Blog

MLS Regular Season

18 May 6:51 pm

Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop

On the Fire’s first win at Toyota Park this season

“Well obviously, last time I saw you guys, it wasn’t a pretty sight with the game we had before. But today, we come away with three points against a good side – it’s obviously the aim before the match. We got it done; we’re unbeaten in two games, which is always a good thing. We dug through and got the result that we needed. We should have shut them off with a couple of chances late in the game, but didn’t; and you have to give credit to Kansas City, they kept going, created some chances late with ten men. But it’s great to get that win; I feel good that we saw it through. But obviously, there’s room for improvement on any performance, and there’s no difference for this one.”

On the lack of shutouts

“We won the game, would have loved to get the shutout; winning is everything. If we win 3-2, 2-1, whatever it is, we’ll take it. Obviously, it’s nice defensively if we can get a shutout. But as you know, it wasn’t a defensive back four error; it was someone not picking up someone on a set play, so that’s a team thing. We’re working on stuff all the time; it’s brand new, with 10 games in, I’m happy with only losing two games in this league with a group that’s been put together a little bit. We’ve had our ups and downs; we should’ve won more games for sure. We had two home games that you saw had penalty kicks; we could be on four wins right now. It has me going, “well, that’s not bad,” so it’s give and take. I don’t get carried away with winning games; I don’t get carried away with losing or tying games. I think, right now, we’re in a good spot, we’ve got a chance to now get going. These next four games are tough; we’ve got a tough schedule, but it’s something that I’m looking forward to, to see and test the character of the boys. They’re up for the fight, and we saw this game through, which is important to me, so they’re going to feel good about it. We did the same in New York, no matter how the manner is. I got a little bit of gray hair; it could’ve been silver by the end of the game. But we got the win, and that’s all that matters at this point.”

On the revamped back line

“It’s pretty good; and again, it’s a work in progress the whole time, it’s a team defensive type of thing. I thought Patrick [Ianni] had a good, solid game again; Jhon [Kennedy Hurtado] again, I thought, was solid in the middle, the two outside backs at times. Kansas City moved the ball well; they get you overloaded at times, they pull you around. In general, they had a couple of good chances; but I thought we had the better chances, to be honest. Dilly [Duka] had a breakaway, Mike [Magee] had a chance to go around a keeper and slot it. I know it was a tough game late in the match, but we could’ve come away with four or five goals today. The way I’m trying to set the team up is to obviously try to outscore the opponent, and try to make sure that we’re going forward, but we’re just trying to be solid and defensively sound at the back. The balance at the moment is a little bit wavering; we’ve gone forward okay, but I think the defensive side of things is not quite right yet; and again, it’s not just the back four, it’s the whole thing. We watched a lot of DVD last week, we’re going to watch it again this week, and see if we can get the balance where we can just be in good spots. And I just think, as a team, we sat back a little bit again in this game. We have to slide up the field and keep the ball, especially against ten men.

On who is taking penalty kicks

“I actually had a chat with a few press guys a few weeks ago, and I decided Jeff [Larentowicz] was going to take them. But Mike [Magee] and Jeff were talking, and Jeff felt that Mike was the guy to do it. He missed the last two for us; last season [against Montreal], then the first one against Philly. To score two in the same game is tough, so you have to hand it to Mike that he stepped up and buried those two chances and won the match for us; it was great.”

On facing a 3-5-2 formation

“I have not seen that for a while, actually; that was old school MLS stuff, the 3-5-2. But looking at [Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes’] team, it was depleted a little bit at the back, so he decided to play that. It was a little bit different; for us, I’m sure where they’re going to play and who’s going to play, just make sure we’re ready to do it, and step the guys and do our thing. For a good seventy minutes, I felt we were comfortable, and then it got a little hair-raising at the end. But you have to hand it to Peter and his team, they’re a good side; they’re not champions for nothing. They proved it today; they really came up to fight, especially with 10 men.”

On the thought process behind the Fire’s double substitution

“I just thought the momentum was getting away from us a little bit, so I just decided that double is always good. One is not always the impact that you want, so I wanted to do two at the same time, and make two positions freshened up. All in all, I thought it was good; I think Logan [Pause] did a good job, and Dilly looked good when he came on. He has not played for a while, so it was good to get him some minutes and get him running around. All in all, you decide what you want to do; I talked to the coaches, but ultimately, it was my decision. I felt it was the time to do it.”

Jeff Larentowicz, Chicago Fire Midfielder

On not being able to score to put the game away:

“We want to, it’s not something we’re afraid of.  It’s just not happening.  We come close, we have opportunities, but they make the defensive plays and good saves, but it will come.  A win is a win and it’s good that we can be picky in this circumstance.”

Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire goalkeeper

On the defensive performance:

“We needed to learn how to control a game and we are.  I think tonight that the effort defensively was fantastic.  We limited shots, limited chances and there were not many shots on target at all.  I think we’ll look to build on that going forward, but I’m really happy with the performance tonight.

On the learning curve:

“I think we’ve learned a lot.  The most important thing we’ve learned is that we can’t sit back and wait for the game to come to us. No matter what the result is – regardless if we’re tied or we’re up we need to keep playing our game and be confident that we can dictate the way the game goes, close out games and get results.”

