MLS Regular Season
Select shots from Saturday's 0-0 draw vs. Sporting Kansas City
Credit: USA Today Sports Images
A nice reminder of June 29, 2012.
The Fire head to Kansas City Saturday afternoon (2:00pm CT on NBC Sports Network) on the back of two losses to start the season. The team has yet to score a goal or secure point but face a KC team smarting after a loss in Toronto last week. Both will be looking to kick start their season with a big win. Here are some tactical things to look out for.
Right back – three games, three different starters?
With injuries to both Logan Pause and Steven Kinney, it is likely the Fire will have to start a third different right back already this season. Jalil Anibaba started on the right against LA and had a difficult time of things but looked much more comfortable in his natural position at center back last week against New England.
With Kinney out, its almost assured that Anibaba will partner with Austin Berry in the middle which means we will likely see Mike Videra or Wells Thompson on the right. Both played there for a bit of preseason and Videra played at right back for the Men in Red during the 2011 season.
Previewing Sporting KC
Wells is the more experienced player and like Pause, has played in numerous positions during his MLS career. In a hostile atmosphere away from home, communication between the defenders will be key.
KC are particularly dangerous down the wings and Patrick Nyarko will need to be on hand to help out either Thompson or Videra who will face constant overlapping by the KC wing-backs.
Pressuring KC – copy the Toronto model
Sporting KC lost 2-1 in Toronto last week falling behind 2-0 after only twenty minutes. TFC pressured Sporting from the first whistle and it worked extremely well, with SKC constantly giving the ball away.
TFC’s first goal of the game came from pressuring and ganging up on the Sporting KC players. Folks will remember the goal stemming from a bad pass between Matt Besler and Aurelian Collin, but the reason the center backs had the ball at all was because TFC forced Sporting all the way back to their defenders.
TFC clearly flustered Sporting and the pressure prevented SKC from being able to get the ball to their danger men Claudio Bieler and Graham Zusi. Toronto was unable to keep up the pressure for more than the first half and in the second, KC was able to impose their game.
If the Fire can start in a similar fashion to TFC last week and sustain the pressure throughout the game (a tough ask, I know) it would go a long way towards allowing SKC to dictate the tempo, something they will look to do as the home team.
Testing Jimmy Neilson – difference between chances and half chances
A lot of the talk after the first two games of the season was that the Fire created many chances, but were unable to finish them. If we examine the amount of genuine saves Carlo Cudicini and Matt Reis actually had to make though, the numbers are very small, both have to overexert themselves on only one occasion, with the rest of the shots being hit right at them.
Both times the Fire forced the opposition ‘keeper into making a fine save was from shots outside the box. When the Fire do get the ball in the box, the team as a whole needs to start showing a bit of composure instead of rushing shots.
Muzzling Zusi – double teaming and picking him up when he comes inside
For the past few seasons, Graham Zusi has been Sporting’s best player by some margin. Zusi is dangerous because he can hurt you in so many different ways.
He’s comfortable playing outside on the wing and is just as effective when he switches wings as he did against TFC in the second half last week. Zusi also links very well with SKC’s outside backs, especially Chance Meyers who overlaps Zusi on a regular basis and picked up a lot of assists doing so last season.
Coach's Take: Sporting KC
Zusi also likes to cut inside, opening up more space on the outside for the wing-backs to move into. For the most part, TFC did a good job stifling Zusi last week and they did so mainly by double teaming him when he had the ball.
Zusi’s crossing is arguably his most dangerous weapon and with targets such as Bieler and Sapong lurking in the box, the less crosses the Fire allow, the better.
Prediction: The games in KC have been tight affairs recently, and I don’t see this one being any different. 1-1 Fire with a goal from Chris Rolfe.
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @irish_steve.
Hoping this match from July 4, 2001 in Kansas City is a good omen for the weekend. Peter Vermes should remember the game well, he played all 90 minutes in defense.
Fast forward to 57 seconds in...
A lot of cool media around Section 8 Chicago's tifo from Saturday... One more piece is this movable GIF file done up by our web maestro Nick Sintich:
Fire Homegrown forward Kellen Gulley has headed to Georgia to begin training with the NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks this week.
