MLS Regular Season
Homegrown midfielder Victor Pineda gave fans a little help with their Fire withdrawals over the international break, scoring a highlight reel goal in Reserve team’s 2-1 loss at Houston on Saturday.
The goal stood as the 19-year-old midfielder’s second in 2012 MLS Reserve League play this season and was deemed good enough to garner nearly 2,000 views on YouTube and make the front of MLSsoccer.com on Thursday morning.
“He’s maturing and I think every year its better,” said Fire head coach Frank Klopas. “The Reserve League gives him that opportunity to stay sharp. It’s good that he scored but more important is that he played well – his ability to understand without the ball you need to be able to defend and work hard without the ball – he’s getting better at that.
The rocket strike has led some Fire fans who have only had the opportunity to see the club’s first Homegrown player in Reserve and friendly matches to clamor for his competitive debut before the end of the season.
Given the Fire could still clinch first place in the East and also put themselves in a position for CONCACAF Champions League qualification, one might a 2012 debut might not be in the cards but Klopas left the possibility open.
“We just have to see how the game situation goes. A lot is up to him and how he does in training as well. He’s a young player, you have to understand that it takes time with him. His attitude is good, he’s sharp and playing well in the Reserve matches so it shows me that he’s ready to contribute if we need him to.”
With Alvaro Fernandez coming off more than a week away with Uruguay as well as travel back Stateside, Saturday's game at New England could provide a perfect substitute opportunity for young Vic.
WATCH: Victor Pineda Golazo in Houston
While the Chicago Fire is one team, the squad currently consists of 27 players each with a different origin, starting point and story of how they arrived at Toyota Park as a Fire player.
As part of the club’s partnership with Quaker Oats, we present Journeys – an in-depth look at each player’s path to Chicago.
In the first edition we sit down with Ghanaian midfielder Patrick Nyarko to better understand the shape of his journey as an academics-focused part-time soccer player on the gravel fields of Kumasi, Ghana to a MAC Hermann finalist at Virginia Tech and his eventual transformation into one of the most dangerous attackers in Major League Soccer.
Stay tuned for part 2 of Quaker Journeys with Patrick Nyarko next week.
In this edition of Burning Questions we sat down with blazingly fast Ghanaian striker Dominic Oduro. Oduro joined the Men in Red from the Houston Dynamo in March 2011, quickly becoming a fan favorite. Becoming the first Fire player since 2004 to hit double-digit goals in a season, Dominic was named the club’s 2011 Most Valuable Player and also garnered Section 8 Chicago’s 2011 Supporter’s Player of the Year award. This year, Dominic has scored six goals and added three assists while appearing in 31 of the Fire’s 32 matches. Dominic took the time to answer our Burning Questions about where he prefers to get his coffee, his favorite TV shows and which MLS player he would race to settle the “Fastest Man in MLS” debate.
Always on the Inside: You graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a major in Sociology. Why did you choose that major and what was the most interesting class you took in college?
Dominic Oduro: I chose that because I was making bad grades in Economics, so I had to take the easy path. I also loved the fact that it dealt with social life, and that is one of my interests so I decided to get into it. The most interesting class I took was Sociology of Religion. It taught me about religion and how people pursue it, and I thought it was really cool.
AOTI: Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks?
DO: Dunkin. I want Dunkin to call me right now. I’ve been trying to Tweet them; I need some promotion from them. My regular order is a medium coffee with cream and sugar. And I love strawberry cream cheese with a plain bagel.
AOTI: Any scouting report on you focuses on your blazing speed. Are you fast in other aspects of your life?
DO: I have a fast car. I’m just the slowest when it comes to walking. I have the slowest pace ever when it comes to walking.
Editor’s Note: Dominic conducted the fastest interview in Burning Questions history with a time of 3 minutes and 56 seconds, blowing past his closest competitor, Hunter Jumper, who clocked in at 7 minutes and 2 seconds.
AOTI: What are you going to be for Halloween this year and what’s the best costume you’ve ever had?
DO: I’m thinking about being a baby. I’ll just put on a diaper and put a pacifier in my mouth, and just walk around like a baby. One time I was Morpheus from “The Matrix.” I really killed that costume.
