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|
With the goal, Amarikwa has already equaled his total for the whole of 2013 just six matches into this season and has been involved in a goal in five of those games. Just to take it one further, Amarikwa has five goals and one assist in his last eight Fire appearances dating back to October 4 last season.
He started only five of those games.
So while the Fire are still winless in six matches (but unbeaten in five), Amarikwa seems to be the revelation early on this season. With the Fire having given up seven goals from dead ball sequences before Saturday, it was nice to see Amarikwa bury a set piece second ball for the Fire for a change.
One more look…
And for the second time this season, Quincy brought out the #cf97NaeNae to celebrate…
An MLS journeyman who's calling card has been coming off the bench, Amarikwa scored just four goals in his first 67 MLS matches but with six goals in the last year, he's already doubled his career goal total in 20 games with the Fire. As he continues to show efficiency on the field, I posed this question on Twitter Saturday…
— Jeff Crandall (@jefecrandall) April 12, 2014
What do you think are the reasons for Amarikwa’s turnaround with the Fire? Will he become the eighth Fire player to hit double-digit goals by year’s end? Give me your thoughts below!
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:
1st tweet after last nights game was always gonna be awkward so let's get it over with. I will make up for that! Mind if I move on? #cf97
— Mike Magee (@magee9) April 6, 2014
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...
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:
The vital information on your 2014 Chicago Fire ahead of Sunday's home opener vs. New York Red Bulls...
Tickets still available for Opening Day, Sunday at 2pm CT vs. New York! Click here!
Quincy Amarikwa has become somewhat of a statistical phenomenon in his time with the Chicago Fire.
Throughout his six seasons in MLS, Amarikwa has collected his paycheck in a super-sub role, bringing that extra bit of energy to go at defenders when his team is looking for a goal. Amarikwa has just 14 starts in 82 MLS appearances, nearly half of which (6) came with Toronto FC in 2012.
While he could always help generate some offense, Amarikwa’s stat line wasn’t anything too special during his first four MLS seasons, tallying four goals and four assists in 67 regular season games for San Jose, Colorado and Toronto FC between 2009-2012.
Flash forward to last year the way he earned his spot with the Fire. in a preseason friendly against San Jose in Santa Barbara, Calif. Amarikwa, who joined the team at their preseason training base earlier that day, ended up coming in for the final 15 minutes of a 0-0 deadlock.
Amarikwa made the most of his short time on the field, earning a penalty that was eventually converted by Jeff Larentowicz to give the team a 1-0 victory over the Quakes.
Those 15 minutes earned him a contract with the club and were the start of what has become dubbed as “Quincy Time”, i.e., the short amount of time Amarikwa has to work with in order to produce offense.
This bore out over the course of last season when the veteran MLS forward racked up the best goals to minutes ratio in MLS, tallying three in just 299 minutes or .90 goals per 90 minutes.
With his goal in Sunday’s 3-2 defeat at Chivas USA, his scoring rate with the Fire actually increased to 1.08 per 90 minutes. Meaning in theory, statistically, Amarikwa is good for at least a goal a game.
In 332 minutes with the Fire, Amarikwa has matched the goal total he racked up playing 1958 minutes over his previous four MLS seasons.
So what’s the craziest part of all this?
He’s never started a match for the Fire, making 15 MLS appearances in just over a year. After consulting the TrueCar Player Registry, aside from newbie Benji Joya, Amarikwa is the only player in club history to score a goal without having started an MLS match.
Furthermore, Amarikwa has never even played a full half for the Men in Red – the most minutes logged in one game has been 43, which came in the 4-1 destruction of D.C. United on July 20 last season. Even though he didn’t score in that game, he did earn the penalty kick that Mike Magee converted for Fire goal number four.
He’s also scored each of his last three appearances for the Fire, dating back to a 3-0 win last October at D.C. United.
Amarikwa has surely done well enough in his short minutes with the Fire to earn more playing time and perhaps even his first start. Surely it’ll come at some point this season and when it does, his impressive goals to minutes ratio will inevitably drop.
Still, it’s hard to argue against seeing more “Quincy Time”.
WATCH: Quincy Amarikwa’s body of work for the Chicago Fire
Today’s Numbers Game features a switch as second-year Fire midfielder Dilly Duka will now wear the #11. Acquired from Columbus this time last year in exchange for Dominic Oduro, the pair took each other’s numbers when they got to their new clubs (Duka taking 8, Oduro taking 11 in Columbus).
