MLS Regular Season
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:
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|
Check out different angles and slow mo versions of Mike Magee & Juan Luis Anangono's first half goals from Saturday's match vs. Real Salt Lake:
Frank Yallop, Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer
On if the Fire were the better team tonight
“No, cause they weren’t. The first half was good, the second half we were totally out played. Very naïve from us. At some point you have to figure it out on the field. I can’t do much from where I am at except make changes in certain things, the lineup, and get other players in, but you got to stand up and be counted.”
On how frustrated he feels
“I feel terrible because I thought tactically we had it figured out. We did great in the first half, but the game is 90 minutes. You got to punish them with another goal, but I said at half time ‘they are going to come at you because they’re good.’ I don’t think we really wanted to win that game because we didn’t show it. If we wanted to, we would have put our head through the ball, and be good at that stuff. We had a total collapse in a game we should have won.”
On if the team broke down from Real Salt Lake’s pressure
“They’re a good side. They could have scored a couple first half [goals].The whole game is in ebbs and flows, we had some chances, took them, they had a couple, and Sean made two great saves. We’ve played eight games, we’ve not won yet. We got to go to a tough place next game, and we got to get a result.”
On keeping morale high without getting wins
“We will find out next week. We’ve not had that happen to us collapsing like that in the second half. Take nothing away from them but we should see that game out, 2-1, even 2-2, but not 3-2. I got to figure out who is going to be punching and fighting the whole season, the whole 90 minutes.”
On if there will be some changes for next week
“It’s a bit early for that, but I would think so.”
On if there was too much respect for Real Salt Lake
“They play a certain style of game. It’s a possession game. We just kept going backwards and not stepping into people. We tended to drop and have low pressure, but that doesn’t mean no pressure. You still got to try to win the ball back and then break. I don’t want to be that deep, but we ended up that deep. You got to see that game through. We’ve got to be man enough to see that game through, and we didn’t.”
On positives from that performance
“We scored two goals. I guess that’s a positive. When you lose it’s sickening. It’s very difficult to take. First half, Sean made some good saves and we played pretty well. Then a crazy 15-20 minute spell, we give the game to them, which is really disappointing.”
Jeff Larentowicz, Chicago Fire midfielder and captain
On what changed from the first half to the second half:
“We stopped doing things in the second half that we did well in the first – we conceded ground, allowed them to play in our end, didn’t connect passes once we had it, and if you do that against a good team they are going to beat you.”
On how RSL was able to do that:
“They crowd the ball, they get a lot of numbers, and they’re good at finding ways to keep possession. They make you work defensively, so once you get it you’re tired and they wear you down. I don’t think it was a conscious thing where we said ‘alright let’s hunker down,’ we just have to defend and defend properly.”
On how to move forward:
“This is a mental test for us. All the positives we’ve been putting on things, we can’t do it any longer. It’s been weeks and tonight it’s a loss, it’s not a game where can say we played a complete game and didn’t get the points, we didn’t. We have to look at the mistakes we made and move on. Like I said, it’s a mental challenge; we can’t go in the negative direction. The guys have to keep a positive attitude, guys have to honestly assess what they are doing personally to a man, go home and figure out how they are going to work harder and push themselves to have a positive attitude and push on. At this point it’s difficult – you can go one of two directions and we have to push forward and have to expect that we can learn from our mistakes and move on.”
Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire goalkeeper
On the result:
“I think it’s obvious that it doesn’t feel great, after we were up 2-0 and losing at home. I can’t really describe the emotions right now; it’s a difficult one to swallow at home, being up. We can’t make excuses for it though. We were not good enough.”
On the shift in the game:
“We have to search for answers. I don’t know what happened, we were up 2-0 on cruise control, the game was in our hands and they scored one, they scored two, get the momentum and before you know it they won the game.”
On what’s next for the team:
“This was definitely a test for us. We’ve got to look at ourselves, there’s no one for us to blame. We’ve got to look at ourselves in the locker room and come up with a solution. We keep digging a hole for ourselves, there’s no reason at this point in the season we should be where we are - we should be close to the top of the table. We’ve had games in hand; off the top of my head we’ve had four games now that I feel like we should have gotten a win. Scratch the ties, we’ve taken a step back now with the loss. We’ve got to get back to training. We can’t get down; we can’t let something like this affect the mood of the team. We have to keep chugging along; we have a handful of games left, so we have to dig in.”
