Blog

Philadelphia Union

03 September 9:48 am

After an interesting weekend of results, no teams actually changed spots in the Eastern Conference standings, though the group at the top all sit tied on points. Down below, Philadelphia and New England each held serve in spots four and five with weekend draws while the Fire missed a chance to leapfrog Houston with their home tie on Sunday.

The breakdown:

1) Montreal Impact

Current Points: 42 (12-7-6)
Games Remaining: 9 (4 home/ 5 away)
Last 5 Games: DWWLL (7pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 9-1-3 / 3-6-3
Maximum Possible Pts: 69
Average Opponents Pts: 35.1
Remaining Schedule:  9/8 @ NE, 9/14 vs. CLB, 9/17 at SJ**, 9/21 vs. VAN, 9/24 vs. HER** 9/28 @ CHI, 10/4 @ HOU, 10/12 vs. NE, 10/16 @ LA, 10/19 vs. PHI, 10/26 @ TFC

Rundown: Despite their top spot in the conference, Montreal has had an abysmal road record vs. the East (1-6-2) so while they could have taken a big step over the weekend, perhaps a 0-0 draw at Philadelphia was them punching above their weight. September will be make or break time for the Impact as the team will play six competitive matches in a span of 20 days. If they hope to advance out of their Champions League group, they’ll likely need to win one of their two remaining games. meaning squad rotation will be prudent through the end of the month.

The Impact will hope to improve their Eastern Conference road record with another away trip to New England on Sunday.

2) New York Red Bulls
Current Points: 42 (12-9-6)
Games Remaining: 7 (4 home / 3 away)
Last 5 Games: WLDLW (7pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 8-2-3 / 4-7-3
Maximum Possible Pts: 63
Average Opponents Pts: 35
Remaining Schedule: 9/8 @ HOU, 9/14 vs. TFC, 9/22 vs. FCD, 9/29 @ SEA, 10/5 vs. NE, 10/20 @ HOU, 10/27 vs. CHI

Rundown: Red Bull did exactly what they had to do, downing MLS bottom dwellers D.C. United 2-1 at home Saturday night. With four of their remaining seven matches at home and no Champions League to worry about, if they win their games at Red Bull Arena, they should have no issue making their way to a postseason appearance. What they do with their away games should determine their positioning.

New York faces a six-pointer away to Houston on Sunday. Win and potentially distance yourself from the pack, lose and things will begin to get interesting.

3) Sporting KC
Current Points: 39 (12-9-6)
Games Remaining: 7 (3 home / 4 away)
Last 5: WLLWL (6pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 7-4-3 / 5-5-3
Maximum Possible Pts: 63
Average Opponents Pts: 29.9
Remaining Schedule: 9/7 vs. CLB, 9/17 vs. RES**, 9/21 @ TFC, 9/27 vs. PHI, 10/5 @ CLB, 10/9 at HOU, 10/18 vs. D.C., 10/23 vs. OLI**, 10/26 @ PHI

Rundown: Like New York, Sporting KC did the business with a 2-1 win over Colorado Saturday. Already with six points in their two Champions League matches, Sporting likely needs just two points from their remaining matches to win the group and have a lighter league schedule than fell CCLers Montreal and Houston. Two matches with Columbus and one each vs. Toronto and D.C. should see Sporting easily clinch and could help push them towards the top spot by the end of October.

This weekend, Sporting face a Columbus side that lost at home to 10-man Seattle on Saturday, fired their coach Monday and will face Houston at home Wednesday. If the Crew lose to the Dynamo, they’ll be all but eliminated from playoff contention, making KC’s home encounter even easier.

4) Philadelphia Union
Current Points: 39 (10-8-9)
Games Remaining: 7 (3 home  / 4 away)
Last 5 Games: DLDWL (4pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 6-3-5 / 4-5-4
Maximum Possible Points: 60
Average Opponents Pts: 33.3
Remaining Schedule: 9/8 @ SJ, 9/14 vs. HOU, 9/27 @ SKC, 10/5 vs. TFC, 10/12 @ D.C., 10/19 @ MTL, 10/26 vs. SKC

Rundown: Three points at home Saturday would have seen Philly move to within one of first in the East but a draw against Montreal keeps them all on their lonesome in fourth place. With seven games remaining, the Union have a mixed type of schedule, facing Toronto FC and D.C. in back-to-back weeks in October but also with a games against Houston and Montreal and two matches against Sporting.

A west coast trip to San Jose, where the Earthquakes have dropped just one game this season (8-1-4) looms large this week, with a loss likely pushing the Union back down to the East bubble.

