Blog

MLS Regular Season

10 April 2:29 pm

Ahead of Saturday's clash at Montreal's Olympic Stadium, neither Fire head coach Frank Yallop or the Impact's Frank Klopas will be happy with their team's defensive efforts five matches into the season, though they may have varying opinions about the number of goals their teams have produced.

See below the spots on the field both the Fire and Impact have scored and conceded from heading into Saturday's game:

CHICAGO FIRE BREAKDOWN

Goals Scored: 8 Goals Against: 9
Run of Play: 4 Run of Play: 2
Dead Ball/Set Piece Sequence: 4 Dead Ball/Set Piece Sequence: 7
Penalty Kick: 1, Corner Kick 2, Free Kick 1 Penalty Kick : 1, Corner Kick 3, Free Kick 3

MONTREAL IMPACT BREAKDOWN

Goals Scored: 5 Goals Against: 9
Run of Play: 5 Run of Play: 6
Dead Ball/Set Piece Sequence: 0 Dead Ball/Set Piece Sequence: 3
Penalty Kick: 0, Corner Kick 0, Free Kick 0 Penalty Kick : 1, Corner Kick 0, Free Kick 2

 

10 April 7:38 am

After a heartbreaking draw against the Union last weekend, the Fire travel north to Montreal to face another side looking for a first win of the season Saturday (2:30pm CT on My50/TWCSC). The game has added spice with former coach Frank Klopas facing the Men in Red for the first time as opposition coach.

Here are a few tactical observations to keep in mind on Saturday.

Continued focus on the wing play - taking advantage of Shipp's positioning

In last Saturday’s match, Patrick Nyarko returned to the starting lineup and impressed. On the other side of the field, Harry Shipp looks much more comfortable when he cuts inside, as opposed to hugging the touchline and taking on players.

Shipp's set piece play alone is worth a place in the starting eleven, but his ability to pick a pass is also a dangerous weapon. Shipp's tendency to drift inside also benefits the Fire for other reasons.

First, in the absence of a creative central midfielder, it’s not felt as much when the rookie comes central and occupies those positions. Against a team like Montreal that boasts an impressive attack, the use of two defensive-minded midfielders can be necessary (as I will explain in more detail later) but with Shipp filling the gap, the Fire don't lose much in an attacking sense.

Shipp's positioning also opens the door for Greg Cochrane to show his attacking talents from the left back position. Cochrane has fit seamlessly into the Fire back line and his excellent crossing ability has been on show in recent matches.

With the Impact's wide players like Mapp reluctant to track back on a consistent basis, the Fire could again benefit from attacking in the wide areas.

Continuing to win the ball high up the field - catching Montreal in transition

In the first half last week against New York, the Impact sliced through the Red Bull midfield as if they had three extra players on the pitch. Klopas emphasized transitioning the ball from defense to attack as quickly as possible and for most of the first half, that worked to devastating effect.

Montreal should've been well ahead at halftime but actually went into the break behind 2-1. The reason for this was because the Canadian team was caught trying to force the ball forward too quickly, resulting in turnovers, which the Red Bulls capitalized on twice in three minutes. I expect the Impact to try this tactic again on Saturday.

Players like Mike Magee and Quincy Amarikwa both like to hound the opposing team when they are in possession in their defensive third. The Fire's first goal last week was a perfect example of this, with Amarikwa nicking the ball from a defender before setting up Magee for an easy tap in.

If the Fire can force the Impact into turnovers high up the pitch, it could prove costly for the Canadian team.

Attempting to contain Montreal's fearsome attack - staying compact and limiting mental mistakes

Just when we thought an attack featuring Marco Di Vaio, an in-form Justin Mapp and Felipe was going to be a challenge, the Impact went out and acquired promising American youngster Jack McInerney.

This move could see the Impact change formation to a two striker statute with Di Vaio and Jack Mac up front or see McInerney play in one of the wide attacking roles behind the target striker. In any case, the fluidity of the Impact's attack will be a major challenge for the Fire to contend with on Saturday.