AOTI: What is one fashion trend you used to wear but would be embarrassed to wear now?
DO: I used to wear baggy jeans. Looking back at it now, I just shake my head and think, “Why was I wearing that?”
AOTI: You just discovered an island. What do you name it?
DO: Freaky Dom Island.
AOTI: If you could live in any TV show or movie, which one would you choose?
DO: “Fringe.” It’s one of my favorite shows. I love it.
AOTI: What’s the most embarrassing song on your iPod?
DO: I’m very picky with my songs. I have one; I had Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” one time, and I was scratching my head as to why I put that on.
AOTI: What’s a typical day like in the life of Dominic Oduro?
DO: I sit on my couch and watch TV all day.
AOTI: What TV shows do you like?
DO: I like “Two and a Half Men.” I love that show. And “Fringe” and “Scandal.” I really like that one.
AOTI: Who is the one MLS player that you would like to race to finally put the “Fastest Man in MLS” debate to bed?
DO: [Colorado Rapids defender] Marvell Wynne. Period. Just put everything to bed.
AOTI: If the opportunity ever presented itself, would you challenge Usain Bolt?
DO: I would want to race him for the fun of it. I know I’m going to lose, so I can’t even think about beating Usain Bolt. But I would race him for the fun of it.
After taking a weekend off from MLS play, the Men in Red return to action when they head to Bean Town for their third match of the season against the New England Revolution on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 6:30 p.m. CT (NBC5.2/97.5 ESPN Deportes). With just two games remaining in the regular season, the Fire are still within reach of the Eastern Conference crown.
Midfielder Patrick Nyarko said that now that the Fire have officially clinched a spot in the playoffs, the focus will be on gaining the top seed in the conference. Missing the playoffs the past two seasons was “frustrating,” said Nyarko. “We should be a perennial playoff team.”
Dutch striker Sherjill MacDonald, who joined the team at the end of July, is destined to be a huge part of the Fire’s post-season run. Now that he has had time to settle in and get acclimated to the team and to the city, MacDonald says, “I’m very comfortable with this group. I’m very happy.”
One player who missed the dreary Chicago weather this weekend was Alvaro Fernadnez, who is with Uruguay for two World Cup Qualifiers. Flaco and Uruguay fell 3-0 to Argentina behind a Lionel Messi brace, and one writer finally put the Diego Maradona-Lionel Messi debate to bed. “Lionel Messi is not Diego Maradona,” said Zach Woosley. “In fact, he’s better…much better.”
Flaco and Uruguay have one more match this week when they take on Bolivia at Estadio Hernando Siles in La Paz, Bolivia on Oct. 16.
A lot has changed since my last Playoff Math entry. The team had just come off a disappointing 2-0 loss to Sporting KC while almost no other result in the East had gone the Fire’s way that weekend. The team would follow the loss to KC up with a disappointing 3-1 home defeat to Philadelphia on Anniversary Night before earning a solid 2-0 win at New York three days later.
It all goes to show that Playoff Math isn’t always foolproof but a good read nonetheless. With that here’s the latest update, also recognizing the field in the East is down to six teams with Montreal’s elimination last week…
1) Sporting KC (qualified)
Current Points: 59 (40 GF)
Games Remaining: 2 (1 home, 1 away)
Maximum Possible Points: 65
Average Opponents Points: 44.5
Magic Number (for first place): 4
Remaining Schedule: at New York (10/20), vs. Philadelphia (10/24).
The Rundown: Sporting KC took a potential blow to their first place bid by leaving two points on the field late at Crew Stadium last Sunday. KC still has the inside track to finishing top of the conference for the second straight season but will have to navigate a tricky match at Red Bull this week to get there. If they can earn another win in New York, they’’ all but clinch the top spot in the East, then needing only a win the following Wednesday home to Philadelphia.
