Blog

Columbus Crew

26 June 12:12 am

Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop

Opening remarks

“It’s always good to win any match, and I think that on the basis of the play we had, especially the first half, I thought we deserved to win the game. So, obviously, the red card for Parkhurst makes a difference in the match, but I still felt from that, we went on and had a good performance. To score four goals in any game – although we got an extra 30 minutes to do that – is good. Pleased for the guys. You know, the Crew made it difficult. We went up and then we go down. But we came back into it, good substitutions by the staff, if I do say so myself, to bring Juan on.  But Juan’s been waiting for a chance, and I was very happy for him to get two goals tonight.”

On Juan Luis Anangono’s performance

“If you look at Juan’s production, especially maybe earlier when he’s played a little more minutes…I forget the game we had at home, he got brought down for the penalty kick. He scored a goal in one of the games. He missed the PK. He could’ve scored that one. So, what I will say about Juan is he’s a terrific professional. He’s been right with the team all along, with not getting many minutes because of Quincy’s play I feel like. But what I like about him is the way he goes about it. He tries very hard for the team. And I’m very, very happy for him to get the two goals tonight.”

On Mike Magee’s status

“He got clocked in the ankle when I think it was Kevan George caught him with the challenge. So we’ll see how he is, but I’m not sure right now.”

On what changed in the second half

“I said to our guys at halftime ‘they’re going to make changes’ because I thought we outplayed them completely the first half. So I said, ‘Expect to see changes.’ And I think that the goal from Anor, he made a difference. They were more forceful. They tried to quickly counter attack on us. And to be honest, they did a good job. And I think that until we kind of figured it out towards the end of the game, we were in a bit of trouble. So again, we’ve got to be better at doing a 90-minute game and making sure that we see it through and do our thing. But what I will say is that the fighting spirit in the guys to come back again and to go on and win the game is great. It’d just be nice to put a good performance of 2 or 3 to nil at some point. It’d be nice, but we’re not there yet. We’re trying hard. And I can’t fault the guys for effort at all. They’ve been great.”

On making adjustments throughout the game

“We were down in the game, so we have to push it. Bringing on Alex is a bit more attacking minded than putting Logan in his role. Juan’s a forward, he wants to score goals. Bringing him on obviously is key. I just wanted to bring on a fresh defender with Jhon. I felt that Columbus was getting into the game with the quick breaks. I wanted to make sure that we shored that up a little bit. You know, I was pleased with the subs that came on. They did a nice job. And I think the whole team responded when we did that.”

Chicago Fire forward Juan Luis Anangono

On the opportunity to come into the game and be a hero

“The team worked hard to get all the goals and I’m personally happy to have scored the two goals. I think the whole team are heroes. The whole team worked hard. This is a team, we’re 11 players and seven subs and other players that are all helping the team. This is a team, there isn’t one hero. If there’s a hero, it’s the team. We all have the characteristics and we’re all ready to play. Who plays and who doesn’t is the decision of the coach. I think the coach does what is best for the team, thinking of who will help the team. I believe we’re all good players and we all need to be ready to help at whatever moment.”

Chicago Fire midfielder Jeff Larentowicz

On using the Open Cup games to help turn things around over the break

“It’s just about the will to win, and taking care of the things we should. I think that having two home games in the Open Cup is a good opportunity for us to get into a rhythm. We’ve had some injuries and we’ve gotten some guys back. Right now we’re just finding a way to win and build on that heading back into the regular season.”

 On how this will help going back to MLS play next week

“The guys that are playing in these games are probably the guys that will be playing once the regular season starts up again, so I think it’s about everyone developing a rhythm and understanding each other.  If we can create goals we can start to see patterns of play we like to do and hopefully we can carry those in the regular season again.”

On training during the break

“I think over the past couple of weeks it’s just been about getting bodies back.  For a while there we were pretty thin, and now it’s about getting everyone back, veteran guys, healthy and training hard again because we have trained well the last couple of weeks and I think it’s showing in games. 

Chicago Fire forward Quincy Amarikwa

On coming back in the second half to get the result

“We just battled. Unfortunately, we let them score two unanswered [goals].  After we came in at halftime, we said we wanted to come out on front foot, but we dug in. Juan [Luis Anangono] came off the bench and really made an impact on the game, he helped us tie it up and the rest is history.”