None of the Montreal attacking players stay static for long, with Felipe essentially having a free role in the hole, Di Vaio often pushing wide, and Mapp cutting inside with the ball at his feet on a regular basis. With this in mind, the Fire defense needs to stay organized and compact and not allow Montreal to drag players out of position.

This has not been a problem for the Fire this season, with most of the team’s nine goals against coming from lapses from set pieces. A clean sheet Saturday afternoon would be a massive achievement.

Prediction: The Fire score early and finish the game off late 2-0 with goals from Magee and Hurtado.

Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @irish_steve.

07 April 11:02 am

Mike Magee (a great dancer) can redirect a cross like it's nobody's business.

In this edition of slow it down, Quincy Amarikwa (also a great dancer), picks Amobi Okugo's pocket with flying colors, runs the ball down the field and crosses to Magee... you know the rest.

Voice of the Fire Dan Kelly put it best by describing Magee's play on the goal as being like, "A shifty little feline after a seven hour nap." You may be confused after reading this, but I promise after you watch the video below, it should all make sense. (unlike the duo's dance moves)

Let's slow it down!

07 April 9:51 am

Mike Magee will tell you he should have had at least two goals on Saturday.

Whether it was finishing on that awkward back and forth play that saw him with an open look at goal while Sheanon Williams was down in the box in the 88th minute or the game-ending penalty and rebound save from Zach MacMath at the death, the fans and he himself feel like he should have had another.

And it's not necessarily easy to point that out about Magee but thankfully, he tweeted this yesterday:

So now that that's out of the way, it's worth noting something else: Mike Magee did open his 2014 Fire account off a great feed from Quincy Amarikwa in the 16th minute Saturday. That goal was a small milestone as it pushed Magee inside the Top 15 (actually tied for 14th place) on the club's all-time goal scoring list with Lubos Kubik and Cuauhtemoc Blanco at 16 (MLS Regular Season) and 19 (All Competitions) goals respectively. 

You took a pause real quick right there and realized that the Fire have only had 16 players hit those numbers over the course of 17 years. Now you realize that the club hasn't really had a consistent goal scorer over multiple seasons since the likes of Ante Razov, Josh Wolff and Damani Ralph came through. 

There's no doubt that Magee got to those odd milestones quicker than Blanco or Kubik but he also beats Razov, Wolff and Ralph to those numbers by a considerable margin...

The tables:

MLS Regular Season Goals - Fastest to 16

Player Years GP to 16 Goals Total Fire Goals
Mike Magee 2013-present 25 GP 16
Ante Razov 1998-04 33 GP 76
Josh Wolff 1998-02 35 GP 32
Damani Ralph 2003-04 35 GP 22
Brian McBride 2008-10 42 GP 18
Dominic Oduro 2011-12 42 GP 18
Hristo Stoitchkov 2000-02 44 GP 17
Dema Kovalenko 1999-02 49 GP 22
Chris Rolfe 2005-09; 2012-14 53 GP 48
Cuauhtemoc Blanco 2007-09 58 GP 16
Lubos Kubik 1998-00 68 GP 16
Nate Jaqua 2003-06 73 GP 21
Chad Barrett 2005-08 75 GP 18
Piotr Nowak 1998-02 77 GP 26
Marco Pappa 2008-12 87 GP 26
Jesse Marsch 1998-05 183 GP 19

Fire All Competitions Goals - Fastest to 19

Players Years GP to 19 Goals All Competitions Goals
Mike Magee 2013-present 29 GP 19
Josh Wolff 1998-2002 47 GP 39
Ante Razov 1998-2004 53 GP 95
Damani Ralph 2003-04 55 GP 28
Dema Kovalenko 1999-00 56 GP 34

So while you could probably go back in Magee's short Fire tenure (he hasn't even been here a calendar year) and point to a few more opportunities that would see his goal total even higher, he's still on a record scoring clip for the Fire. 

