had a chance to win the game. So, disappointed we didn’t win it, but all in all, maybe our luck could turn in the next game.”
 
On Philadelphia’s second goal and set pieces
 
“Well, I think the set-up, to be honest, a very good service, it’s set up to do that: you’re aiming for the back post, you’re getting runners across the goal and goalkeeper. It either bounces and goes in the far post, or someone gets a touch, so it was a great service. We’ve been really, really poor; and I wouldn’t say it’s just individual stuff, but really poor on set plays generally, conceding goals. We have to clean that up, and it’s something that we’ve been working on, we’ve looked a little bit better at it, but it’s still something that’s hurting us, so we need to address it and keep going. Again, I go back to the last 10 minutes of the game, and we’re pushing to try and get something out of it, and I’d like to say I’m proud of the guys, the way they kept going in a difficult match, and didn’t lie down and die, didn’t accept the tie. We tried to win the match, and you’ll be talking to Mike [Magee] later on, he’d love to have that back. Listen, penalty kicks are difficult, it’s a precious situation, and sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t. I just saw it, and the kid [Philadelphia goalkeeper Zac MacMath] made a great save on it, so, tough.”
 
On the issues behind set pieces
 
“Second balls. We talked about it, we’ve shown them, we’ve worked on it in training. You can’t force us to be like that, but you can make habits out of it, so we’ll just keep working on it. We’ll address it again on Monday, we’ll go over video, we’ll go over it in training, we’ll talk about being alert when the ball is bouncing about, getting to errors. It’s dangerous, it’s not always about staying with your guy, it’s about heading the ball out, and I think we kind of get a little bit caught with ‘I’ve got my fellow, but in the end, you could’ve helped out and cleared the ball.’ So, good service, I thought it was a good service by the fellow [Philadelphia midfielder Leonardo Fernandes], and I think that in the end, we couldn’t deal with it; but it was a pretty good goal on their behalf.”
 
On the performance by the Fire midfield
 
“I really think, and I’m not blaming the pitch, but we couldn’t really get into rhythm, especially in the first half, to play any stuff we wanted to. I went with Matt [Watson] and Jeff [Larentowicz] because I felt the center of that park is strong with Maurice Edu and [Brian] Carroll, so I wanted to match up with them, and I thought Patrick [Nyarko] would be a good matchup for anybody wide…I thought he had a good first half, he’s not played for a little bit, and I thought he did well. I thought the matchups were good. Young Harry [Shipp] plays a little bit inside, so I wanted to maybe have a little bit of balance. I thought we played great for 20 minutes, to be honest…we scored a goal early, we could’ve gotten the second one. All in all, formations are formations. What I will say, is that subs made a difference again, and that’s why they’re there; like I always say, it’s about guys that don’t play, or substitutes in the match, to be ready to go, because you are the difference in the match. I thought Dilly [Duka], Juan [Luis Anangono], and Alex made a difference, I think that in the end, it’s not just the 11 starters, it’s everybody that contributes.”
 
On learning more about the team and looking for the right team to field
 
“I think so. We’ve played preseason games, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter, there’s nothing on those games. These are the games, four points, that matter. I’m still learning about a lot of players, I’m still learning about the squad. We’re unbeaten in four, by the way, so that for me is always a good thing for a coach. We haven’t won in five, which is not a good thing, so I try to look positive; we have to look for the next game. I thought we did enough to win this match today; I’m not saying that Philly weren’t very good or anything, which they were, but I felt in the end we pushed, we had two really good chances to score late, Mike having both of them, the penalty kick and the left footed shot. I think it would’ve been a deserved win. We’re not far off, we have to keep going and not worry about not winning, because if you start worrying about it, you won’t play well; so, it’s my job to make sure that they don’t worry about it, take the pressure off them and just get them to play, and the wins will come once we get that.”
 
Mike Magee, Chicago Fire Forward
 
On what he saw on the penalty kick:
 
“I saw the goalie save it, which was unfortunate, and then I tried to tap it in and it was saved again. Obviously it was more his moment than mine.”
 
On his goal:
 
“It’s hard to talk about that to be honest. It’s good to get the monkey off my back, but the only thing on my mind is not winning.  I had a pretty sweet opportunity to be the hero, but it wasn’t meant to be I guess.”
 
On another draw:
 
“We want to win, and we need to win at home to be a successful team.  I hate to lose more than I love to win, which is pretty cliché, but as long as we’re not dropping games at home I feel like we’re heading in the right direction.  Sometimes when you squeak out games you don’t deserve to win it’s unjust, but tonight we deserved to win and we deserved three points. We’re not getting it but I feel like it’s going to translate.”
 
On the importance of getting the first win:
 
“The first one is the hardest. I feel like the longer you go without winning, your confidence goes down, plays become harder and you over-think everything.  Sometimes when you’re winning, plays become easy because you don’t care if you lose.  The first win would have been perfect for us tonight.  The stars were aligned for it and it didn’t happen.”
 
Jeff Larentowicz, Chicago Fire Midfielder
 
On midfield’s performance:
 
“It’s another example of how we’re not getting beat in open play.  I think we had a very solid scouting report coming in and I think we did well to shut it down.  We gave up some fouls in dangerous places and they scored on restarts.”
 
