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13 November 11:53 am

Once again, Section 8 Chicago is running their annual poll for Supporters Player of the Year!

All Chicago Fire supporters are encouraged to vote for their choice by Thursday, November 21 at noon CT. Two days later, the Independent Supporters Association will honor their Player of the Year with a gathering on Saturday, November 23, 6:00pm at A.J. Hudsons Public House (3801 N. Ashland).

The winner is also given $1500 from Section 8 Chicago to donate to the charity of their choice.

Past winners:
2012 - Patrick Nyarko (Charity: A Better Life For Kids)
2011 - Dominic Oduro (Nothing But Nets)
2010 - C.J. Brown (SCORES Chicago)
2009 - C.J. Brown (SCORES Chicago)

VOTE HERE: http://www.s8c.org/2013-supporters-player-of-the-year/

04 November 1:06 pm

In this business when you swear you won't use your laptop for a day, often times you miss something. Such was the case for yours truly Friday as I took a much-needed day off following 10 months of non-stop career work...

So the story goes, I missed what seems to be a pretty clear, if not indirect endorsement of Mike Magee for MVP from a former teammate and probably the greatest American soccer player of all-time, Landon Donovan.

It came in an article from Scott French on MLSsoccer.com where the veteran So-Cal writer spoke with Robbie Rogers about the trade that saw his rights traded to LA in exchange for Magee to come to Chicago.

While the article centered mainly on Rogers adjustment to LA, Donovan, who is teammates with another potential MLS MVP candidate in Robbie Keane, had this to say of his Magee's exploits this season in Chicago:

“Would we like Mike Magee here? Yes,” he said. “I think any team wants the MVP of the league on their team, so, yeah, we would like Mike here. But the reality is Mike's not here, and we're all happy for Mike, and there's no guarantee those things [Magee achieved in Chicago] would have happened had Mike stayed here."

If you know Magee, he'd traded the chance to still be playing for any individual accolade but it does seem we should add Landon to the list of MLSsoccer.com editorsWashington Post reporter Steven Goff and Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney on #MikeMageeMVP endorsements.

28 October 2:29 pm
Wait. What just happened? The Fire were up 1-0 with just over one hour left in their season. The first 25 minutes were insanely fast, yes, but the Fire were creating chances and were up a goal. Dilly Duka in particular looked menacing, and Mike Magee had got his 21st to lead the league in goals! The Fire only needed a draw and there was one hour left!
 
Then Anangono lost the ball at the NYRB box. They made one, two passes and boom. This ridiculous goal from Thierry Henry sent the Fire reeling.
 
 
What can you do? Henry didn’t even see the ball coming until it was basically on his chest. His volley was so powerful it was in the net before Sean Johnson could move his feet.
 
Suddenly the Red Bulls had not only recovered, they were growing, and the first half turned into one of the best the MLS had this year. Top quality superstars playing like it. MLS playoffs, Supporters’ Shield, and Golden Boot on the line. Red Bull Arena was the loudest it’s ever been. Things got hectic. The players were all over the field like a game of Benzedrine capture the flag. Johnson saved from Peguy Luyindola. Duka hit the side netting. Tackles were coming in from everywhere, and the only time to breathe came at the whistle for halftime.
 
So it was 1-1 and the Fire were still in the playoffs. A draw was all they needed. But we know what happened next. NYRB came out of halftime like a pack of wild dogs. They overran the Fire, starting with their hyena pack second goal, then their third, and so on and so on until five-two. Five-two - a result we’ll all remember.
 
But what happened?! How can NYRB have just three more wins than the Fire and be the best team of the regular season while the Fire are done? Whither the knife’s edge?!
 
After some time to digest, you could say the Fire just ran up against a team that simply wasn’t going to be beaten - or tied - on Sunday. NYRB was a hot team that hadn’t lost since August 25, playing in front of the best crowd most of them had ever seen at home, with a long tortured fan base poised to lift the organization’s first ever trophy. Their superstars (Henry, Tim Cahill) were inspired, the team was clicking all fall, and nobody was beating them that night.
 
So then we can ask how the Fire ended up having to play the best team in MLS with the season on the line, but we know that story. We know about the crazy ride that was the 2013 Chicago Fire. 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, etc. The pre-Magee era, the hot June, the U.S. Open Cup semifinal loss, the Anangono-Rios era, the late burst into playoff contention. Despite it all, they needed just one more point. It’s easy to look for it in games like the draw in Toronto, the blown lead against Montreal, gut punch games against Houston and Philly. The points don’t lie.
 
