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25 June 11:42 pm

Select shots from the Fire's win over the Crew.

08 June 12:04 am

Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop

 

On general feeling of the team heading into the World Cup break

 

“Points-wise, not great. Spirit-wise, I thought tonight was good. Difficult circumstances with the red card and all the stuff that went on tonight. What I liked about the team tonight: we fought, and we stuck up for each other. That's the positive out of it. The negative: we didn't get a result at home, obviously. Frustration is probably the word I would say right now.”

 

On if he had saw the reason for Obafemi Martins' sending-off

 

“No, I didn't, I haven't looked at a replay. I haven't seen it yet.”

 

On expecting officiating controversies

 

“I don't know. I thought both teams came out to try and win the game, which is important. Some decisions for us didn't go the right way, and you get frustrated with all that stuff; it spills over to your play a little bit. I'm not going to fault the effort of our players at all; we're not quite able to figure it out yet. We have good moments; we have patterns of play that are good, we look like we're a good side, and then we falter and get punished. It's frustrating. I hate to use the word, I keep saying it, but the balance is not quite there yet. No excuses with the three games in the week, but it's never easy. But I thought we kept going until the end; we could have gotten something out of the game. Obviously that third goal killed the game a little bit. Quincy [Amarikwa] had a great chance I think at 2-1, and then Juan [Luis Anangono] had a good chance at 3-2. That's football. That's the tough part about it. And I'm sitting there just frustrated, and you guys are fans of us, as frustrated as you are; I'm sitting there going, ‘why can't we get it sorted out?’ But signs are good, young guys are doing okay. Harry [Shipp] did good tonight, so hopefully we can turn the corner.”

 

On creating chances and goals in play

 

“We created some good chances. If you look at the experience on their team, it's a pretty experienced team; and we're a little bit younger and naive, and all the guys we have out...there's no excuses. But I'm not going to fault my guys; I thought they fought right to the end, tried to get something out of the game, but just couldn't quite get something out of it. I'm not going to turn to the excuse of ‘we got guys out,’ because, I thought the players that played tonight played well for us. Big, important thing is, take the punishment, if you like, and move on. You have to. We have an Open Cup game next, hopefully we can get through that round; I think there's another round of Open Cup, and then we get to get back into MLS. So we're still in the picture, which is always good; although we have to start winning games, obviously. But the progression of the team playing-wise, I thought, showed some fight tonight, which is important.”

 

On the penalty call and ensuing red card against Fire defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado

 

“Anytime you go with two feet, it alarms referees for some reason. I think that Jhon had no other opportunity to block the ball, and to go with his feet sort of showing. It didn't catch the player; give a penalty kick, but don't give a sending-off. Or give a sending-off, but no penalty kick, whatever you want to do, but I just think the double thing was just, for me, not a great decision. I haven't seen it, but it looked like Jhon was just trying to block the ball; it wasn't malicious, it was low, and it looked like he was trying to get his feet sorted out. But, again, the rules are what they are, so I can't really argue with it. But I struggled a little bit all night with the officiating. I thought it was a little bit one-way, but that's my opinion.”

 

On the World Cup break serving as a chance to get healthy

 

“You have two main guys out, Patrick Nyarko and Mike Magee are out at the moment, so you have to help them get ready for play coming in the next couple of weeks. We have the Open Cup, which is in our break. Alex is not 100%; obviously played a little bit tonight, but he's not close to what he can play like at the moment. So we have a little bit of time to get our guys healthy and hopefully start the next MLS game out with a win, because we need to start winning, obviously, to have any chance to do well this year. But I think the emergence of the young players is my focus, and I think they're doing okay. We're not wishing the season away at all; I make sure that we're ready to play each game and ready to go. I thought again, we didn't flop and buckle under in this game, which we could have done against a good side. Each game we've played, other than maybe a couple, we've been right there, right in the match, right and ready to go; but the naiveté of our team, and it's not a slight on them, it's just reality, we can't figure it out quite yet. It's frustrating as a coach, and the players are frustrated. I think that for us, it's making sure that we build on it, and make sure we get positive with it.”

 

Jeff Larentowicz, Chicago Fire Midfielder

 

On tonight’s loss:

 

“This may be the toughest so far.  You might want to put it up there with the Real Salt Lake game, but they came at us – Seattle didn’t.  They were content with their lead waiting for us, but somehow they still got the better of us which is difficult.”

 

On where the team goes from here heading into the break:

 

“We have to decide.  Everyone has to go home this week and figure out if they’re content with where we are, think about if they’re content coming in after games saying, ‘Oh well, we did alright – we didn’t score or we didn’t finish that chance,’ or they can make a difference, they can make a change. I don’t know what happened around the league, but we’re at the bottom of the conference – we have to make a move and we have to stop being content with half chances and one goal losses at home.”