On the difficulty of staying positive during the winless streak:
“This is our job, professionally, game in and game out we have to have the same attitude and find a way to win games, plain and simple. We’ve been through everything tactically, physically and mentally I think now we have to find what it takes to win these games.”
On the coach’s reaction to the loss:
“Obviously we’re not happy with ourselves and the coaching staff is obviously disappointed with the result – there’s really not much more to say. There’s disappointment all the way around.”
Dan Haiek and Matt Doyle talk all things Harry Shipp and break down his rookie season.
After yet another draw against the Revs last time out, the Fire head into May without a win. The first of four grueling matches this month is against Real Salt Lake at Toyota Park on Saturday evening (7:30pm CT on My50/TWCSC). Both teams enter this game with sour tastes in their mouths after the way their last matches ended and I expect it to be a frantic first 20 minutes or so. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective.
Replacing Quincy – how will coach Yallop adjust to the loss of the team’s top scorer?
Perhaps the most important outcome of the match against New England last time out was the red card and one game suspension for Qunicy Amarikwa, the team’s top goal scorer and most consistent attacking threat this season. Replacing Amarikwa is no easy task, especially because his partnership with Mike Magee was just starting to bloom, but the Fire coaching staff does have plenty of options.
The most obvious and like for like switch would be for Juan Luis Anangono and act as the target striker with Magee playing behind him. Anangono has come off the bench on a consistent basis this season and will be looking to avenge his injury time penalty miss against New England.
A more likely scenario however would be for either Victor Pineda or Benji Joya to start in place of Amarikwa. Both players are comfortable playing in the forward roles and Joya especially would relish a chance to start in his more natural position instead of a wide one where he began the season.
Playing with either Joya or Pineda up front would also allow the Fire to continue to play a target-less striker formation, something that has worked to date this season. That being said, Frank Yallop could also decide to start Joya or Pineda in one of the wide positions in an attempt to combat RSL’s midfield diamond, as I will explain below.
Don’t be too distracted by the obvious – Plata and Saborio are the clear danger men but Luke Mulholland makes RSL tick
Many will argue RSL’s unbeaten start to the season is down to players like Joao Plata, Alvaro Saborio or Javier Morales making the difference but the player who has had possibility the biggest impact this season is Englishman Luke Mulholland.
Mulholland plays on the outside of RSL’s compact midfield diamond, with Ned Grabavoy operating on the other side. In attack, Mulholland can provide balls into the area from a wide position but he also excels at making late runs into the box where he often finds space due to defenders concentrating on RSL’s more known attacking threats.
Defensively, Mulholland provides cover for his full back and does not get caught up the field often in transition. The Englishmen has chipped in with two goals and one assist in four starts this season and acts as the youthful spark in a midfield containing veterans such as Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales.
Mulholland is also very versatile, with he and Grabavoy able to operate comfortably on either side of the diamond. To combat this, I could see the Fire drafting Matt Watson or Logan Pause in to pack the midfield, especially against RSL’s narrow formation. Watson or Pause could play alongside anchor Jeff Larentowicz or a bit higher up, perhaps alongside Harry Shipp or Alex in a 4-1-4-1 formation.
In last week’s match against Vancouver, RSL overran the Whitecaps midfield for much of the first half. Putting an extra body in the middle on Saturday night would ensure the same thing doesn’t happen to the Men in Red.
Exposing RSL on the flanks – proving an attacking threat from both wings
Since the return of Patrick Nyarko to the starting eleven, the Ghanaian has been a one-man wrecking crew down the right hand side for the Fire. Nyarko has also combined well with right back Lovel Palmer in attack – something we saw work in the Fire’s favor against New England two weeks ago.
Due to RSL’s narrow formation, they can be exploited on the wings, where the full backs are sometimes left isolated. Nyarko and Palmer should thrive against this type of formation but for the Fire to take full advantage, the team needs to also have a consistent attacking threat from the left.
In recent matches, Harry Shipp has drifted inside from his wide left position to great effect but against RSL, whoever occupies the wide left position must try to take advantage of their narrow midfield by attacking from wide. With the center of the park sure to be busy, if the Fire focus their attack in the wide areas, it could result in the team picking up its first win of the season.