No, what we saw on Sunday night was what we’ve seen in parts all year. We saw a first half with some of the most entertaining footy you’ll see, and then the second half was so brutal that, to paraphrase Richard Jeni, you’d rather give birth to a porcupine that is on fire than watch it again.
 
But it wasn’t totally unexpected. That two-faced nature has been as much a part of the Fire as anything else this year. It’s just too bad it resurfaced when it did. Maybe Magee was hobbled from rolling his ankle early in the game. Maybe the Fire missed Jeff Larentowicz after accumulating too many yellows. Either way, this was the evil inconsistent side of the 2013 Fire. It’s the team that can make a 4-4-2 look like the most advanced formation around only to deteriorate into a side with little shape, leaving mismatches and wide open space all over the field.
 
After the two quick go ahead goals, NYRB was able to sit back and pick their spots. The Fire reverted to some ugly and desperate long balls that never quite came off and the second half raced to its depressing conclusion.
 
We have all fall and winter to think about what happened. How the Fire went, in 60 minutes, from one of the hottest teams heading into the playoffs to going home, season over. But personally I won’t only think about 5-2. I’ll think about Magee Face, Larentowicz Face, Duka’s megs, Chris Rolfe’s megs, all the megs!, Jalil Anibaba’s swing and miss in the wind against Philadelphia and his rocket against Dallas, Magee’s spike, the blue kit, the third kit, Joel Lindpere’s crosses, assistant coach Leo Percovich’s hair, the way Dan Kelly uses “class” as an adjective, the #cf97 moodswings, the drama, and the totally unpredictable energy that was the 2013 Chicago Fire.
28 October 7:39 am
Quote Sheet
Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls
Red Bull Arena – Harrison, NJ
Sunday, Oct. 27

CHICAGO FIRE HEAD COACH FRANK KLOPAS

On the match:
Yeah I mean I just think that we had some chances in the first half and I think if we could have got the second goal I think that could have changed things a little bit and then I think when we started the second half we had some bad turnovers in bad spots. I feel we had the ball and we turned it over and when they get the ball in good spots they have quality players that are going to hurt you. In the first half we had our chances to score another goal and the second half was just the key I think, in possession when we had it I think we just turned it over in bad spots and then once they went two, three up, we knew the score, we knew the results of the other game and we had to push the game. From then on, for me, it really didn’t matter; we just kept on pushing to try to come back [and at least tie the match to get into the playoffs].

On the season:
Right now it’s a lot of emotions. I’m proud of the guys just the way the second half of the season [went] and we were probably the best team in the league in the second half of the season. Through adversity you learn and you become better but I think the group fought all the way to the end, it’s just unfortunate that early on [in the season] if you get one more win it’s a different thing. I take my hat off to the guys because they competed. I know it’s disappointing right now for sure, but you have to learn from every situation and move on.

On Mike Magee:
For me he’s the MVP. Another very good performance, scored another very good goal tonight and look at the impact he’s had on our team. He’s a fantastic player and we’re happy to have him starting next year from the beginning [of the season].

CHICAGO FIRE FORWARD MIKE MAGEE

On the match:
I wish I knew [what went wrong in the match]. First and foremost I think New York was great. I think anytime you got Tim Cahill and [Thierry] Henry on your team and those guys are in the form that they were in tonight they’re going to be hard to beat. I definitely think we might have lain down a little bit.

On reflecting on his season:
This is going to hurt for a while. It’s cool to score goals and all but you play the game to lift the trophy and to kind of come that close after so much work just to get ourselves back in a spot to have a chance at making the playoffs – to be honest, it’s heartbreaking.

On Thierry Henry:
He’s the best. He’s probably the best player in the league and one of the classiest guys I’ve met. I got a chance to hang with him a little bit in Kansas City this year and I have nothing but respect for him. I just told him I wish him luck and that’s all.

25 October 11:00 am

Patrick Nyarko did a pretty sweet twitter takeover yesterday... Here are some of the highlights!




