On building momentum:

“Back-to-back wins are huge for us.  Now we know what it feels like to win.  We know how to win and now it’s a matter of focusing on the little things and getting it right so that every game we give ourselves a chance to win and put ourselves in a position to go on and push for three points.”

Mike Magee, Chicago Fire forward:

On the first win a home:

“We needed a win badly; however, if that’s how we’re going to win games, I probably only have a couple games left in my career. We’ll take it, it was deserved.  It was a very funky game, but we’ll take wins however we can get them at this point.”

On the end of the game:

“That’s kind of been our M.O.  We get up in games, play well in spurts then kind of take our foot off the gas.  That happened again tonight.  We created a couple chances, I even had a couple of good ones, but for whatever reason we’re letting teams hang in games, and teams like K.C. usually make you pay.”

Harry Shipp, Chicago Fire midfielder

On playing K.C. with missing starters and a man-up in the second half:

“The players they subbed in for them are still really good players.  A championship team isn’t 11 guys it’s 18 guys.  When you slide guys into the midfield and up front they are still going to be dangerous.  I think they were good keeping the ball in the attacking half, but once we were able to break that pressure we did a good job of slipping balls in – getting Quincy and Mike behind for some penalty calls in the first half.”

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

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...

 

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'

 

10 May 10:48 pm

Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop

On the spirit of the team:

“It’s been good. I mean, you know, I think last week we had that same situation. We’re 5-2 up in this game and they nearly come back and tied it. We’re two-nil up at home and they come back and win it, [Real] Salt Lake last week. So, what I’d like to think is we’ve learned something from last week. We can only get as hairy as this, but [we’re] playing against a really good team. You can’t take away from that.”

On Harry Shipp:

“Great. Harry’s been playing really well. Each game he’s gotten better, and better, and better. I think just his passes with the one pass to Mike [Magee] when he just missed it, first half, to make it 2-1 I think, and they go down the other end and score. That pass, you know, he’s got that passing in as well as the finishing. I can’t say enough about Harry. He’s really working hard at his game, he looks like a real player, and I think he’s got a great chance at going all the way.”

On the importance of scoring the first goal:

“I always say, and I think there’s stats if you look at the stats, if you score first in our league it’s 83 percent, I think, you get a point or more. So, I think, you know, getting on the chart first is always a big thing. We’ve been a bit unlucky, to be honest. We’ve had two home games and we’ve had a penalty kick in the last minute of the game to win it and missed them both. So, we could’ve been on three wins, four wins, you know, maybe two wins, or whatever and we’re not stuck talking about it now. What I like about the group, you know, they’re really celebrating now because they deserve it, you know, we’ve deserved more that we’ve got. They have not dropped their heads, come to a really difficult place to play, and get a result, and score five goals, which is amazing really, in any game, not just coming to New York and doing it. I’m really proud of the guys the way they hung in there at the end, Sean [Johnson] made two great saves, and we preserved the win.”

Chicago Fire Forward Quincy Amarikwa

On the match:

“I think overall we showed a lot of fight. We came on the road, I think a lot of people, especially the analysts, didn’t think we could come out here and get the road win. I’m glad we were able to prove them wrong.”

On the second half:

“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. We put away the number of goals we needed to get the win tonight.”

On the importance of getting the first win of the season:

“I think it’s a pretty big relief, you know, we’ve kept the morale high this entire time. We’ve known we’re capable of winning. I mean a lot of games came down, I think there’s two games that came down to PK’s that we just weren’t lucky on. It was nice to have a little bit of luck go our way today and I just think it’s what’s more to come. We know we can win and we just proved it tonight and we’re going to continue on with the rest of the season.”

Chicago Fire Midfielder Harry Shipp

On the match:

“Yeah I’m honestly just happy to get the first win for this team. I think over the past four or five games, or so, we’ve had some heartbreaking ties and losses giving up late goals, especially last week. So, I think just hanging on for the win, I think New York’s a good team, they were going to get back in the game, you kind of knew that, but just kind of some last ditch defending helped us in the last 10 minutes or so. I’m just happy, if I score three goals and we don’t win the game it doesn’t really matter. So, that’s what’s important.” 

On his game:

“Yeah I think especially in the second half. I think I was finding spaces in the first half and played a ball to Mike [Magee], scored one goal, but I think we kind of knew going into half time, I think we knew we could exploit those spaces even more underneath, me coming inside off the left and so I think we really started pressing higher in the second half, trying to win the ball off their back four, which is how I got my second goal, or third goal was taking it off of them. So yeah, I think the first, especially 30 minutes of the second half were really good.”

On play of the team:

“Yeah it was surprisingly upbeat. You know, I think we played well for those first 70 minutes or so and then I think we collapsed down the stretch, but we know if we could take those 70 minutes and turn it into 90 minutes we have a chance to win every game and I think we’ve been playing well the prior three, four games before that and that was just a lapse of 20 minutes, like I said. But yeah, I think everyone was hungry in training, everyone was feisty trying to get after it, trying to get a spot in the [starting] 11, and I think, you know, it showed this game.”

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

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