 

On the team’s effort:

 

“It’s not the effort, it’s not the effort.  It’s critical moments in the game when players make a difference or don’t make a difference, and at the moment we’re not making that difference.

 

On how to make that difference:

 

“We can’t be content.  We can’t come in and say, ‘We did alright.’  There’s no attendance award, we have to come and we have to do something.”

 

On the goals for the remainder of the season:

 

“I think the goal is always to make the playoffs.  We can’t come in and say we’re going to be the MLS champs - we have to work for it, we have to fight for it.  We have to fight to get into the playoffs period.  Then you can move on and rewrite your goals.  At the moment - sure we’ve hung with teams, sure we’ve played well against top competition, but we haven’t gotten over that hump.  Like I said it’s not about sprinting harder, running faster or jumping higher, it’s not about that because we do that.  It’s about the critical moments when we have to make a difference, that’s what we have to focus on.”

 

On the Open Cup as an opportunity to turn things around:

 

“Winning is contagious, I think.  You catch it and you want it.  We haven’t won, it’s almost like we enjoy coming in and being content with what’s going on.  So, sure we win the first round and we play another game before we play a MLS game, so sure we can get the wheels moving, we can get guys healthy and can start pushing on.  But you can see we’re in games.  It’s not about personnel; it’s just about those little things.  Against different competition in the Open Cup maybe we can sharpen those edges.”

 

Quincy Amarikwa, Chicago Fire Forward

 

On the chemistry with Harry Shipp:

 

“I think Harry and I are building good chemistry up-top. It’s translating on the field and it’s turning into goals.  We just need to figure it out as a team now, making sure we can prevent teams from scoring multiple goals on us so we can come away with three points.  Tonight we can build from it, learn from it and move on.”

 

Harry Shipp, Chicago Fire Forward

 

On play leading up to the goal, scoring and the result:

 

“I was trying to show up in places to find the ball, but it was hard.  I was getting frustrated, I think everyone was getting frustrated, with our lack of keeping it.  Right before the first goal I started feeling a little more comfortable, kind of feeling the touch, and then I hit a good shot.  After that the momentum switched and I think we were back in the game.  In the second half we gave up that third goal, which killed us, but I think that besides that we really kept the ball, we possessed the ball.  We did things we know we can do. We had a chance to tie it up at 2-2 and to make it 3-3, but unfortunately it didn’t go in. I scored two goals, but I’m not going to be happy unless I score two more and we win 4-3.  That’s the difference in this feeling and difference in New York when we won 5-4.”

 

On the chippy play during the game:

 

“I think we have to keep our focus. There was a lot of extracurricular stuff going on after every tackle, there were people complaining, but I think you just have to keep your head and focus.  I think we did a good job in the second half of just moving the ball and playing simple – keeping the ball and interchanging especially through the midfield.  It was hard for them to keep the ball.  I think if we had done that all 90 minutes it might be a different story.”

 

Seattle Sounders Head Coach Sigi Schmid

 

On the match:

 

“You know, I thought we made the game harder than we needed to make it.  Obviously we are in a good position with a two goal lead playing a man up, and then we get a man thrown out.  At that point, we gave up a goal, you know, I think Shipp took both his goals really well, he finished them well, one left footed, one right footed,  and they were good finishes, but they were plays we should have stopped a bit earlier.  Hats off to him and his finishes, so it made the game tight.  Kept it tight all the way through.”

 

What changed when the Fire scored, making it two to one:

 

“It picked up their spirit.  They are obviously playing at home so they want to make a good impression in front of their fans and they want to do well.  We’ve had a good run, played well, and we have a few guys that are banged up out there and so guys are just thinking of making it through.  Now we have a 5 day break.  Maybe they were thinking of that.”

 

Seattle Sounders Midfielder Marco Pappa

 

On the physical match:

 

“I am pretty happy with the group.  We were good tonight.  We played a strong game.  Red cards and many fouls but at the end of the day we have the three points.  We are pretty happy about that.”

 

On his return to Chicago:

 

“I was excited to see to see old faces, old friends, old fans.  It was for sure a lot of feelings on the pitch but Chicago has been a big part of my career.”

 

Seattle Sounders Midfielder Lamar Neagle

 

On his game winning shot:

 

“It has been something I’ve been trying to do a little bit more, have some composure in the box, that kind of show.  When it was coming down, I did want to hit it first time but it wasn’t bouncing right.  I didn’t want to rush it.  Got it down and then tried to curl it in the back.”

 

On the funny bounce it took before he struck the ball:

 

“I was trying not to panic.  It took a long time to come down the first time, then it bounced weird, and just took it off my knee and tried to settle it as much as I could before I took a shot.”