And Mike, keep your head up after that penalty kick save. We expect to see lots more of these celebrations this season: 

05 April 7:28 pm

Frank Yallop, Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer
 
On the response by the team to a tough draw
 
“Obviously very disappointed to not come away with 3 points today, especially going 2-1 down in the game, fighting back to 2-2, and having a penalty kick with no time left; I think it was almost storybook, but it would’ve been great for us to win the game in that manner. Having said that, for a neutral, great game to watch; you guys are watching it, it’s a difficult pitch, we need to sort that out. Other than that, I had a talk with the guys at halftime. I questioned them a little bit about ‘Did we really want to win? Did we really fancy our chances to come back into this game?’ I thought we responded well, I thought we showed heart, and that’s all I’m asking for, and we had a chance to win the game. So, disappointed we didn’t win it, but all in all, maybe our luck could turn in the next game.”
 
On Philadelphia’s second goal and set pieces
 
“Well, I think the set-up, to be honest, a very good service, it’s set up to do that: you’re aiming for the back post, you’re getting runners across the goal and goalkeeper. It either bounces and goes in the far post, or someone gets a touch, so it was a great service. We’ve been really, really poor; and I wouldn’t say it’s just individual stuff, but really poor on set plays generally, conceding goals. We have to clean that up, and it’s something that we’ve been working on, we’ve looked a little bit better at it, but it’s still something that’s hurting us, so we need to address it and keep going. Again, I go back to the last 10 minutes of the game, and we’re pushing to try and get something out of it, and I’d like to say I’m proud of the guys, the way they kept going in a difficult match, and didn’t lie down and die, didn’t accept the tie. We tried to win the match, and you’ll be talking to Mike [Magee] later on, he’d love to have that back. Listen, penalty kicks are difficult, it’s a precious situation, and sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t. I just saw it, and the kid [Philadelphia goalkeeper Zac MacMath] made a great save on it, so, tough.”
 
On the issues behind set pieces
 
“Second balls. We talked about it, we’ve shown them, we’ve worked on it in training. You can’t force us to be like that, but you can make habits out of it, so we’ll just keep working on it. We’ll address it again on Monday, we’ll go over video, we’ll go over it in training, we’ll talk about being alert when the ball is bouncing about, getting to errors. It’s dangerous, it’s not always about staying with your guy, it’s about heading the ball out, and I think we kind of get a little bit caught with ‘I’ve got my fellow, but in the end, you could’ve helped out and cleared the ball.’ So, good service, I thought it was a good service by the fellow [Philadelphia midfielder Leonardo Fernandes], and I think that in the end, we couldn’t deal with it; but it was a pretty good goal on their behalf.”
 
On the performance by the Fire midfield
 
“I really think, and I’m not blaming the pitch, but we couldn’t really get into rhythm, especially in the first half, to play any stuff we wanted to. I went with Matt [Watson] and Jeff [Larentowicz] because I felt the center of that park is strong with Maurice Edu and [Brian] Carroll, so I wanted to match up with them, and I thought Patrick [Nyarko] would be a good matchup for anybody wide…I thought he had a good first half, he’s not played for a little bit, and I thought he did well. I thought the matchups were good. Young Harry [Shipp] plays a little bit inside, so I wanted to maybe have a little bit of balance. I thought we played great for 20 minutes, to be honest…we scored a goal early, we could’ve gotten the second one. All in all, formations are formations. What I will say, is that subs made a difference again, and that’s why they’re there; like I always say, it’s about guys that don’t play, or substitutes in the match, to be ready to go, because you are the difference in the match. I thought Dilly [Duka], Juan [Luis Anangono], and Alex made a difference, I think that in the end, it’s not just the 11 starters, it’s everybody that contributes.”
 
On learning more about the team and looking for the right team to field
 
“I think so. We’ve played preseason games, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter, there’s nothing on those games. These are the games, four points, that matter. I’m still learning about a lot of players, I’m still learning about the squad. We’re unbeaten in four, by the way, so that for me is always a good thing for a coach. We haven’t won in five, which is not a good thing, so I try to look positive; we have to look for the next game. I thought we did enough to win this match today; I’m not saying that Philly weren’t very good or anything, which they were, but I felt in the end we pushed, we had two really good chances to score late, Mike having both of them, the penalty kick and the left footed shot. I think it would’ve been a deserved win. We’re not far off, we have to keep going and not worry about not winning, because if you start worrying about it, you won’t play well; so, it’s my job to make sure that they don’t worry about it, take the pressure off them and just get them to play, and the wins will come once we get that.”
 
