Chicago Fire midfielder and defender Joevin Jones is away from the club on international duty, but he won’t be far off for his opening match.
Jones’ Trinidad and Tobago side open their 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign Thursday against Guatemala at Soldier Field, with kickoff set for 6 p.m. CT. The Soca Warriors, who trained locally at the campus of UIC, will then head to University of Phoenix Stadium to face Cuba at 5:30 p.m. on July 12, before concluding group play at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium against Mexico on July 15 (5 p.m.). All three matches will be televised on Fox Sports 2 and Univision Deportes Network (UDN).
Jones, who owns 38 career national team caps, is competing in his second straight Gold Cup after helping his side advance to the knockout stages of the 2013 tournament, where they were ousted by Mexico, 1-0. He has scored one goal and added one assist in his debut MLS campaign, starting all 14 matches in which he's played.
Click here for the complete 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup TV and streaming schedule.
Prior to the start of the Fire’s 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo Friday, the club announced that captain and centerback Jeff Larentowicz would miss the match and an estimated two weeks with a herniated disc. On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop provided a bit more insight into the situation, explaining that Larentowicz has been dealing with recurring pain in his neck since at least the June 24 match vs. D.C. United and would meet Tuesday with a specialist to better gauge the extent of the injury.
“I’m not sure the signs are great right now,” head coach Frank Yallop said Monday via teleconference, “but there’s hope that he’ll be OK to train soon. Right now, it’s up in the air what time he’s going to be back. We’re just waiting to hear tomorrow afternoon.”
Even with the rash of injuries that have befallen the Fire of late, the news of Larentowicz’ impending absence from the lineup still came as a surprise because of his well-earned reputation as an MLS iron man.
Since establishing himself as a full-time starter for the New England Revolution by his third year in MLS, the 31-year-old has been nearly impossible to keep off the field. Larentowicz hasn’t been held out of more than two MLS regular season matches since 2006, his second year in the league, and was in the Starting XI for all but two of those appearances. In the 2010 and 2011 seasons with the Colorado Rapids, he played in every regular-season game on the schedule.
Per Yallop, Larentowicz battled through his recent neck pain and lingering groin issues for some time but, regardless of the outcome of further evaluation, is already on the verge of missing more match action than he's grown accustomed to.
The injury, coupled with a nagging groin strain felt by fellow centerback Adailton, means the recent acquisition via trade of Ty Harden from the San Jose Earthquakes is likely to pay immediate dividends for Yallop, even factoring in Harden's own recent hamstring issues. The newcomer has not played in an MLS match since scoring for the Quakes against the Fire on March 22 in San Jose.
Still, in the event Adailton is held out of the team, Harden could see his Fire debut come as soon as Saturday vs. Seattle in a centerback pairing with Eric Gehrig, who capably assumed Larentowicz' spot in Houston.
“[Harden] hasn’t been full training yet, it’s been a lot of running,” Yallop said, "but he’ll be ready to go on the weekend I’m sure."
On Tuesday (June 30), the Chicago Fire dispatched of USL side Charlotte Independence, 3-1, in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 at Toyota Park.
Four days later, it was Saint Louis FC, the USL affiliate of the Men In Red, who bested the Charlotte outfit, and they did so with the help of three Chicago Fire loanees.
The two clubs met Saturday (Independence Day, fittingly) at Charlotte’s Ramblewood Stadium, where the Independence had lost only once in six home matches this season. The visitors took an early 1-0 lead on a sixth-minute goal by Parker Maher that was set up by defender Patrick Doody, who only 24 hours earlier was on the bench in Houston for the Fire’s 1-1 draw with the Dynamo. The helper was Doody’s second assist of the season.
The hosts pulled level in the 68th minute thanks to a strike by Daniel Jackson but were done in by 2015 Chicago Fire MLS SuperDraft selection Kingsley Bryce, who slotted home a rebound in the 89th minute to lift Saint Louis FC to the 2-1 victory.
Another Fire loanee, Alec Kann, manned the net and recorded a stellar eight saves for Saint Louis FC, which improved to 4-5-6 on the year. Kann, who has made eight starts this season for the USL side, owns a 1.00 goals against average and ranks second in the league with an .846 save percentage.
Check out the highlights of the match below, courtesy of the USL and Charlotte Independence:
Chicago Fire head coach Frank Yallop
Thoughts on the match
"Obviously getting the point on the road is sort of what you set out to do, to be honest I thought we could have nicked it and won the game. Great effort from our guys, really proud of the way they fought and battled against adversity with a few injuries here and there and a couple things going on, not having a full lineup. I’m proud of the way we played and getting a point here."