This year, with the Crew’s #8 shirt vacant, Oduro has switched back to his regular number while Duka completes the swap. Coincidentally, #11 became available at the Fire when the team traded Daniel Paladini to Columbus back in December.
“Number 11 is what I’ve worn going back to youth soccer,” Duka said. “It’s what I’m familiar with, it’s part of me as a player.”
Meanwhile, fresh off scoring the game-winner in Sunday’s friendly vs. Florida Gulf Coast Univesity, Giuseppe Gentile becomes the first player in Fire history to wear #92.
The dual Swiss-American citizen, who also happens to speak four languages and also shares a name with an Olympic triple jumper, went the Kellen Gulley route in choosing his number according to the year he was born, 1992.
So with that, we have two trivia questions for today…
1) Dilly Duka becomes the eighth player in Fire history to wear the #11 shirt, name the other seven.
2) What four languages to Giuseppe Gentile speak? We’ll give you a freebie: English.
(SCROLL DOWN FOR ANSWERS)
1) Roman Kosecki (1998-1999), Diego Gutierrez (2000-2001), Billy Sleeth (2002), Nate Jaqua (2003-2006), Thiago (2007), John Thorrington (2008-2010), Daniel Paladini (2011-2013).
2) English, Spanish, Italian and German
The Numbers Game rolls on Tuesday with the latest contestants being the center back duo of Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni, who were recently acquired from the Seattle Sounders in a trade that sent Jalil Anibaba the other way.
Let’s start with the Hurtado. The 29-year-old center back will continue to don the same #34 he wore for five seasons in Cascadia. Asked why he’s chosen a somewhat “off the beaten path” soccer number, Hurtado explained 34 was the number he was given when trialing with AC Milan in early 2009.
“The opportunity was a special one and it’s stayed with me ever since,” he told Chicago-Fire.com last week.
Though 34 isn’t the most common soccer number, two Fire players have worn it before. Former Trinidad & Tobago international Osei Telesford was the club’s #34 in 2007 while Austin Washington wore it from 2008-2009.
Meanwhile, Ianni has chosen to suit up wearing the #6 for the Fire this season. Interestingly, Ianni and Anibaba weren’t just in part swapped for each other but they’ve also taken one another’s number at their new club as the former Fire defender will suit up as Seattle’s #4 this season.
Asked about the choice of #6, Ianni said, “I just wanted a lower, defender’s number,” but the only two digits that fit the criteria for the Fire were #2 and #6.
Althought the #2 is free for anyone to choose, Ianni says he took into account the legacy of assistant coach C.J. Brown’s 13 years wearing #2 for the Men in Red and the fact that it’s only been worn one other time for 27 minutes by another Fire player (Wells Thompson in 2012).
In the end, the choice was simple.
“I have a ton of respect for what C.J. did here wearing that number and what that means to Fire supporters. The six shirt suits me just fine.”
QUESTION: Ianni becomes the ninth player in Fire history to wear #6 for the Men in Red. How many of the other eight can you name? (SCROLL BELOW FOR THE ANSWER).
ANSWER: Brian Bates (1998), Tom Soehn (1998-2000), Sergi Daniv (2001), Kelly Gray (2002-2005), Brandon Prideaux (2008-2009), Julio Martinez (2010), Peter Lowry (2010), Jalil Anibaba (2011-2013).
As Sunday's first preseason friendly vs. Florida Gulf Coast University approaches, more number choices are being made.
Today's "Numbers Game" features the club's two new Homegrown players Chris Ritter and Harry Shipp who have chosen #21 and #19 respectively. Asked if their was any significance behind their number choice, both said, "No, not really."
The #19 shirt has been worn by nine players previously and was actually worn by six different player's in the club's first five years. Those were Josh Keller, Jeff Zaun, Yuri Lavrinenko, Chad Prince and David Vaudreuil before Craig Capano donned the shirt from 2002-2004. Jim Curtin's little brother Jeff wore #19 in 2007 while Corben Bone was the most recent #19 from 2010-2013.
Most notably, Chad Barrett (pictured above) switched to the #19 shirt in 2008 when the club acquired Tomasz Frankowski who moved into the #9 shirt. Barrett wore #19 for half a season before being dealt to Toronto FC in the Brian McBride trade that August. So in closing, Harry has the chance to really make #19 his own.