 

On the Fire goalkeeper being screened:

 

“Yes, I think he was screened.  It was definitely behind the defender so he wouldn’t have been, or he didn’t see it before it was going in.  Sean Johnson is a great goalkeeper so luckily the defender was there to block his view.”

24 May 10:48 pm

Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop

On where the breakdown occurred:

“We seemed flat from the first whistle. The guys seemed up for the game, but we weren’t sharp. We had a couple chances here and there. Same as them, but they were sharper in front of the goal but we were poor defensively. For us, we have to address that but it’s difficult. We have a few guys out at the moment, so there’s not a lot we can change. We just have to keep working, and it’s one of those games were Columbus was better than us tonight they deserved to win the match. You have to take the defeat and move on.”

On having five players out:

“You can understand how it’s not just the defense. You have key guys not playing, six or so. It’s not an excuse I never make excuses. I’m not blaming them they haven’t played for a while. Steven Kinney came in and he hasn’t played all season. Grant Ward made his debut and he hasn’t played for four months. Tough night around we kept going to the end but, we were pretty naïve generally all over the pitch, especially defensively. We have to make better decisions where we don’t give chances to the opposition. We left the game mentally flat. Maybe it’s because we came off two wins, and we don’t think we have to earn the right to play a game. We do every game.”

On dealing with Higuain’s ability to spring players:

“He’s pretty close to the best in the League. The game plan was as soon as he got the ball to drop. We couldn’t really figure it out. He does it at the right time and he finds space. He’s a good player, take nothing away from that guy. He’s a very good player. He sees the game well. He sees the game how it should be looked at. Offensively, we couldn’t handle it. It wasn’t just him they had good runners off the ball. We made poor decisions defensively to give them the chances to score.”

On not being able to score:

“That’s kind of us. We looked like we were going to score most games. We went through the game and had some good chances. Quincy [Amarikwa] has gotten some good spots. I just talked to him he’s a little calmer, a little bit picking guys out. I’ve only seen him once but we had chances to score but you can’t keep conceding goals and win matches. At some point you need to shut it down and make it difficult. It’s the whole team; it’s not just one or two guys. The whole team has to do it.”

Chicago Fire Midfielder Jeff Larentowicz

On the backline:

“Columbus guys are tricky, they know how to run off your back shoulder, they know how to find time on the ball and it allows guys in the midfield to pick out runners. I think that both goals come off of passes from the midfield with runners off of our back shoulder. They both ended up as goals. They also had other opportunities that were similar that didn’t come off for them.”

On Columbus tactics:

“They overload the midfield so we have to find a way to get pressure on the ball. If we turn the ball over then there is no pressure on the ball and then he can pick his head up and make those passes. Like I said, the forwards and the wingers are tricky enough to run off his shoulder and find that space. It’s dangerous.”

On missing players on the road:

“Every road game in this League is a difficult game. However, every road game is a winnable game if you’re playing right, if you’re turned on at the right moments. Today we weren’t.”

Chicago Fire Goalkeeper Sean Johnson

On new players in new positions:

“I think you can’t really come up with any excuses. You can’t really look to blame a different lineup or different person. We are all on the same team. We all train together on the pitch and prepare ourselves for match day. I think it’s down to what we do when we step on the field. We are more than capable of meshing together for 90 minutes and getting a result.”

On Higuain:

“Higuain is a class player. He’s not just been doing that for our game, he didn’t really come out of anywhere, he’s been doing it all season. We’ve got to do a better job of being aware of the kind of things he likes to do. He’s a crafty player, very good on the ball. I think just putting ourselves in better spots. It’s not any surprise to us that Higuain is capable of threading those passes and putting himself in those spots. It’s just up to us to deal with those things better.”

On goals:

“On the first one I put him out wide and I think it was still an angle where he had a difficult finish. It could’ve been saved, possibly. The second one was in no man’s land and I came out to close the angle and he did well to put it past me.”

COLUMBUS CREW SPORTING DIRECTOR AND HEAD COACH GREGG BERHALTER

On needing a win:

The starting point is it is always better to win then to lose or draw. We’re happy. I think we’ve been frustrated that we’ve been playing well and not getting the results. We’re still trying to focus on the product we’re creating and how we’re playing. It’s nice when you get results. From that standpoint were happy. I think it was a good effort. Obviously we’re missing some guys but we did a great job.

On Ethan Finlay’s first start of the season:

He was excellent. This game isn’t something that comes out of the blue. If we look at what he’s been doing these last couple of weeks, he’s been leading up to this. I’m most happy with the fact that he was a guy that isn’t a starter, he works his way to the 18, he works his way to the starting lineup, then he performs like this. You can see the progression and he makes other guys believe there’s a chance. He makes other guys believe that if they work hard and train hard that they will get an opportunity.