2) Chicago Fire (qualified)
Current Points: 56 (45 GF)
Games Remaining: 2 (1 home, 1 away)
Maximum Possible Points: 62
Average Opponents Points: 41. 5
Magic Number (to first place): 9
Remaining Schedule: at New England (10/20), vs. D.C. United (10/27)
The Rundown: Despite falling in two of the last three matches, the Fire are in the playoffs and still find themselves with a reasonable shot at taking first in the East with the Sporting/Red Bull match looming this weekend. If Red Bull is able to win and the Fire can come away from New England victorious as well on Saturday, they’ll be even on points with first place Kansas City and actually ahead on the first tie breaker (goals for).
That scenario would almost assuredly just require a Fire win on the final of the season vs. DC United to lock down first place (Sporting KC would have make up 6+ goals on Philadelphia in order to jump over the Fire.
More incentive to keep in mind… Should the Fire win their final two games, they’ll at least finish third overall in the MLS standings, giving them a real shot at the CONCACAF Champions League should either Sporting KC or San Jose make MLS Cup.
3) D.C. United
Current Points: 54
Games Remaining: 3 (1 home, 1 away)
Maximum Possible Points: 60
Average Opponents Points: 52.5
Magic Number (to qualify): 2
Remaining Schedule: vs. Columbus (10/20), at Chicago (10/27)
The Rundown: D.C. has the most difficult remaining schedule of the group but with them hosting sixth-place Columbus Saturday, can step into the playoffs with just a draw Saturday against the Crew. With United facing the Fire on the final day of the season, D.C. has plenty of incentive to go for wins in both games in order to possibly finish with home field advantage in the first round. Should the Fire and Sporting KC completely collapse the Capital City club even has an outside shot at first in the East.
4) New York Red Bulls
Current Points: 53
Games Remaining: 2 (1 home, 1 away)
Maximum Possible Points: 59
Average Opponents Points: 47.5
Magic Number (to qualify): 3
Remaining Schedule: vs. Sporting KC (10/20), at Philadelphia (10/27)
The Rundown: New York’s form the last four games combined with front office shake ups and chatter about head coach Hans Backe’s status for next year can’t fill a Red Bull fan full of confidence. Still, they control their own playoff destiny and can qualify as well as play spoiler this weekend with a win at home vs. Sporting KC.
With the Red Bulls going 10-0-3 through their first 13 matches this season at Red Bull Arena, both Sporting and the Fire found the chink in the armor there in recent weeks. Even still, New York remains 11-2-3 at home this year and shouldn’t be underestimated with their backs a bit against the wall on Saturday.
5) Houston Dynamo
Current Points: 50
Games Remaining: 2 (1 home, 1 away)
Maximum Possible Points: 56
Average Opponents Points: 33.5
Magic Number: 6
Remaining Schedule: vs. Philadelphia (10/20), at Colorado (10/27)
The Rundown: Despite having a reasonably easy schedule to close the 2012 campaign, Houston has made things sort of difficult on themselves down the stretch, going 1-1-1 in their last three matches all against sides outside of the playoff picture. Luckily, they still have the easiest schedule of all remaining playoff teams, hosting Philadelphia this weekend before visiting Colorado on the 27th.
With that high-altitude trip looming on the final day, the Dynamo would do well to take care of business Saturday against the Union where a win would necessitate just a draw on at the Rapids. A win Saturday combined with a Crew loss at DC would push Houston back into the playoffs for the second straight season.
6) Columbus Crew
Current Points: 49
Games Remaining: 2 (1 home, 1 away)
Maximum Possible Points: 55
Average Opponents Points: 38
Magic Number: 8
Remaining Schedule: at D.C. United (10/20), vs. Toronto FC (10/28)
The Rundown: Another late goal last Sunday at home vs. Sporting KC likely salvaged the Crew’s season, keeping the team within one point of fifth place Houston heading into a harrowing six-pointer Saturday at DC.
A victory keeps the team in the playoff hunt heading into the last match of the season, a very winnable home game vs. Toronto. A win plus a Houston draw or loss puts the Crew in the driver’s seat. They’ve played with nothing to lose since August, no reason they should stop now.
From a traveling fan perspective, all of Fire nation should want the Crew to sneak into the playoffs and the Fire to have a chance at them in the first round.
This Week's Predictions:
New York Red Bulls 2, Sporting KC 1
Chicago Fire 2, New England Revolution 0
D.C. United 1, Columbus Crew 1
Houston Dynamo 2, Philadelphia Union 1
If those hold true the standings coming out of the weekend would be...
