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Chicago Fire

23 June 4:07 pm

Mexico has every right to celebrate after today's 3-1 victory over Croatia pushed them into the Knockout Round in Brazil.

No doubt frustrated after another dubious call, Mexico eventually unleashed three goals in 10 minutes from Rafa Marquez (72'), Andres Guardado (75') and Javier Hernandez (82').

Even if you're a U.S. supporter, you have to appreciate that Mexico is through to the next round if only because of the possibility of more celebrations like this from manager Miguel Herrera. Go on, Mexico! 

Rafa Marquez goal

Andres Guardado's goal

11 June 3:07 pm

I love World Cup draws almost as much as I love the next month every four years.

Last December, I had our staff help me in a mock World Cup draw for this year’s tournament. On Tuesday, I did my best <insert FIFA bigwig name here> and ran the staff World Cup pool. While I may never get to perform a true World Cup draw, Tuesday’s festivities served as just another milestone in my own career.

The draw was quite simple and straight forward as participants were asked to first choose a number 1-32 to determine the order. Once that was settled, we went about picking the nations with which we would live and die with over the next month (or maybe just a few weeks).

A photo blow-by-blow of the day’s festivities…

We'll start with Corporate Partnership's Matt Hoy who was so overjoyed with his choice of Cameroon (Odds: 1000/1) that he accidentally held the flag upside down. 

Then there was the great reaction from Jeff Harbert who wasn't exactly pleased with with the laughter that followed after he drew Australia (Odds: 1000/1)

Fire Technical Director Brian Bliss will hope Greece (250/1) repeat their Euro 2004 performance in Brazil...

Hailing from Brazil, Fire Creative Services Manager Kayser dos Reis interestingly pulled Portugal (Odds: 25/1)

And though she may not look like it, Sponsorship's Lauren Griswold was pretty happy to have chosen reigning World and European champions Spain...

Now, we're all busy and sometimes can't make the big draw. In that case, you can designate a proxy to draw for you, or if none is designated, yours truly does it instead. 

This was the case for Director of Business Development Paul Cadwell, who pulled Algeria (Odds 2000/1) and Team Videographer Leo Flores who got South Korea (Odds: 300/1)...

Of course, like any FIFA bigwig, I'd say I did myself proud enough by getting 2010 finalists, Holland (Odds: 25/1)...

But to be honest, the must successful Fire competitions draw participant by far is Mike Ernst. In 2010, he took finalists The Netherlands. In the Euro 2012 draw, he came away with eventual champions Spain.

Called over in passing when his number came up towards the end of Tuesday's draw, the Fire Sr. Vice President pulled World Cup hosts and favorites Brazil without the blink of an eye. 

Time will tell if Mike strikes gold again... See the full results of Tuesday's Fire Staff World Cup draw...

 

07 June 11:04 pm

Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop

 

On general feeling of the team heading into the World Cup break

 

“Points-wise, not great. Spirit-wise, I thought tonight was good. Difficult circumstances with the red card and all the stuff that went on tonight. What I liked about the team tonight: we fought, and we stuck up for each other. That's the positive out of it. The negative: we didn't get a result at home, obviously. Frustration is probably the word I would say right now.”

 

On if he had saw the reason for Obafemi Martins' sending-off

 

“No, I didn't, I haven't looked at a replay. I haven't seen it yet.”

 

On expecting officiating controversies

 

“I don't know. I thought both teams came out to try and win the game, which is important. Some decisions for us didn't go the right way, and you get frustrated with all that stuff; it spills over to your play a little bit. I'm not going to fault the effort of our players at all; we're not quite able to figure it out yet. We have good moments; we have patterns of play that are good, we look like we're a good side, and then we falter and get punished. It's frustrating. I hate to use the word, I keep saying it, but the balance is not quite there yet. No excuses with the three games in the week, but it's never easy. But I thought we kept going until the end; we could have gotten something out of the game. Obviously that third goal killed the game a little bit. Quincy [Amarikwa] had a great chance I think at 2-1, and then Juan [Luis Anangono] had a good chance at 3-2. That's football. That's the tough part about it. And I'm sitting there just frustrated, and you guys are fans of us, as frustrated as you are; I'm sitting there going, ‘why can't we get it sorted out?’ But signs are good, young guys are doing okay. Harry [Shipp] did good tonight, so hopefully we can turn the corner.”

