Blog

MLS Regular Season

19 October 11:54 pm
Quote Sheet
Chicago Fire vs. Toronto FC
Toyota Park – Bridgeview, IL
Saturday, October 19
 
Frank Klopas, Chicago Fire Head Coach
 
Thoughts on the team’s 1-0 win over Toronto FC…
 
“I think we wanted to make sure this wouldn’t be our last game here at home. It was a good atmosphere tonight and I thought the guys came out and from the start we talked about the field being heavy a little bit with the rain, maybe at times, depending on how the field as to be a little more direct out of the back and play smart. I thought we were good the first half – we created chances and we corrected some things at halftime. We created a lot of opportunities but we were just a little bit unlucky. We didn’t make it as exciting as it was in the end. It was a great result for us in a game where we needed to get the three points and all credit to the team and my players. We’ll enjoy tonight and go back to work tomorrow to prepare for New York.”
 
On not being able to clinch a playoff berth tonight with New England’s win over Columbus…
 
“I think the way the league is when you look at both divisions, the one thing we talked about is just making sure we take care of business and focus on ourselves. Regardless of the other scores, if we don’t get the three points tonight it doesn’t really matter what happens with the other teams. We focused on putting ourselves in a great spot, the team stuck together and I think all these games, even adversity in the beginning has made us a better team. I think you get better through difficult moments and I feel this team right now is better in that sense than the team I had last year winning 17 games. We don’t clinch tonight, it doesn’t matter, we just focus on the next game and it’s exciting to have the opportunity to play another game because one day going by without soccer is not a good day for us. We’re glad we have another one next week and then hopefully more games after that.”
 
On Jeff Larentowicz’s yellow card meaning he’ll miss the season finale at New York…
 
“Jeff is a veteran player but we rely on the team. We’ve talked about this since the beginning and I think there are moments in the season where you’re going to rely on everyone. Jeff has been fantastic for us but other guys will step in and get the job done.”
 
On Mike Magee being a legitimate candidate for MLS MVP after winning the team award Saturday night…
 
“I think with Mike the most important thing is helping the team win, regardless of if he scores or not. That’s the kind of competitor he is. Obviously his performance on the field and what he’s done to be able to change our team since he’s been here – he definitely has to be considered. He’s had a big impact with our team and I think he for sure deserves the award because I’m his coach. I hope he gets it but he’s definitely been a huge part to get our team to the point where it is right now.”
 
On Juan Luis Anangono’s high shot rate and hitting the woodwork twice Saturday night…
 
“The positive thing is that he’s creating opportunities. I think it’s going to come and as a forward you have to have a mentality that you want the next opportunity, regardless if you’re missing or not. Juan does so much work off the ball that he’s a threat every time we get the ball to be able to play in depth and he stretches the opposing team out. In the first half we could have done a better job with his movement and finding Mike [Magee] between the lines because there were big gaps between there and we didn’t find him enough. But he works so hard with the ball, without the ball – he’s creating opportunities and it’s going to come. I think he’s got that kind of mentality and as a forward you say ‘give me that next opportunity’. In a game it’s the next play. There’s nothing you can do to go back. He’s a positive guy, he created chances, he hit the post today, next week it’ll go in.”
 
On how closely he followed the New England/Columbus game…
 
“I looked at it. Believe me every time I went back – I saw 2-2 then I saw 3-2 – you look at that. At the end, it’s really up to us, so regardless of what they do, if we take care of business then we’re there and it’s a credit to everyone in this organization. You look at it, it’s hard not to but I think we just have to focus on ourselves – that’s the important thing. We put ourselves in the spot where it really is up to us.”
 
Jeff Larentowicz, Chicago Fire Midfielder
 
Thoughts on the team’s performance in the 1-0 win over Toronto FC…
 
“We gutted it out. I thought Toronto played tough and although we had a lot of chances they held on. We got a break on the PK and we win the game. At this point in the year we’re faced with the challenge of having to win games and we’re doing that.”
 
On the disappointment on receiving a yellow card and missing the regular season finale next Sunday at New York…
 
“It’s extremely disappointing. The guys will be alright. I have faith in everyone here and they know the task at hand – they’ll take care of business.”
 
On the team’s spirit after three straight wins allowing them to knock on the door of playoff qualification…
 
“There’s confidence but we need to keep it in check. We know we have to be smart and I think that’s what we’ve done the last few games – we’ve been a lot smarter than we have in the past in terms of finishing games out and getting the results that we need. Going into New York I’m sure there’s going to be a lot on the line for them and for us as well. It’ll be a tough game but one where I think we can get a result.”
 