25 October 8:09 am

With three wins on the bounce, the Fire are on the brink of a playoff spot with only one game to go. The Men in Red could be in before the start of play on Sunday but the earliest they’ll know is a little over an hour from kickoff of their match vs. New York Red Bulls (LIVE 3:30pm CT on My50/Time Warner Sports WI; 4pm on UniMas).

Still, there is plenty to play for, including a possible third place finish thus avoiding the play-in game. For New York no incentive is bigger than knowing a win against the Fire will guarantee the team’s first ever trophy. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective.

Patrick Nyarko and Jalil Anibaba vs New York’s left back – taking advantage of a Red Bulls weak spot

Left back has been a problem position for the Red Bulls this season and with the two natural left backs nursing injuries, the Red Bulls may have to resort to playing right-back Brandon Barklage out of position as cover. Red Bulls coach Mike Petke admitted that he is wary of Patrick Nyarko and hinted that it could be Barklage that gets the start due to his strong 1v1 defending.

WATCH: Segares, Nyarko preview NYRB

 

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With that in mind, I feel the Fire coaching staff will be encouraging Nyarko to get the ball and take the left back on as much as possible. Left midfielder Johnny Steele is not the best at tracking back and helping in the defensive third and this could also allow Jalil Anibaba to get forward and support Nyarko on the Fire’s right.

Anibaba’s crossing ability has improved dramatically this year and regardless of who New York starts on the left, I expect the majority of the Fire’s attacks to come down that side.

Logan Pause vs Alex – who will partner Rios in the middle?

The toughest decision for the Fire’s coaching staff this week is who will replace the suspended Jeff Larentowicz in the center of the midfield alongside Arevalo Rios. One of Logan Pause, Alex or Daniel Paladini will be half of the tandem that will have to compete against one of the strongest midfield pairings in MLS: Dax McCarty and Tim Cahill.

On the one hand, the Fire know that the Red Bulls will be playing for the win and the Supporters Shield crown that comes with the points. On the other, the Fire will also be going for the win, knowing what they will have to do to finish in either fifth, fourth or even third.

With this in mind, Alex would be a more logical pick to start alongside Rios due to his attacking creativity and willingness to get forward and support the strikers. To those who argue that starting Alex over Logan would mean the team loses some defensive clout, coach Frank Klopas would argue that Alex’s defensive play has been excellent this season.

Tactically, I think starting Logan Pause would be the wiser choice, especially when you take into account the fluidity of the New York attack. The center midfielders and strikers for the Red Bulls are never static, with players like Henry often drifting wide and Cahill moving forward to play as the target striker.

With Pause alongside Rios, the Fire would form a very solid block of four, similar to the formation that the Republic of Ireland played under Giovanni Trapattoni. This formation would make the Fire very difficult to break down but would put a lot more emphasis on the wide players to create. This coaching decision has the potential to have huge impact on the match.

Shutting down Fabian Espindola – a player easily lost in the shadows of Henry and Cahill

In the Red Bulls last home match against New England, Mike Petke started with Henry and Fabian Espindola up front and in the first half in particular, Espindola was unstoppable. The New England defense could not keep up with the Argentine striker, who dropped deep and wide in search of the ball, dragging defenders out of position along the way.

Espindola is a player that any coach would love to have due to his tireless work rate. He also hounds opposition defenders when they are in possession, always looking to force a turnover or mistake and does not give up possession easily.

His low center of gravity can be very difficult for defenders to contain and he will certainly pose a challenge for the Fire’s backline on Sunday afternoon. The Fire defenders must not allow Espindola to get behind the backline.

Individually the defenders must not allow him to drag them out of position and create space for players like Cahill and McCarty to move into.

Prediction: With both teams knowing a win would be massively rewarding, I expect an end to end thriller, especially if there is an early goal. 2-2 with goals from Mike Magee and Patrick Nyarko.

24 October 8:31 am

The Chicago Fire Twitter Takeover is back Thursday with Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko taking the controls from 1:30-2:15pm CT!

Get Pat's take on how he's feeling heading into the all-important season finale at New York on Sunday, how the team has progressed to this point over the course of the season or just where the best spot to get Peanut Butter Soup is in Chicago...

Hit him up @ChicagoFire on Twitter at 1:30pm or tweet your questions to him now using hashtag #AskPat.

22 October 3:15 pm

Move over Jeff Larentowicz, there's a new ninja in town.

