Blog

Player

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.

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

30 July 9:24 am

Fire forward Mike Magee is soaking in this week's MLS All-Star festivities in Kansas City and really why shouldn't he?

After 11 seasons in MLS, the league's joint-leading goal scorer is the longest tenured player on this year's All-Star roster to be making his first appearance in the mid-summer classic. 

On Monday, Magic Mike joined fellow MLS All-Stars Will Johnson of Portland and Patrice Bernier of Montreal and host Nick Firchau on ExtraTime Radio to have a frank discussion about how they see the league in 2013, the dumbest questions they receive from reporters, Mike's sincere avoidance of Twitter and the honor of taking part in this year's game.

Listen here.

28 July 1:07 am
Quote Sheet
Chicago Fire vs. Houston Dynamo
BBVA Compass Stadium – Houston, Texas – July 27, 2013
 
Frank Klopas, Chicago Fire Head Coach
 
Thoughts on the match
 
“We talked about our ability now in this stretch and to be able to get points on the road. You’re playing against a very good team, difficult place, it’s not easy here, but in the second half I felt that both teams, we had some chances, but I felt also late in the game both teams had some quality looks. The goalkeepers came out big. For us, I think, on the road, we showed a lot of character, but also, from our keeper Paolo [Tornaghi], he needed those saves to come up big and he did, but also I though Tally did too with some of the chances we had.”
 
What has sparked the change within the team
 
“Definitely different confidence within the team. I think the mentality is different, the start was definitely tough for us. Losing Arne Friedrich right before our first game wasn’t easy, so I needed a guy to replace. I feel that with additions of Mike Magee and [Bakary Soumaré] and the results we’ve gotten, it’s a different mentality within the group. There is a lot of confidence, so it’s a tough stretch for us right now, I mean second half of the season, you’re playing a lot of teams within your own conference and it’s going to be tight. There is so much parity within the league, I think what we didn’t do in the first half of the season we have to do much better the second half on the road, pick up points and win at home. This was a good start and we have to regroup now. We have a tough away game against Philadelphia next week, so it doesn’t get any easier.”
 
On the impact of Mike Magee
 
“He’s got a lot of quality and he’s a smart player, but he does a lot of little things also besides scoring that help the team out. He’s been fantastic for us, so has [Bakary Soumaré]. I just think as a team we’re in a different place right now and we have a lot to play for. Both of those additions have been big, but I think everyone else has stepped up and I think we have everyone healthy right now and I think that is a positive thing for the team.”
 
Update on the injury to Alex
 
“He got a knock, it happened in the game on the ankle, he came out. He was having a good game in the middle, but listen it’s all about the team and things like that happen and guys have to be able to get in the game and help and that’s what a team is for. You have to rely on everyone and the guys that came in Danny [Paladini] and Logan [Pause] came in and I felt left it all on the field, and that’s what you want and ask for.”
 
Paolo Tornaghi, Chicago Fire Goalkeeper
 
Thoughts on the match
 
“It’s good for us coming here. I think the environment here is very difficult to play [in], so we are happy.  All the statistics say that [Houston] is tough and we did our best and we are going home with a point.”
 
Game plan coming into the match
 
“Well we knew that this team is very strong in statistics and putting [the ball in] the box and try to win the first, the second, the third ball. I think to challenge, to fight, and it’s what we tried to do and I think we did well, so that’s why we had the goal and a good game.”
 
Importance of this match in the standings
 
“It’s a crucial moment of the season. We have to come back from another positive position in the standings, so we have to keep going and maybe in one month, be in the right spot that we have to be in the playoffs.”
 
Mike Magee, Chicago Fire Forward
 
Thoughts on the match
 
“It’s huge, especially playing in Houston, which is close to impossible to get any points in and in the fashion that we did it, I thought was pretty good. We obviously give up a goal again, but to fight back and even get a chance or two to get the win, that is a great point.”
 
Getting the equalizer so quickly
 
“It is always important to get the equalizer. It is good to get it quick because they’re a team that tends to, you know, once they get one, they start pounding on you. They’re not a team that scores one and sits back, so it had the potential to be a very long end of the game, so to get the one back quick is massive.”
 