Feelings on seeing Mike Magee convert the penalty kick after missing his take three weeks ago vs. Montreal…
 
“It felt great, that’s the game-winning goal. We’ve had confidence in Mike, we know he has confidence in himself and that’s what we expect out of him. He stepped up and I’m sure it was on his mind the last few games but to finish it the way he did shows the confidence he has.”
 
On if he thinks Mike Magee should be MLS MVP…
 
“Absolutely, there’s no question. The guy that scores the most goals in the league is someone that’s having a good year. I think an MVP has to be on the team that’s winning and competing for championships. He’s said all along that his goal is to get into the playoffs and whatever happens after that happens. We’re with him on that. We hope he continues to score goals and I think if we get into the playoffs he should get it.”
 
Patrick Nyarko, Chicago Fire Midfielder
 
On the push to the end of the season:
 
"The momentum is building and we need to keep our concentration focused to the last day and hopefully into the playoffs."
 
On the result:
 
"I thought we had control of the game.  We created chances and were hitting the post, but their threat was on the set pieces and in these kinds of games you can really not count the other team out even if you have control because one set piece and they can put you behind.  I think we had control of the game, created chances when we wanted to, but we just couldn't put the game away. it's good we got the one goal and we walked it out."
 
On the play of Juan Luis Anangono:
 
"There was great awareness [of his position], he made good runs and people put the ball right there for him.  It's unfortunate that you're going to get these kinds of games where you hit it well and it still comes off the post.  Hopefully when we really need it, it will go in."
 
On following the results of other teams in contention tonight:
 
"I took a peek a little bit up on the board, but it didn't really affect me.  Like I said, I want us to stay focused, coming down to the last day might be an advantage for us with the momentum that we are building now and trying to build going into the playoffs.
 
I'd look up at the scoreboard when we'd win corners or when walking back if it was on the scoreboard, I'd take a peek and say to myself, 'I hope next time it comes up that it changes.'  We have to focus on ourselves, we have control of our own destiny and we hope to clinch it next week."
 
On next week:
 
"It doesn't make a difference [that the other games are starting before the Fire], because the guys in the locker room are experienced enough to know that it's about us now.  We are not looking for the results to get us in.  We need to get our own result to get us in.  I think we have experienced guys we are not going to pay attention that and will stay focused on the game at hand, which is New York and will be a tough game." 
 
Mike Magee, Chicago Fire forward
 
On taking the penalty:
 
"All that was going through my head was, ‘don't miss.’  I got up there with all the confidence in the world, I was looking at the goal and it looked a little smaller than normal to be honest.  I was never going to miss that."
 
On his approach:
 
"I tried to take a little glance at the goalie, and the approach is that I had to score.  Like I said, the goal was a little smaller than normal.  Normally I get up there and don't think twice about missing, and this time the last one off the back of the post was on my mind, so I figured I couldn't hit it off the post if I shot it up the middle."
 
On the game next week:
 
"We've got to win it next week from the way I see it.  I'm not going to watch other scores or anything like that.  I'm going to keep in the back of my head that we have to go to New York and get a result.  Until someone tells me we're in the playoffs, otherwise the other games are meaningless and this is the biggest game of the year for our team."
 
On the fans chanting MVP:
 
"It's awesome.  I'm in my city, the city that I love and hearing them chant that with my family in the stands is huge.  Having said that, I know what's really at stake and it's not an MVP award or a Golden Boot Award, or any other award, it's about getting to the playoffs and knowing anything can happen from there.  It feels good, don't get me wrong, but to be honest it's the last thing on my mind."
 
Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire goalkeeper
 
On the defense's performance:
 
"I thought the guys in front of me did a fantastic job tonight.  They were organized, one the same page, communication was there and the most important thing is that we came away with three points and that's what we were looking to do tonight.  At the end of the day the clean sheet is a bonus, winning the game is the most important thing.  As long as we get three points and play well, we don't care what the score is, we'll take it and run with it.  We're trying to make the playoffs and shutouts, if they're not wins in some games, don't help get you into the playoffs. We need to keep doing out jobs, both offensively and defensively we've been on fire and need to keep that going into New York."
 