 

On creating chances and goals in play

 

“We created some good chances. If you look at the experience on their team, it's a pretty experienced team; and we're a little bit younger and naive, and all the guys we have out...there's no excuses. But I'm not going to fault my guys; I thought they fought right to the end, tried to get something out of the game, but just couldn't quite get something out of it. I'm not going to turn to the excuse of ‘we got guys out,’ because, I thought the players that played tonight played well for us. Big, important thing is, take the punishment, if you like, and move on. You have to. We have an Open Cup game next, hopefully we can get through that round; I think there's another round of Open Cup, and then we get to get back into MLS. So we're still in the picture, which is always good; although we have to start winning games, obviously. But the progression of the team playing-wise, I thought, showed some fight tonight, which is important.”

 

On the penalty call and ensuing red card against Fire defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado

 

“Anytime you go with two feet, it alarms referees for some reason. I think that Jhon had no other opportunity to block the ball, and to go with his feet sort of showing. It didn't catch the player; give a penalty kick, but don't give a sending-off. Or give a sending-off, but no penalty kick, whatever you want to do, but I just think the double thing was just, for me, not a great decision. I haven't seen it, but it looked like Jhon was just trying to block the ball; it wasn't malicious, it was low, and it looked like he was trying to get his feet sorted out. But, again, the rules are what they are, so I can't really argue with it. But I struggled a little bit all night with the officiating. I thought it was a little bit one-way, but that's my opinion.”

 

On the World Cup break serving as a chance to get healthy

 

“You have two main guys out, Patrick Nyarko and Mike Magee are out at the moment, so you have to help them get ready for play coming in the next couple of weeks. We have the Open Cup, which is in our break. Alex is not 100%; obviously played a little bit tonight, but he's not close to what he can play like at the moment. So we have a little bit of time to get our guys healthy and hopefully start the next MLS game out with a win, because we need to start winning, obviously, to have any chance to do well this year. But I think the emergence of the young players is my focus, and I think they're doing okay. We're not wishing the season away at all; I make sure that we're ready to play each game and ready to go. I thought again, we didn't flop and buckle under in this game, which we could have done against a good side. Each game we've played, other than maybe a couple, we've been right there, right in the match, right and ready to go; but the naiveté of our team, and it's not a slight on them, it's just reality, we can't figure it out quite yet. It's frustrating as a coach, and the players are frustrated. I think that for us, it's making sure that we build on it, and make sure we get positive with it.”

 

Jeff Larentowicz, Chicago Fire Midfielder

 

On tonight’s loss:

 

“This may be the toughest so far.  You might want to put it up there with the Real Salt Lake game, but they came at us – Seattle didn’t.  They were content with their lead waiting for us, but somehow they still got the better of us which is difficult.”

 

On where the team goes from here heading into the break:

 

“We have to decide.  Everyone has to go home this week and figure out if they’re content with where we are, think about if they’re content coming in after games saying, ‘Oh well, we did alright – we didn’t score or we didn’t finish that chance,’ or they can make a difference, they can make a change. I don’t know what happened around the league, but we’re at the bottom of the conference – we have to make a move and we have to stop being content with half chances and one goal losses at home.”

 

On the team’s effort:

 

“It’s not the effort, it’s not the effort.  It’s critical moments in the game when players make a difference or don’t make a difference, and at the moment we’re not making that difference.

 

On how to make that difference:

 

“We can’t be content.  We can’t come in and say, ‘We did alright.’  There’s no attendance award, we have to come and we have to do something.”