On defense:

Chicago hasn’t been shut-out yet this season I think that speaks for itself. The guys did it with determination. Guys like Eric [Gehrig], Tyson [Wahl], Hector [Jimenez]. I mean I thought Chad Barson was great as well with his defensive responsibilities. Steve Clark was very secure today. On crosses, he didn’t give up any rebounds today and that’s what you want from a goalkeeper. I think these guys really responded. You can see some of the guys that played last week and played again this week they are getting a rhythm and they are getting a lot more comfortable.

On Michael Parkhurst and importance of getting him in the game:

I think the fans were spectacular to give him that ovation and really cheer him on. He’s been through a lot these last couple of days and it’s nice for him to feel that everyone supports him. It’s the team, the fans and the community supports him. He had a tough session on Thursday, followed by a weight session followed by a red-eye across the country. It was too much for him, he wanted to play but I didn’t think it was worth the risk of an injury after all of that travel and training.

On replacing Federico Higuain:

You don’t replace Federico, simple as that. We get someone on the field that can play their game and we’re not going to ask someone to come in and play like Federico that would be foolish of us. We’re going to ask someone to come in and play to the best of their ability. I’m confident that we are going to be able to get that out of someone.

COLUMBUS CREW GOALKEEPER STEVE CLARK

On tonight’s game:

We had a fantastic game. We knew that there were a lot of players on this team that could play and Eric [Gehrig] obviously stepped up tonight. The thing about Eric is that he is a gamer, the whistle blows and we don’t have a problem.

On second shutout of the season:

For me it’s more important to win and I knew that if I continued to play the way that I play every game then shutouts are going to come and a lot of them. For me it’s about process not results all the time, especially in the goal keeping you have to keep your head and blinders on from distractions. Shut outs come and they go.

On Chicago’s playing before first goal:

You have to give credit to Ethan Finlay for figuring that out, he had a fantastic run. He is a very intelligent kid and a very intelligent soccer player. He spotted that and he was in behind.

On Crew’s teamwork tonight:

I think that our backline had a good game but I can’t tell you compared to their backline. We didn’t give them a goal and they gave up two but I thought that we played very well.

COLUMBUS CREW DEFENDER MICHAEL PARKHURST

On playing tonight:

It’s nice to be back home. It’s a few weeks earlier than I participated or that I wanted but it’s really good to be home. And it was a really nice motivation when I came on the field and I heard everybody. I was really appreciative of that and the support that everyone has given me here.

On the last 48 hours since being cut from the final U.S. Men’s National Team roster:

It’s tough. We didn’t know that the cuts were going to come in that day so no expectations there. It’s difficult of course, I just lost my dream. You have to bounce back and be professional. Now my whole propose is the Crew.

On leaving with his “best foot forward”:

Yeah I think so, I don’t think that there is anything else I could have done. I don’t think that there was anything negative that was on my part that made them not choose me. I think that’s just how it was set up.  It makes it a little easier for me to swallow knowing that I had done my best.

On moving on from the roster announcement:

Absolutely, it’s great to be back around the guys.  I wanted to come back here and get back to business as quick as possible to get my mind off of it.

18 May 6:51 pm

Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop

On the Fire’s first win at Toyota Park this season

“Well obviously, last time I saw you guys, it wasn’t a pretty sight with the game we had before. But today, we come away with three points against a good side – it’s obviously the aim before the match. We got it done; we’re unbeaten in two games, which is always a good thing. We dug through and got the result that we needed. We should have shut them off with a couple of chances late in the game, but didn’t; and you have to give credit to Kansas City, they kept going, created some chances late with ten men. But it’s great to get that win; I feel good that we saw it through. But obviously, there’s room for improvement on any performance, and there’s no difference for this one.”

On the lack of shutouts

“We won the game, would have loved to get the shutout; winning is everything. If we win 3-2, 2-1, whatever it is, we’ll take it. Obviously, it’s nice defensively if we can get a shutout. But as you know, it wasn’t a defensive back four error; it was someone not picking up someone on a set play, so that’s a team thing. We’re working on stuff all the time; it’s brand new, with 10 games in, I’m happy with only losing two games in this league with a group that’s been put together a little bit. We’ve had our ups and downs; we should’ve won more games for sure. We had two home games that you saw had penalty kicks; we could be on four wins right now. It has me going, “well, that’s not bad,” so it’s give and take. I don’t get carried away with winning games; I don’t get carried away with losing or tying games. I think, right now, we’re in a good spot, we’ve got a chance to now get going. These next four games are tough; we’ve got a tough schedule, but it’s something that I’m looking forward to, to see and test the character of the boys. They’re up for the fight, and we saw this game through, which is important to me, so they’re going to feel good about it. We did the same in New York, no matter how the manner is. I got a little bit of gray hair; it could’ve been silver by the end of the game. But we got the win, and that’s all that matters at this point.”