1) x-Chicago - 59pts. (47 GF)
2) x-Sporting KC - 59pts. (41 GF)
3) x-New York - 56pts. (56 GF)
4) x-D.C. United - 55pts. (50 GF)
5) Houston - 53pts. (47 GF)
6) Columbus - 50pts. (41 GF)
Let's hope I'm right!
In this edition of Burning Questions we sat down with rookie defender Austin Berry. Since being drafted in the first round ( 9th overall) of the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, Austin has become a mainstay in the Chicago Fire defense, starting 26 consecutive matches for the Men in Red and scoring three goals along the way to help the Fire secure their first playoff berth since 2009. The Rookie of the Year front-runner from Cincinnati, Ohio, Austin was a standout at the University of Louisville where he helped the Cardinals to their first ever NCAA National Championship appearance in 2010. Austin took the time to answer our Burning Questions about Berry-themed nicknames, his prowess on the basketball court and the Berry family Halloween tradition.
Always on the Inside: What is the worst Berry themed nickname you’ve ever had?
Austin Berry: The current one that Arne [Friedrich] has given me, “Jerry Berry.” The origin is unknown, so is the spelling.
AOTI: The Irish Harmonica champion is also named Austin Berry. Do you play any musical instruments?
Jake Bronowski, Massage Therapist: Is there a difference between a regular harmonica and an Irish harmonica?
AB: Maybe theirs goes up and down. Instead of left and right, they go up and down. But no, I don’t play any instruments. Absolute no.
AOTI: You lettered in basketball from 2003-2005 at Summit Country Day. Can you still ball?
AB: I’m an awful basketball player. I just played for fun. I had no jump shot. I was a defensive specialist. I was in there for rebounds and defending. But I had fun. It was fun because my junior year, my last year, five of the starters from the soccer team were the five starters for the basketball team. It was something that I did personally to stay in shape between club soccer seasons.
AOTI: In an era of fluorescent cleats, you rock white ones on game days. Why is that?
AB: Those are the ones that have metal studs. And because it’s classy.
AOTI: You haven’t grown your goatee out in a while. Are you mellowing as you get older?
AB: I can’t really grown facial hair. The goatee takes me a good four weeks before it actually comes in and it’s not even a good one at that. So when it comes out, it’s just me being too lazy to shave for a month.
AOTI: What are you going to be for Halloween this year?
AB: I’m not big on dressing up, I’m just big on candy. As long as I get enough candy, I don’t need to celebrate it. I love candy. Mambas and Shock Tarts are my favorite.
AOTI: What’s the best Halloween costume you’ve ever had?
AB: I know the worst ever Halloween costume is my parents had a tradition of dressing their kids up as a purple grape and attaching a bunch of purple balloons to you so you were a grape. That was always one of our Halloween costumes and it was awful. At a certain age, we all had our purple grape stage. It was young, before we could make decisions for ourselves.
AOTI: What do you make for dinner if you’re looking to impress Martha Stewart who is stopping by the rookie crib?
AB: If I was impressing her, I would order delivery, put it in the oven then take it out. But I like making Teriyaki salmon with stir fry.
AOTI: What’s the theme song for the “Austin Berry: Rookie Year” reality show?
AB: “Sail” by AWOLNATION.
It’s not every day you can bump into Ante Razov, Hristo Stoitchkov, Zach Thornton, Lubos Kubik, Peter Nowak and Frank Klopas all within the matter of about five minutes, but that’s exactly what happened to me at Monday’s 15th Fire Anniversary Celebration.
In all, the alumni in attendance along with the current players in the room combined for 3,569 competitive games and 64 championships for the club.
The names above were just a smattering of the nearly 20 Fire alumni that returned for the special occasion. Rubbing elbows with all the dignitaries in the room gave way to perhaps the most important part of the night where Fire a number of the guests in attendance spoke to the Tradition, Honor and Passion of the club and worked to inspire the current roster for greater things to come.
Rousing numbers were given by Jesse Marsch, Hristo Stoitchkov (with great translation from Denis Hamlett), Peter Wilt, Brian McBride, Diego Gutierrez, Peter Nowak, Julian Posada, Frank Klopas and Chris Armas.