On losing Larentowicz for the game next week:
 
"We have players that can step at any point in time.  He's an important player to our team, but we've got the depth, like we've shown, to have players come in and contribute.  Everybody can come in and step-up and play their part to help get us into the playoffs.  It's about getting results, so we'll use practice this week to prepare for whomever is going to be in there, and we're going to be ok."
 
Toronto FC Head Coach Ryan Nelsen
 
On being encouraged the team has played almost 250 minutes without giving up a goal:
 
“Of course.  I feel so sorry for the players.  We’ve taken both these games, the Philadelphia and Chicago games as a playoff games since both these teams desperately needed points.  In both games they’ve been absolutely fantastic.  It’s been two set pieces that have broken them down.  And the chances we had in the first half, they were incredibly good chances.  But we have to finish.  We didn’t.  And then you leave it in the hands of the gods, or maybe not a god, but a refereeing decision that I think when he looks back at and sees it, he’ll probably say he’s made a bit of a mistake.  But unfortunately that’s long gone and I won’t be holding my breath to hear a sorry from that one.”
 
On being patient playing the game with Chicago’s playoff implications:
 
“We knew they needed to win, and we knew that if we were solid, we’d get into situations on the counter attack which we did in the first half.  But we knew we’d have our opportunities, and what we didn’t want to do was go down early.   Because that obviously gives them life and the pressure goes off them.  As soon as that goal went in, we had to go out of our shell a little bit and our formation and structure and they got a little life.  Before that goal, the crowd was getting uneasy, they’re uneasy.  It was a very comfortable situation, and then again, the referee’s left his fingerprint on the game.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t stay out of the news.  That’s life, and we move on.”
 
On Stefan Frei’s performance:
 
“That save that Stefan made would probably be for me, the save of the season.  I haven’t seen it again but just from watching it live, I can’t think of any save that I’ve seen.  He walks into 80 or 90 per cent of any MLS team and he’s the starting goalkeeper.  He walks into there and he starts.  That’s so lucky for us to have.  Unfortunately Joe’s been so good as well.  He’s been absolutely fantastic.  And he hasn’t had many games and then to come and put a performance like that is a credit to Stefan.”
 
Toronto FC Captain and Defender Steven Caldwell
 
On the match:
 
“Difficult match for us.  We felt we played pretty well.  We were in the game.  We had to defend for periods, but had the ball and created some opportunities.  Very disappointing with the penalty kick decision.  We felt that it was a very poor decision by the referee and it cost us a point, or possibly three.”
 
On the young midfield that got minutes today:
 
“Yea, the two guys in the middle were outstanding.  I felt that Reggie Lambe on the left and Kyle Bekker coming in and not having an opportunity all season and probably being frustrated with that, and comes into a big game and play so well, and in a role that is not his favored role.  He defended a lot and was breaking things up.  I am extremely proud of them, they were magnificent.”
 
On finishing off the season strong:
 
“We want to win, obviously, we have one game to go; against Montreal.  Sort of a derby match.  And they are obviously fighting for the playoffs too.  I think that anyone that’s been or seen the last two matches between Philadelphia and Fire, we are treating these games as being extremely important to us because we are building the team and hoping to be in this position next season.  We’re putting everything into them.  We’ve been extremely unlucky with two games and coming away with nothing.  We will be going out there next week, last home game, last game of the season and we’ll be trying to get the three points against our rivals.”
 
Toronto FC Goalkeeper Stefan Frei
 
On the team’s performance tonight:
 
“We put together a pretty decent performance and it’s extremely frustrating not to get a tie out of it at least.  There’s some positives to take from it.  We knew that this was going to be a tough atmosphere for us and it was a very important game for Chicago.  They want to bring everything and try to get into the playoffs.  So great, great learning experience for us.  I think we handled the first half extremely well and they had a couple of chances and lots of corner kicks throughout the game but we handled those set pieces well.  No chances came from them.  That one goal came from a set piece and but it was from the middle referee.  But like I said, lots of positives to take from this match.  We knew we were out of the playoff hunt a long time ago and it’s more about growing as a team.”
 
On next week’s final regular season match versus Montreal:
 
“Again, it will be the same atmosphere and they’re going to know what they need to do in order to get into the playoffs.  Obviously Toronto and Montreal don’t get along and we will try to play spoiler for sure.”
19 October 11:03 pm

Select shots from the Fire's 1-0 win over Toronto FC.