Mike Magee, Chicago Fire Forward
 
On what he saw on the penalty kick:
 
“I saw the goalie save it, which was unfortunate, and then I tried to tap it in and it was saved again. Obviously it was more his moment than mine.”
 
On his goal:
 
“It’s hard to talk about that to be honest. It’s good to get the monkey off my back, but the only thing on my mind is not winning.  I had a pretty sweet opportunity to be the hero, but it wasn’t meant to be I guess.”
 
On another draw:
 
“We want to win, and we need to win at home to be a successful team.  I hate to lose more than I love to win, which is pretty cliché, but as long as we’re not dropping games at home I feel like we’re heading in the right direction.  Sometimes when you squeak out games you don’t deserve to win it’s unjust, but tonight we deserved to win and we deserved three points. We’re not getting it but I feel like it’s going to translate.”
 
On the importance of getting the first win:
 
“The first one is the hardest. I feel like the longer you go without winning, your confidence goes down, plays become harder and you over-think everything.  Sometimes when you’re winning, plays become easy because you don’t care if you lose.  The first win would have been perfect for us tonight.  The stars were aligned for it and it didn’t happen.”
 
Jeff Larentowicz, Chicago Fire Midfielder
 
On midfield’s performance:
 
“It’s another example of how we’re not getting beat in open play.  I think we had a very solid scouting report coming in and I think we did well to shut it down.  We gave up some fouls in dangerous places and they scored on restarts.”
 
On playing his partnership with Watson:
 
“It’s good. Matt’s an honest guy, he’s going to run all day long and he’s been fantastic since he’s gotten here.  He’s playing right back where he’s never played before.  We put him in the midfield, where he’s more natural, and he’ll run and cover ground and do all those things. Whatever the coaches decide going forward, it’s good, if it’s Matt, then great.”
 
On what the team needs to do to get a win:
 
“Once we get a lead, we need to hold onto it.  I think every game we’ve tied, we’ve been ahead and we haven’t held on.  It’s all about having a consistent performance the whole game.  In the first half we played well, then we had a lull and gave up goals.”
 
On the emotions on how the game ended:
 
“There’s no catharsis.  We continue to seem like we’re there, but we’re not.  You try and pick a bright side and say we’re not losing, we’re coming back, we’re fighting, the substitutes are making a difference, new guys are coming  – there are a lot of positives but in the end there’s a hole, there’s not a win, there’s not three points in the standings.

03 April 8:04 am

After picking up a point on the road in D.C. last week, the Fire are back at Toyota Park on Saturday afternoon to face the Philadelphia Union (3:30pm CT My50/TWCSC) looking for the club’s first win of the season and to extend their unbeaten streak to four games. 

Here are a few things to look out for from a tactical perspective…

A change on the wing? Going with a veteran over youth

In last week’s match in D.C., youngster Benji Joya again started on the wing for the Fire but again failed to last the full 90 minutes in his third start in a row. Defensively, Joya left his outside back Greg Cochrane exposed on more than one occasion in the first half before Frank Yallop switched Joya to the right wing.

In the attack, Joya also found it difficult to get into the game before he was substituted in place of Patrick Nyarko. The Ghanaian had an immediate impact; setting up Qunicy Amarikwa for the equalizer after a brilliant nutmeg.

Saturday seems like a perfect game for Nyarko to get his second start in 2014 for a number of reasons. First, his speed in the attack will cause Union left back Fabinho trouble. In the Union’s last two matches, the Brazilian’s lack of pace has been a weak spot.

Nyarko also provides ample cover defensively, something the Fire will need against a Philly team who's tactics emphasize getting as many players forward as possible when they attack.