5) New England Revolution
Current Points: 37 (10-9-7)
Games Remaining: 8 (4 home / 4 away)
Last 5 Games: DWWLL (7pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 6-4-3 / 4-5-4
Maximum Possible Points: 61
Average Opponents Pts: 33.75
Remaining Schedule: 9/8 vs. MTL, 9/14 @ CHI, 9/21 vs. D.C., 9/28 vs. HOU, 10/5 @ NY, 10/12 @ MTL, 10/19 vs. CLB, 10/27 @ CLB

Rundown: Perhaps no team controls their own destiny like the Revolution. With eight games left, the Revs has an even split of four home and four away but perhaps more interesting is that five of their next six matches are against Eastern Conference foes that sit in the Top 7 positions. Should they be able to navigate well through those matches, their home and home with Columbus to end the season could be all about positioning.

New England needs to take advantage of Montreal’s poor road form Saturday to climb up the table.

6) Houston Dynamo
Current Points: 37 (10-8-7)
Games Remaining: 9 (5 home / 4 away)
Last 5 Games: DLWLW (7pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 7-2-3 / 3-6-4
Maximum Possible Points: 64
Average Opponents Pts: 34.3
Remaining Schedule: 9/4 @ CLB, 9/8 vs. NY, 9/14 @ PHI, 9/21, 9/25 vs. WC**, vs. CHV, 9/28 @ NE, 10/4 vs. MTL, 10/9 vs. SKC, 10/20 vs. NY, 10/24 @ AU**, 10/27 @ D.C.

Rundown: Much like New England, Houston faces a number of teams they’re battling for playoff positioning with over the next month and like Montreal and Sporting KC, also need to balance Champions League play. The Dynamo will be favorites to take three points on the road at Columbus Wednesday but will close out a seven game/22-day stretch at home Saturday to New York. Houston holds fate in their own hands but balancing Champions League with games against conference foes will be the key to their postseason push.

Simple enough: Win at home, draw on the road, they should be in.

7) Chicago Fire

Current Points: 35 (10-10-5)
Games Remaining: 9 (3 home / 6 away)
Last 5 Games: DWLWW (10pts)
2013 Home / Away Record: 8-4-2 / 2-6-3
Maximum Possible Pts: 62
Average Opponents Pts: 31.7
Remaining Schedule: 9/7 @ SEA, 9/11 @ TFC, 9/14 vs. NE, 9/21 @ CLB, 9/28 vs. MTL, 10/4 @ D.C., 10/12 @ FCD, 10/19 vs. TFC, 10/27 @ NY

Rundown: Sunday’s late 1-1 draw at home to Houston was no doubt a gut punch but the Fire are far from out of the playoff race.

The Good News: The team continues to have one of the easiest remaining schedules in the East with two games against Toronto and one each against Columbus and D.C.

The Bad News: Only three of nine remaining matches are at home and the Fire’s road record is towards the bottom in the conference.

And even though the Fire have never beaten Seattle and failed to win on turf since 2010, they have a real chance to take three points away to the Sounders with the home side missing Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson, Brad Evans, Leo Gonzalez on Saturday night.

Four to six points in the team’s next two away matches (remember Toronto FC on September 11) will set them up well for a return home vs. New England on September 14. Twice this season the Fire have had the chance to leap into fifth place and failed, mid-September should be a target date for them to AT LEAST be there.

8) Columbus Crew
Current Points: 29 (8-13-5)
Games Remaining: 8 (4 home / 4 away)
Last 5 Games: LLWWL (6pts)
2013 Home / Away Record: 5-5-3 / 3-8-2
Maximum Possible Points: 53
Average Opponents Pts: 38.6
Remaining Schedule: 9/4 vs. HOU, 9/7 @ SKC, 9/14 @ MTL, 9/21 vs. CHI, 9/29 @ FCD, 10/5 vs. SKC, 10/19 @ NE, 10/27 vs. NE

Rundown: If Sunday’s draw to Houston was a gut punch for the Fire, I’m not sure what to call the Crew’s 1-0 home defeat to 10-man Seattle on Saturday.

Still, Columbus have a small shot at the playoffs and their coaching change Monday makes things a bit more interesting. Keep in mind that seven of their eight remaining matches come against teams in the Eastern Conference playoff picture but should they lose midweek to Houston, the weekend trip to Sporting KC could kill whatever hope they have left.

28 August 3:39 pm

With the Eastern Conference playoff race so tight between seven teams, some called me crazy for starting Playoff Math so early this year. I shunned the criticism because I feel strongly that Eastern Conference nerds need their fix the remaining two months of the season.

In an attempt to keep this piece at readable length, I chose not to use a points per game basis as fellow stat nerd Tweed Thornton at Hot Time in Old Town uses. His analysis is equally interesting and I suggest you check it out.