On Columbus’ play in the second half:

“When you’re the team on the road and down a goal at halftime, you don’t have anything to lose.  So, you kind of throw everything but the kitchen sink at the home team, and that second goal kind of just fell their way.  I don’t think there’s any kind of defensive error from thinking about it.  I’d have to go back and look at the tape, he just happened to be at the right place at the right time and took advantage of it and they capitalized.”

Columbus Crew Head Coach Gregg Berhalter

On the match:

“I thought it was a good game.  We put a different system into play and the guys knew about it at the last moment.  We wanted to try something.  We got a lot out of that exercise.  I’m proud of the way they adapted to the system, and proud of the way they played the game.  Specifically, the second half, where I thought we were extremely dominant.”

On rallying his team at half time:

“We weren’t confident in our movement in terms of how we were executing what we designed.  The message was positive.  All things considered, it’s a good job.  Now here’s what we can do to make it even better.  The guys did that, especially in the second half.  They played really well.”

On Arrieta’s goal:

“It was a great goal.  Great move.  Good finish.  It was good.  We need Jairo to score those goals.  He had some other chances as well and we want him to be dangerous.”

On the team’s defensive 5-man posture tonight:

“It was good.  We honestly gave them this today.  So having said that, I think they did a great job.  It was something where we felt we wanted to take a look at.  We thought we could expose some things of theirs and take advantage of an organized back line.”

On Chicago’s equalizer late in the second half:

“If I take anything from the game, I’m most disappointed with that.  I think that when you are at that stage of the game, you got to be disciplined enough to carry it out.  And I would say it’s a little bit of the guys who haven’t been getting enough minutes.  They weren’t comfortable in that position.  Chicago is putting more pressure on us, and we just needed to be brave and keep playing.  I thought we stopped doing that.  As a result, we got punished.”

Columbus Crew Midfielder Bernardo Anor

On the match:

“It was a crazy game.  I think we had the opportunity to close down the match.  We started to lose 1-0, and then we went up 2-1, and then 7 minutes left we let them tie the game which leads us to overtime.  Then we give up two goals.  That killed the game so we should have done better towards the end of the game.”

On coming back to take the lead in the second half:

“A lot of new guys on the field.  For all of us, we need to hold ourselves accountable to do whatever it takes to get a ‘w’ and I think the performance for most of the guys was pretty impressive.  We were trying out a new system and it’s the first time we did such a thing.  Some of the things we did out there we are forced to take home and assess them, and get better at them.”

On his goal scored in the 70th minute:

“Speas was coming in with his right foot and I was just making the run to play me through and I decided to shoot the goal.  I gathered the rebound and saw it was wide open and got it with my left foot.”

On his thoughts on the new system:

“It’s a transition game, pretty much.  Having five in the back, we knew that Chicago was going to have one of the guys come in pretty deep and have the ball so one of the purposes for one of the 3 center backs to release his man and come help us in the middle.  So by the time we win the ball, we got to push all the backs forward and get numbers up.  I think we’re going to do a better job in doing that.  Again, it’s the first time but I think working on it we can pull it off.”

On returning to playing FC Dallas on Saturday in league play:

“We don’t like losing of course, but I think the positive thing is we will be 100% in getting those 3 points against Dallas.  We need to focus on that so now our priority is to get good rest and our mind ready for the game.”

25 June 11:42 pm

Select shots from the Fire's win over the Crew.

24 June 10:06 am

If the experience around last week's 2-1 weather-shortened victory over Pittsburgh felt familiar, that's only because it was.

The game was just over a year on from a Fire Open Cup match vs. the Columbus Crew that never got off the ground on the original June 12 date as sever thunderstorms crashed in on Chicagoland throughout that night.

Instead the game was rescheduled for a noon kickoff the following day, with the Fire giving FREE entry to all fans that could make it Toyota Park for the match.

Take a trip down memory lane with highlights from that game:

Good news! Wednesday's kickoff forecast is perfect soccer weather: partly cloudy, with a temperature of 65 degrees and only 10% precipitation.