 

On the goals for the remainder of the season:

 

“I think the goal is always to make the playoffs.  We can’t come in and say we’re going to be the MLS champs - we have to work for it, we have to fight for it.  We have to fight to get into the playoffs period.  Then you can move on and rewrite your goals.  At the moment - sure we’ve hung with teams, sure we’ve played well against top competition, but we haven’t gotten over that hump.  Like I said it’s not about sprinting harder, running faster or jumping higher, it’s not about that because we do that.  It’s about the critical moments when we have to make a difference, that’s what we have to focus on.”

 

On the Open Cup as an opportunity to turn things around:

 

“Winning is contagious, I think.  You catch it and you want it.  We haven’t won, it’s almost like we enjoy coming in and being content with what’s going on.  So, sure we win the first round and we play another game before we play a MLS game, so sure we can get the wheels moving, we can get guys healthy and can start pushing on.  But you can see we’re in games.  It’s not about personnel; it’s just about those little things.  Against different competition in the Open Cup maybe we can sharpen those edges.”

 

Quincy Amarikwa, Chicago Fire Forward

 

On the chemistry with Harry Shipp:

 

“I think Harry and I are building good chemistry up-top. It’s translating on the field and it’s turning into goals.  We just need to figure it out as a team now, making sure we can prevent teams from scoring multiple goals on us so we can come away with three points.  Tonight we can build from it, learn from it and move on.”

 

Harry Shipp, Chicago Fire Forward

 

On play leading up to the goal, scoring and the result:

 

“I was trying to show up in places to find the ball, but it was hard.  I was getting frustrated, I think everyone was getting frustrated, with our lack of keeping it.  Right before the first goal I started feeling a little more comfortable, kind of feeling the touch, and then I hit a good shot.  After that the momentum switched and I think we were back in the game.  In the second half we gave up that third goal, which killed us, but I think that besides that we really kept the ball, we possessed the ball.  We did things we know we can do. We had a chance to tie it up at 2-2 and to make it 3-3, but unfortunately it didn’t go in. I scored two goals, but I’m not going to be happy unless I score two more and we win 4-3.  That’s the difference in this feeling and difference in New York when we won 5-4.”

 

On the chippy play during the game:

 

“I think we have to keep our focus. There was a lot of extracurricular stuff going on after every tackle, there were people complaining, but I think you just have to keep your head and focus.  I think we did a good job in the second half of just moving the ball and playing simple – keeping the ball and interchanging especially through the midfield.  It was hard for them to keep the ball.  I think if we had done that all 90 minutes it might be a different story.”

 

Seattle Sounders Head Coach Sigi Schmid

 

On the match:

 

“You know, I thought we made the game harder than we needed to make it.  Obviously we are in a good position with a two goal lead playing a man up, and then we get a man thrown out.  At that point, we gave up a goal, you know, I think Shipp took both his goals really well, he finished them well, one left footed, one right footed,  and they were good finishes, but they were plays we should have stopped a bit earlier.  Hats off to him and his finishes, so it made the game tight.  Kept it tight all the way through.”

 

What changed when the Fire scored, making it two to one:

 

“It picked up their spirit.  They are obviously playing at home so they want to make a good impression in front of their fans and they want to do well.  We’ve had a good run, played well, and we have a few guys that are banged up out there and so guys are just thinking of making it through.  Now we have a 5 day break.  Maybe they were thinking of that.”

 

Seattle Sounders Midfielder Marco Pappa

 

On the physical match:

 

“I am pretty happy with the group.  We were good tonight.  We played a strong game.  Red cards and many fouls but at the end of the day we have the three points.  We are pretty happy about that.”

 

On his return to Chicago:

 

“I was excited to see to see old faces, old friends, old fans.  It was for sure a lot of feelings on the pitch but Chicago has been a big part of my career.”

 

Seattle Sounders Midfielder Lamar Neagle

 

On his game winning shot:

 

“It has been something I’ve been trying to do a little bit more, have some composure in the box, that kind of show.  When it was coming down, I did want to hit it first time but it wasn’t bouncing right.  I didn’t want to rush it.  Got it down and then tried to curl it in the back.”