Check out Austin Berry's mad skills as he cuts off a great Toronto FC through ball. Hiyah!!

21 October 12:46 pm

What's more awesome than watching a Mike Magee penalty kick conversion? Watching a Mike Magee penalty kick conversion in slow motion, of course!

With the magic of a GoPro camera, a talented videographer (@laflores037), and some editing software, we're able to make it happen.

Check out this sweet video below, and remember to tweet your support of #MikeMageeMVP!

 

21 October 11:22 am

There were shots off the post, a disallowed goal, more Sean Johnson saves, the dramatic contexts of playoff contention and the last regular season home game of the season - Saturday’s win had a handful of talking points, but it had really only one truly interesting scene: Mike Magee’s game winning penalty.

Because despite the atmosphere and everything that was at stake, the game, in fact was pretty flat. Maybe it was the rain-soaked field, maybe it was a bit of nerves but Fire fans had to be uncomfortable when they saw the first 10 minutes with little of the urgency, high pressure, and high defensive line that pushed the team to those two huge away wins in D.C. and Dallas. Toronto was finding gaps all over the field to exploit and if it wasn’t for such bad finishing by Robert Earnshaw, they would’ve been in front.

The Fire grew into the game, however, and were in control when Magee scored the winning penalty. Then, as we’ve seen for the past month or so, the Fire managed the remainder of the and took all the points.

So maybe it’s good that it wasn’t a spectacle of high drama. Maybe it was just a professional victory -- a cold blooded three point snatch.

But then there was Magee’s PK.

Just a few weeks ago, Magee hit the crossbar with what would’ve been a game winning PK against Montreal. It cost the Fire two crucial points. “Tonight's on me,” he said after the game. “It won't be the last one I miss but I'm confident taking them and I'll bury the next one.”

It’s more or less the approach you expect from someone leading the league in goals and there aren’t many better opportunities to pad your stats than from the penalty spot.

And yet, and YET, Saturday’s PK was terrifying. I didn’t like the way Magee looked, I didn’t like his set up. He kept wiping his hands, and he started his run-up exactly at the whistle. You can often tell if a player’s going to score their PK based on their face, their calm, their approach, and their cool. We all know Magee is cool in front of goal, but wouldn’t the Montreal miss be on his mind? There he was, right in front of Section 8, back in his home city, a stadium chanting MVP - it was a moment, just a second or two, where some people might have thought about the whole chaos of the season. All the missed chances, all the posts they hit, all the points they dropped, all the mistakes and antagonism and pressure.

It happened so fast. Magee didn’t let the moment fester. He knew what he was going to do. He knows where the goal is. He wipes his hands, he tugs his shorts down a bit, he looks at the ref waiting for the whistle. When it comes he leaps off the line like a 5k start, skips a bit to the left of the ball, and approaching it that way, executes the deftest of chips right into where the goalie’s chest would’ve been if he hadn’t dove down to his right, where he thought Magee would go.

What I love about the way he took it is that he seemed to beat the rhythm of the game. I wanted a dramatic pause. I wanted to consider the entire season in the moment, and I wanted him to look straight at the keeper with fire in his eyes, like Rivaldo in 2002. But then, that’s what makes him such a good finisher, isn’t it? It’s the way he seems to catch defenders and goalies unaware. For some goals he’s quicker than you think he can be, and for others he seems to wait an eternity before calmly putting it away. The PK on Saturday was a combination of both. It had the quickness to take a few people by surprise (and short circuit any nerves), and the calmness to chip a Pirlo-esque panenka in front of thousands of people, in the most important game of the season.

After the game, Magee admitted he had some nervousness: “Normally I get up there and don't think twice about missing, and this time the last one off the back of the post was on my mind, so I figured I couldn't hit it off the post if I shot it up the middle.”

Even when admitting nerves, he sounds like the doubt in his mind didn’t really make him fear not scoring, it just pushed him to score differently.

And so now the Fire go to New York with nerves and doubts, but like Magee, they’ll have to use those doubts to push forward. They’ve learned from their mistakes against Montreal (and Columbus, and etc. etc.) but for three games in a row they’ve managed games and have a chance to finish the season the way Magee finished his PK: maybe a little afraid of the posts, maybe not exactly with the suave calmness of a secure playoff spot, but with a chance to kill it off, take the points, and head into the playoffs.