So, with that, I breakdown the playoff outlook for the eight teams that still have a reasonable shot at an Eastern Conference playoff spot…

Montreal Impact
Current Points: 41 (12-7-5)
Games Remaining: 10 (4 home/ 6 away)
2013 Home/Away Record: 9-1-3 / 3-6-2
Maximum Possible Pts: 71
Average Opponents Pts: 34.4
Remaining Schedule:  8/31 @ PHI, 9/8 @ NE, 9/14 vs. CLB, 9/21 vs. VAN, 9/28 @ CHI, 10/4 @ HOU, 10/12 vs. NE, 10/16 @ LA, 10/19 vs. PHI, 10/26 @ TFC

Rundown: Though they had a small dip in form, Montreal is back at the top of the Eastern Conference after Saturday’s 5-0 shellacking of Houston. Much of Montreal’s success can be chalked up to their dominant home record (they’ve lost just one game at Stade Saputo this season) but the team also has the toughest remaining schedule and has away matches against playoff contenders, Philadelphia, New England, the Fire and Houston before season’s end. Add to that the fact that Montreal is also competing in CONCACAF Champions League play on September 17 at San Jose and September 24 at Heredia and the top spot is far from secure.

New York Red Bulls
Current Points: 39 (11-9-6)
Games Remaining:  8 (5 home / 3 away)
2013 Home/Away Record: 7-2-3 / 4-7-3
Maximum Possible Pts: 63
Average Opponents Pts: 31.3
Remaining Schedule: 8/31 vs. D.C., 9/8 @ HOU, 9/14 vs. TFC, 9/22 vs. FCD, 9/29 @ SEA, 10/5 vs. NE, 10/20 @ HOU, 10/27 vs. CHI

Rundown: Despite a 3-2 defeat to Chivas USA at the weekend, Red Bull still sits in pretty good shape, two points back of the lead. New York holds a strong home record and of their eight remaining matches, five will be played at Red Bull Arena. Also unlike fellow playoff contenders Montreal, Sporting KC and Houston, New York only needs to focus on MLS Regular Season play the rest of the way.

Sporting KC
Current Points: 39 (11-9-6)
Games Remaining: 8 (4 home / 4 away)
2013 Home/Away Record: 6-4-3 / 5-5-3
Maximum Possible Pts: 63
Average Opponents Pts: 30.5
Remaining Schedule: 8/31 vs. COL, 9/7 vs. CLB, 9/21 @ TFC, 9/27 vs. PHI, 10/5 @ CLB, 10/9 at HOU, 10/18 vs. D.C., 10/26 @ PHI

Rundown: Sporting KC holds an identical record to New York and has to juggle two more Champions League games but has one of the easiest remaining schedules among the eight playoff contenders. Though their home record isn’t as stellar as you’d think, with the strong atmosphere Sporting Park provides, its unlikely KC is the team currently inside the bubble that falls down the stretch.

Philadelphia Union
Current Points: 38 (10-8-8)
Games Remaining: 8 (4 home  / 4 away)
2013 Home/Away Record: 6-3-4 / 4-5-4
Maximum Possible Points: 62
Average Opponents Pts: 33.1
Remaining Schedule: 8/31 vs. MTL, 9/8 @ SJ, 9/14 vs. HOU, 9/27 @ SKC, 10/5 vs. TFC, 10/12 @ D.C., 10/19 @ MTL, 10/26 vs. SKC

Rundown: With eight games left, the Union sit just three points out of first place thanks to the 4-5-4 record on the road (second best in the East) while holding serve at home (6-3-4). Things just got pretty interesting for Philly after New England’s 5-1 weekend thrashing of the Union pulled the playoff race much tighter. From a Fire perspective, their grounded out, back-to-back wins over the Men in Red in May could easily be pointed to as the difference between being in and outside the playoff bubble. If the Fire take three points in either of the 1-0 losses, the two teams are swapped in the Eastern Conference table…

New England Revolution
Current Points: 36 (10-9-6)
Games Remaining: 9 (4 home / 5 away)
2013 Home/Away Record: 6-4-3 / 4-5-3
Maximum Possible Points: 63
Average Opponents Pts: 31.5
Remaining Schedule: 8/30 @ TFC, 9/8 vs. MTL, 9/14 @ CHI, 9/21 vs. D.C., 9/28 vs. HOU, 10/5 @ NY, 10/12 @ MTL, 10/19 vs. CLB, 10/27 @ CLB

Rundown: New England has been the surprise entrant into the race this season. The Revs have certainly found ways to punch way above their weight. Even after a six-game winless run in July and August, New England still find themselves inside the bubble with seven of their nine remaining games all against relevant Eastern Conference playoff contenders.

Houston Dynamo
Current Points: 36 (10-8-6)
Games Remaining: 10 (5 home / 5 away)
2013 Home/Away Record: 7-2-3 / 3-6-3
Maximum Possible Points: 66
Average Opponents Pts: 33
Remaining Schedule: 9/1 @ CHI, 9/4 @ CLB, 9/8 vs. NY, 9/14 @ PHI, 9/21 vs. CHV, 9/28 @ NE, 10/4 vs. MTL, 10/9 vs. SKC, 10/20 vs. NY, 10/27 @ D.C.