Fire head coach Frank Klopas mentioned throughout preseason that the team was looking to send the 18-year-old forward out on loan this year and it appears that the club is working towards an agreement with the second division side.
Signed from the Mississippi Fire Juniors in August 2011, Gulley has yet to make his competitive debut for the club. The potential move should serve him well in gaining playing time as he continues to develop.
Coached by former FC Dallas head coach Brian Haynes, the Silverbacks open their 2013 NASL Spring campaign vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers on April 13 at Silverbacks Park.
Klopas on 1-0 Loss to New England
Nyarko reacts to 1-0 loss to New England
Austin Berry on 1-0 loss to New England
Gonzalo Segares on 1-0 loss to New England
The Chicago Fire Ticket Sales staff is pulling double duty today to make sure all areas of Toyota Park are safe and clear of snow ahead of Saturday night's home opener vs. New England.
In this edition of Jeff Thoughts, I capture Esteban Canales, Dave Berchem and Raul Luna having some fun at my expense...
Kudos to the Sales Staff for going the extra mile for Saturday's game:
The Fire suffered a heavy defeat last weekend in Los Angles and are looking to rebound in the best possible way in the team’s home opener against New England on Saturday evening. The Revs have yet to play a game and will hope to shake off the rust and try and spoil the Fire’s first game at home in 2013. Here are some tactical things to look out for:
Handling Bengtson – how will the Fire’s defense contain the target striker?
In last weekend’s loss to LA, the Fire’s defense couldn’t contain Robbie Keane whose movement led to all sorts of problems for the team. Against New England, the defense will face a much different type of striker in Jerry Bengtson, a giant target forward who will likely play up front on his own.
New England have a host of attacking midfielders/wingers that will be looking for layoffs and knockdowns from Bengtson and the Fire’s defense will need to try and stop the Honduran from linking with his teammates.
LA were able to stop Maicon Santos and Shejill MacDonald from holding the ball up at the Home Depot Center last week and if the Fire’s defense can mimic LA’s, the Rev’s could be in a for a long night.
Who plays behind Bengtson? A wealth of attacking options for the Revs
Because New England did not play last week, the Fire will have less of an idea about who will be playing in the attacking positions behind Bengtson on Saturday night.
Though the Rev’s have lost Benny Feilhaber, they still have many options for the second striker/wide midfield roles. Any combination of Chad Barrett, Andy Dorman, Juan Toja, Ryan Guy and Lee Nguyen could play against the Fire and all five offer something different.
The defense as a unit will be looking for a much improved performance and with Logan Pause and Arne Friedrich’s return unlikely, Saturday gives the back four a chance to redeem themselves against New England.
On the outside, Gonzalo Segares and Jalil Anibaba were caught out a few times with balls in behind them last Sunday and must be aware of players like Nguyen and Toja who look to do that on a regular basis.
Dilly Duka and Patrick Nyarko did a good job tracking back and helping the outside defenders but the emphasis will be on Sega and Anibaba to get forward and put in crosses as every opportunity.
Creating more chances – possession and set pieces
The Fire showed some rust last Sunday, giving the ball away on numerous occasions and completing over 100 less passes than LA with the Men in Red’s pass accuracy at only 74%. Large improvements in that department are certainly needed but the team will also be looking to get more set pieces in the attacking third.
The Fire’s first (of only two) corner kicks didn’t occur until the 60th minute in LA and it almost resulted in a goal for Anibaba after a brilliant cross by Lindpere.
As I mentioned last week, Lindpere’s excellent deliveries from corners and free kicks will create many changes for the team this season. Last week LA started a new goalkeeper and this week, New England may start a new acquisition in the defense Jose Goncalves. The Portuguese newcomer is an experienced defender but as we saw last week, putting balls into a place where it forces the goalkeeper and defender to communicate and make a decision can lead to a mistake and a Fire opportunity.
The Fire only had one shot on target last week but also had some other excellent chances to score, most notably Rolfe’s scuffed shot after the Cudicini mistake and Maicon’s header just wide of the post. Klopas and co. will be looking for the Fire attackers to test Matt Reis as much as possible.
Prediction: 2-0 Fire with goals from MacDonald and Lindpere
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @irish_steve.