Get your tickets to the match here and book your place on $10 Pub to Pitch buses from Cleo's, The Globe and Fado at www.pubtopitch.com

28 May 1:46 pm

This week, after a frustrating match in Columbus, it was revealed that the Fire are so decimated by injuries the assistant coaches had to fill in a practice scrimmage last week to make up numbers. Granted, even past their playing shape, the coaches C.J. Brown, Clint Mathis, and Brian McBride would win most 3v3 tourneys in this city today, but it shows just how handcuffed Frank Yallop’s roster can get when the injury bug hits.

Yallop said he won’t use injuries as an excuse, which is great, that’s what every coach says, but I don’t like it. I think that injury is a great excuse. It’s not an excuse for playing poorly, because every excuse for playing poorly sucks. Rather, injuries can be excuses for other things. For roster shake ups, for weird substitutions, for tactical changes, for second chances, and so on.

QUESTION: Would Rookie of the Year candidate Harry Shipp have gotten this much tick to prove himself if Alex and Dilly Duka weren’t hurt to start the season?  

Injuries are totally natural and can be a blessing when they force a team to break from what's comfortable, but basically they’re unpredictable and infuriating. I mean, every team and player has them, but no team or player has them exactly the same. So it’s the way teams, coaches and players deal with their inevitability that makes injuries what they are as well as an interesting excuse.

Once they hit, do you go to the market to find replacements or call on young players? Do you stack the squad with depth at the beginning of the season, or hope to ride out the injuries when they come? What about the players with previous injury issues - do you monitor their minutes? Alter their training regimen?

So far, I’ve found Yallop’s approach to injuries fascinating and impressive. The work he did to improve the squad this year is a real strength. Remember that after the frustrating results vs. Philadelphia last season, we were talking about the Patrick Nyarko/Chris Rolfe striking partnership.

This Fire team’s depth should be able to deal with an injury bug and the kinds of personnel changes a full season requires. That’s why it was nice to see Dilly Duka get a run out on Saturday, even if he’s short of match fitness, and Grant Ward get a chance to show why his name caused so much excitement during preseason.

All year, Yallop has rewarded players for playing well, simple as that. So you know that any injury also means an opportunity for someone else. When preseason starters like Gonzalo Segares and Alex were hit by injuries, they were replaced by rookies Greg Cochrane and Shipp, who’ve proved themselves to varying degrees.

On Saturday the Fire were without Alex, Bakary Soumare, Patrick Nyarko, Mike Magee, and Lovel Palmer, for reasons as diverse as calf soreness to kidney stones. Good luck preparing for those scenarios in preseason video sessions.

The other interesting thing about injuries is that they’re a totally natural thing. Their existence is the proof that what we watch and turn over as pastime is actually an excruciating tug of war between physical performance and physical possibility. Somewhere in between there is the place where muscles and ligaments break down, where a body suffers. Injury bugs are a reminder that we’re watching athletes push themselves to their limits.

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

24 May 10:48 pm

Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop

On where the breakdown occurred:

“We seemed flat from the first whistle. The guys seemed up for the game, but we weren’t sharp. We had a couple chances here and there. Same as them, but they were sharper in front of the goal but we were poor defensively. For us, we have to address that but it’s difficult. We have a few guys out at the moment, so there’s not a lot we can change. We just have to keep working, and it’s one of those games were Columbus was better than us tonight they deserved to win the match. You have to take the defeat and move on.”

On having five players out:

“You can understand how it’s not just the defense. You have key guys not playing, six or so. It’s not an excuse I never make excuses. I’m not blaming them they haven’t played for a while. Steven Kinney came in and he hasn’t played all season. Grant Ward made his debut and he hasn’t played for four months. Tough night around we kept going to the end but, we were pretty naïve generally all over the pitch, especially defensively. We have to make better decisions where we don’t give chances to the opposition. We left the game mentally flat. Maybe it’s because we came off two wins, and we don’t think we have to earn the right to play a game. We do every game.”