Rundown: Though not quite as great as 2012, Houston has kept up pretty good form at BBVA Compass Stadium so far in 2013. The Dynamo sit sixth only by the Goals For tiebreaker and currently hold at least a game in hand on everyone in front of them except for Montreal. At the same time, a loss to the Fire on Sunday at Toyota Park would see the Men in Red leapfrog the Dynamo into sixth place with nine matches remaining.

Chicago Fire
Current Points: 34 (10-10-4)
Games Remaining: 10 (4 home / 6 away)
2013 Home / Away Record: 8-4-1 / 2-6-3
Maximum Possible Pts: 64
Average Opponents Pts: 31.1
Remaining Schedule: 9/1 vs. HOU, 9/7 @ SEA, 9/11 @ TFC, 9/14 vs. NE, 9/21 @ CLB, 9/28 vs. MTL, 10/4 @ D.C., 10/12 @ FCD, 10/19 vs. TFC, 10/27 @ NY

Rundown: After failing to win a game in the month of March, the Fire’s 8-3-3 record since the arrivals of Bakary Soumare and Mike Magee in late May is nothing short of fantastic. Having said that, the team still finds itself two points outside of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Much of the team’s success is due to holding the second best home record in the Eastern Conference (8-4-1) though the side’s away record is also the second worst (2-6-3). Perhaps worse though is that after Sunday’s game vs. Houston, the team will play just three more home matches in 2013 vs. six away games.

The key to any team making the playoffs is doing the business at home and the Fire should still aim for the maximum 12 points available there. However, in order to make the postseason again in 2013, the team needs to find ways to pick up more points on the road. Luckily they have one of the easiest remaining schedules in the Eastern Conference and visit both Toronto FC and D.C. in two of their remaining six away games.

Columbus Crew
Current Points: 29 (8-12-5)
Games Remaining: 9 (5 home / 4 away)
2013 Home / Away Record: 5-4-3 / 3-8-2
Maximum Possible Points: 56
Average Opponents Pts: 33.5
Remaining Schedule: 8/31 vs. SEA, 9/4 vs. HOU, 9/7 @ SKC, 9/14 @ MTL, 9/21 vs. CHI, 9/29 @ FCD, 10/5 vs. SKC, 10/19 @ NE, 10/27 vs. NE

Rundown: The Crew are here because though it doesn’t seem likely, they’re still in the playoff race. In my opinion, the key for Columbus is how they do in their next two matches, both of which are at home. A win over Western Conference foes Seattle won’t be considered a “six pointer” but it will keep the Crew alive for another important midweek home date vs. Houston.

06 August 9:28 am

At Toyota Park in May, Philly sat back, let the Fire run circles around them like some mean, old dog, then got a seemingly innocuous free kick and suddenly Jack McInerney, in on goal, kicked the team straight in the gut. That game felt like a one-act play, where the characters on stage build to an obvious conclusion, some grotesque act that you know is coming but still shocks and hurts when you see it live.

This Saturday, the Fire went to Philly to continue their climb back into the playoff picture and battled in a Three Act work of considerable drama. Each was punctuated by a goal. Here’s the liner notes, starring Philly and Chicago, two mysterious characters.

Act One, The Set-Up (0-45’)

Kick off. Philly comes out first, Chicago wakes up slowly, stretches arms to the sky, makes coffee, realizes it’s in the middle of a game, and immediately pops into action. Philly, who tried to come out with high and tight pressure, find themselves being passed around in sequences of quick one-twos and flicks, like those that lead to a beautiful first goal, with not even 10 minutes gone.

Philly broadcasters (the chorus), clamor for more “intensity” from the home team. The Fire look comfortable but ominously cannot extend their lead. They start to slow down a bit and Philly enjoy a few minutes of confidence-boosting possession at the end of the half, including a couple of dangerous free kicks. The plot thickens.

Halftime.

Act Two, The Montage (45’-54’)

This short intervening act provides the backbone of the drama. A little character development. Fresh off their orange slices, Philly and Chicago come out ready to party again.

Like Act One, Philly threaten first (Conor Casey flashes a shot just wide of goal two minutes in), but Chicago recovers and takes the upper hand. How predictable is this? Chicago finds space everywhere and kick off a few minutes of possession in the opponent’s half like we haven’t seen all season.

Cue montage and “Danger Zone.” A few not particularly interesting forays forward foreshadow something for Philly, but Chicago cruises.

What can go wrong?

Act Three, The Climax (54-90)

The Montage ends. The motorcycle crashes. Le Toux gets in on Chicago’s right and Sean Johnson makes a kick save. Chicago attacks and Rolfe finds enough space to squeeze a shot off - but Zac MacMath tips it over the bar. Go time. Philly go forward and get their goal with 30 minutes left - so much time for both to fight out the end.