 

On the funny bounce it took before he struck the ball:

 

“I was trying not to panic.  It took a long time to come down the first time, then it bounced weird, and just took it off my knee and tried to settle it as much as I could before I took a shot.”

 

On the Fire goalkeeper being screened:

 

“Yes, I think he was screened.  It was definitely behind the defender so he wouldn’t have been, or he didn’t see it before it was going in.  Sean Johnson is a great goalkeeper so luckily the defender was there to block his view.”

07 June 10:02 pm

Select shots from the Fire's loss to the Sounders presented by MiAllstate.

 

06 June 2:39 pm

As the Chicago Fire and Seattle Sounders clash Saturday at Toyota Park, more than a few players will be lining up against their former teammates. A photographic trip down memory lane...

Drafted by the Chicago Fire in 2005, Chad Barrett made 82 Regular Season appearances for the Fire before being traded to Toronto FC in exchange for the rights to Brian McBride in mid-2008. Barrett has bounced around the league, playing with TFC, LA Galaxy and New England Revolution before settling in Seattle this season.

The former Fire first round draft pick has performed well in Clint Dempsey's USMNT absence, scoring a goal in each of the last two games for Seattle. 

Marco Pappa makes his first return to Toyota Park since being sold to Dutch Eredivisie side Hereenveen in August 2012. Things didn't work out for Pappa in Holland and he returned to MLS this season where Seattle grabbed him via allocation (though the Fire did make inquiries into bringing him back to Chicago). Pappa sits tied with Piotr Nowak for fourth on the club's all-time goal list (26) and is best remembered for some absolutely highlight reel strikes during his time in Chicago, one of which won the 2010 MLS Goal of the Year.

The Fire's first round selection in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, Anibaba was a starter nearly his entire time in Chicago, appearing in 96 MLS matches over the course of three seasons. The defender was traded to Seattle the night before this year's MLS SuperDraft but has appeared in just five matches for the Sounders so far this season. 

Though he's a Sounder now, we will always remember his 2011 Chicago Fire Goal of the Year strike, "THROUGH THE GUISE OF SMOKE!"

Prior to being one piece of the deal that came to Chicago in the Anibaba trade, Patrick Ianni spent five seasons in Seattle after being acquired from the Houston Dynamo in 2009. The UCLA product made 83 MLS appearances and won three straight U.S. Open Cup titles with Seattle prior to January's swap. Ianni has provided depth for the Fire in defense this season and likely would have a few more appearances if not for a bout of sickness this past week.

The other piece to the Anibaba trade, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado is the only Fire player other than Sean Johnson to play every minute of every game and has likely been the best on the back line in 2014. Like Ianni, Hurtado joined Seattle in 2009, appearing in 108 matches, helping the Sounders to three straight Open Cup titles -- he even played 90 minutes in Seattle's 2-0 defeat of the Fire in the 2011 final. 

"I'm excited to play against my former team," Hurtado told Chicago-Fire.com Friday. "I have only words of gratitude to the people at the Sounders, the fans, my friends back there. I spent five happy years there, my boys were born in Seattle, so it is a special place. Tomorrow is a new change. I'm here in Chicago, I play for the people here, the fans that live and die with us and we have an important game against Seattle before the World Cup."

06 June 7:15 am

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.

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

05 June 11:23 am

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:

05 June 10:42 am

Select shot's from the Fire's draw with the Rapids presented by MiAllstate. 

Photo Credit: USA Today Sports Images

04 June 11:17 pm

Frank Yallop, Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer

On what to take away from the game:

“I thought it was a scrappy game. I don’t think either team really played that well. I think we both had a lot of changes. We played Sunday. They played Sunday. We’ve got a game Wednesday and we’ve got a game Saturday. We’re both eyeing the same thing. We can’t go 90 minutes with all of our gunner guys. And that makes it a little disjointed when the teams haven’t played together and we have a few starters who are actually tired in the end of the game. I thought Colorado pushed at the end and we had a great chance with Juan [Luis Anangono] with a bit of a break too. All-in-all, really happy with the point, not pleased with the performance. Having said that, I thought the guys really fought tonight. Effort was brilliant, absolutely fantastic. We didn’t play well but you can’t always play well.”