Prediction: It was a long time coming, but the Fire finally pick up three points – 2-1 Fire with goals from Mike Magee and Patrick Nyarko.
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @Irish_Steve.
WATCH: Kevin and Jeff preview Saturday's game vs. RSL
Now into it's second season, the MLS and USL PRO partnership is going well with 11 MLS sides currently affiliated with lower league teams, allowing younger players or those at the ends of MLS benches the ability to gain more playing time in meaningful matches at the USL level.
From the Fire end, we've seen the other side of the USL PRO partnership this past week, as the club's Reserve side played two matches against the Rochester Rhinos and Charlotte Eagles with the games counting in both the MLS Reserve Standings as well as the USL PRO table. With MLS mandating that all clubs either need to have an affiliation or begin a separate team in the USL PRO division by 2015, the Fire and seven other MLS sides will surely have this in the forefront this year.
A look at the current MLS/USL PRO affiliations:
|USL PRO Club||MLS Club|
|Arizona United SC||-|
|Charleston Battery||Vancouver Whitecaps|
|Dayton Dutch Lions||Columbus Crew|
|Harrisburg City Islanders||Philadelphia Union|
|LA Galaxy II||LA Galaxy|
|Oklahoma City Energy||Sporting KC|
|Orange County Blues||-|
|Orlando City SC||Sporting KC**|
|Pittsburgh Riverhounds||Houston Dynamo|
|Richmond Kickers||D.C. United|
|Rochester Rhinos||New England Revolution|
|Sacramento Republic||Portland Timbers & San Jose Earthquakes|
|Wilmington Hammerheads||Toronto FC|
**Sporting KC will have main affiliation with Oklahoma City beginning next season when Orlando City joins MLS
Last month Fire Technical Director Brian Bliss spoke to reporters about the headway the club has made on finding a USL PRO affiliate and specifically mentioned that the club held talks with the owners of Arizona United SC as well as a group in Milwaukee looking to launch a new USL PRO club in the near future and other possible cities in the Midwest.
The Colorado Switchbacks and Tulsa Roughnecks, two other clubs that could fit that "Midwest" mold, are already set to begin play in USL PRO next season while the USL Premier Development League's Michigan Bucks are also making noise about a move up to the professional level.
But what other Midwest cities could make sense for a Chicago Fire affiliation? Where does a soccer hotbed like St. Louis fall in all of this? What about Grand Rapids, Cleveland, Cincinnati or even Des Moines, Iowa?
Where would you most like to see a Fire USL PRO affiliation heading into the 2015 season? Tell us below:
What is it going to take for Frank Yallop to get his first regular season victory as head coach of the Chicago Fire?
Following Saturday’s dramatic 1-1 tie at home to the New England Revolution, the Fire are now without a win in seven MLS games after an opening day defeat at Chivas USA and six subsequent ties as their season has yet to fully take off.
However, four of those seven games were on the road, so if the Fire can pick up all three points at home to Real Salt Lake on Saturday, May 3 after a bye week, the complexion of the season, and more importantly the table, will suddenly look a whole lot better.
Thankfully for Yallop and his coaching staff, the Chicago fan-base have shown remarkable patience and understanding as he tries to impart his philosophies and footballing ideals on to this new group of players.
Yallop came to the Fire with a proven track record in the MLS following a lengthy professional career in England and on the international stage with Canada.
His vast experience in England and early MLS successes as a coach with San Jose Earthquakes has given Yallop, who recently celebrated his 50th birthday, the confidence to remain calm despite the relatively disappointing start to the campaign.
When speaking about the team, their attitude, their effort in training and their prospects for the season, Yallop hasn’t changed in his thinking since his arrival at Toyota Park last October. If anything, he is more optimistic now than before the season began.
He sees a group of players that have shown significant signs of progress in the short time he has been with them and he believes that their first win is about to come. Yes, he believed it would come at home to the Red Bulls. Away to DC.
His confidence in himself and his team still intact, he insisted the win would come with the visit of the Union to Toyota Park. And again, a week later, there was an assured statement that the win would arrive on the road in Montreal.
