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Chicago Fire

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.

07 May 1:39 pm

Buy early, buy often...

One of the club's big initiatives during the 2014 season has been the Pub to Pitch bus program. As the season continues gathering pace, the club has experienced a rise in demand for bus tickets. As a result, all supporters are encouraged to purchase their bus tickets at least three days in advance of each matchday in order to guarantee a seat on the round trip bus to Fire games. 

“The goal of the Pub to Pitch program is to help sell out the stadium every game in order to provide an advantage for our boys on the field,” said Fire Senior Vice President Mike Ernst. “Given our stadium location, we want to offer our supporters a convenient option for transportation to and from the match.

“Because we sold so many tickets so early, we were really happy to be able to run a second bus for The Atlantic and The Globe Pub route last Saturday. I think it is a harbinger of things to come regarding growth of the program, so be sure to reserve your seat early to guarantee a spot on the bus.”

We want to see multiple buses running from each of our partner bars in the city every matchday. In short, if you're planning on coming out to the next home game on Sunday, May 18 vs. Sporting KC, buy your ticket now and encourage your friends to do so as well. 

As an extra bonus, those that buy a Pub to Pitch ticket for next Sunday by 11:59pm CT tonight will be entered to win a limited edition Pub to Pitch scarf! See below:

To view a full schedule of departure times and to purchase your tickets, visit www.pubtopitch.com.

06 May 8:54 am

The Chicago Fire were honored to have a very special guest take part in the club's First Kick at Saturday night's game vs. Real Salt Lake. 

Jack received a liver transplant from Lurie Children's Hospital when he was five months old. Now in Kindergarten, Jack is a healthy five-year-old who plays AYSO soccer with his team the Blue Bombers. 

Check out this video of Jack's experience from Saturday's match:

05 May 3:27 pm

With his goal in Saturday's match vs. Real Salt Lake, Fire forward Mike Magee continued to climb the club's goal scoring charts at an impressive clip.

The 22nd minute rebound on Harry Shipp's initial shot was Magee's 17th for the Fire in MLS play, tying him with footballing legend Hristo Stoitchkov at 10th on the club's all-time goal scoring list. But for his 63rd minute hit off the cross bar,  Magee nearly moved into a tie for 10th on the list with Brian McBride, Dominic Oduro and Chad Barrett.

Here's an infographic detailing where Magee stands, with the important stat being how quickly he's gotten there compared to those around him. 

As you can see from the chart below, nearly every goal Magee scores this year will move him further up the ladder, underlying that the club really hasn't had a long-term scoring threat since Ante Razov left the team after 2004. How high on the chart below do you think Magee can go by season's end? Tell us in the comments below.

Rank Player (Years) Goals Games Played
1 Ante Razov 76 155
2 Chris Rolfe 48 176
3 Josh Wolff 32 84
4 Marco Pappa 26 112
- Piotr Nowak 26 114
6 Dema Kovalenko 22 90
- Damani Ralph 22 51
8 Nate Jaqua 21 92
9 Jesse Marsch 19 200
10 Brian McBride 18 59
- Dominic Oduro 18 66
- Chad Barrett 18 82
13 Mike Magee 17 28
- Hristo Stoitchkov 17 51

 

05 May 11:55 am

Check out different angles and slow mo versions of Mike Magee & Juan Luis Anangono's first half goals from Saturday's match vs. Real Salt Lake: 

03 May 11:42 pm

Frank Yallop, Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer

On if the Fire were the better team tonight

“No, cause they weren’t. The first half was good, the second half we were totally out played. Very naïve from us. At some point you have to figure it out on the field. I can’t do much from where I am at except make changes in certain things, the lineup, and get other players in, but you got to stand up and be counted.”

On how frustrated he feels

“I feel terrible because I thought tactically we had it figured out. We did great in the first half, but the game is 90 minutes. You got to punish them with another goal, but I said at half time ‘they are going to come at you because they’re good.’ I don’t think we really wanted to win that game because we didn’t show it. If we wanted to, we would have put our head through the ball, and be good at that stuff. We had a total collapse in a game we should have won.”

On if the team broke down from Real Salt Lake’s pressure

“They’re a good side. They could have scored a couple first half [goals].The whole game is in ebbs and flows, we had some chances, took them, they had a couple, and Sean made two great saves. We’ve played eight games, we’ve not won yet. We got to go to a tough place next game, and we got to get a result.”

On keeping morale high without getting wins

“We will find out next week. We’ve not had that happen to us collapsing like that in the second half. Take nothing away from them but we should see that game out, 2-1, even 2-2, but not 3-2. I got to figure out who is going to be punching and fighting the whole season, the whole 90 minutes.”