CREDIT: Brian Kersey, Chicago Fire

18 October 8:38 am

With two massive road victories under their belt, the Fire play the final regular season game of 2013 at Toyota Park against Toronto FC on Saturday night (LIVE 7pm CT on My50/Time Warner Sports Wisconsin).

With six goals scored in the last two matches, the Men in Red are hitting form at the right time and know if results go their way, they could be guaranteed an MLS Cup Playoff spot by the final whistle. Toronto have nothing to play for but will be looking to play spoiler. Here are some tactical things to look out for from a tactical perspective.

Keeping up the high pressure tactic – play a high line and get players into the TFC box

As I mentioned before, the Fire have scored six goals in the last two games. The closest to that tally in a previous two-game MLS span has been four goals. With that in mind, the Men in Red must try and get people into the box whenever possible against Toronto.

In many games this season, Toronto have not been undone by individual brilliance, but rather defensive errors. TFC coach Ryan Nelson, a former defender, must be disgusted by the amount of tap in goals his team has allowed with Sporting KC, Montreal and New York all scoring simple goals against Toronto and all stemming from defenders ball watching and not following their marks.

The Fire need to try and take advantage of this by getting more players from the midfield into the box to support assumed strikers Mike Magee and Juan Luis Anangono. The high pressure tactic can be very beneficial to this, with players like Alex not allowing the defenders to have time and space on the ball. With the team playing a high line and not dropping deep, it will give players an opportunity to get forward and into the box faster.

The Rios conundrum – who to start in the center of midfield?

Arevalo Rios played two grueling matches for Uruguay over the past week, helping La Celeste qualify for the World Cup intercontinental playoff against Jordan.  

After playing 180 minutes for his country and only returning to Chicago on Thursday, it might be difficult for him to start in the middle for the Fire on Saturday night.

WATCH:  Magee, Berry talk Toronto FC

One reason that the coaching staff might decide to start Rios however is that Jeff Larentowicz is currently sitting on four yellow cards and one more against TFC would rule him out of the season finale at New York next Sunday.

Another option for the Men in Red could be to start Larentowicz and bring on Rios for the former New England man if the Fire are in a comfortable position.

That being said, as we have seen from the past two games, the high pressure tactic is effective regardless of who starts in the middle. 

Muzzling Bobby Convey – a danger on both wings

Bobby Convey is one of the few players to have a strong year for TFC and the Fire must not allow him to create chances for target striker Bright Dike. Convey is equally comfortable playing on either wing and it wouldn’t surprise me if he started on the right where he would link up with improving right back Mark Bloom.

While Bakary Soumare has found form again in the last few matches after having a few horror moments previously, Gonzalo Segares is a player that will be looking to have a better performance against TFC.

In 1v1 situations, Sega is very difficult to beat but the problems start when players make runs in behind him. The Costa Rican can sometimes be caught too high up the field while other times he is forced to move inside to cover for one of the center backs. Both of these were highlighted in last weekend’s match against Dallas.

Against Toronto, I would also like to see the Fire’s outside midfielder track back and help out Segares more, especially if Bloom gets forward. A composed and compact performance by the Fire’s back four as a unit will give the team a very good chance of coming out of the game with three points and maybe even a guaranteed playoff spot.

Prediction: After having to endure a nervy end to last week’s match, the Fire make it easier on fans by winning 2-0 with goals from Alex and Mike Magee.

15 October 2:13 pm

Hey, look at that... For his vaillant performance en route to a win over FC Dallas, the folks over at MLSsoccer.com decided to make Mike Magee the #3 performer of the week!

And since we're on the subject of Mike Magee, we would like to subtly steer you in the direction to support him to be the MLS MVP. Check out the video below!

#MikeMageeMVP

15 October 12:06 pm

The Fire won back-to-back away games and scored six goals. They sit in a playoff position and control their own fate with two games remaining. Juan Luis Anangono is heating up. Mike Magee is so hot he’s scoring goals by accident. Sean Johnson is playing like, and being recognized as, one of the four or five best American goalies. Jeff Larentowicz is owning midfields. Jalil Anibaba and Austin Berry are two of only three MLS players who’ve played every single minute so far this season and their defensive relationship is finally solidifying. There’s real depth on the outside and through the middle (where captain Logan Pause and summer standout Daniel Paladini are working to get past Alex and Arevalo Rios).