It was the last two who perhaps had the most touching moments.
A hometown guy, Klopas pointed to the teams and people that laid the groundwork for soccer in the city of Chicago ahead of the Fire before drawing attention back to the special accomplishments of the inaugural 1998 double-winning team that he was a part of, saying “This group of guys was special and I see many similarities between them and the guys we have right now. We aspire to great things and that means bringing another championship back to this city.”
Finishing up the proceedings, Armas looked to the alumni to his right then pointed to the current roster and simply said, “All of us assembled here are behind you. Go and win a championship.”
What a night indeed.
Kudos to Section 8 Chicago and specifically the 15th Anniversary Committee for pulling together a night no one in the Fire family will soon forget. Check out select photos below...
Gentlemen, start your playoff beards.
The Fire’s big 2-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls Saturday afternoon combined with the 1-1 draw between the Columbus Crew and Sporting Kansas City Sunday ensured that the Men in Red would be participating in the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs.
With 56 points on the season, the Fire sit just three points behind conference-leading Sporting KC. Chicago Fire Confidential’s Guillermo Rivera took a look at the remaining schedules for each of top six teams in the Eastern Conference.
Though MacDonald’s brace Saturday afternoon played a huge part in clinching a playoff berth, the former Dutch youth international said that he had “mixed feelings” after the victory as Wednesday night’s 3-1 loss to Philadelphia still weighed on his mind. “We should have played the same the same way as today against Philadelphia, and we would have won easily.”
Now that a playoff spot has been secured, German defender Arne Friedrich can look at the losses against Sporting Kansas City and Philadelphia Union as a bit of a blessing in disguise. “I’m happy we lost before the playoffs start because in the playoffs there is no room for losing games.”
While the entire Fire squad played exceptionally well on Saturday, Friedrich and MacDonald led the team with Player Ratings of 8.
Is there a better way to celebrate the Fire’s return to post-season play than with 400 of your closest friends? The final count is in and the October 8th Anniversary Planning Committee announced that more than 400 attendees will celebrate the Fire’s 15th Anniversary at the Chicago History Museum Monday evening.
After dropping their last two games, the Fire travel to New York Saturday afternoon to face a Red Bulls team that has only lost at home once this season (LIVE at 2:30pm CT on NBC 5 Chicago). The Fire had their worst performance of the season on Wednesday night against Philadelphia while New York demolished Toronto FC last time out. That being said, both teams are level in the standings with 53 points and will be looking for a win in an effort to catch Sporting KC at the summit of the Eastern Conference. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical standpoint.
When you have it, keep it: ball retention
In the Fire's last two games, the team failed to keep hold of the ball for long stretches, often gifting it back to their opponents. Against the better teams, this can be a nightmare because it means that you have to defend wave after wave of attacks. Against Philly on Wednesday night, players were making misplaced passes all over the field and it prevented the team from getting into any sort of offensive rhythm.
Maintaining possession is important in any game but especially in matches away from home. The Fire could deploy a similar tactic to the one used in Kansas City last week, namely, getting the ball to Sherjill MacDonald and relying on him to hold the ball up and wait for support. Against KC though, the team were unable to get MacDonald the ball enough and on many occasions gave it away in the process.
If the Fire play the same way against New York, they must get the ball in to MacDonald's feet because not doing so will only hand the possession to Red Bull.
Center backs: beware of getting stretched
Fire color commentator and former defender Evan Whitfield made an excellent point in Wednesday night's game after the Union's first goal. He noted that center backs Arne Friedrich and Austin Berry were not close enough together, leaving a gap between them which Jack McInerney exploited to perfection on the first goal. The same thing happened against the Montreal Impact a few weeks back when Marco Di Vaio got in between the center backs to score.
Unfortunately, these are not the only two instances of this happening this season and its something the team needs to address. There is no one explanation as to why this is happening but there are some ways of limiting its negative effects.