On Patrick Nyarko
Well Patrick had a big impact in the game on Tuesday—the cup game we had at home—and he comes and gets the tying goal here. Just really pleased for him, it’s been a long road back. Him and Mike [Magee] off the bench… it’s a long haul back from that type of injury so I’m very happy that they’re both on the field and contributing, doing well.
On Greg Cochrane
Greg’s a guy that trains really hard and is a good squad member, he waited for his chance and he’s done pretty well. It’s a lot of injuries right now with guys out so it’s nice for guys to come in and do contribute and do well.
Others that have impressed during two-game stretch
Just on tonight, from Adi, Eric Gehrig and then Polster had a lot of pressure on them, they handled the power of Houston’s attack and I think they defended very well. Sean [Johnson] when he had to come up and make a save, he did, or come for crosses, he did, so that was good. Thought Lovell [Palmer] had a good night, good chance for Mike [Magee], Greg [Cochrane], I thought everyone contributed to the point.
Chicago Fire forward Patrick Nyarko
On scoring in his first MLS game back from injury
First of all, I dedicate this to my grandmother. She’s being buried tomorrow, so rest in peace. I’m proud, I’m proud of the guys. I think we found something special at the end of the game. How we reacted after we gave up the goal is how we need to play every game. The guys realize that. I’m glad I was able to help but kudos to the guys, they came out fighting and they know now this is what it takes to win games in this league. Every single game, this is what it will take to win it. I’m proud of the guys and I hope this play will continue.
On the goal
If it goes out wide, we’ve been taught to crash the box so I just went in the box. I knew that Greg [Cochrane] was going to cross it, so when cross came through I just decided to get to goal to get a toe on it or something like that, and luckily I think me and the defender both hit the ball and if the goalie hadn’t been there it would have gone in anyway. But then it was able to rebound off of him and I think he stayed down and I got up; I knew I was in front of the goal and just turned and hit the target and it went in.
How did the knee hold up?
It did fine besides the Houston heat and the [inaudible]. Generally I was fine for most of the game. I wasn’t expecting to play the full half but when Frank told me just keep building, keep getting some game fitness in there and keep building on it. So I’m glad I was able to get the full 45 minutes here, especially in Houston with the heat, so hopefully I feel fine.
What does it mean for you personally to get through 45 minutes?
It’s huge, it’s huge. As my recovery continues, I keep saying I still have a little bit to go but all of these are confidence builders. Fifteen minutes, 45 minutes and then sooner rather than later I’ll be considering myself for a starting position. All I want is to help this team win games. That’s all I’ve been about and that’s what I’ll keep doing.
Are the last two games a bit of a turning point for the team?
I hope so, I hope so. You know, it’s been a difficult season with injuries; someone person comes up, one person goes down. I’m really excited to get everyone back to see how the depth that we’ve been talking about. We’re going to coexist. I think it’s going to be great and I’m curious and excited to see everyone healthy and us coming back in the second part of the season.
Chicago Fire midfielder Harry Shipp
On the difficulties of playing in Houston
It’s a lot different than being back in Chicago for sure, but I was really proud of the effort and the intensity we showed throughout the night. It’s hard when you’re in the 75th minute and you’ve got to step 15 yards to an outside back and you don’t want to do it and you’re tired, but we consistently did it all night and we won the ball and created some chances to potentially win in the last 15 minutes.
Has this been a turning point?
Yeah, I think this group of guys -- obviously we’re not at a hundred percent right now—but for us there’s no excuses. We had guys that came in and battled. Patrick [Nyarko] came back, first MLS game in 10 months or whatever, and Mike [Magee] came in and was a spark. I think the guys that we’ve got on the field and the guys that are coming off the bench this game did a really good job for us.
On Patrick Nyarko scoring on his MLS return
It’s special. I’ve never had to go through an injury recovery process like that, fortunately, but just seeing him every day, kind of the ups and downs with his emotions and his attitude and to finally come back and be playing well and to make a difference it’s something obviously you hope for during those last six months of recovery.
On a large cast of players getting a chance to impact the game
It’s kind of just ‘next man up.’ We’ve got Polster sliding around from centerback to midfield, me kind of playing everywhere in the midfield, you’ve got J.J. playing. We’ve got a lot of guys playing different positions and not complaining, just doing what they need to do. In previous games I think we weren’t always doing the little things effort-wise to get results in difficult places and I think tonight we did all the little things to get the win—unfortunately it didn’t happen but I think we showed promise that we can build off it and get it the next game.
