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Chicago Fire

16 May 2:04 pm

The Fourth Round draw for the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup occurred Friday morning at Soccer House in downtown Chicago and with MLS teams entering at this stage, the process was much more elaborate than the straight forward flips from last week’s Third Round draw.

Before I lay out how it unfolded, a few bullets to keep in mind…

  • I was incorrect in my earlier tweets and statements that a USL PRO affiliate could not be matched with its partner MLS club. I’m a busy guy and sometimes you just have to admit you’re not perfect, sorry!
  • The only affiliate relationship that needed to be separated for this draw was that of the LA Galaxy and LA Galaxy II who are both owned by the same party.
  • USL PRO side Orlando City and their PDL side Orlando City U-23s, are both in the tournament but could not be matched up at this stage as MLS teams must be matched with a lower league pairing.
  • Chivas USA was the only MLS club to not apply to host a Fourth Round Open Cup match.

With those done, I will underscore that the most important principle to keep in mind for how pairings are determined comes from Page 7 of the 2014 U.S. Open Cup Handbook. It states:

“After each Third Round pairing has been determined, each Division I (MLS) team entering in the Fourth Round will be matched geographically to play the winner of a specific Third Round pairing. Instances where a logical geographic fit doesn’t exist will be resolved by random selection."

Jeff Crandall attends the fourth round draw for the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at Soccer House on May 16, 2014
As all business as a selfie can be prior to walking into Soccer House...

Upon arrival to Soccer House, Competition Secretary Paul Marstaller handed me a sheet of paper with four geographic groupings, plus a wild card pool. The most straightforward grouping was the top table which featured eight Third Round matchups across from eight MLS teams that made “a logical geographic fit” with those lower league pairings.

The pairings with the result of the coin flip are below. Teams that are not bolded either did not have a suitable home venue or didn’t apply to host (U.S. Soccer did not distinguish the reason on this sheet).

FLIP HEADS FLIP TAILS
X Brooklyn Italians SC (NPSL)/New York Cosmos (NASL)   New York Red Bulls (MLS)
  Dayton Dutch Lions (USLP)/Indy Eleven (NASL) X Columbus Crew (MLS)
  RWB Adria (USASA)/Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USLP) X Chicago Fire (MLS)
  Minnesota United FC (NASL)/Des Moines Menace (USASA X Sporting Kansas City (MLS)
  Laredo Heat (PDL)/Ft. Lauderdale Strikers (NASL) X Houston Dynamo (MLS)
  NTX Rayados (USASA)/San Antonio Scorpions (NASL) X FC Dallas (MLS)
X Arizona United SC (USLP)/Oklahoma City Energy FC (USLP)   LA Galaxy (MLS)
  Fresno Fuego (PDL)/Sacramento Republic (USLP) X San Jose Earthquakes (MLS)

For the local Fire fans, I was able to take OFFICIAL VIDEO documenting the Fire's winning coin flip:

The second grouping of matchups pooled three Northeast MLS sides with three lower league pairings. Of note here, Marstaller said that because the Harrisburg City Islanders and Baltimore Bohemians are about equidistant to D.C. United and Philadelphia Union, a flip off between the two sides would be done to determine which club would host the winner of that Third Round Matchup.

Based on alphabet, D.C. United was assigned heads and Philadelphia tails, with the Union winning. Because neither Harrisburg or Baltimore applied to host, no flip was necessary as hosting rights defaulted to the Union. 

LOWER-LEAGUE MATCHUP MLS TEAMS FLIP ASSIGNMENT
Harrisburg City Islanders (USLP)/Baltimore Bohemians (PDL) D.C. United
Philadelphia Union
Heads
Tails

United's loss on their first flip resulted in them moving down to the next pairing of two lower league matchups where a similar flip had to occur between New York Greek American Atlas/Richmond Kickers and Reading United AC/Rochester Rhinos to determind who would be D.C.'s opponent.

FLIP ASSIGNMENT LOWER-LEAGUE MATCHUP MLS TEAM
Heads New York Greek American Atlas (USASA)/Richmond Kickers (USLP)
Reading United AC (PDL)/Rochester Rhinos (USLP)
D.C. United
Tails

Again, determined by alphabet, the New York/Richmond matchup was assigned heads while the other was assigned tails and the coin again flipped to tails matching D.C. United with Reading/Rochester.