On dealing with Higuain’s ability to spring players:

“He’s pretty close to the best in the League. The game plan was as soon as he got the ball to drop. We couldn’t really figure it out. He does it at the right time and he finds space. He’s a good player, take nothing away from that guy. He’s a very good player. He sees the game well. He sees the game how it should be looked at. Offensively, we couldn’t handle it. It wasn’t just him they had good runners off the ball. We made poor decisions defensively to give them the chances to score.”

On not being able to score:

“That’s kind of us. We looked like we were going to score most games. We went through the game and had some good chances. Quincy [Amarikwa] has gotten some good spots. I just talked to him he’s a little calmer, a little bit picking guys out. I’ve only seen him once but we had chances to score but you can’t keep conceding goals and win matches. At some point you need to shut it down and make it difficult. It’s the whole team; it’s not just one or two guys. The whole team has to do it.”

Chicago Fire Midfielder Jeff Larentowicz

On the backline:

“Columbus guys are tricky, they know how to run off your back shoulder, they know how to find time on the ball and it allows guys in the midfield to pick out runners. I think that both goals come off of passes from the midfield with runners off of our back shoulder. They both ended up as goals. They also had other opportunities that were similar that didn’t come off for them.”

On Columbus tactics:

“They overload the midfield so we have to find a way to get pressure on the ball. If we turn the ball over then there is no pressure on the ball and then he can pick his head up and make those passes. Like I said, the forwards and the wingers are tricky enough to run off his shoulder and find that space. It’s dangerous.”

On missing players on the road:

“Every road game in this League is a difficult game. However, every road game is a winnable game if you’re playing right, if you’re turned on at the right moments. Today we weren’t.”

Chicago Fire Goalkeeper Sean Johnson

On new players in new positions:

“I think you can’t really come up with any excuses. You can’t really look to blame a different lineup or different person. We are all on the same team. We all train together on the pitch and prepare ourselves for match day. I think it’s down to what we do when we step on the field. We are more than capable of meshing together for 90 minutes and getting a result.”

On Higuain:

“Higuain is a class player. He’s not just been doing that for our game, he didn’t really come out of anywhere, he’s been doing it all season. We’ve got to do a better job of being aware of the kind of things he likes to do. He’s a crafty player, very good on the ball. I think just putting ourselves in better spots. It’s not any surprise to us that Higuain is capable of threading those passes and putting himself in those spots. It’s just up to us to deal with those things better.”

On goals:

“On the first one I put him out wide and I think it was still an angle where he had a difficult finish. It could’ve been saved, possibly. The second one was in no man’s land and I came out to close the angle and he did well to put it past me.”

COLUMBUS CREW SPORTING DIRECTOR AND HEAD COACH GREGG BERHALTER

On needing a win:

The starting point is it is always better to win then to lose or draw. We’re happy. I think we’ve been frustrated that we’ve been playing well and not getting the results. We’re still trying to focus on the product we’re creating and how we’re playing. It’s nice when you get results. From that standpoint were happy. I think it was a good effort. Obviously we’re missing some guys but we did a great job.

On Ethan Finlay’s first start of the season:

He was excellent. This game isn’t something that comes out of the blue. If we look at what he’s been doing these last couple of weeks, he’s been leading up to this. I’m most happy with the fact that he was a guy that isn’t a starter, he works his way to the 18, he works his way to the starting lineup, then he performs like this. You can see the progression and he makes other guys believe there’s a chance. He makes other guys believe that if they work hard and train hard that they will get an opportunity.

On defense:

Chicago hasn’t been shut-out yet this season I think that speaks for itself. The guys did it with determination. Guys like Eric [Gehrig], Tyson [Wahl], Hector [Jimenez]. I mean I thought Chad Barson was great as well with his defensive responsibilities. Steve Clark was very secure today. On crosses, he didn’t give up any rebounds today and that’s what you want from a goalkeeper. I think these guys really responded. You can see some of the guys that played last week and played again this week they are getting a rhythm and they are getting a lot more comfortable.

On Michael Parkhurst and importance of getting him in the game:

I think the fans were spectacular to give him that ovation and really cheer him on. He’s been through a lot these last couple of days and it’s nice for him to feel that everyone supports him. It’s the team, the fans and the community supports him. He had a tough session on Thursday, followed by a weight session followed by a red-eye across the country. It was too much for him, he wanted to play but I didn’t think it was worth the risk of an injury after all of that travel and training.