On the revamped back line

“It’s pretty good; and again, it’s a work in progress the whole time, it’s a team defensive type of thing. I thought Patrick [Ianni] had a good, solid game again; Jhon [Kennedy Hurtado] again, I thought, was solid in the middle, the two outside backs at times. Kansas City moved the ball well; they get you overloaded at times, they pull you around. In general, they had a couple of good chances; but I thought we had the better chances, to be honest. Dilly [Duka] had a breakaway, Mike [Magee] had a chance to go around a keeper and slot it. I know it was a tough game late in the match, but we could’ve come away with four or five goals today. The way I’m trying to set the team up is to obviously try to outscore the opponent, and try to make sure that we’re going forward, but we’re just trying to be solid and defensively sound at the back. The balance at the moment is a little bit wavering; we’ve gone forward okay, but I think the defensive side of things is not quite right yet; and again, it’s not just the back four, it’s the whole thing. We watched a lot of DVD last week, we’re going to watch it again this week, and see if we can get the balance where we can just be in good spots. And I just think, as a team, we sat back a little bit again in this game. We have to slide up the field and keep the ball, especially against ten men.

On who is taking penalty kicks

“I actually had a chat with a few press guys a few weeks ago, and I decided Jeff [Larentowicz] was going to take them. But Mike [Magee] and Jeff were talking, and Jeff felt that Mike was the guy to do it. He missed the last two for us; last season [against Montreal], then the first one against Philly. To score two in the same game is tough, so you have to hand it to Mike that he stepped up and buried those two chances and won the match for us; it was great.”

On facing a 3-5-2 formation

“I have not seen that for a while, actually; that was old school MLS stuff, the 3-5-2. But looking at [Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes’] team, it was depleted a little bit at the back, so he decided to play that. It was a little bit different; for us, I’m sure where they’re going to play and who’s going to play, just make sure we’re ready to do it, and step the guys and do our thing. For a good seventy minutes, I felt we were comfortable, and then it got a little hair-raising at the end. But you have to hand it to Peter and his team, they’re a good side; they’re not champions for nothing. They proved it today; they really came up to fight, especially with 10 men.”

On the thought process behind the Fire’s double substitution

“I just thought the momentum was getting away from us a little bit, so I just decided that double is always good. One is not always the impact that you want, so I wanted to do two at the same time, and make two positions freshened up. All in all, I thought it was good; I think Logan [Pause] did a good job, and Dilly looked good when he came on. He has not played for a while, so it was good to get him some minutes and get him running around. All in all, you decide what you want to do; I talked to the coaches, but ultimately, it was my decision. I felt it was the time to do it.”

Jeff Larentowicz, Chicago Fire Midfielder

On not being able to score to put the game away:

“We want to, it’s not something we’re afraid of.  It’s just not happening.  We come close, we have opportunities, but they make the defensive plays and good saves, but it will come.  A win is a win and it’s good that we can be picky in this circumstance.”

Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire goalkeeper

On the defensive performance:

“We needed to learn how to control a game and we are.  I think tonight that the effort defensively was fantastic.  We limited shots, limited chances and there were not many shots on target at all.  I think we’ll look to build on that going forward, but I’m really happy with the performance tonight.

On the learning curve:

“I think we’ve learned a lot.  The most important thing we’ve learned is that we can’t sit back and wait for the game to come to us. No matter what the result is – regardless if we’re tied or we’re up we need to keep playing our game and be confident that we can dictate the way the game goes, close out games and get results.”

On building momentum:

“Back-to-back wins are huge for us.  Now we know what it feels like to win.  We know how to win and now it’s a matter of focusing on the little things and getting it right so that every game we give ourselves a chance to win and put ourselves in a position to go on and push for three points.”

Mike Magee, Chicago Fire forward:

On the first win a home:

“We needed a win badly; however, if that’s how we’re going to win games, I probably only have a couple games left in my career. We’ll take it, it was deserved.  It was a very funky game, but we’ll take wins however we can get them at this point.”

On the end of the game:

“That’s kind of been our M.O.  We get up in games, play well in spurts then kind of take our foot off the gas.  That happened again tonight.  We created a couple chances, I even had a couple of good ones, but for whatever reason we’re letting teams hang in games, and teams like K.C. usually make you pay.”