This moved New York/Richmond down to a matchup with the New England Revolution and then flips were done to determine the hosting rights for those two matchups with both lower league matchups winning with heads. For the purpose of clarity, here is how that final grouping looked:

FLIP HEADS FLIP TAILS
  Harrisburg City Islanders (USLP)/Baltimore Bohemians (PDL) N/A Philadelphia Union
X Reading United AC (PDL)/Rochester Rhinos (USLP)   D.C. United
X New York Greek American Atlas (USASA)/Richmond Kickers (USLP)   New England Revolution

The third grouping was a product of Chivas USA being the only MLS club not to apply for hosting rights. Because of this, Marstaller needed to pair them with lower league matchups in which both clubs applied to host, of which there were two: Atlanta Silverbacks/Chattanooga FC (heads) and Charlotte Eagles/Carolina Railhawks (tails).

A coin flip was done to see who would host Chivas and landed tails giving Charlotte/Carolina the hosting rights. This pushed Atlanta/Chattanooga down to the very ending “Wild Card Pool”.

FLIP ASSIGNMENT LOWER-LEAGUE MATCHUP MLS TEAM
Heads Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL)/Chattanooga FC (NPSL)
Charlotte Eagles (USLP)/Carolina RailHawks (NASL)
Chivas USA
Tails

The fourth pool featured the PSA Elite/LA Galaxy II matchup paired against four MLS teams that were within geographical proximity. While both lower-league teams are based in Southern California, because PSA Elite also did not apply to host, Chivas USA could not be thrown into this group.

The most interesting part of the process Friday was the flip-off between four MLS clubs to determine who would play Galaxy II/PSA Elite.

Again determined by alphabet, Colorado/Portland and Real Salt Lake/Seattle Sounders did a preliminary flip. Both losers in that round (Portland & Real Salt Lake) were moved into the final Wild Card pairing, then Colorado and Seattle did a final flip, with Seattle winning again (which should keep Sigi Schmid somewhat happy) and Colorado also falling to the Wild Card group.

LOWER-LEAGUE MATCHUP MLS TEAMS
PSA Elite (USASA)/LA Galaxy II (USLP) Colorado Rapids
Portland Timbers
Heads
Tails
Heads
Real Salt Lake
Seattle Sounders
Heads
Tails
Tails

One final flip was done to determine the hosting rights for that match with Galaxy II/PSA Elite winning and presumably, since PSA Elite did not apply to host, Sigi will be their biggest fan.

FLIP HEADS FLIP TAILS
X PSA Elite (USASA)/LA Galaxy II (USLP)   Seattle Sounders

After all the flips above were done, the Wild Card pool looked like the below table, with MLS clubs placed on the right according to alphabetical order. Because of the odd number of matchups, coin flips could not be used to determine who would play each other so Marstaller placed three slips of paper marked “A”, “B” and “C” into plain envelopes. As the matchup moved down from the initial Chivas USA grouping, Atlanta/Chattanooga was assigned “C” while the other two lower-league pairings were assigned “A” and “B” based on alphabetic order.

WILD CARD POOL
Letter LOWER-LEAGUE MATCHUP MLS TEAMS
A
B
C
Orlando City U23s (PDL)/Charleston Battery (USLP)
Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL)/Orlando City (USLP)
Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL)/Chattanooga FC (NPSL)
Colorado Rapids
Portland Timbers
Real Salt Lake

Marstaller then went down the alphabetic list of MLS sides and drew the slips of paper from the envelopes. When all three matchups had been finalized, final flips for hosting rights occurred, concluding the fourth round Open Cup draw. You can see how the envelopes were drawn and the winner of the flips below:

FLIP HEADS FLIP TAILS
  Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL)/Orlando City (USLP) X Colorado Rapids
X Orlando City U23s (PDL)/Charleston Battery (USLP)   Portland Timbers
X Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL)/Chattanooga FC (NPSL)   Real Salt Lake

Following the draw, Marstaller said the published fourth round scenarios would not be accompanied Friday by match dates yet. This is because the Fourth Round has three possible match dates over an eight-day span. With USL PRO and the PDL, along with amateur sides having league games between the June 10-18 Fourth Round window, all clubs that have the potential to host a Fourth Round match will have the weekend to give their preferred hosting date before U.S. Soccer balances the already scheduled league games. Because of the logistical process, hosting dates are expected to be announced sometime next week. 