If you’re looking for the perfect way to cap the Fourth of July weekend, Chicago Fire Rec Soccer has the answer. Reserve a spot now in the CFRS Fourth of July 7-v-7 Tournament on Sunday (July 5) at The PrivateBank Fire Pitch in Chicago (3626 N. Talman Ave.).
Players are invited to register their men’s, women’s or coed teams for $299 per team, or to sign up as an individual for $30. The tournament runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and offers 3-5 games lasting 25 minutes each.
Happy Fourth of July and best of luck to all participants!
As convincing as the Chicago Fire attack was Tuesday in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16, the Men In Red also were the beneficiaries of several moments of brilliance by goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
Charlotte Independence striker Ryan Finley came on as a substitute in the second half Tuesday at Toyota Park and found two point-blank chances that looked to be sure goals. Both times, Johnson pulled off spectacular saves, leaving Finley dumbfounded with his hands on his head.
“Sean Johnson was outstanding tonight,” Fire head coach Frank Yallop stated matter-of-factly after the match.
WATCH: Match Highlights
It was a totally different scenario for Johnson than in Chicago's first U.S. Open Cup game against Louisville City FC. In that match, the 26-year-old wasn’t asked to do much at all, even as the match remained deadlocked into extra time. But on Tuesday, there were a couple occasions when his quality was called upon to preserve a 3-1 Fire win.
As Kevin Egan discusses in this week's edition of Fire Field Vision, the veteran of 160 career matches with the Fire has looked in top form since being reinserted in the Starting XI following a five-game absence. In three games, he's allowed only two goals, neither of which could be considered his fault. And despite conceding the opener against Charlotte, Johnson and the Fire fought back to claim victory.
“In those moments, you’ve got to have true character in going down 1-0 early on and battling back,” he said. “Ultimately coming into the second half and being dominant in the second half, we’re learning what things we can and cannot do in matches. I think that’s the most important thing is being able to learn from experiences like yesterday and be on the winning end of things instead of the losing end.”
With the Fire in search of their first MLS win since May 30, Johnson and his teammates were pleased with Tuesday's Open Cup effort. Coming out on top can be a big boost, both for the team as a whole and for Johnson, who has certainly found his form.
“It’s all the same,” Johnson said. “I think performances, regardless of what team you’re playing, provide confidence. … Any performance – doesn’t matter if it’s Open Cup or a friendly – any performances like that can prove vital going into league play.”
Frank Yallop, Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer
Thoughts on the match:
"Obviously great to get through into the next round, coming from behind is always important as well. But I probably think the highlight of the game was seeing Patrick and Mike being back on the field and contributing to us. Very happy for the team and those two guys as individuals. It's being a long way back for them. Happy to see them on the field, very proud in the way the team kept going and got the result. I thought Sean Johnson was outstanding also."
On what was said at halftime to change the tempo of the game
"Yeah, I would say the first twenty minutes were edgy, and we didn't really have any confidence, as we know in sports, is everything. We didn't go out with any confidence to start the first half, we looked nervous and edgy. Then we started coming to it towards the end of the first half, and obviously got the first goal. So, I said we just got to up the tempo, I liked from the outset we pushed on. After halftime we kind of allowed them to play and I felt we weren't too bad going forward at the end of the first half. I felt we allowed them to play too much and giving them too much respect on the ball. The demeanor was a lot better the second half but they created some good chances for sure. It was good tonight, we weren't our best against them but thing is here is having your goalkeeper play well. And finish off chances and both boxes have said it enough, we were pretty good in both boxes tonight."
On Mike Magee's return
"Mike gave everything he had. He still has a little bit of a catch up but I think after he scored the second goal, he went over to our fitness coach Adrian Lamb and gave him hug because he worked very hard to get him back to this point. When you have surgery, you think you're going to get back pretty quickly but you realize it is 9 months and it's a long time. I think he is very appreciative from the work he put in himself and the staff we have here to get him to this point. I'm pleased for him and I think he showed tonight, took three shots and scored two goals. His ratio is pretty good and he's got to keep that up. Its nice to have him back, we obviously got through this game and need to get our team together. I thought Patrick looked outstanding in only 10-15 minutes, you miss guys and when they are on the field, you realize how good they are. It's not in training, it is actually in play, in the proper game. I thought Patrick looked great, I thought, and obviously Mike's goals were great. Very happy for both guys and pleased to have them out there."