On if there will be some changes for next week

“It’s a bit early for that, but I would think so.”

On if there was too much respect for Real Salt Lake

“They play a certain style of game. It’s a possession game. We just kept going backwards and not stepping into people. We tended to drop and have low pressure, but that doesn’t mean no pressure. You still got to try to win the ball back and then break. I don’t want to be that deep, but we ended up that deep. You got to see that game through. We’ve got to be man enough to see that game through, and we didn’t.”

On positives from that performance

“We scored two goals. I guess that’s a positive. When you lose it’s sickening. It’s very difficult to take. First half, Sean made some good saves and we played pretty well. Then a crazy 15-20 minute spell, we give the game to them, which is really disappointing.”

Jeff Larentowicz, Chicago Fire midfielder and captain

On what changed from the first half to the second half:

“We stopped doing things in the second half that we did well in the first – we conceded ground, allowed them to play in our end, didn’t connect passes once we had it, and if you do that against a good team they are going to beat you.”

On how RSL was able to do that:

“They crowd the ball, they get a lot of numbers, and they’re good at finding ways to keep possession.  They make you work defensively, so once you get it you’re tired and they wear you down.  I don’t think it was a conscious thing where we said ‘alright let’s hunker down,’ we just have to defend and defend properly.”

On how to move forward:

“This is a mental test for us.  All the positives we’ve been putting on things, we can’t do it any longer.  It’s been weeks and tonight it’s a loss, it’s not a game where can say we played a complete game and didn’t get the points, we didn’t.  We have to look at the mistakes we made and move on. Like I said, it’s a mental challenge; we can’t go in the negative direction.  The guys have to keep a positive attitude, guys have to honestly assess what they are doing personally to a man, go home and figure out how they are going to work harder and push themselves to have a positive attitude and push on. At this point it’s difficult – you can go one of two directions and we have to push forward and have to expect that we can learn from our mistakes and move on.”

Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire goalkeeper

On the result:

“I think it’s obvious that it doesn’t feel great, after we were up 2-0 and losing at home.  I can’t really describe the emotions right now; it’s a difficult one to swallow at home, being up.  We can’t make excuses for it though.  We were not good enough.”

On the shift in the game:

“We have to search for answers.  I don’t know what happened, we were up 2-0 on cruise control, the game was in our hands and they scored one, they scored two, get the momentum and before you know it they won the game.”

On what’s next for the team:

“This was definitely a test for us.  We’ve got to look at ourselves, there’s no one for us to blame.  We’ve got to look at ourselves in the locker room and come up with a solution.  We keep digging a hole for ourselves, there’s no reason at this point in the season we should be where we are - we should be close to the top of the table.  We’ve had games in hand; off the top of my head we’ve had four games now that I feel like we should have gotten a win.  Scratch the ties, we’ve taken a step back now with the loss.  We’ve got to get back to training.  We can’t get down; we can’t let something like this affect the mood of the team.  We have to keep chugging along; we have a handful of games left, so we have to dig in.”

On the difficulty of staying positive during the winless streak:

“This is our job, professionally, game in and game out we have to have the same attitude and find a way to win games, plain and simple.  We’ve been through everything tactically, physically and mentally I think now we have to find what it takes to win these games.”

On the coach’s reaction to the loss:

“Obviously we’re not happy with ourselves and the coaching staff is obviously disappointed with the result – there’s really not much more to say.  There’s disappointment all the way around.”

01 May 3:26 pm

Dan Haiek and Matt Doyle talk all things Harry Shipp and break down his rookie season.

01 May 9:09 am

It's Throwback Thursday on the Social Media which lines up for an interesting moment in Fire History that occured this week in 2001.

Coming up on the end of his career, legendary U.S. international Eric Wynalda was acquired by the Fire in a trade with New England that sent John Wolyniec and a 2002 SuperDraft pick to the Revolution on May 3 of that year. 

At the time, Wynalda was the all-time leading goal scorer for the U.S. Men's National Team (34 goals) but injuries and national team commitments had kept him from really making an impact for his previous MLS clubs in San Jose, Miami and New England.

Bolstering a Fire attack which already featured the likes of Ante Razov, Hristo Stoitchkov, Piotr Nowak and DaMarcus Beasley, Wynalda joined the team a month into the campaign and took just two days to score his first goal for the club in a 2-0 win over Tampa Bay on May 5. That goal was the first of 10 he scored in less than a full season with the Fire (the first time he'd done it since the inaugural MLS campaign in 1996). He also added two more in the Open Cup and a single marker in the MLS Cup playoffs.

That would be his only season with the Fire and curtain call in MLS but his double-digit goal campaign makes him one of just seven Chicago Fire players to achieve the feat. (Can you name the others? Answer below the photo...)