Suddenly Philly is everywhere. Sean Johnson makes an impossible save off a corner. Another is cleared off the line. Chicago is wavering badly, Philly is matching Chicago’s dominance from Act Two.

There is no music. Chicago fights with their inner identity battle between the disappointments early in the year and their confidence to close games. (Mike Magee said after the game, “I think there was a point in the 65th minute where we had been getting pummeled the whole half and we all kind of looked at each other and said this game is there for us to win.”)

Two subs come on in the 67th, as Klopas tries to overturn Philly’s momentum.

And then it happens, the climax. Chicago confronts Philly. They continue pressing. The spirit of fight and persistence embodied in Mike Magee and Patrick Nyarko combine with harrowing pressure. Nyarko fights the ball loose from a Philly midfielder and plays in Magee. Magee finishes calmly.

Your girlfriend is crying, but there’s still twenty minutes time! The drama carries over but the game is rarely in doubt. A penalty shout scares the audience, so nobody leaves their seats. Then the violin music. A stoppage time kiss at the sunset. Chicago steals the points.

Curtain.

04 August 12:20 am
Quote Sheet
Chicago Fire at Philadelphia Union
PPL Park – Chester, Pa. – August 3, 2013
 
Frank Klopas, Chicago Fire Head Coach
 
On differences between team now and in May
 
“I mean obviously in the beginning we had a difficult start. I think the slow start did hurt us early on. I think the additions with Baky (Soumare) and Mike (Magee) have helped a lot and I think in time, their ability to gel with the rest of the guys has helped. We knew there were a lot of important games coming up and we dropped a lot of points on the road early on so all these games are massive right now and we felt that we played well last time against Philly at home and they scored the late goal with Jack so it was a difficult match, but I give all the credit to my players, they came out, they competed, everyone left everything on the field and we got three points in a difficult place.”
 
On Mike Magee’s performance since joining the Fire
 
“We knew he was a quality player but you see a night like tonight, and that is what a forward has to do. He gets that opportunity, is very composed, he waits for the keeper to go so it was just a class goal. Patrick (Nyarko) made a great pass, but when you get him in spots in front of the goal it is just very good He has been huge for us, but I think more than anything it has been the whole team that contributes and it is all about the team, the mentality is good, everybody is putting everything forward for the success of the team and I think that is what it is all about.”
 
On the turning point in the game
 
“Yeah we knew their ability to do set pieces with Williams with the long throw, they have scored a lot of goals. It is easy to talk about it, but in a game you have to avoid situations like that. They put a lot of pressure, they had a lot of set pieces late in the game, open field crosses and there was some moments late in the game that were not so easy for us, but we knew that going up they were going to push the game and we would have opportunities in transition. We weren’t as good in certain moments to capitalize on that. We had our chances and in the end it was an exciting game, both teams left it all on the field and I just give a lot of credit again to my players in a difficult place against a very good team to come and get three points, it was huge for us.”
 
On the playoff race
 
“It is exciting. It is going to come down to the end, there is so much parity in the league. I think it is going to be exciting; I think there is going to be a fight all the way until the end and I think you couldn’t ask for anything else. Look at this game, how exciting it was, three goals in a game. Both teams up and down created chances and made very exciting for the fans and the atmosphere was super here tonight.”
 
Patrick Nyarko, Chicago Fire Midfielder
 
Thoughts on the game
 
“We knew it was going to be tough. Their team is a very good team, they are playing very well, their confidence level is through the roof and we knew it was going to take a special effort to get a result here. We made it a point to get a good start and we did that. We sat back a little bit more and made them come at us for a long period of the game. As a home game with how confident they are playing, they got lucky on the goal, but they are always bound to score if we drop off on them and we did that. We wanted to win here so after they got the goal we decided to push on and luckily we got a second goal and we resisted their attack for the last period of the game.”
 
On the magnitude of this win
 
“They are a team we are chasing and we could not let them get away from us. We kicking ourselves in the teeth, we made two errors and they beat us, they took six points out of us. If not for that we are closer to them and we made it a point to get close them in this game.”
 
Mike Magee, Chicago Fire Forward
 
On what made the difference in the game
 
“It wasn’t our best game we obviously gave away a lot of set pieces, which we didn’t want to do, a lot of throw-ins, but we found a way to battle. Sean had a great game and our back line was good and obviously the difference was scoring more goals than them.”
 
On his mindset for scoring
 
“To be honest my mindset is just to always try to get wins. We are on the outside looking in at the playoffs and that is the only goal. The best part about tonight is getting three points.”
 
On his mindset going into his first game in Philly as a Fire player
 
“I have played here before with LA. My mindset is trying to change the culture and try to get in the habits of trying to win games. I think there was a point in the 65th minute where we had been getting pummeled the whole half and we all kind of looked at each other and said this game is there for us to win. They were sending a lot of guys forward and we pretty fortunate not to give up a goal in the beginning of the second half. I think once we weathered that storm the soccer Gods gave us a chance and luckily I buried it.”
 