On the play of Lovel Palmer
"I wanted Lovel to get himself forward and get back to the old Lovel, where he use to bump forward. Especially last year we kind of free front and I have not played him as right back a lot so maybe it has not been his fault all the time. He is very good going forward and I said go on please, and express yourself and do your thing. Obviously a great long range shot and great ball from Mike for the goal, so he had a good night. Has a little bit of a tight groin but we will see how he is doing but hopefully he is okay. I thought he had a good game tonight."
On missing Joevin Jones and potentially Jeff Larentowicz for the Houston match
"It was a tough turn around, but Houston is playing as well tonight. It is just an injury problem and it does weaken you a little bit. Again, our guys got through this game tonight and do we play particularly well at times? Probably not. But did we do good stuff going forward and were dangerous? Yes we did, and I think and hope this is the turning point. So we can come out with a good result on Friday, it's a tough game, but we will just see how we are tomorrow. We will see how Lovel and Jeff are, and both David and Shaun are definitely out. Lovel is a slight risk with coming off with an injury but it is what it is. It's a squad game and we have lost four in row in our league play, which is not good. So we got to go down there and try to get a result and then look forward to the next few games we have at home."
On facing Orlando City in the next round
"I think the context of it, you're playing against players you don't really know. I felt they came out pretty strong and energetic and did well for 30 minutes. Its always that way, its very easy to sit and say we should win 4-0 because we are a MLS team and they are USL but they beat New England away and they are not bad. They proved that tonight, they had some good chances but we had the better of clear cut chances but it was still a dangerous game. We've just got to get our guys back on the field and look forward to the next game versus Orlando, which I am looking forward to. It's a great tradition of this club to do well in the Open Cup and I am no different to that. I want to do well for the club, the fans, and everyone involved and do well in this competition."
On looking towards the next transfer window
"It is still undecided in how it is going to look, and we are still waiting on the final makeup of how that sort of mechanism is going to work to have players. I can't really comment on what is going to happen but we are actively looking and it is nice to have Mike and Patrick back, those two spots are covered in the attacking core. So, we will look at it closely and we will have a meeting tomorrow and go over our wants, needs and hopes and the list of players we have targeted in different spots and see what we come up with."
Mike Magee, Chicago Fire Forward
On scoring twice upon his first start of the season
"The first goal was great, and tying the game in the first half is not all that glorious. But in the second half, I'm ten times happier to see Pat on the field, first of all. Then, for him to give me a lay-up, it feels pretty similar to how it was two years ago, when we had that great run. He's brilliant over there, and for some reason, he always seems to give me the easy goal. So, thanks, Pat Nyarko."
On playing a full 90 minutes
"That was huge. Adrian Lamb, our fitness guy, many people haven't seen the work we've done together, and more importantly, the work he made me do. Probably half the time, if I was trying to quit, or trying to give him a better idea of what I thought I should do, which was half of what he had planned for me...if it weren't for him, I probably wouldn't be playing tonight, let alone finishing 90 and playing well."
On being named captain for the match
"When you wear the captain's armband, you feel a sense of pride that's kind of hard to describe. Jeff's an incredible captain, so I'm in good company when I put it on, but it's a surreal feeling, especially for your hometown club."
On the victory serving as spark for the rest of the season
"I hope so. There was definitely something a little different in the group tonight, the way we got after it. We kind of had the sense after the game, and even before the game, that we were ready to fight for each other. First of all, we need to get everyone healthy and on the field; once that happens, I truly believe the sky's the limit."
Patrick Nyarko, Chicago Fire Midfielder
On returning from injury
"It feels good. It's been a long road. All the rehab, all the tough days waking up and trying to get back. Once again, I appreciate the patience of the club, waiting up on me, being patient with me to take as long as I can to come back stronger. I still think I have a little bit to go to get in tip-top shape, but it's a good start. I think the guys worked their ass off today to get us the win, and I'm glad to win."
On his first touch leading to goal
"I'm not quite that good, but surprisingly, me and Mike [Magee] had talked about it; the celebration was going to be, he was just going to tackle me, and I was just going to run off, out of the tunnel, but I think it didn't come to that yet. But we definitely talked about me coming in and setting him up for a goal, for sure."
On his and Mike Magee's return serving as a spark
"Surprisingly, I think we've been okay. It hasn't been as bad as the results or the positioning in the league table seem to suggest. We've been in games, we've been in leads, we've given up leads and stuff like that. I think we just have that edge to win games, and everyone needs to learn how to win games, it becomes a habit. I think the results haven't been there, but I believe in us. As you guys might know, we've had some slow starts here in the past, and besides last year, we've actually kind of picked it up towards the middle of the season, towards the end of the season. So, I'm hoping for that. Obviously, Mike was a huge loss, and now he's back; look at what he did today. I think we're going to count on him, he's delivered for us, and he will keep delivering for us."