Looking back, it is possible to see where and how three points may have been won in any of these games, with a little luck or a hint of good fortune. Mike Magee’s late penalty miss against Philadelphia. Late saves by the Impact’s Troy Perkins from Patrick Nyarko and Magee that would have earned the Fire their first win.
Juan Luis Anangono’s penalty miss against New England last time out was another glaring example of a missed opportunity and another occasion where the Fire should have sealed the three points their efforts over the previous 90 minutes deserved.
The reason no one has pushed the panic button just yet, is largely down to the quality of play produced each week, the vast amount of chances being created and the overall level of entertainment served up by Yallop and his attack-minded tactics.
No other team has had more shots this campaign at 101, while only the Montreal Impact have hit the target more often, 38 times to the Fire’s 35 (which they tie with the Seattle Sounders, Vancouver Whitecaps and Sporting Kansas City).
They are the fourth highest scorers after seven games with 10 goals, while Quincy Amarikwa is tied for second on the goalscoring list with four.
There are significant signs of improvement since the side’s defeat at Chivas, with Yallop’s influence gaining momentum with each and every game.
Having struggled to assert themselves in the possession stakes in the opening three games, the Fire have enjoyed more of the ball than their opponents in their last three games.
This has translated itself into more goalscoring opportunities, with the Fire amassing an impressive 54 shots to their opponents’ 17 over the last three games.
Which suggests to me that they are doing well defensively, restricting other teams to an average of six shots per game, while also creating enough themselves to comfortably win games.
That has not happened thus far, but surely it is only a matter of time.
There have been several other positive features to Yallop’s tenure, most notably his willingness to give youth a chance. Earlier in the year, he insisted that he would select players on merit rather than reputation, and he has stood by that assertion with the likes of Harry Shipp, Benji Joya, Greg Cochrane and Victor Pineda all getting a chance to impress.
Add to that the blossoming central defensive partnership of Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Bakary Soumare, which has impressed in recent games despite the concession of 11 goals, and it is clear to see that the Fire have a solid base upon which to build.
His faith in the wing play of Nyarko and Shipp has also reaped reward with both players contributing to the fluent, incisive build-up play down both flanks that has been a feature of the Fire’s games thus far.
And with reigning MLS MVP Magee improving with every game following his early season injury problems, and his effective link up play with Amarikwa showing real signs of promise, surely that first win will come sooner rather than later.
Stats at a glance (the Fire read first):
|Opponent||Shots||Possession %||Pass Accuracy||Passes|
|Chivas USA||7/14||44.7% / 55.3%||77%||303/369|
|Portland Timbers||14/21||38.5% / 61.5%||64%||243/398|
|New York Red Bulls||13/10||42.6% / 57.4%||72%||340/449|
|D.C. United||13/17||49% / 51%||72%||372 / 383|
|Philadelphia Union||20/7||53.2% / 46.8%||74%||349/304|
|Montreal Impact||17/6||56.2% / 43.8%||79%||420/333|
|New England Revolution||17/4||51.9% / 48.1%||76%||338/321|
Frank Yallop, Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer
On where the team needs to go from here
“Tough one. Déjà vu from the last home game we had. Should have four more points than we’ve got. The team kept going, fighting and that’s good. It feels empty because of the way we have put a lot of effort into the games we’ve had and you don’t get rewarded for it. I think we’ve played pretty well, created some good chances today, had another chance in the last dying seconds to win it and we didn’t. We deserved to win. We had some good performances today. Overall, I can’t fault the guys for effort.“
On quality of penalty and Mike Magee not taking it
“It wasn’t a good penalty kick. Mike missed his last one. Jeff scored a penalty this season. I’m 50 yards away, I can scream whatever I want, it’s up to them to sort it out and who’s taking it, and they decided Juan is taking it”
On the referee and Quincy Amarikwa’s second yellow card
“Didn’t touch him. It’s maybe a foul on Quincy, he’s not diving. He gets run into and he goes down. I can’t comment on the referee, but he’s wasn’t good. He missed some plays that were important in this match.”
On the morale of the team
“Nope, It’s fine. We know we should have won two more games, maybe three, but we haven’t. It’s not like we have fumbled through the game. I thought we played well today. I thought we played well, we dominated. They had some spells, they’re a good team. But you look at the chances and stuff that we did, it’s just disappointing that we don’t have a win.”