Though he played only one season for the Fire, Wynalda went into the National Soccer Hall of Fame as a Fire player in 2004, joining former U.S. teammates Paul Caligiuri and Mike Windischmann as well as Women's National Team legend Michelle Akers in that year's induction class.  

ANSWER: All-Time Chicago Fire double digit goal scorers: Ante Razov (1998-2000, 2002-2003), Damani Ralph (2003-2004), Eric Wynalda (2001), Josh Wolff (1999), Dema Kovalenko (2000), Dominic Oduro (2011), Mike Magee (2013)

01 May 8:47 am

After yet another draw against the Revs last time out, the Fire head into May without a win. The first of four grueling matches this month is against Real Salt Lake at Toyota Park on Saturday evening (7:30pm CT on My50/TWCSC). Both teams enter this game with sour tastes in their mouths after the way their last matches ended and I expect it to be a frantic first 20 minutes or so. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective.

Replacing Quincy – how will coach Yallop adjust to the loss of the team’s top scorer?

Perhaps the most important outcome of the match against New England last time out was the red card and one game suspension for Qunicy Amarikwa, the team’s top goal scorer and most consistent attacking threat this season. Replacing Amarikwa is no easy task, especially because his partnership with Mike Magee was just starting to bloom, but the Fire coaching staff does have plenty of options.

The most obvious and like for like switch would be for Juan Luis Anangono and act as the target striker with Magee playing behind him. Anangono has come off the bench on a consistent basis this season and will be looking to avenge his injury time penalty miss against New England.

A more likely scenario however would be for either Victor Pineda or Benji Joya to start in place of Amarikwa. Both players are comfortable playing in the forward roles and Joya especially would relish a chance to start in his more natural position instead of a wide one where he began the season.

Playing with either Joya or Pineda up front would also allow the Fire to continue to play a target-less striker formation, something that has worked to date this season. That being said, Frank Yallop could also decide to start Joya or Pineda in one of the wide positions in an attempt to combat RSL’s midfield diamond, as I will explain below.

Don’t be too distracted by the obvious – Plata and Saborio are the clear danger men but Luke Mulholland makes RSL tick

Many will argue RSL’s unbeaten start to the season is down to players like Joao Plata, Alvaro Saborio or Javier Morales making the difference but the player who has had possibility the biggest impact this season is Englishman Luke Mulholland.

Mulholland plays on the outside of RSL’s compact midfield diamond, with Ned Grabavoy operating on the other side. In attack, Mulholland can provide balls into the area from a wide position but he also excels at making late runs into the box where he often finds space due to defenders concentrating on RSL’s more known attacking threats.

Defensively, Mulholland provides cover for his full back and does not get caught up the field often in transition. The Englishmen has chipped in with two goals and one assist in four starts this season and acts as the youthful spark in a midfield containing veterans such as Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales.

Mulholland is also very versatile, with he and Grabavoy able to operate comfortably on either side of the diamond. To combat this, I could see the Fire drafting Matt Watson or Logan Pause in to pack the midfield, especially against RSL’s narrow formation. Watson or Pause could play alongside anchor Jeff Larentowicz or a bit higher up, perhaps alongside Harry Shipp or Alex in a 4-1-4-1 formation.

In last week’s match against Vancouver, RSL overran the Whitecaps midfield for much of the first half. Putting an extra body in the middle on Saturday night would ensure the same thing doesn’t happen to the Men in Red.

Exposing RSL on the flanks – proving an attacking threat from both wings

Since the return of Patrick Nyarko to the starting eleven, the Ghanaian has been a one-man wrecking crew down the right hand side for the Fire. Nyarko has also combined well with right back Lovel Palmer in attack – something we saw work in the Fire’s favor against New England two weeks ago.

Due to RSL’s narrow formation, they can be exploited on the wings, where the full backs are sometimes left isolated. Nyarko and Palmer should thrive against this type of formation but for the Fire to take full advantage, the team needs to also have a consistent attacking threat from the left.

As mentioned in previous previews, left back Greg Cochrane has excelled in the absence of Gonzalo Segares and is always looking to get forward to support the attack.

In recent matches, Harry Shipp has drifted inside from his wide left position to great effect but against RSL, whoever occupies the wide left position must try to take advantage of their narrow midfield by attacking from wide. With the center of the park sure to be busy, if the Fire focus their attack in the wide areas, it could result in the team picking up its first win of the season.

Prediction: It was a long time coming, but the Fire finally pick up three points – 2-1 Fire with goals from Mike Magee and Patrick Nyarko.

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

WATCH: Kevin and Jeff preview Saturday's game vs. RSL