A comprehensive list of who won hosting coin flips can be found below.

FLIP HEADS FLIP TAILS
X Brooklyn Italians SC (NPSL)/New York Cosmos (NASL)   New York Red Bulls (MLS)
  Dayton Dutch Lions (USLP)/Indy Eleven (NASL) X Columbus Crew (MLS)
  RWB Adria (USASA)/Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USLP) X Chicago Fire (MLS)
  Minnesota United FC (NASL)/Des Moines Menace (USASA X Sporting Kansas City (MLS)
  Laredo Heat (PDL)/Ft. Lauderdale Strikers (NASL) X Houston Dynamo (MLS)
  NTX Rayados (USASA)/San Antonio Scorpions (NASL) X FC Dallas (MLS)
X Arizona United SC (USLP)/Oklahoma City Energy FC (USLP)   LA Galaxy (MLS)
  Fresno Fuego (PDL)/Sacramento Republic (USLP) X San Jose Earthquakes (MLS)
  Harrisburg City Islanders (USLP)/Baltimore Bohemians (PDL) N/A Philadelphia Union
X Reading United AC (PDL)/Rochester Rhinos (USLP)   D.C. United
X New York Greek American Atlas (USASA)/Richmond Kickers (USLP)   New England Revolution
N/A Charlotte Eagles (USLP)/Carolina RailHawks (NASL)   Chivas USA
X PSA Elite (USASA)/LA Galaxy II (USLP)   Seattle Sounders
  Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL)/Orlando City (USLP) X Colorado Rapids
X Orlando City U23s (PDL)/Charleston Battery (USLP)   Portland Timbers
X Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL)/Chattanooga FC (NPSL)   Real Salt Lake

Thanks again to the U.S. Soccer staff for being great hosts once again!

16 May 8:00 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15 May 11:48 am

Wednesday night's Art of Futbol at Prairie Production Studio was another fantastic success. Check out some of the pieces as well as interviews from Gonzalo Segares, Benji Joya, Frank Yallop and Foundation Director Jessica Yavitz:

 

Check out select shots from the Art of Futbol 2014!

14 May 9:35 am

We’ll probably never know what was said at halftime in the away locker room this weekend in Harrison, NJ. We won’t know if things were kicked or thrown, if team leaders screamed, or if, as is Frank Yallop’s style, calm orders were dispatched.  

What we do know, though, is that players after the game said they came out focused on putting more pressure on NYRB’s back line. And we know that whatever was said got the Fire refocused enough to turn around a 2-1 halftime score line, score four goals in 19 minutes and overcome a frustrating start to the season to get their first win.

But that talk will go down in the history of halftime talks because whether or not Yallop Al Pacino’d the squad, they came out re-pumped up to the point where Quincy Amarikwa was ready to do this:

Amarikwa was ready to throw his face in front of Luis Robles’s clearance if it meant continuing to pressure NYRB and continuing to build for the Fire the advantage they eventually, if not exactly calmly, rode to three points.

As much as I’d like to picture Yallop standing on chairs and screaming, there are other signs that point to a different kind of leadership at halftime. Look at Mike Magee here, barely five minutes into the second half, extolling the guys to push up and stay up. His eyes are popping out of his forehead!

One of the most competitive guys in the league, Magee could smell NYRB’s weakness after Amarikwa tied the game at 2-2. And Magee did his job after the Fire built their three goal cushion, helping through the midfield in the game’s dying moments to help the Fire fight off NYRB and finish off the win.

What all this points to is that whatever really went down at halftime, the orders were clearly to pressure NYRB’s back line and close out the game. The mistakes Magee, Amarikwa, Patrick Nyarko, and game hero Harry Shipp squeezed out of that back line were exactly what Yallop expected.