Harry Shipp, Chicago Fire midfielder

On playing K.C. with missing starters and a man-up in the second half:

“The players they subbed in for them are still really good players.  A championship team isn’t 11 guys it’s 18 guys.  When you slide guys into the midfield and up front they are still going to be dangerous.  I think they were good keeping the ball in the attacking half, but once we were able to break that pressure we did a good job of slipping balls in – getting Quincy and Mike behind for some penalty calls in the first half.”

16 May 8:00 am

The Fire finally picked up three points last week in dramatic fashion with a 5-4 win over Red Bull in New Jersey and will look to make it two on the trot when they welcome defending MLS Cup champs Sporting Kansas City to Toyota Park on Sunday (2pm CT My50/TWCSC-WI/UniMas).

Sporting brings a depleted squad to Chicago but their first loss at home in some time at the hands of the Union on Wednesday night means they come to town with a bad taste in their mouth. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective.

Taking advantage of a depleted SKC defense – testing the makeshift back line

On Sunday, Kansas City will take the field without either member of their famed center backs – Aurelien Collin (injury) and Matt Besler (international duty). Right back Chance Myers is also a doubt. On the outside, Seth Sinovic could be the only regular starter in the back four to play on Sunday while Brazilian Igor Julião had a solid debut in Wednesday’s match against Philly.

In the past, SKC have dealt with the loss of Besler due to national team commitments but losing both center backs is a large blow. SKC’s patched up defense must have Mike Magee and Quincy Amarikwa licking their lips. Last week we saw Harry Shipp play an absolutely brilliant defense-splitting pass to put Mike Magee in 1v1 with Red Bull ‘keeper Luis Robles.

Against SKC, Shipp and whoever plays in the center of midfield alongside Jeff Larentowicz should be looking to play those types of passes in behind the SKC defense to the onrushing Magee or Amarikwa.

Repeating last week’s second half tactic on Sunday – putting high pressure on SKC

Amarikwa described Frank Yallop’s tactical switch at halftime of the New York game the best. When asked, he said, “We came in at half time and knew we were sitting in too much. We were giving New York too much respect to play and we know we can score goals. That’s what we’ve done consistently this year. So, we said in the second half we’re just going to high press, what do we have to lose, and I think it really caught them off guard.”

The exact same tactic should be in place from the first whistle against SKC. In Wednesday’s match against the Union, Sporting gave up the ball on far too many occasions, many times with minimal pressure applied by the opposition. The Union sat back and used the counter attack to their advantage but for the Fire, forcing a new-look SKC into mistakes will be critical.

If Benji Joya gets the start again in the center of the park, I expect to see more from him in this regard. Joya is slowly but surely improving the defensive side of his game but against a team like SKC, I expect him to take a page out of the Dax McCarty playbook and not allow the SKC players any time on the ball.

Joya has the comfort of Jeff Larentowicz behind him so taking a few risks and pressing higher up the field could reap rewards

Providing more support to the outside backs – wing backs exposed again against NYRB last week

As I discussed last week, a lot of the problems for the Fire defensively stem from attacks coming from the wide areas. That was again the case against the Red Bulls in Saturday’s game. It was obvious that NYRB coach Mike Petke told his team to try and isolate Greg Cochrane on the left hand side. During the first half, the Red Bulls attacked almost exclusively down the Fire left. Cochrane certainly held his own but he lacked support from Harry Shipp who was playing in front of him.

On the other side, Lovel Palmer had a tough game in New York. The Red Bulls were again allowed space and time to put in crosses and it really hurt the Fire. Case in point being the Red Bulls first goal, where Eric Alexander was given yards of space to pick out a cross and he duly found the head of Tim Cahill, the best header of a ball in the league.

Against a team like Sporting KC, who put an emphasis on getting their full backs forward to support the outside attackers, the Fire need to try and minimize the amount of 1v1 situations between our outside backs and the SKC wide men.

Prediction: The Fire are hitting KC at the right time: 2-1 Fire with goals from Mike Magee and Benji Joya.

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

WATCH: No cardiac arrest after 5-4 win in New York

15 May 11:48 am

Wednesday night's Art of Futbol at Prairie Production Studio was another fantastic success. Check out some of the pieces as well as interviews from Gonzalo Segares, Benji Joya, Frank Yallop and Foundation Director Jessica Yavitz:

 

Check out select shots from the Art of Futbol 2014!

14 May 9:35 am

We’ll probably never know what was said at halftime in the away locker room this weekend in Harrison, NJ. We won’t know if things were kicked or thrown, if team leaders screamed, or if, as is Frank Yallop’s style, calm orders were dispatched.  