Team Manager John Hackworth
On whether this was a missed opportunity for separation in the playoff race…
“Yeah I think this is a huge missed opportunity. We knew Chicago would come and give us a really good game, they’re a pretty good team. It was never going to be easy, but to go down a goal and come back and then lose another goal, we felt like we had out foot on the gas a little bit, but losing the way we did was really unfortunate.”
On Mike Magee
“He’s a good player, he brings heat wherever he goes and it’s something to watch for.”
On what he thought about the four straight corners in the second half…
“There’s an advantage to getting opportunity and capturing it and that’s something we need to capture at home. We’ve had good runs, good service in the box. The night was up and down, but on that sequence it was really important that we put ourselves in that position by pushing them more than we did in the first half and that’s a good sign. Especially with a team that’s extremely dangerous moving forward. We were getting chances on the break, but nothing that could help us.”
On what happened with the first goal…
“We just had a lot of guys chasing the ball and a lot of guys trying to compensate with each other after a couple misses. We tried really hard to get the ball, but one of those things we talked about was not letting them have the first pass.”
On why Jack McInerney isn’t scoring…
“There could be a lot of reasons, but real goal scorers have been coming through and it just didn’t seem like the chances were happening.  He’s a very confident man and knows what he wants in play. He also understands how difficult it is.”
On Gaddis’s injury…
“He rolled his ankle really badly. We tried to tape it up on the sideline and get him back in the last three minutes, but it’s just really unfortunate.”
Zac MacMath
 On the match tonight…
"It's a tough one. I don't think the team came out the way we should have in the first half. In the first 30 minutes, we struggled, and they put a lot of pressure on us. A lot of credit goes to them, but I still think that in the last 15 [minutes] of the first half, and in most of the second half, we had the good part of the match, and we were unfortunate to give up two easy goals like that."
On what John Hackworth told the team at halftime…
 "To go back to what we should have done. Outwork them, play smart, play simple, be patient, and let them open up. They started to open up, and the game was very wide open later on when we were pushing for it. We knew a goal was going to come, and we just had to wait for it, and hopefully find the second one. Unfortunately, we didn't."
 On what happened on Mike Magee's game-winning goal…
 "Obviously, Leo [Fernandes] gets picked off in the middle of the field, and it's an easy counter for them. They find [Mike] Magee wide open, and he finishes well."
 On the wide-open nature of the game and if it contributed to Mike Magee's goal…
"That's the risk you take. At home, you don't want to give up points, so I think that the team was pushing for it, and that makes the game really wide open. They're a team that likes to counter as it is, and they were looking for that."
On what happened on the first Chicago goal…
"I think it was Joel [Lindpere] who put in a really good ball, and they had a bunch of players in the box. Patrick [Nyarko] found himself wide open. He kind of hit it awkwardly, and he bounced it in. It came off of the turf weird."
Jack McInerney
 On if him being away for Gold Cup and Conor Casey serving a suspension has affected their chemistry…
"No, I don't think that has anything to do with it, really. We've been teammates for seven months now, so it's just about getting that lucky break. We're still playing well and creating chances, we're just not getting anything to fall for us."
 On what the All-Star Game experience meant to him…
"It meant a lot. I grew up watching some of those players play. To play alongside of them, and to spend a couple days with them, it kind of opened my eyes to see what it was like to be there."
 On if the Union missed an opportunity to create separation in the standings tonight…
"Yeah, we were hoping to go on a little three-game win streak. It was a good opportunity, but we have to put this game behind us. We have been pretty inconsistent this year with winning. No one expected us to win in Vancouver, and we would have expected to win today. I think we just have to put it behind us and come out hard against D.C. [United]."
On the series of corner kicks the Union had late and if he thought Philadelphia would score…
 "Those are one of the things where you keep pushing and pushing and eventually it will come. I don't know if it came on a free kick, or something, when Sheanon [Williams] scored, but these things build up and wear the other team down. We wanted more of them."
 On his week of travel to the Gold Cup final and then the All-Star Game…
"Yeah, I went for a two day trip and it ended up being seven days long. It was pretty exciting. It was a lot of traveling, but it was a good experience in both cities."
On his rap video at the All-Star Game…
 "(Laughs) I just walked in, and they asked me to do it. They had it written down, and I just gave it a go. I'm from Atlanta, so I have a little bit in me. I'm better than [Chris Wondolowski] (laughs)."
On if his goal drought has left him frustrated…
"Yeah, it's frustrating. I've been saying that I just need one of those easy tap-ins to get my confidence up and get back in the streak that I was going on. It's one of those things I have to fight through, and the team has to help me get through."
On if he finds himself pressing…
"I think I'm pushing a little too much, just because I know I'm on a streak where I haven't been able to do what I would have done at the beginning of the season. I just need to relax, find a goal, and find that rhythm again."
Sheanon Williams
On how he found the Fire different from the first two meetings this season, beyond Mike Magee…
"They had a little bit more heart. The last few times we played them, they settled for losing. Definitely with the new people that they brought in, they're a different team. They're not the same team that we beat twice."
 On what happened to the defense on Patrick Nyarko's goal…
"We [gave] the ball away in a bad spot. I had the whole defense shift, and we didn't do it properly."
On his goal…
"When you put yourself in good spots, good things happen."
On the defense tonight…
"It seems like we [gave] the ball away way too much. It cost us two goals today, and we have to do a better job of keeping it."
 On the Union's back line pushing forward frequently tonight…
"We're just trying to do what we can to help the team win. We obviously wanted three points. We would have settled for one after going down 2-1. We weren't able to get the goal, so we have to settle for zero."
On the late series of corners the Union had…
"The way I was thinking about it was, 'One of these has to go in.' One got cleared off the line, one got saved and put over the crossbar, and then we had another header. I thought that maybe we would sneak one in."
02 August 8:23 am