On Colorado’s “strange” lineup and how to prepare for it:

“Well, first, finding out who some of the players are. You know I was in the west for a bit but now I’m in the east and we don’t really play the west. I knew who they were but you have to double check to see how tall they are and kind of get as much info as you can, just to see positionally because I don’t know where they’re all going to play. So it’s not easy but I have a good coaching staff and we figured it all out and we kind of got it right. Just prepare them and we said that Brown will come on, Powers will come on, their big boys, and try to win the game late. And they did that. Everything was correct that we said. Everything that we did defensively was good. We didn’t give them a goal. We could have been a lot sharper towards goal but I’ll take it right now.”

On Sean Johnson’s performance:

“He’s been good. He’s still a young goalkeeper. He’s only just turned 25. He’s played a lot of matches but he’s still a young man. He’s been very good this season. He’s kept us in games at times. Tonight was no different, so it was good.”

On Dillon Serna’s shot off the crossbar and the defensive performance:

“I saw the flag go up so I wasn’t worried. I was just worried he was going to say play on, but it hit the crossbar anyway. We tried to just play a good solid back four and usually the byproduct of that is people going offsides. I don’t know if he was offside or not but I think we did a good job of letting him get behind us. I mean, I wouldn’t say the best in the league but Deshorn Brown’s probably the best at the breakaway. So we didn’t allow him that, thank goodness. Jhon [Kennedy Hurtado] covered Bakary [Soumare] the one time and vice versa, so we did a nice job on him at the end.”

Jeff Larentowicz, Chicago Fire midfielder

On getting possession after a choppy start:

“It’s hard. They clogged the midfield. You can tell that Pablo’s got them closing the ball down very hard and trying to win the ball. I think we tried to play very narrow in the first half and they clogged it up so it was hard to keep possession. They’ll pressure hard and when they do that, it’s difficult to pass and keep possession.”

On Pablo’s direction with the team:

“It’s the mentality of the coach. The team follows the mentality of the coach. That’s the way Pablo was. He was right in the middle of the field. If you’re not out there closing people down, I’m sure he’s going to get on you. You can see they have that fire. They closed us down, and we weren’t good enough with the ball in the first half. I think in the second half, the game opened up a little more. You could tell, with the week that we’ve had, the guys got a little leggy. It was bound to happen.”

On the chemistry of the team:

“The cohesion is not there exactly. It’s a fairly new system that we started this week to try to get us more solid in the middle of the field. All in all, it’s the first shutout of the year, it’s a point on the road, and we’ll move onto the game on Saturday.”

Harry Shipp, Chicago Fire midfielder

On the mindset going into the second half:

“I think in the first half we struggled to keep the ball, especially through the middle. It was tough for Jeff [Larentowicz] to get the ball and kind of face up and play. Partly cause they were trying to clog the middle, partly cause we really didn’t try to play. I think it was trying to find those pockets underneath. I think most of the times I touched the ball, it was off a long ball that just fortunately fell to me, which isn’t ideal. It’s not how we want to play, but it’s just kind of how it was at the end of this game.”

On Colorado clogging the middle of the field:

“They did a good job doing that. I think it’s hard when for periods it was just me and Juan [Luis Anangono] up top isolated, it’s 2v6. It’s not really anyone’s fault, we’re playing at altitude, we played three days ago, the outside mids are tired in the last 20 minutes of the game, so they aren’t getting up as much. We’ll take the point, move on, and hopefully win on Saturday.”

Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire goalkeeper

On earning the first shutout of the season

“I think it was very important for us to get a shutout, especially in a tough game on the road in a tough stretch with three games. Coming off a Sunday game, it’s not easy to play and then travel, especially at altitude, so it was really important for us. I’m happy for everybody, not just the defenders in front of me but all the guys on the field that worked over 90 minutes to grind and get the result. Now we have to look to build and keep going and look forward to Seattle on Saturday and look to get another result.”