That’s the general view right now. The squad is playing up to their potential and the depth is supporting them. The competition for spots is pushing everyone harder, and the depth is allowing Frank Klopas to cover for injuries, international duty (Rios, Lindpere), or to go with the hotter player (Anangono over Chris Rolfe).

In other words, things are shaping up nicely. The general feeling is a good one, momentum is building, the Twitter trolls have returned to their caves, and it’s hard to fend off enticing thoughts like, you know those lower-seeded teams that barrel into the playoffs and scare everyone because they’re playing with momentum and confidence? What if the Fire can be that team?

All season long, the Fire’s major problem was consistency. They were infuriatingly inconsistent from game to game and, indeed, from half to half. Maybe it was a focus thing, maybe it was a changing personnel thing, who knows. But now the Fire are managing games better. They’re attacking straight from the beginning. They’re pressuring the ball all over the field. They’re getting crucial two-goal advantages and defending well enough to hold on to them.

We saw all that last week in D.C., where a super high defensive line pushed the Fire team way up the field to pressure United players into mistakes that led to chances and goals. We saw the same thing in Dallas on Saturday night. Alex, especially, was way up the field in the first half, never letting the Dallas players play the ball comfortable in their own half. (Magee, Anangono, Patrick Nyarko, and Dilly Duka deserve credit too.) How many shots did the Fire have at the top of the Dallas box in the first 30 minutes? It was harassment.

So just like in DC, a high defensive line and concentrated pressure led to a 2-0 first half lead. But just like in DC, we saw where it could be dangerous. We saw the team pay the price of so much early pressure, with Nyarko tweaking a hamstring and the rest of the team almost running out of gas late in the second half. We also saw how pushing too eagerly can be scary:

But I like this high pressure because it fits the moment, with the Fire desperately needing these results to make the playoffs. There are just two games left and the Fire have to prove their potentially newfound consistency beyond the past two away wins. They have to show the urgency and the commitment and the work rate into the next two games, too. Klopas's high risk and high pressure tactic fits. 

It's a great moment: After all the work and all the struggle, suddenly the players’ quality shines through. Suddenly everybody trusts each other. Goals and points happen. Anibaba scores a stunner. Other teams hit the posts. 

I don't know about predicting anything against Toronto and New York. But if we keep seeing the Fire play as they have these past two games, they'll get to play a few more.

13 October 2:22 pm

Bet you didn't see that title coming two weeks ago did you? 

While much of MLS sat idle this weekend, teams in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race nearly played a full slate with perhaps the Fire coming away as the biggest winners from the weekend’s results.

A look at where the race stands heading into the final two weeks of the season...

x - 1) New York Red Bulls 
Current Points: 53 (15-9-8)
Games Remaining: 2 (1 home / 1 away)
Last 5 Games: DDWWW (11pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 10-2-4 / 5-7-4
Maximum Possible Pts: 59
Average Opponents Pts: 47.0
Remaining Schedule: 10/20 @ HOU, 10/27 vs. CHI

Rundown: New York sat idle this weekend, letting the rest of the Eastern Conference catch up to them on games played. Already qualified for the playoffs, Red Bull will be watching the Cascadia clash between Seattle and Portland closely Sunday night as it will have significant implications on the Supporters Shield race.

Red Bull will certainly be in the mix for their first true silverware the last two weeks of the season but with so many teams still in contention for the hardware, Fire fans shouldn’t expect New York to put out a weaker lineup on the last day of the season.

A win this week vs. Houston would at the very least lock up a top two finish in the East for New York while a loss would make things very interesting…

x - 2) Sporting KC
Current Points: 52 (15-10-7)
Games Remaining: 2 (1 home / 1 away)
Last 5: DWLWW (10pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 8-5-3 / 7-5-4
Maximum Possible Pts: 58
Average Opponents Pts: 31
Remaining Schedule: 10/18 vs. D.C., 10/23 vs. OLI**, 10/26 @ PHI

Rundown: Sporting KC could have controlled their own destiny for the top spot in the East if they would have won out but Wednesday’s draw at Houston means they’ve relinquished that opportunity to New York.

Still, Sporting welcomes D.C. United this weekend and will no doubt be in the equation for both that top spot and potentially the Supporters Shield race on the final day of the season.

By virtue of the draw between Philadelphia and D.C. United Saturday, they also locked down a playoff berth. A win Saturday vs. D.C. and Sporting will lock in a top two finish in the East.