The Fire head east to Philly on Saturday night to take on the Union in a critical Eastern Conference clash (LIVE 6:30pm CT on My50). After earning a credible come-from-behind draw in Houston last weekend, the Men in Red will be confident of picking up all three points (and extracting some revenge) at PPL Park.

Here are some things to keep an eye on from a tactical perspective.

Isolating Jeff Parke – getting behind and in 1v1 situations with the Union defender

Similar to the Fire, individual errors have cost the Union in recent matches and veteran defender Jeff Parke has been the weak link in the Union defense over the past few MLS games.

Though excellent in the air, his positioning errors or slack marking led to numerous chances created for the opposing team. In both matches against Chivas and Houston, Parke was either forced or strayed out of position, leaving room behind him to be exploited.

READ: Duka, Alex look healthy for Philadelphia clash

With the ability of Magee and Rolfe to drop into deeper positions to pick up the ball and thus drag defenders like Parke out of position, the other Fire players must recognize these opportunities when they arise and try and take advantage of them.

Staying with the runners – trying to limit giving up preventable goals

In soccer, there is a major difference between giving up a 30 yard screamer and giving up a tap in because a defender decided to switch off and not follow his runner.

 

WATCH: Athletico Coaching Corner

All too often for the Fire this season giving up easy goals and frequently going a goal behind has been the teams M.O.  Fire center back Bakary Soumare has made more than one costly error over the past month, most recently on the Dynamo goal last weekend and the center-back will be looking for a solid performance against his old club on Saturday.

With that being said, the defense as a whole has been guilty of individual errors which has meant that the team’s last clean sheet in league play was nine games ago, twelve if you count all matches. As I have mentioned in previous previews, a clean sheet, especially in an away game, would be a major positive for the Fire.

Against a team with such attacking threats as Philly, a clean sheet would also give the back line confidence heading into the biggest game of the season to date, the U.S. Open Cup Semifinal against D.C. on Wednesday (TICKETS).

Taking advantage of the diamond system – pressuring Philly in their defensive third

The Union usually use a system similar in some ways to the Fire, deploying only one recognized defensive midfielder. In Philly’s case this is stalwart Brian Carroll.

Carroll plays in the “Makelele role,” sitting in front of the back four, breaking up attacks and rarely venturing into the opposing team’s attacking third. In this system, the assumption is that Carroll will not give up possession or be ahead of the ball in his defensive third.

READ: Mike Magee is the cover boy in the latest edition of MLS Overlap

One way to counter this system is to pressure Carroll and the Philly defenders when they have the ball and try and force turnovers in their defensive third.

We all saw how effective this tactic can be on the Fire’s goal last weekend. Patrick Nyarko stole the ball from a Dynamo defender before bursting into the box and crossing to Mike Magee for a tap in finish. A similar turnover on Saturday night could lead to the winning goal for the Fire.

Prediction: 2-0 Fire with goals from Magee and Alex.

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

05 June 1:15 pm

The potential quarterfinal pairings for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup set to be played Wednesday, June 26:

1) Chicago Fire/Columbus Crew winner hosts Sporting Kansas City/Orlando City winner

2) D.C. United/Philadelphia Union winner hosts New England Revolution/New York Red Bulls winner

3) FC Dallas/Houston Dynamo winner hosts Portland Timbers/Tampa Bay Rowdies winner

4) Real Salt Lake/Charleston Battery winner hosts Carolina RailHawks/Chivas USA winner

Click Here to buy tickets for the Fire's Fourth Round USOC match vs. the Columbus Crew (Wednesday June 12th, 7:30pm Toyota Park)

22 May 11:23 am

Should the Chicago Fire come away victorious over the Charlotte Eagles in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup next Wednesday, the team is guaranteed to host its fourth round match against either the Columbus Crew or Dayton Dutch Lions on Wednesday, June 12 at Toyota Park.