Bringing the strikers closer together - pushing Magee closer to the goal

In D.C., Mike Magee cut a frustrated figure, trying his best to get into the game but with not a lot of chances to influence it. Magee started in a deeper role behind Quincy Amarikwa and both players were unable to link up on many occasions throughout the match, but not for lack of trying.

Against Philly, I expect Magee to be a lot closer to his striker partner with the Fire playing more of a 4-1-3-2 role instead of a 4-1-4-1. Moving Magee further forward allows Alex to further influence the game from midfield, something he wasn't able to do in D.C.

At this point in the season, coach Yallop favors the Magee/Amarikwa partnership in the attack and in a home game, I expect a formation that fosters as much interplay between the pair as possible.

Stifling the Union attack - limiting opportunities for Jack Mac

In last week’s match away to Montreal, striker Jack McInerney caused major problems when he was able to get on the end of through balls from the Philly midfield.

In the attack, players like Le Toux and creative mid Vincent  Nogueira are always looking to play McInerney in behind while U.S. international Maurice Edu can also do the same from his deeper midfield role. 

While much of the focus will be on McInerney, Brazilian Leonardo Fernandez has impressed coming off the bench in Philly's last two matches, scoring in one, and it would be no surprise to see him on the pitch from the start on Saturday.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jack McInerney was traded to the Montreal Impact in exchange for Andrew Wenger Friday morning, hence his name being struck through. It is not known at time of edit if Wenger will join the Union in Chicago for Saturday's match.

Prediction: The Fire will finally get a first win of the season - 2-1 with goals from Quincy Amarikwa and Harry Shipp.

Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @irish_steve

31 March 11:38 am

If he had a super power what would it be? Which teammate would win American Idol? Who would play him in a movie?

It's all in this episode of Both Sides of the Badge with Chris Ritter presented by Quaker.

31 March 10:40 am

Alright class, we've already been through what #QuincyTime is... and if you were sleeping through the lesson here it is again, but nothing really explains it better than these two GIFs below, made possible by a nice meg from Patrick Nyarko to equalize the score on Saturday...

#QuincyTime:

29 March 7:54 pm

Frank Yallop, Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer
 
On how he felt entering the match
 
“Confident, you know, we have not lost in two matches and I always look at the positive if I can, and you know we haven’t lost in three, that’s the way I look at it. We haven’t won a game yet this season but again, it’s not easy to win games, especially away from home in this league so we are looking forward to playing at home next weekend and hopefully we can get that in.”
 
Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire Goalkeeper
 
On the team’s defensive effort:
 
“I thought it was good, to be fair. I thought it was just a bit unfortunate. The second goal there was a bit of pinball action around. They got good forcing and I thought we had some similar situations where we had the ball in their box and things didn’t really fall our way, but that’s just the way it goes, that’s soccer for you. I think we’ve done well and at the end of the day we’ve got to look at it. We got a point. We came in and I think we deserved three. We played well enough to get three, but it is just up to us to really push over that hump and turn the ties into wins.”
 
On the tough field conditions:
 
“It’s alright, I mean it’s part of the game. We train in Chicago – it’s been snowy, it’s been rainy, it’s been cold, so the conditions we are used to. You know, so it’s nothing we don’t see on a regular basis. The conditions were tough, but at the end of the day, we are professionals, it’s what we signed up for and we deal with it.”
 
Quincy Amarikwa, Chicago Fire Forward
 
On having three consecutive draws
 
“It’s the third straight game we got points, I mean that’s how you got to look at it. Not dropping points, especially on the road, is huge in this league. If you look at teams that make the playoffs on a regular basis, they don’t lose, they at least get a draw or a win and you know that’s how it goes. And if we can come away with points every single time on the road, I will take them.”
 
On the difficult conditions
 
“You know, whenever it is raining like that it can get a little slick and hard to control the ball at times. You saw that last play; Pat played a good ball in behind that took a touch, on a regular field that holds up, for me today, it skips away. Just the elements you’ve got to deal with, and hopefully it starts clearing up everywhere across the league because everywhere we’ve been, the elements haven’t been too kind to us.”