Conversely, Ritter is just the fourth player in club history to wear the #21 shirt. Michael Videira most recently wore it the past three seasons but before him, two of the club's top offensive leaders wore #21.
Dema Kovalenko (1999-2002)
Justin Mapp (2003-2010)
Coincidentally, the Fire acquired Mapp from D.C. United for Dema Kovalenko prior to the start of the 2003 MLS campaign. Kovalenko sits fourth on the club's All Competitions goal scoring list with 26, while Mapp sits fourth on the All Competitions assists list with 35.
After two years of being the only #71 in Chicago Fire history, Brazilian midfielder Alex has decided to move to a more traditional soccer number in 2014 and will now wear #7.
Some of the other #7s in Chicago Fire history are below:
DaMarcus Beasley (#7 from 2000-2004)
John Thorrington (#7 from 2005-2006)
Logan Pause (#7 from 2007-2008)
Other #7's in Chicago Fire History: Manny Lagos (1998), Paul Dougherty (1999), Alexandre Boucicaut (2004), Stefan Dimitrov (2010), Mike Banner (2011), Sherjill MacDonald (2012-2013).
Stay tuned throughout the week as we unveil more number switches and choices by the newbies in Fire camp.
A third round pick in the 2003 MLS SuperDraft, Chicago Fire midfielder Logan Pause had already capped off a decade with the Men in Red last year before extending his deal to come back for a 12th season with the club in 2014 on Friday.
Logan's longevity got me thinking about players that held the longest consecutive tenures in terms of both years and games played ith one MLS club. After some research, I found that Fire legend and new assistant coach C.J. Brown holds the record for consecutive seasons with one team at 13, while Logan will tie Cobi Jones (LA Galaxy) and Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids) when he makes his first appearance for the Fire in 2014.
A look at the Top 10 players with the most consecutive seasons at one MLS club...
|Rank||Player||Club||Years||Consecutive Seasons||Games Played|
|1||C.J. Brown||Chicago Fire||1998-2010||13||296|
|2||Cobi Jones||LA Galaxy||1996-2007||12||306|
|3||Pablo Mastroeni||Colorado Rapids||2002-2013||12||216|
|4||Logan Pause||Chicago Fire||2003-present||11*||274|
|5||Shalrie Joseph||New England Revolution||2003-2012||10||261|
|6||Davy Arnaud||Sporting KC||2002-2011||10||218|
|7||Jason Kreis||Dallas Burn||1996-2004||9||247|
|8||Kerry Zavagnin||Kansas City Wizards||2000-2008||9||237|
|9||Landon Donovan||LA Galaxy||2005-present||9*||216|
|10||Jay Heaps||New England Revolution||2001-2009||8||228|
*-denotes active MLS player
You may be wondering where are Jaime Moreno and Ramiro Corrales? Good question. Moreno holds the MLS record for most seasons with one club, spending 14 years with D.C. United but he did have one stint with the MetroStars that broke up his two long stints in the nation's capital.
In Corrales' case, while he never played for another MLS club other than San Jose after being traded back to the Quakes in 2001, he did spend a few years abroad in Norway with HamKam that keep him out of the consecutive seasons count. Corrales spent a total of 12 seasons in San Jose over three stints (1996-97, 2001-04, 2008-13)
Just for fun, a look at the record number for consecutive appearances for MLS club is below too:
|Rank||Player||Club||Years||Consecutive Games Played||Seasons|
|1||Cobi Jones||LA Galaxy||1996-2007||306||12|
|2||C.J. Brown||Chicago Fire||1998-2010||296||13|
|3||Logan Pause||Chicago Fire||2003-present||274*||11|
|4||Shalrie Joseph||New England Revolution||2003-2012||261||10|
|5||Jason Kreis||Dallas Burn||1996-2004||247||9|
|6||Kerry Zavagnin||Kansas City Wizards||2000-2008||237||9|
|7||Jay Heaps||New England Revolution||2001-2009||228||8|
|8||Ramiro Corrales||San Jose Earthquakes||
|9||Nick Garcia||Kansas City Wizards||2000-2007||224||8|
|10||Davy Arnaud||Sporting KC||2002-2011||218||10|
*-denotes active MLS player