On replacing Federico Higuain:

You don’t replace Federico, simple as that. We get someone on the field that can play their game and we’re not going to ask someone to come in and play like Federico that would be foolish of us. We’re going to ask someone to come in and play to the best of their ability. I’m confident that we are going to be able to get that out of someone.

COLUMBUS CREW GOALKEEPER STEVE CLARK

On tonight’s game:

We had a fantastic game. We knew that there were a lot of players on this team that could play and Eric [Gehrig] obviously stepped up tonight. The thing about Eric is that he is a gamer, the whistle blows and we don’t have a problem.

On second shutout of the season:

For me it’s more important to win and I knew that if I continued to play the way that I play every game then shutouts are going to come and a lot of them. For me it’s about process not results all the time, especially in the goal keeping you have to keep your head and blinders on from distractions. Shut outs come and they go.

On Chicago’s playing before first goal:

You have to give credit to Ethan Finlay for figuring that out, he had a fantastic run. He is a very intelligent kid and a very intelligent soccer player. He spotted that and he was in behind.

On Crew’s teamwork tonight:

I think that our backline had a good game but I can’t tell you compared to their backline. We didn’t give them a goal and they gave up two but I thought that we played very well.

COLUMBUS CREW DEFENDER MICHAEL PARKHURST

On playing tonight:

It’s nice to be back home. It’s a few weeks earlier than I participated or that I wanted but it’s really good to be home. And it was a really nice motivation when I came on the field and I heard everybody. I was really appreciative of that and the support that everyone has given me here.

On the last 48 hours since being cut from the final U.S. Men’s National Team roster:

It’s tough. We didn’t know that the cuts were going to come in that day so no expectations there. It’s difficult of course, I just lost my dream. You have to bounce back and be professional. Now my whole propose is the Crew.

On leaving with his “best foot forward”:

Yeah I think so, I don’t think that there is anything else I could have done. I don’t think that there was anything negative that was on my part that made them not choose me. I think that’s just how it was set up.  It makes it a little easier for me to swallow knowing that I had done my best.

On moving on from the roster announcement:

Absolutely, it’s great to be back around the guys.  I wanted to come back here and get back to business as quick as possible to get my mind off of it.

23 May 8:38 am

The Fire head to Columbus on Saturday night (6:00pm on My50/TWCSC) looking to make it three wins in a row after laboring to earn a victory at home against Sporting KC last weekend. The Crew started well under new coach Gregg Berhalter but haven’t won in eight matches. Here are some tactical things to look out for.

Another week, another weakened defense – taking advantage of the Crew’s makeshift back four

The Fire took full advantage of Sporting KC’s defensive absences last weekend and I expect the team to look to follow suit on Saturday night. Columbus will be missing two of their Costa Rican defenders, center back Giancarlo Gonzalez and left back Waylon Francis while Michael Parkhurst will return after being cut from the U.S. World Cup squad.

Last week, the Fire looked to put pressure on the KC back line and it worked very well, forcing two penalty kicks in the first 15 minutes of the match. I look for the Fire to be more consistent with the high pressure tactic instead of starting with it, then sitting back before taking it back up again.

Like last week, the Fire are catching Columbus at a good time and need to be ruthless. If the team had managed to pick up a third goal last week, the last twenty minutes or so wouldn’t have been as nerve wracking. If the team does manage to take a lead, looking to double it instead of sitting back and letting Columbus dictate should be the plan.

Both Quincy Amarikwa and Mike Magee found space in behind the KC defense last week and if they can be found again by the likes of Shipp and Joya, the Fire could certainly leave Columbus with three points.

Mass changes on the right? – Dealing with the possible injury losses of Nyarko and Palmer

The Fire’s injury report published late this week brought some unwelcome news in the form of injury to Patrick Nyarko and sickness for Lovel Palmer. The Fire’s starters in right midfield and defense could both miss out on Saturday which would be a big blow considering how well both played last week.