I'll have a full play-by-play of the draw later today on Chicago-Fire but until then, see below all fourth round U.S. Open Cup matchups:

#1 – New England Revolution/Rochester Rhinos hosts Reading United AC/New York Red Bulls winner
 
#2 – D.C. United/Richmond Kickers winner hosts Ocean City Nor’easters/Philadelphia Union winner
 
#3 Chicago Fire hosts Dayton Dutch Lions/Columbus Crew winner
                -or- Columbus Crew host Charlotte Eagles
                -or- Dayton Dutch Lions host Charlotte Eagles
 
#4 – Sporting KC host Colorado Rapids/Orlando City winner
                -or- Colorado Rapids/Orlando City hosts Des Moines Menace
 
#5 – FC Dallas hosts FC Tucson/Houston Dynamo winner
                -or- Houston Dynamo hosts Ft. Lauderdale Strikers
                -or- Ft. Lauderdale Strikers vs. FC Tucson (Host TBD)
 
#6 – LA Galaxy/Carolina Railhawks winner hosts Chivas USA/LA Blues winner
 
#7 – Atlanta Silverbacks/Real Salt Lake winner hosts San Jose Earthquakes/Charleston Battery winner
 
#8 – Seattle Sounders will host Wilmington Hammerheads/Portland Timbers winner
                -or- Portland Timbers will host Tampa Bay Rowdies
                -or- Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Wilmington Hammerheads (Host TBD)

17 May 8:09 am

The Fire head to Philadelphia on Saturday night to take on the Union for the second time in seven days (Coverage begins 6pm CT on My50). The Men in Red dropped a heart breaker 1-0 at home last week despite creating a number of chances. Philly played LA at home at midweek and lost 4-1 after a second half defensive collapse. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective.

Rolfe and Nyarko up top – repeat the first half of last week

In the first half against the Union at Toyota Park last week Patrick Nyarko terrorized the Philly defense, running at them with pace and creating a number of opportunities.

Rolfe and Nyarko combined well and were very close to each other on the pitch. The movement of the pair dragged the Philly center backs out leaving massive pockets of space in behind for the Fire to exploit.

WATCH: Nyarko, Berry Preview Philly

This happened on a number of occasions and NBC analyst Kyle Martino pointed it out over and over again on the broadcast.

In the second half however, the duo were too far apart and then Rolfe was moved out wide later. It goes without saying they’ll need to play closer together on Saturday.

When Rolfe and Nyarko force the center backs out of position, players like Dilly Duka and Joel Lindpere need to do a better job of tucking in and taking advantage of that space, something the team didn’t do enough of last week.

Philly were unable to deal with the pace of Nyarko last week and the Fire should look to get the ball to the Ghanaian as much as possible again Saturday.

Kleberson – keeping an eye on the “unknown” Brazilian

In Philly’s game against the Galaxy Wednesday night the Union gave a first start to Kleberson in midfield. In the first half, LA was unable to deal with his movement and defense-splitting passes.

Kleberson got forward constantly to help out Jack McInerney and Sebastian Le Toux in the attack and was allowed two or three shots from just outside the box. He also dropped deep and found the strikers with some brilliant through balls.

In the second half, LA was a lot tighter on the Brazilian and he was less effective. Though he may not be fit enough to play the entire 90 minutes against the Fire, I would expect him to start after his excellent full debut against LA.

Logan Pause and either Daniel Paladini or Jeff Larentowicz must track Kleberson's runs and be wary of balls played in behind. Logan did a fantastic job of cutting out through balls in last weekend’s match and the Fire will need a similar effort from the captain on Saturday, especially if Kleberson gets the start.

Focusing on Philly’s left side – opportunities for Duka and Thompson

I spoke last week about the weaknesses of Philly defender Raymon Gaddis who filled in on the right for the suspended Sheanon Williams last weekend. Against LA on Wednesday night, Gaddis returned to left back and was again caught too far forward on a number of occasions.

On the one hand, Gaddis and Keon Daniel combine very well in the attack and are certainly a threat but both players fail to track back defensively when the Union turns the ball over.

On a number of occasions on Wednesday night Bakary Soumare had to come over to almost the left wing to cover for Gaddis who was nowhere to be found. LA took full advantage of this, attacking down Gaddis’ side for most of the match.

Against Philly last weekend, right back Wells Thompson looked somewhat reluctant to come forward despite the fact that Dilly Duka was constantly coming inside and leaving space for Wells to run into. Both Thompson and Duka should be looking to attack Gaddis at every opportunity on Saturday night.

Prediction: 3-1 Fire with goals from Nyarko, Rolfe and Lindpere

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