Importance of the result going forward
 
“It’s just we’re hard to beat. No matter what happens it’s a big step for us. We have been kind of looking for a result like this. We have beaten some teams that aren’t in the playoff hunt and we lost to Kansas City, we barely tie Portland, so to come into Houston and get a point like this is definitely a statement.”
 
Houston Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear
 
Thoughts on the match
 
“A little bit of a frustrating night. Scored a great goal then gave up a softie and then we had some chances to go back ahead and it didn’t happen. [We were] looking at three [points], we get one, but I can’t fault the guys’ effort.”
 
The importance of this match
 
“This game was important. I say this time and time again, but maybe people don’t take me seriously: every game for me is a big game. I don’t have to say ‘well this is a big game because of this, because of that.’ All these underlying themes and goals; the main goal will always be to win the game. I know what New England did tonight, I know what the other teams did, I know where we’re at we have game in hand, et cetera. You want to win three points no matter if it’s home, if it’s Columbus, or New England or even tonight against Chicago. The aim is always to get three [points]. We want to be higher than where we are in the conference and we know it’s going to take wins to do that.”
 
On Cam Weaver’s performance
 
“I thought he was good. I thought he was due for a goal. He’s had his chances along the way, and I’m sure he’s frustrated at times but he was a big part of what we were trying to do tonight. We were trying to get some balls wide, get balls in the box, and I think he had clear off the line in a corner kick. He had a kick in the first half….held the ball well for us, put himself in the right spot for his goal. Happy for him. He works hard everyday. I think he works on his finishing. He wants to be on the field. He wants to make a positive impact, and tonight I’m happy for him.”
 
On the physicality of the match
 
“I just think there was a lot of stoppages. I mean they never really got a good flow in the first-half. Obviously as the game got tied, there was time wasting as we’ve seen before and it slows the game down. But, what can you do? I didn’t think it was overly physical, I thought. I think every game is physical. I don’t think any game in MLS is over the top. I don’t think any team comes out and is dirty. I think teams try and play the right way, try to play physical. It was just two teams tonight. So, just pretty much a standard game for me.”
 
Houston Dynamo forward Cam Weaver
 
Thoughts on the match
 
“Disappointed with only getting one point, I think we the amount of chances we had we definitely should be getting three points. That’s the way I feel right now.”
 
On getting the goal
“I think it’s been a while, so I’m definitely happy to get that goal. I had a few chances tonight, and I happened to get one. It would’ve been a lot nicer in a victory, but hopefully that’s one of more to come.”
 
Houston Dynamo defender Bobby Boswell
 
Thoughts on the match
 
“It was frustrating. You work so hard to get a goal and then you kind of give up a softie. We just didn’t finish a lot of our other chances. We had one called back that probably shouldn’t have been, but sometimes that’s how your night goes. I mean nothing really goes your way, so good for Cam, happy for him, he’s worked so hard to get to where he is and for him to score hopefully that’s a sign of things to come.”
 
On their place in the standings
 
“We were aware coming into the game what was going on. We always kind of look at it throughout the year. I’ve said it from the beginning, last year was just a matter of one point, I think. So, we understand that. It just went against us last night. From the game Wednesday, to the field, to the refs on one call, to us shooting ourselves in the foot, so a lot to be learned, a lot from ourselves on the field and some of our guys off the field too you know. But, like I said it comes down to the guys on the field getting the job done. I mentioned all those other things, but at the end of the day it comes down to the eleven guys that are out there playing. We had our chances. A tie is not the worst thing, but obviously we wanted a win. But, we can’t really harp on it too much. We’re going to look at what we did on the goal and talk about some communication issues, but we’ve got to get ready for Columbus now.”
 
Houston Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall
 
Thoughts on the match
 
“Obviously fairly disappointed. It’s a game we should win. It’s a game we can win. Obviously to give up a goal right after you score one, I think it comes down to a mental lapse, and we need to do a better job defensively of holding onto the lead. And it starts once they kick the ball off and it didn’t take them long to get an equalizer. So, it’s very disappointing to us.
 