Palmer had been criticized by some for his defensive performances but he had a fine game against Sporting KC. Nyarko was also a standout player last week, both tracking back to help out Palmer defensively and helping to pressure the KC players off the ball.

With both players potentially missing this week, Coach Yallop has a tough decision on his hands. Matt Watson has had some time at right back this season when Palmer was suspended but Logan Pause or even the fit-again Steven Kinney could feature.

On the wing, Victor Pineda may get the start while Dilly Duka could also make the move from his usual left wing position. Duka replaced Nyarko last week and looked good in the attacking third, cutting in onto his favored left foot. If Duka does get the nod, I look for him to track back more and help out whoever our right-back is defensively.

The Fire outside defenders have been left isolated too often this season which is one of the reasons the team has given up 19 goals to date. With the possibility of two stalwarts in the Fire lineup missing, the Crew’s plan will be attack as often as possible down the Fire right so a strong defensive performance from Nyarko and Palmer’s replacements is imperative.

Keeping Higuain on a tight leash – not allowing the Argentine to create for the Crew

For me, Federico Higuain is probably the best creative midfielder in all of MLS. His vision, passing range and set piece deliveries are unique and he would improve any team in the league if he joined them.  

Like Magee, Higuain likes to drop deep to get the ball and is also very comfortable operating in the space between the opposition midfield and defense. He essentially has a free role with Columbus and covers quite a bit of ground, making him hard to track.

Last week’s 3-3 draw with Portland also highlighted Higuain’s scoring threat, chipping the 6’4” Donovan Ricketts from outside the area to earn the Crew a 3-3 draw. With six goals and three assists on the year, Higuain has been directly involved in 70% of the Crew’s 13 goals in 2014.

In matches this season, the Fire have generally done a good job keeping the opposing team’s most influential players quiet which is mostly down to stopping the person from getting the ball. Assistant coach C.J. Brown emphasized this point during the buildup to the Columbus match.

With this in mind, most of the burden will be on Jeff Larentowicz to try and keep Higuain under lock and key.

Prediction: A high scoring draw (2-2) with goals from Mike Magee and Harry Shipp

WATCH: Athletico Coaching Corner

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!

11 April 7:58 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 November 3:04 pm

One of my favorite days of the year is the day the MLS schedule is released.

For many fans, this announcement means compiling a list of blackout days where the Fire are playing at Toyota Park. For Fire fans not residing in the Chicagoland area, it means finding out when the Men in Red will be visiting your nearest MLS team. But for someone like me who has been on quite a few road trips (over 50 but not as many as this guy), the schedule release day means not only looking at the home fixtures but also the away ones.

Questions I asked myself earlier today: Does Toronto away fall on weekend instead of a Wednesday night? How much does it cost to fly to Portland in March? These important questions get answered on this special day.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at five exciting dates in the 2014 Fire calendar:

Week 2 – Portland away – Saturday, March 15 

Ever since Portland came into the league in 2011, the Fire supporters umbrella, Section 8 Chicago, has had a very good relationship with the Timbers Army, Portland’s main supporters group. The relationship is based on mutual respect and a shared “dislike” of all things Seattle.

Fire fans are always treated well in Portland and it’s not uncommon for Fire and Timbers fans to hang out before and after the games, something you would never see Fire fans doing in Columbus or Kansas City.

The atmosphere at JELD-Wen Field is also second to none. Though is certainly isn’t going to be the easiest away trip on the field or the lightest on the wallet, I think we will see quite a few Fire fans making the trip to Portland in Week 2 instead of traveling to LA to watch the Fire face Chivas in the season opener.

Week 6 & 22 – Montreal away – Saturday, April 12 and Sunday, August 16

The Fire were the Montreal Impact’s opponents in the Canadian club’s first home MLS back in 2012 and I was lucky enough to be at the game and had a great time.

That game was played indoors at the Olympic Stadium with a less than favorable playing surface – something many of the Fire fans observed firsthand the day before the game when we were invited to watch the team train (see photo above).

Now the Impact have Saputo Stadium refurbished, which provides another incentive for traveling Fire fans who may not have gotten there earlier this year.

Montreal is also a unique MLS city for a number of reasons. I can’t think of another MLS city where fans can brush up on their French by talking to the locals or take in the spectacular Notre-Dame basilica while eating some amazing poutine!