On the missing piece to get over that hump
“The missing piece is ice-cold finishing in the last seconds of a game. Away from home it’s difficult to win matches, but at home you got to win. That’s how you get your points and do well on the year. We’ve had two games, and there is no time left on the clock, and we have a penalty kick. The players know that it is important to score that. It’s just a shame we haven’t gotten the points for the performances we’ve had. It’s a long season, but you can’t keep falling behind the guys ahead of you.”
Jeff Larentowicz, Chicago Fire defender
On the result, missing two penalty kicks at the end of games:
“It was bizarre - to see that once is tough, but twice is even worse. It is tough to take.”
On Anangono taking the penalty kick:
“Juan stepped up and grabbed the ball, and that’s just what happened. As the captain and the one who’s made a penalty this year I should have been the one to take the penalty but I didn’t – that’s on me, not on Juan.”
On the second yellow on Amarikwa:
“I’m not going to comment on referee decisions. In the end, it’s a red card and it’s something we’ll have to deal with. Quincy has been outstanding for us. It’s going to be a shame to have to miss him the next game, but we’ll move on.”
On not getting a result:
“The last three games we’ve certainly been the better team – Philadelphia, Montreal and tonight. I don’t think that tonight the other team really wanted to win from the start. They were slowing the game down in the first half and got fortunate on the penalty call. I think it was a penalty because Patrick [Nyarko] clipped him, they got the goal they wanted and they slowed down. In the run of play, outside the last couple of minutes when we were pushing forward, I’m not sure they get a shot on goal from open play. All-in-all it’s more of the same, but if we can get wins going forward it will be ok.”
On the string of draws:
“We feel like we’re playing so well at the start of the year and the build-up of points we feel should have makes the draws tough to take. Again, the way the next game goes – up or down will say a lot. If we win we’re unbeaten with a win. If not, things look a little differently. Everyone needs to stay positive and keep pushing. The good thing is that we’ve been the better team the last three games.”
On the play of Harry Shipp:
“Harry has been outstanding. If I had to say two guys that have pulled us through the first seven games, it’s definitely been Harry and Quincy. As soon I, and I’m sure the coaches, saw him we knew he was going to do something for us this year, and he has, and needs to continue.”
Quincy Amarikwa, Chicago Fire forward
On foul that led to his second yellow card:
“Clearly I don’t think it was a foul, but it’s not my decision to make so what can you do?”
On his goal:
“The ball came back to Harry, I had space in the middle, pointed and he put the ball right where I wanted him to. I took my first touch into the box, put a bit of my body on Farrell, saw that the keeper’s legs were open and put the ball between his legs and that was that.”
On the result:
“It’s disappointing to not come away with three points, but we’re putting ourselves in a position to win games. Juan puts that PK in and it’s a different outlook. As long as we’re coming away with points we’re carrying this confidence into future games and it’s just a matter of time before we’re coming away with some wins.”
Patrick Nyarko, Chicago Fire forward
On his performance:
“Since I got suspended, I had a week to reevaluate my game, I was struggling physically and that red card at the game in Portland affected me mentally. I decided to get back to basics and just play my game. I think it’s been ok so far during the past three weeks but I’m still not happy because we’re not getting the wins. I hope to keep playing the same, getting better and that we get the win soon.”
On draws at home:
“It’s been extremely frustrating, especially since we’re dominating teams, we’re out playing teams and creating the best chances and we’re not getting wins – that’s the most frustrating part. I keep telling the guys that if we keep playing like this we’re not going to lose a lot of games and the tide is not always going to go against us like this. We just need to keep pushing and sustain that until the end of the game. We need to buckle down, even though we’re frustrated, and the wins will come.”
On how this year’s start compares to last year’s start:
“It feels differently this year because we are dominating teams. The last three weeks we feel like we deserved victories, judging from the fact that we that we’ve had possession and have created more chances than the other team – that’s been the most frustrating part. We know we can play the soccer, now it’s just how to find the victories – that’s the test for us right now.”
On the bye next week:
“We wish we were still playing just because we need to build momentum. The week off breaks that up, but guys are experienced and we know what we’re doing right and will continued that stride when we play again.”
MLSsoccer.com's Dan Haiek and Matt Doyle and break down the Fire's match vs. the Revs.