On the emotional meaning of his return from injury
"Like I said, I just appreciate the patience the club and the fans have had. They deserve better for all the support they've given us even in the bad times. Mike is a huge part of the club, he's going to lift us big time; I'm going to chip in and do the work I do, and hopefully it turns around. I think all the guys are on the right path; it's just that little bit, the young guys learning how to win in this league, it'll be a huge boost in the second part of this season."
Patrick Nyarko expected to be pretty good in his debut appearance in the 2015 season. Just “not quite that good,” he said.
After an absence of over eight months while recovering from a knee injury, the 29-year-old Ghanaian winger came on as a 77th-minute substitute Tuesday in U.S. Open Cup action against Charlotte Independence. It was the 201st appearance in a Fire shirt across all competitions for Nyarko -- the longest tenured player on the current roster -- and it's likely one that will feature prominently in his memory whenever his professional playing days are over.
About five minutes after stepping onto the field, he made his first touch one to remember, splitting two defenders before setting up Mike Magee perfectly for Magee's second goal of the game.
With that moment came the rush of emotions typical of a long process now nearing completion. He harbors a great deal of gratitude for the coaching staff, the supporters and the club as a whole for sticking by him through it all. Though Nyarko is still not back to full fitness, the tallest mountain has been climbed. He had come full circle since posting an assist in his last previous appearance on Oct. 18, 2014.
“All the tough days waking up and trying to get back,” he said, “you appreciate the patience of the club waiting up on me, being patient with me to take as long as I can to come back and come back stronger.”
He and Magee had talked about this moment. They had both returned from lengthy injury absences and wanted to make their mark. The plan was for Nyarko to set up Magee for a goal, and that plan came to fruition.
The celebration, on the other hand, didn’t go as scripted. Magee was supposed to tackle Nyarko, who would then get up and take off for the tunnel. Instead, Magee picked his counterpart up and carried him about 10 yards before teammates mobbed them.
Close enough. It didn’t take away from the beauty of Nyarko’s return. And it seemed like a fair reward for months of hard work just to get back on the pitch.
“It feels good,” Nyarko said. “It’s been a long road.”
“We’re forever looking.”
When asked about potential roster moves, that tends to be the go-to response for Chicago Fire head coach and director of soccer Frank Yallop. He and his staff are always on the search players who may make for proper additions to the club, now or sometime down the line.
He feels like he (re)discovered one Friday in the acquisition of defender Ty Harden from the San Jose Earthquakes in exchange for forward Quincy Amarikwa. Yallop was responsible for drafting Harden to the LA Galaxy in the 2007 MLS SuperDraft (23rd overall), and also worked with the defender in San Jose in 2013 before Yallop’s move to the Windy City.
“Ty’s a centerback; I felt we needed another centerback,” Yallop said. “I just felt that the timing was OK for us. Quincy’s been here a while, so it’s never nice losing anyone like that. But it’s sports, and like I said to the group and to Quincy himself, sometimes you’ve got to change things to try to spark or make a difference –- and just a small difference –- in our fortunes and our setup. I thought it was a move we needed to make, so it was done.”
Apart from the on-field tactics of the move, Yallop also wanted to create cap space to be used during the league’s secondary transfer window (which goes from July 8 to August 6) or at some other point. No specific positional needs were noted, but he said “it gives us more room and more money to get a higher quality individual.”
The Fire have filled their three allotted Designated Player spots with David Accam, Kennedy Igboananike and Shaun Maloney, about whom Yallop said, “We’re committed to those guys.” Apart from that, he’s open to any possibilities.
“We’d be interested in any player that’s got quality,” Yallop said, adding that, “We’re forever looking.”
LISTEN: Frank Yallop on Transfer Window Targets
The annual Chicago Pride Parade is always one of the most celebratory and festive events of the year, but the 2015 edition took on extra meaning following Friday's landmark Supreme Court ruling to legalize same-sex marriage throughout the United States. Just four days after hosting Pride Night at Toyota Park, representatives from the Chicago Fire Soccer Club and Section 8 Chicago were on hand Sunday to join the estimated one million revelers on the city's North Side. A big thank you to all the supporters who contributed to a day (and week) to remember!
— Joel Biden (@JoelBiden) June 28, 2015
— kornkid15 (@kornkid15) June 28, 2015