Montreal can be quite cold in April, but luckily for Fire fans, the April date is only the first time the Men in Red visit The City of Saints. I hear the weather is a lot nicer in mid-August, when the Fire visit for the second time.

Week 11 – Columbus away – Saturday, May 24

Columbus or Fire House East as many Fire fans call it is the closest away trip of the season distance wise. Due to this fact, the number of Fire fans attending this match is exponentially bigger than most other away games.

In 2001, Fire fans went to Crew Stadium in their hundreds, even when the Fire was not playing! The Fire had been knocked out in the Conference Semifinals by the Los Angeles Galaxy and many fans turned up to cheer against LA (and for the then Frank Yallop-led San Jose Earthquakes) at MLS Cup.

There have been many highs experienced in Columbus, such as Paulo Wanchope’s winning goal in a 2007 match after the game was delayed due to a torrential downpour. Fire fans were also 45 minutes away from MLS Cup in 2008 but for a Crew comeback in the second half which left Fire fans, including myself, devastated. There’s also the 2012 invasion which saw 600 Fire supporters make the trek.

The Fire only play once at Fire House East this season and I expect to see a lot of red behind the goal on May 24.

Week 16 & 32 Kansas City away –Sunday, July 6 &  Friday, October 10

Kansas City is another road trip that fans have attended in large numbers throughout the years. My first trip to Kansas City was a disappointing one, with the Fire losing to the Kansas City Wizards in the final of the U.S. Open Cup in 2004.

Since then, the Kansas franchise has a new name and a soccer specific stadium. You can no longer play the count the crowd game that we often did when the Wizards played at Arrowhead Stadium.

Most fans travel to this game by bus thus skipping the “delights” of downtown Kansas City and the bus ride does offer one cool treat – a visit to the world’s largest truck stop in Iowa.

Though SKC are not really a Fire rival (despite efforts made by the KC front office to make it into something bigger) there is certainly a dislike between the players and fans on both sides.

With the October 11 game coming so late in the season, it may be a pivotal one in terms of Playoff positioning.

Week 23 – Toronto away – Saturday, August 23

By far my favorite MLS city to travel to is Toronto. It's roughly the same distance from Chicago as Kansas City and again many fans travel to Canada on supporter’s buses.

Each visit, Fire fans shack up at a great hostel where we run into soccer fans from all over the world. Toronto itself is a great city aside from the prohibitive drinking laws on weekends (who doesn’t want to have a pint at 10am while watching the Premier League the next morning?).

BMO Field is located right on the shores of Lake Ontario and is thus left exposed and is often windy and chilly but the warm pies served at some of the concessions stands are an excellent halftime treat.

On the field, the Fire have had some good success against a TFC team that has languished near the bottom of the MLS table since starting in 2007. Thankfully, this match is on a Saturday in August so I expect a much larger contingent of Fire fans to attend.

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

20 October 5:13 pm

I'm not going to bog you down with a bunch of math, it is Sunday afterall.

Following New York's 3-0 win today at Houston, the Eastern Conference playoff picture has become very clear heading into the final week of the season.

First I give you the updated table via MLSsoccer.com:

 

Now, the remaining Eastern Conference fixture list...

Saturday, October 26
Philadephia Union  vs. Sporting KC - 2pm CT (NBC Sports Network)
Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact - 3pm CT (MLS Live)

Sunday, October 27
D.C. United vs. Houston Dynamo - 12:30pm CT (NBC)
Columbus Crew vs. New England Revolution - 3:00pm CT (MLS Live)
New York Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire - 4:00pm CT (My50/Time Warner Sports WI)

The Chicago Fire can qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs the following ways...

- Win at New York
- Draw/lose at New York and have either Houston draw/lose at D.C. or New England draw/lose at Columbus
- Draw at New York AND Montreal lose at Toronto
 
The Fire can clinch the East's third seed if...

- Win at New York AND Toronto FC win/draw vs. Montreal
- Draw at New York AND Montreal loses at Toronto FC AND New England draws/loses at Columbus AND Houston draws/loses at D.C.