The Fire won back-to-back away games and scored six goals. They sit in a playoff position and control their own fate with two games remaining. Juan Luis Anangono is heating up. Mike Magee is so hot he’s scoring goals by accident. Sean Johnson is playing like, and being recognized as, one of the four or five best American goalies. Jeff Larentowicz is owning midfields. Jalil Anibaba and Austin Berry are two of only three MLS players who’ve played every single minute so far this season and their defensive relationship is finally solidifying. There’s real depth on the outside and through the middle (where captain Logan Pause and summer standout Daniel Paladini are working to get past Alex and Arevalo Rios).
That’s the general view right now. The squad is playing up to their potential and the depth is supporting them. The competition for spots is pushing everyone harder, and the depth is allowing Frank Klopas to cover for injuries, international duty (Rios, Lindpere), or to go with the hotter player (Anangono over Chris Rolfe).
In other words, things are shaping up nicely. The general feeling is a good one, momentum is building, the Twitter trolls have returned to their caves, and it’s hard to fend off enticing thoughts like, you know those lower-seeded teams that barrel into the playoffs and scare everyone because they’re playing with momentum and confidence? What if the Fire can be that team?
All season long, the Fire’s major problem was consistency. They were infuriatingly inconsistent from game to game and, indeed, from half to half. Maybe it was a focus thing, maybe it was a changing personnel thing, who knows. But now the Fire are managing games better. They’re attacking straight from the beginning. They’re pressuring the ball all over the field. They’re getting crucial two-goal advantages and defending well enough to hold on to them.
We saw all that last week in D.C., where a super high defensive line pushed the Fire team way up the field to pressure United players into mistakes that led to chances and goals. We saw the same thing in Dallas on Saturday night. Alex, especially, was way up the field in the first half, never letting the Dallas players play the ball comfortable in their own half. (Magee, Anangono, Patrick Nyarko, and Dilly Duka deserve credit too.) How many shots did the Fire have at the top of the Dallas box in the first 30 minutes? It was harassment.
So just like in DC, a high defensive line and concentrated pressure led to a 2-0 first half lead. But just like in DC, we saw where it could be dangerous. We saw the team pay the price of so much early pressure, with Nyarko tweaking a hamstring and the rest of the team almost running out of gas late in the second half. We also saw how pushing too eagerly can be scary:
But I like this high pressure because it fits the moment, with the Fire desperately needing these results to make the playoffs. There are just two games left and the Fire have to prove their potentially newfound consistency beyond the past two away wins. They have to show the urgency and the commitment and the work rate into the next two games, too. Klopas's high risk and high pressure tactic fits.
It's a great moment: After all the work and all the struggle, suddenly the players’ quality shines through. Suddenly everybody trusts each other. Goals and points happen. Anibaba scores a stunner. Other teams hit the posts.
I don't know about predicting anything against Toronto and New York. But if we keep seeing the Fire play as they have these past two games, they'll get to play a few more.
Select shots from the Fire's 3-2 win over FC Dallas, presented by MiAllstate.
CREDIT: USA Today Sports Images
On Monday morning, Chicago Fire defender Gonzalo Segares joined Dr. Bechara Choucair, CDPH Commissioner, and Anna Esquivel, CDPH RN, at the Little Village Community Council for a press event unveiling CDPH billboard, print and CTA flu shot awareness ads featuring Segares and other prominent Chicago sports figures including Mike Ditka, and Elena Delle Donne and Sylvia Fowles, both from the Chicago Sky.
Segares received his annual flu shot from CDPH Immunization Medical Director Julie Morita, M.D and the Department also administered free flu shots at the event for Little Village Community members.
Gonzalo was interviewed by FOX 32 and Univision telling reporters that – "I’ve got to stay healthy for my long season, and I always get my shot once a year. It’s definitely encouraging for people to come over and get theirs."
Gonzalo wasn’t the only celebrity at the event as the Fire’s mascot Sparky also “received” his flu shot.
The annual shot is the best protection against influenza and we want all our fans to be safe, especially during the colder off season. Check out the photos for more and keep an eye out for the ads throughout Chicagoland!
For more information on the flu vaccine, please click here.
As Chris Rolfe himself pointed out to Anthony Zilis recently, 2013 has been his worst year statistically with just four goals and one assist over 28 games this season. Still, teammates have backed him, with his contribution as a midfield sub in last Saturday's 2-2 draw specifically sticking out.
The mention of this being a poor statistical season combined with Mike Magee calling Rolfe a "great finisher" had me go back and nerd out on his body of work over the years. With 48 goals, Rolfe continues to be the club's second all-time scoring leader behind Ante Razov at 76.
The fact that Rolfe has now equaled the number of seasons Razov played made their shots to goal percentage an interesting and worthy comparison.
See the tables below...
|Years||GP||Goals||Shots||SOG||Goals/Shots %||Goals/SOG %|
|Years||GP||Goals||Shots||SOG||Goals/Shots %||Goals/SOG %|
- Despite playing 18 matches more, Razov took 251 more shots and 153 more shots on goal than Rolfe. That might have to do with the fact that...
- Rolfe has played a significant amount of his Fire career out on the wing -and-
- Razov was arguably surrounded by a stronger cast of attacking players (the league never had more than 12 teams when he was in Chicago) -and-
- Ante just shot a heck of a lot more than Chris
- To Magee's point, Rolfe is a stronger finisher over the course of his Fire career. Only once did Razov go above 15% conversion on his goals/shot ratio while Rolfe did it three times. Between 2006-08, the current Fire attacker also went above 31% on his Goals/SOG ratio and has never dipped below 20% in his career.
- While there isn't much difference in the pair's career goals/shots ratio (less than one percentage point), Rolfe's Goals/SOG ratio is noticeably higher, coming in at just over 30%.
Chicago Fire midfielder Egidio Arevalo Rios has been named as part of Uruguay's provision 29-man roster for La Celeste's crucial final CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers next month at Ecuador (October 11) and vs. Argentina (October 15).
While not officially called up, Rios has been a constant fixture in the midfield for Uruguay during qualifying and seems very likely to be part of the final squad set to be named next week.
If that is the case, he would miss the Fire's away match at FC Dallas on October 12.
Earlier this month, Rios missed the Fire's 2-1 loss at Seattle (September 7) and 1-1 draw at Toronto (September 11), as Uruguay earned six crucial points with a 2-1 away win at Peru and 2-0 home win over Colombia.
Uruguay sit in CONMEBOL's fifth spot, which if qualifying ended today would see them take on Jordan in a two-match intercontinental playoff for a place in next summer's FIFA World Cup.
There is huge opportunity for the side to control their own destiny for one of CONMEBOL's four automatic places as they sit tied on points with Ecuador (6-4-4; 22pts) ahead of their clash on October 11 in Quito.
The World Champion, Judah Friedlander tells the story of the champion of third to last picked, Richard Jata.