What we do know, though, is that players after the game said they came out focused on putting more pressure on NYRB’s back line. And we know that whatever was said got the Fire refocused enough to turn around a 2-1 halftime score line, score four goals in 19 minutes and overcome a frustrating start to the season to get their first win.

But that talk will go down in the history of halftime talks because whether or not Yallop Al Pacino’d the squad, they came out re-pumped up to the point where Quincy Amarikwa was ready to do this:

Amarikwa was ready to throw his face in front of Luis Robles’s clearance if it meant continuing to pressure NYRB and continuing to build for the Fire the advantage they eventually, if not exactly calmly, rode to three points.

As much as I’d like to picture Yallop standing on chairs and screaming, there are other signs that point to a different kind of leadership at halftime. Look at Mike Magee here, barely five minutes into the second half, extolling the guys to push up and stay up. His eyes are popping out of his forehead!

One of the most competitive guys in the league, Magee could smell NYRB’s weakness after Amarikwa tied the game at 2-2. And Magee did his job after the Fire built their three goal cushion, helping through the midfield in the game’s dying moments to help the Fire fight off NYRB and finish off the win.

What all this points to is that whatever really went down at halftime, the orders were clearly to pressure NYRB’s back line and close out the game. The mistakes Magee, Amarikwa, Patrick Nyarko, and game hero Harry Shipp squeezed out of that back line were exactly what Yallop expected.

The true magic of the situation was that the orders were delivered in a way to convey a strategic, tactics-based message with enough emotional weight to overshadow the recent disappointments in the team’s mind. It led to eye-popping bodily sacrifice for the team. Everyone came together for the best 20 minute spell of the season, and it led to a deserved win.

Ben Schuman-Stoler is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @bsto.

10 May 10:48 pm

Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop

On the spirit of the team:

“It’s been good. I mean, you know, I think last week we had that same situation. We’re 5-2 up in this game and they nearly come back and tied it. We’re two-nil up at home and they come back and win it, [Real] Salt Lake last week. So, what I’d like to think is we’ve learned something from last week. We can only get as hairy as this, but [we’re] playing against a really good team. You can’t take away from that.”

On Harry Shipp:

“Great. Harry’s been playing really well. Each game he’s gotten better, and better, and better. I think just his passes with the one pass to Mike [Magee] when he just missed it, first half, to make it 2-1 I think, and they go down the other end and score. That pass, you know, he’s got that passing in as well as the finishing. I can’t say enough about Harry. He’s really working hard at his game, he looks like a real player, and I think he’s got a great chance at going all the way.”

On the importance of scoring the first goal:

“I always say, and I think there’s stats if you look at the stats, if you score first in our league it’s 83 percent, I think, you get a point or more. So, I think, you know, getting on the chart first is always a big thing. We’ve been a bit unlucky, to be honest. We’ve had two home games and we’ve had a penalty kick in the last minute of the game to win it and missed them both. So, we could’ve been on three wins, four wins, you know, maybe two wins, or whatever and we’re not stuck talking about it now. What I like about the group, you know, they’re really celebrating now because they deserve it, you know, we’ve deserved more that we’ve got. They have not dropped their heads, come to a really difficult place to play, and get a result, and score five goals, which is amazing really, in any game, not just coming to New York and doing it. I’m really proud of the guys the way they hung in there at the end, Sean [Johnson] made two great saves, and we preserved the win.”

Chicago Fire Forward Quincy Amarikwa

On the match:

“I think overall we showed a lot of fight. We came on the road, I think a lot of people, especially the analysts, didn’t think we could come out here and get the road win. I’m glad we were able to prove them wrong.”

On the second half:

“We came in at half time and knew we were sitting in too much. We were giving New York too much respect to play and we know we can score goals. That’s what we’ve done consistently this year. So, we said in the second half we’re just going to high press, what do we have to lose, and I think it really caught them off guard. We put away the number of goals we needed to get the win tonight.”

On the importance of getting the first win of the season:

“I think it’s a pretty big relief, you know, we’ve kept the morale high this entire time. We’ve known we’re capable of winning. I mean a lot of games came down, I think there’s two games that came down to PK’s that we just weren’t lucky on. It was nice to have a little bit of luck go our way today and I just think it’s what’s more to come. We know we can win and we just proved it tonight and we’re going to continue on with the rest of the season.”

Chicago Fire Midfielder Harry Shipp

On the match:

“Yeah I’m honestly just happy to get the first win for this team. I think over the past four or five games, or so, we’ve had some heartbreaking ties and losses giving up late goals, especially last week. So, I think just hanging on for the win, I think New York’s a good team, they were going to get back in the game, you kind of knew that, but just kind of some last ditch defending helped us in the last 10 minutes or so. I’m just happy, if I score three goals and we don’t win the game it doesn’t really matter. So, that’s what’s important.” 