On playing his partnership with Watson:
 
“It’s good. Matt’s an honest guy, he’s going to run all day long and he’s been fantastic since he’s gotten here.  He’s playing right back where he’s never played before.  We put him in the midfield, where he’s more natural, and he’ll run and cover ground and do all those things. Whatever the coaches decide going forward, it’s good, if it’s Matt, then great.”
 
On what the team needs to do to get a win:
 
“Once we get a lead, we need to hold onto it.  I think every game we’ve tied, we’ve been ahead and we haven’t held on.  It’s all about having a consistent performance the whole game.  In the first half we played well, then we had a lull and gave up goals.”
 
On the emotions on how the game ended:
 
“There’s no catharsis.  We continue to seem like we’re there, but we’re not.  You try and pick a bright side and say we’re not losing, we’re coming back, we’re fighting, the substitutes are making a difference, new guys are coming  – there are a lot of positives but in the end there’s a hole, there’s not a win, there’s not three points in the standings.

04 April 12:26 pm

It was a cold and windy training session on Friday at Toyota Park. After the team went through their final preparations for Saturday's match vs. Philadelphia, they hurried in to join the Fire Front Office staff in wishing head coach Frank Yallop a very happy 50th birthday...

WATCH:

Frank was much obliged by the gesture...

03 April 9:04 am

After picking up a point on the road in D.C. last week, the Fire are back at Toyota Park on Saturday afternoon to face the Philadelphia Union (3:30pm CT My50/TWCSC) looking for the club’s first win of the season and to extend their unbeaten streak to four games. 

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

A change on the wing? Going with a veteran over youth

In last week’s match in D.C., youngster Benji Joya again started on the wing for the Fire but again failed to last the full 90 minutes in his third start in a row. Defensively, Joya left his outside back Greg Cochrane exposed on more than one occasion in the first half before Frank Yallop switched Joya to the right wing.

In the attack, Joya also found it difficult to get into the game before he was substituted in place of Patrick Nyarko. The Ghanaian had an immediate impact; setting up Qunicy Amarikwa for the equalizer after a brilliant nutmeg.

Saturday seems like a perfect game for Nyarko to get his second start in 2014 for a number of reasons. First, his speed in the attack will cause Union left back Fabinho trouble. In the Union’s last two matches, the Brazilian’s lack of pace has been a weak spot.

Nyarko also provides ample cover defensively, something the Fire will need against a Philly team who's tactics emphasize getting as many players forward as possible when they attack.

Bringing the strikers closer together - pushing Magee closer to the goal

In D.C., Mike Magee cut a frustrated figure, trying his best to get into the game but with not a lot of chances to influence it. Magee started in a deeper role behind Quincy Amarikwa and both players were unable to link up on many occasions throughout the match, but not for lack of trying.

Against Philly, I expect Magee to be a lot closer to his striker partner with the Fire playing more of a 4-1-3-2 role instead of a 4-1-4-1. Moving Magee further forward allows Alex to further influence the game from midfield, something he wasn't able to do in D.C.

At this point in the season, coach Yallop favors the Magee/Amarikwa partnership in the attack and in a home game, I expect a formation that fosters as much interplay between the pair as possible.

Stifling the Union attack - limiting opportunities for Jack Mac

In last week’s match away to Montreal, striker Jack McInerney caused major problems when he was able to get on the end of through balls from the Philly midfield.

In the attack, players like Le Toux and creative mid Vincent  Nogueira are always looking to play McInerney in behind while U.S. international Maurice Edu can also do the same from his deeper midfield role. 

While much of the focus will be on McInerney, Brazilian Leonardo Fernandez has impressed coming off the bench in Philly's last two matches, scoring in one, and it would be no surprise to see him on the pitch from the start on Saturday.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jack McInerney was traded to the Montreal Impact in exchange for Andrew Wenger Friday morning, hence his name being struck through. It is not known at time of edit if Wenger will join the Union in Chicago for Saturday's match.

Prediction: The Fire will finally get a first win of the season - 2-1 with goals from Quincy Amarikwa and Harry Shipp.

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

02 April 5:17 pm

From Brandon Marshall to Ron Harper, and Ozzie Guillen to Richard Dent, the new Harry Caray’s Chicago Sports Museum and Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch at Water Tower Place was packed with familiar faces of Chicago sports’ past and present on Tuesday night. You can add Chicago Fire’s Mike Magee to that mix, as well.

Joined by teammates Quincy Amarikwa and Gonzalo Segares at the museum’s VIP grand opening, the 2013 MLS MVP checked out various displays of Chicago sports memorabilia, among which was his own game-worn Fire jersey sitting in a glass case next to other jerseys worn by fellow Chicago professional athletes.

Magee’s jersey wasn’t the only Fire representation in the museum; Brian McBride’s game-worn Fire jersey also sits among an elite group of Chicago sports gear, including Derrick Rose’s Simeon High School jersey.

After exploring and engaging in several interactive sports displays, Magee, Amarikwa and Segares enjoyed an evening of Chicago sports camaraderie, chatting and mingling with a few fellow professional athletes and celebrities from area (such as James Denton and Billy Zane).

Magee even managed to reel in new Fire fans, including Brandon Marshall and Jarrett Payton as well as catching up with Fire fan Ozzie Guillen, who expressed interest in checking out Chicago’s most recent MVP in action soon.