3) Houston Dynamo
Current Points: 48 (13-10-9)
Games Remaining: 1 (1 home / 1 away)
Last 5 Games: DWWWL (10pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 9-3-4 / 4-6-4
Maximum Possible Points: 56
Average Opponents Pts: 34.5
Remaining Schedule: 10/20 vs. NY, 10/24 @ AU**, 10/27 @ D.C.

Rundown: The midweek draw vs. Sporting KC cooled off the Dynamo’s hot streak just a bit, leaving them exposed to a potential drop in the standings at the weekend. Fortunately for Houston, Montreal fell to New England and the Dynamo are still in with a small chance for a top of the East finish.

With three games in eight days to end the season, the Dynamo have a huge week ahead of them beginning Saturday vs. New York.

How the qualify this week: A win over New York combined with a Philadelphia loss or draw to Montreal or a win over New York combined with a Philadelphia draw/win and a Chicago loss or draw to Toronto FC.

4) Montreal Impact
Current Points: 46 (13-11-7)
Games Remaining: 3 (1 home/ 2 away)
Last 5 Games: LLDLL (1pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 9-4-3 / 4-7-4
Maximum Possible Pts: 56
Average Opponents Pts: 39
Remaining Schedule: 10/16 @ LA, 10/19 vs. PHI, 10/26 @ TFC

Rundown: Oh how the mighty have fallen. Long holders of the Eastern Conference top spot the first half of the season, Montreal are now winless in their last five following Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to New England.

Montreal still hold a game in hand over the rest of the East but make that up with a tough midweek match Wednesday at LA. In that game the Impact will be down two starters in Matteo Ferrari and Davy Arnaud due to yellow card accumulation while Landon Donovan returns to the Galaxy from U.S. Men’s National Team duty.

A loss in that match and Montreal will officially be in the dog fight for one of the knockout playoff spots and will have to recover quickly as they’ll host fellow contender Philadelphia three days later.

How they qualify this week: Two wins vs. LA and Philadelphia is the simplest way but a combined four points with the win coming against Philadelphia along with either a New England loss/draw to Columbus or a Fire loss to Toronto FC.

5) Chicago Fire
Current Points: 46 (13-12-7)
Games Remaining: 2 (1 home / 1 away)
Last 5 Games: WWDLW (10pts)
2013 Home / Away Record: 9-4-3 / 4-7-4
Maximum Possible Pts: 52
Average Opponents Pts: 39.5
Remaining Schedule: 10/19 vs. TFC, 10/27 @ NY

Rundown: Following the disappointing 2-2 draw to Montreal on September 28, naysayers said the Fire should give up on the season and “play the kids” with only home game remaining out of their final four.

Two weeks later, they've won two straight MLS games for the first time since early July and both of them came on the road. Naysayers…

Now above the red line and tied on points with Montreal (and Philadelphia), the Fire are actually in a position where they could clinch a playoff berth this weekend and still have the possibility to finish in the East’s top three spots, something that would have been unthinkable back in mid-May.

With two games left, the Fire control their own playoff destiny and after two confidence boosting victories, have a very winnable game in Saturday's home finale vs. Toronto FC. 

How they qualify this week: A Chicago win over Toronto FC combined with a Philadelphia loss vs. Montreal and a New England loss or draw vs. Columbus.  

With the Chicago and Philadelphia even on points, how would this work you ask? If the Fire won and Union lost, couldn’t they still catch the Fire on points? Yes, but they would only tie Chicago and the Fire would already have a two-game edge in the first tie breaker which is total wins.

With both Montreal/Philadelphia and New England/Columbus ending before the Fire/TFC game, Saturday could be a very special night at Toyota Park. Get your tickets!

6) Philadelphia Union
Current Points: 46 (12-10-10)
Games Remaining: 2 (1 home  / 1 away)
Last 5 Games: DWWLL (7pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 7-4-5 / 5-6-5
Maximum Possible Points: 52
Average Opponents Pts: 49
Remaining Schedule: 10/19 @ MTL, 10/26 vs. SKC

Rundown: For two weeks in a row, Philadelphia have needed a very late goal to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot. On Saturday though Jack McInerney’s strike was only good enough to equalize with lowly D.C. United, meaning the Union missed out on a huge opportunity to gain crucial points ahead of what will be two tough matches at Montreal and vs. Sporting KC to end the season.

How they qualify this week: Even if Philadelphia beats Montreal (and the Impact have lost to LA at midweek) and the Fire and Revolution both lose to Toronto and Columbus respectively, Philly would still need to get a point in the final week against Sporting KC.