On his game:

“Yeah I think especially in the second half. I think I was finding spaces in the first half and played a ball to Mike [Magee], scored one goal, but I think we kind of knew going into half time, I think we knew we could exploit those spaces even more underneath, me coming inside off the left and so I think we really started pressing higher in the second half, trying to win the ball off their back four, which is how I got my second goal, or third goal was taking it off of them. So yeah, I think the first, especially 30 minutes of the second half were really good.”

On play of the team:

“Yeah it was surprisingly upbeat. You know, I think we played well for those first 70 minutes or so and then I think we collapsed down the stretch, but we know if we could take those 70 minutes and turn it into 90 minutes we have a chance to win every game and I think we’ve been playing well the prior three, four games before that and that was just a lapse of 20 minutes, like I said. But yeah, I think everyone was hungry in training, everyone was feisty trying to get after it, trying to get a spot in the [starting] 11, and I think, you know, it showed this game.”

08 May 11:15 am

Last Saturday’s injury time loss to RSL prolonged the Fire’s misery for another week as the team continues to search for their first win on the season.  It doesn’t get any easier this weekend, when the Men in Red travel to Red Bull Arena to face New York on Saturday evening (5:30pm CT on My50/TWCSC). The Red Bulls have yet to really hit the ground running the season and will be looking to repeat the drubbing of the Fire in the last regular season game of 2013.

Here are some tactical observations to look out for on Saturday evening.

A potential shakeup in the back? A return for Segares likely but other changes possible

Frank Yallop didn’t have positive things to say about his team’s defending for the last 20+ minutes against RSL as and I expect him to make one or more changes to the back four for Saturday’s game. With Gonzalo Segares making the 18 last Saturday, one potential switch is at left back in place of Greg Cochrane.

Cochrane’s attacking ability has been a highlight during his stint in the starting eleven but he was caught out defensively on more than one occasion during the last 20 minutes against RSL. From a purely tactical perspective, the return of Segares would boost the Fire’s aerial defending prowess, especially against threats such as Tim Cahill.

A few weeks ago, Frank Yallop spoke about the need to get Patrick Ianni game time with both Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Bakary Soumare in the team’s reserve game vs. Charlotte, in the case he may need to be utilized in a future match.

 Some of the mental mistakes made by Soumare last season have crept back into his play of late and this could result in Ianni getting a run Saturday vs. Red Bull. a

New York have scored the most goals in the East this season and the Fire cannot afford to make any more mental mistakes especially against a team boasting the Conference’s top goal scorer in Bradley Wright-Phillips and Thierry Henry, the Fire’s arch nemesis  over the past few seasons.

What to do up front? – Will Amarikwa or Anangono partner Magee up front?

In a game where it was imperative that he put in a solid performance, Juan Luis Anangono gave a good shift against RSL last week, picking up a goal and linking well at times with Mike Magee. His competition for a starting spot on Saturday evening is the returning top goal scorer Quincy Amarikwa who missed the match due to red card suspension.

Tactically, there are arguments to be made for both players to get the nod. Amarikwa’s constant high pressure on the opposition’s backline would be welcome against a New York team who continue to be weak defensively in the wide areas.

Quincy is also the more ideal player to have in 1v1 situations, especially if the Fire can get him against one of the Red Bull center backs. In the middle, Jamison Olave has lost a step of pace from his days in Salt Lake and his partner Armando has yet to settle fully into MLS.

Anangono’s size is an important factor to consider, both in the attack, and defensively where he would be useful for set pieces. It is also important for the Fire to start being smarter in possession, especially holding the ball up in the attack.

Anangono has been a mixed bag in this regard so far this season but if he is given his second start in a row, I expect to see an emphasis on this tactic on Saturday night.

Monitoring Lloyd Sam – Stepping out and pressuring the Red Bull winger

Just looking at Lloyd Sam’s four assists this season gives you a good indication into the threat the Englishman poses. From his wide right position, Sam’s crossing is extremely accurate. Not only does he put himself into good wide positions, his ability to still put in a cross while under pressure from a defender makes him even more dangerous. Another problem with the Fire’s late game collapse last week was the lack of urgency by the team’s outside midfielders and defenders to close down the RSL wide players resulting in free crosses.

In Saturday’s game, the Fire must not allow Sam to get similar amounts of space granted to RSL. Stifling Sam will also cut the supply to Wright-Phillips and Henry.

Prediction: If I predict we will win, the team will end up with a tie so I’m going with a 2-2 tie with goals from Quincy Amarikwa and Benji Joya.

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

WATCH: The Centerback

01 May 3:26 pm

Dan Haiek and Matt Doyle talk all things Harry Shipp and break down his rookie season.