The true magic of the situation was that the orders were delivered in a way to convey a strategic, tactics-based message with enough emotional weight to overshadow the recent disappointments in the team’s mind. It led to eye-popping bodily sacrifice for the team. Everyone came together for the best 20 minute spell of the season, and it led to a deserved win.

Ben Schuman-Stoler is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @bsto.

13 May 8:56 am

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

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

 

13 May 7:53 am

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

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

 

11 May 6:49 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

08 May 11:15 am

Last Saturday’s injury time loss to RSL prolonged the Fire’s misery for another week as the team continues to search for their first win on the season.  It doesn’t get any easier this weekend, when the Men in Red travel to Red Bull Arena to face New York on Saturday evening (5:30pm CT on My50/TWCSC). The Red Bulls have yet to really hit the ground running the season and will be looking to repeat the drubbing of the Fire in the last regular season game of 2013.

Here are some tactical observations to look out for on Saturday evening.

A potential shakeup in the back? A return for Segares likely but other changes possible

Frank Yallop didn’t have positive things to say about his team’s defending for the last 20+ minutes against RSL as and I expect him to make one or more changes to the back four for Saturday’s game. With Gonzalo Segares making the 18 last Saturday, one potential switch is at left back in place of Greg Cochrane.

Cochrane’s attacking ability has been a highlight during his stint in the starting eleven but he was caught out defensively on more than one occasion during the last 20 minutes against RSL. From a purely tactical perspective, the return of Segares would boost the Fire’s aerial defending prowess, especially against threats such as Tim Cahill.

A few weeks ago, Frank Yallop spoke about the need to get Patrick Ianni game time with both Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Bakary Soumare in the team’s reserve game vs. Charlotte, in the case he may need to be utilized in a future match.

 Some of the mental mistakes made by Soumare last season have crept back into his play of late and this could result in Ianni getting a run Saturday vs. Red Bull. a

New York have scored the most goals in the East this season and the Fire cannot afford to make any more mental mistakes especially against a team boasting the Conference’s top goal scorer in Bradley Wright-Phillips and Thierry Henry, the Fire’s arch nemesis  over the past few seasons.

What to do up front? – Will Amarikwa or Anangono partner Magee up front?

In a game where it was imperative that he put in a solid performance, Juan Luis Anangono gave a good shift against RSL last week, picking up a goal and linking well at times with Mike Magee. His competition for a starting spot on Saturday evening is the returning top goal scorer Quincy Amarikwa who missed the match due to red card suspension.

Tactically, there are arguments to be made for both players to get the nod. Amarikwa’s constant high pressure on the opposition’s backline would be welcome against a New York team who continue to be weak defensively in the wide areas.

Quincy is also the more ideal player to have in 1v1 situations, especially if the Fire can get him against one of the Red Bull center backs. In the middle, Jamison Olave has lost a step of pace from his days in Salt Lake and his partner Armando has yet to settle fully into MLS.

Anangono’s size is an important factor to consider, both in the attack, and defensively where he would be useful for set pieces. It is also important for the Fire to start being smarter in possession, especially holding the ball up in the attack.

Anangono has been a mixed bag in this regard so far this season but if he is given his second start in a row, I expect to see an emphasis on this tactic on Saturday night.

Monitoring Lloyd Sam – Stepping out and pressuring the Red Bull winger

Just looking at Lloyd Sam’s four assists this season gives you a good indication into the threat the Englishman poses. From his wide right position, Sam’s crossing is extremely accurate. Not only does he put himself into good wide positions, his ability to still put in a cross while under pressure from a defender makes him even more dangerous. Another problem with the Fire’s late game collapse last week was the lack of urgency by the team’s outside midfielders and defenders to close down the RSL wide players resulting in free crosses.

In Saturday’s game, the Fire must not allow Sam to get similar amounts of space granted to RSL. Stifling Sam will also cut the supply to Wright-Phillips and Henry.

Prediction: If I predict we will win, the team will end up with a tie so I’m going with a 2-2 tie with goals from Quincy Amarikwa and Benji Joya.

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

WATCH: The Centerback

08 May 8:33 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Notes:

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

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