We all know that Arne Friedrich likes to roam forward from time to time in an effort to help the attack. When this happens, the Fire need to be wary and drop one of the defensive midfielders into the back line if they lose possession. Also, when a ball is played in behind the outside defenders, it forces Berry or Friedrich to go wide to pick up the runner, leaving a space in the middle. When this happens, the outside back or someone else has to drop into the space left vacated.
Thierry Henry: picking him up when he drops deep
It may sound cliche, but the Red Bulls are a much, much better team when Thierry Henry is in the starting eleven. He single handidly tore Toronto FC apart last weekend, tallying a goal and three assists in a 4-1 victory.
Henry is a converted winger and still loves to move out wide, pick the ball up, and run at defenders. He did this on countless occasions against Toronto and was not dealt with. When he goes wide, the Fire must not drop back and allow him to run at defenders.
Henry also likes to play the "false 9" role, dropping into the middle of the field, to pick up the ball and then either take players on or look for a killer pass into the space he just vacated. This is a role that Chris Rolfe often plays for the Fire.
The other problem that Henry gives teams is that he draws so much attention away from his teammates, often leaving them with acres of space. Its a very tough balancing act, but the Fire must find a way to limit Frenchman's effectiveness while at the same time not allowing players like Tim Cahill and Kenny Cooper to go undetected.
Set pieces - the fewer the better
One of the things not mentioned in the last paragraph about Henry is that he takes almost all of New York's set pieces and is especially good at corners, often putting the ball into very dangerous areas.
Though the Red Bulls have many smaller players in their starting eleven such as Dax McCarty and Connor Lade, they also possess some who are genuinely dangerous in the air in Wilman Conde, Kenny Cooper and Markus Holgersson. Another player famous for his aerial ability Tim Cahill. The Aussie scored countless headed goals for Everton before signing for the Red Bulls earlier this season.
Though he hasn't made as big of an impact as most were predicting, the Fire coaching staff will be very disappointed if the teams allows the Red Bulls' biggest threat to hurt them on Saturday afternoon.
Limiting New York to only a handful of set pieces will be crucial for a positive Fire result
Prediction: Fire improve tenfold from Wednesday night to earn a deserved point with a goal from Sherjill MacDonald.
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @irish_steve.
With the Chicago Fire chasing their first post-season berth since 2009, MLSsoccer.com’s Simon Borg says that the Fire vs. New York Red Bulls match on Saturday, Oct. 6 at 2:30 p.m. (NBC/97.5 ESPN Deportes) is the most meaningful match between the two clubs since 2000.
MLSsoccer.com’s Three for Thursday took a look at the top three previous matches between the Fire and New York.
Prior to Saturday’s match, Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko and defender Austin Berry took part in a Google + Hangout to discuss the match and answer some quirky fan questions.
While no one wants to dwell on the 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union Wednesday evening, it was a special night as the club celebrated its 15th Anniversary by welcoming back Fire legends Chris Armas, Peter Nowak and Cuauhtémoc Blanco, who were honored at halftime.
Armas said that under Frank Klopas’ tutelage, the Fire now seem like the Fire squads of old. “It’s an honest, hardworking, passionate group. It has team written all over it.”
In honor of the 15th Anniversary, the Fire teamed up with Bumpy Pitch, the authorities on the soccer lifestyle, to create a limited edition t-shirt that features the Municipal Device, an iconic symbol of Chicago.
The shirts are available at the Chicago Fire Fan shop and on www.bumpypitch.com with $5 benefitting the Chicago Fire Foundation.
While everyone is amped for Saturday’s showdown with the Red Bulls, it will be extra special for rookie defender Austin Berry as he will celebrate his 24th birthday on Oct. 6. The club recently teamed up with Quaker Oats to create a special Life cereal box in an effort to garner attention for Berry as the chase for the 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year crown heats up.
PR and marketing guru Joe Favorito called the campaign “a great example of old school grassroots outreach, smart and effective partner activation…a great gauntlet to be thrown down for MLS best practices.”
The #Berry4ROY cereal box also made its way to the small screen, where it made its TV debut on Windy City Live (11:25 mark).
Make sure you tune in to the marquee matchup of the weekend as your Men in Red take on the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, Oct. 6 at 2:30 p.m. CT on NBC and check out this promo video to hold you over until then.