7) New England Revolution
Current Points: 45 (12-11-9)
Games Remaining: 2 (1 home / 1 away)
Last 5 Games: WDDWL (8pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 7-5-4 / 5-7-4
Maximum Possible Points: 51
Average Opponents Pts: 41
Remaining Schedule: 10/19 vs. CLB, 10/27 @ CLB

Rundown: New England bounced back well from a disappointing 2-2 draw last week at New York, earning a valuable 1-0 away win in Montreal but still find themselves in a difficult spot after the Fire win in Dallas and Philly’s last gasp draw in D.C.

An odd home-and-home series with Columbus (who are now all but out of the playoff race) will help determine their playoff fate but even if they win both matches to close the season, they’ll need help in the form of two teams above them dropping points. With Montreal, Chicago and Philadelphia all just one point ahead and the Impact and Union facing each other this week, New England still has plenty to play for.

8) Columbus Crew
Current Points: 41 (12-15-5)
Games Remaining: 2 (1 home / 1 away)
Last 5 Games: LWWWL (9pts)
2013 Home / Away Record: 7-6-3 / 5-9-2
Maximum Possible Points: 47
Average Opponents Pts: 42
Remaining Schedule: 10/19 @ NE, 10/27 vs. NE

Rundown: The Revolution and Fire wins as well as the Union draw pretty much put to bed the Crew’s hopes for the postseason. It’s not that they’re mathematically out, it’s just that it’s damn near improbable that all the results that would need to go Columbus’ way would.

It’s not even worth getting into with two weeks left but if they can play a little spoiler and win at New England this weekend and are still in the hunt on the final day, I’ll explain it next week. 

13 October 12:45 am
Quote Sheet
Chicago Fire at FC Dallas
Toyota Stadium – Frisco, Texas
Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013
 
Chicago Fire head coach Frank Klopas
 
General thoughts on the match…
 
“With games running out, we knew that this was a game that we needed to get three points.  It’s a good team with a lot of quality players, so we knew we had to play a very good game, stay compact, and defend well without the ball because of the team speed that they have.
 
At this point in the season, you want to be playing for something and we have to focus on looking at it one game at a time, but this was for sure a massive win against a very good team.”
 
On the goals the Fire gave up…
 
“I have to look again but there was two bad goals that went in. The first goal looked like offside to me and the second, Gonzalo Segares got the ball and the referee calls a PK. On the other end, Juan [Luis Anangono] beats the goalkeeper and goes down and the referee doesn’t call anything. The referees need to be consistent… Very consistent in games like this.”
 
On going into a defensive mode in the second half…
 
“Patrick Nyarko had an issue with the hamstring and we were forced to take Dilly Duka out. Patrick would have been our first sub had Dilly not gotten hurt. We were thinking 65 minutes would be good to bring Patrick out. We didn’t want to push him any more than that. Then Dilly gets hurt and now we end up losing Patrick for a longer amount of time… at a crucial time.
 
As the game went, it really dictated the subs that we had to make. We needed to strengthen the middle. The changes that FC Dallas made strengthened the middle and we needed to match that. We put guys in that were a little more defensive-minded and they were able to finish the game off.”
 
On the importance of Mike Magee to the Chicago Fire this season…
 
“His numbers are fantastic. We were having problems scoring when we got him and now we’re playing for something. It’s a really good time to be playing well.”
 
Chicago Fire forward Mike Magee
 
On his goal…
 
“I wasn’t even surprised. I didn’t see anything at all. I tried making a run to get in-behind and Alex hit a shot that was coming right at my face. I tried to protect myself and not get hit in the face. I felt it hit me, I want to say in the ribcage and when I looked up it was heading into the goal. I didn’t have any time to be surprised. It was the strangest goal I’ve scored.”
 
On Juan Luis Anangono’s goal…
 
“Juan is great in the air. He gets up well and his timing is great. We actually have begun to start looking for him more on set pieces. He did all he needed to do, which was just glance it towards goal. It was perfect. More importantly, he had a fabulous game tonight.”
 
On Jalil Anibaba’s goal…
 
“Not a knock on Jalil, but I don’t think anyone in Chicago was expecting him to do that tonight. He is a great defender, a great kid. If we have to have a guy in that spot… If we have a guy trying to bend one in to the far upper-90 it’s normally not going to be him. But thankfully, tonight it was him. I am glad it was because I don’t think anyone else would have been able to do it.”
 
On making a run towards playoffs…
 
“For the last two months, we’ve been hovering right around that red line. The big issue for us was getting over that hump. Now, we’ve put ourselves into a position with two matches left in the season that we control our own destiny. If anyone else outside of this locker room would have said that this is where were going to be at this point in the season, I think everyone would have called BS on them. We have always believed in ourselves. We’ve had some lows and some great performances and tonight was obviously one of the great ones.”
 
Chicago Fire defender Jalil Anibaba
 
On his goal…
 
“At the time, I didn’t know how important it was going to be but I tried to get into a good spot and I tried to put the ball to the far post. I put it in a good spot and it went in.”
 
Talk about how the defense was able to tighten up in the final 10 minutes of the match to get the win…
 
“If you go back and watch the video, the way we closed out the game was not just a defensive effort. We had a lot of help from players higher up the field that killed off minutes and took a lot of time off the clock. That was what we needed. It is our job as a defensive unit to keep balls out of the back of the net but I thought the attackers did a very good job to help us finish off the game.
12 October 10:46 pm

Select shots from the Fire's 3-2 win over FC Dallas, presented by MiAllstate.

CREDIT: USA Today Sports Images

11 October 8:43 am

After getting the job done in DC last Friday night, the Fire head south to take on a FC Dallas side needing a miracle to make the MLS Cup playoffs Saturday night (7pm CT My50/TWC Wisconsin). Dallas are in free fall and despite the Fire’s record in Texas, the Men in Red should be settling for nothing less than three points. Here are some things to keep an eye on from a tactical perspective.

Perez away on Panama duty

Blas Perez has all the characteristics of an elite CONCACAF striker: finishing ability, gamesmanship and non-stop focus; similar to Carlos Ruiz. So perhaps it’s a good thing that the Dallas’s leading goal scorer is away for Panama’s crucial World Cup qualifying match with Mexico this weekend.

Perez has 11 goals on the year, with his closest teammate being Kenny Cooper at four. In Perez’s absence, it’s hard to see Dallas switching way from their lone striker formation and Cooper would seem the likely candidate to slot in after ending his nearly five-month goal scoring drought last weekend vs. RSL.

Cooper is a powerful forward that has historically done well against the Fire, tallying six goals in 12 career matches. With a goal last weekend under his belt and Dallas fighting for their playoff lives, he won’t be one to take lightly.

Focusing on Jackson – the Brazilian is instrumental in the Hoops’ attack

Jackson has impressed me in Dallas’s most recent matches against Columbus and RSL. He normally operates on the right wing, trying to get the ball inside to Perez or a midfield runner. In the last match against RSL, Jackson drifted inside more often.

This was in part due to the fact that RSL had a man sent off early after a disgraceful tackle on the Brazilian. He also showed that he can be a threat in the box, forcing Nick Rimando into a brilliant 1v1 save after an attempted flick over the keeper with the outside of his foot.

In last week’s match against DC, the Fire played a very open style of play in the first half, attacking in numbers. If you only looked at the score line, you would think that this tactic was a success but it could’ve been a lot different if it wasn’t for Sean Johnson. He bailed his team out with some brilliant saves after DC caught the Fire out with too many players forward.

It is understandable that the Fire will play in a similar fashion against Dallas due to the need for three points but allowing a player like Jackson time and space on a counter attack can be very dangerous.

Singling out Kellyn Acosta – targeting the Homegrown wingback

In their most recent home loss to Columbus, FC Dallas were exposed on the wings, most notably on the left where Dominic Oduro torched Zach Loyd. On the right, FC Dallas Homegrown player Kellyn Acosta also looked vulnerable. His distribution out of the back was poor; with the 18-year-old trying to play one-touch passes too often.

Columbus clearly targeted Acosta, with players such as Federico Higuain running at the defender whenever possible. A tactic that I would like to see on Saturday night is a constant switching of the Fire wide players so that Acosta is never comfortable.

If Fire wingers Nyarko, Duka, Alex and Co. can get into 1v1 or 2v1 situations with Acosta, it could pay dividends for the Men in Red.

Prediction: The Fire won’t play as open as last weekend but score early and late. 2-0 Fire with goals from Magee and Alex 

09 October 10:23 am

Select shots from the club's 16th anniversary party and #cf97ThirdKit unveiling.

CREDIT: Nick Sintich, Chicago Fire