I don’t think anything was going against us that doesn’t happen in any other game. Fouls go both ways and maybe it’s offside, maybe it’s onside, it doesn’t matter. Those things happen every single game.”
 
25 July 9:10 am

Joel Lindpere continues to get big ups for his one goal, two assists performance in Saturday's 4-1 win over D.C. United as the Estonian international was named to the FIFA 13 Ultimate Team of the Week today!

Congrats Joel!

24 July 12:56 pm

I’ve always thought it odd that sports falls into the category of entertainment business. Sure people pay to watch it, same as all entertainment, and there are “actors”, agents, venues and all that. But when you’re emotionally attached, soccer feels like more than merely entertainment. “Entertainment” feels a little shallow, I think of county fair tents, while sports can feel like everything in the world.

Take the idea of “Sport”: Roman, high, physically extreme, competition; and the idea of “Entertainment”: Amusement, fun, pleasure.

But it’s not fair to separate the two quite so fast. I did a Twitter search for “R Kelly tears” after his highly lauded Pitchfork set on Sunday night and remembered that in music, too, people live for what happens on stage. You get caught up with performers and players, you put your expectations on them, you live through them, and when they stand up and return everything in performance, the exaltation is real and thorough and spiritual.

The word performance is interesting. We say players “perform” well (or not) the same way we do about musicians and actors. I suppose the main difference between performing and just, well, doing something, is that performances require an audience. And it’s the audience that makes the show, right? Nobody believes in your work unless you do it in front of a crowd, and the Pope in the woods isn’t selling tickets.

Something about those moments in a performance, when players and audience are one, when expectations are met and then exceeded, time speeds up and slows down, the moment stretches out into something like a feeling, and everything is right again. Whether it’s a band onstage or a team on a field, those encores, those goals, they make us bigger.

Performances are entertainment, and injecting competition into performances only makes them more so. A friend once told me that she had no problem going to youth swim meets; she found them entertaining because she just liked to watch races.

So among all the clamor this weekend about fancy players in town for Pitchfork and the Fire readying to bring in a new Designated Player, the team hosted a D.C. side Saturday night that is absolutely reeling. And the Fire handled business. The most “entertaining” factor in it all, though, was seeing Chris Rolfe grab a couple goals. 

 
 
 

I mean, your sister loves Chris Rolfe, we all love Chris Rolfe (you saw his cute reaction to Section 8’s song for him after his first goal, right?), and he was in desperate need for some goals because, let’s face it, you can’t make a career playing up top and not scoring in this league. And it’s not like he wasn’t trying, he leads the team in shots, we see his work rate game after game, but now it looks like Rolfe is finally starting to get in that rhythm where the goal looks all big and goalies are just annoying impediments. His finishes have that quick, confident feel about them again.

It was cathartic to see the elation after his first goal, right in front of Section 8. Rolfe’s been at it for a while, he’s been on more than a few tours, and we all want him to succeed and meet the expectations we put on him. It’s the life of a performer, I guess, to have to deal with not only the usual pressure one puts on oneself, or that a coach puts on, but to face the crowd’s expectations too. Like R. Kelly did on Sunday, and like all great performers, Rolfe stepped up in the moment and made it something bigger, something that we could all share in, and that’s entertainment at its best.

 

 

24 July 11:23 am

MLS Player of the Week, Goal of the Week nominee, the accolades just keep on coming for Chris Rolfe, but why not? His fourty-fifth minute brace completing goal from Joel Lindpere's perfect placement can only be described with one word... Sick.

That's why MLSsoccer.com's Greg Lalas breaks it down in this week's Anatomy of a Goal.

23 July 1:41 pm

Join Daniel Paladini, Gonzalo Segares, and Patrick Nyarko next Thursday July 25th from 6-8pm at Molly’s Cupcakes located at 2536 N. Clark Street in Lincoln Park.

Come by and see the Men in Red serve up your favorite cupcakes including the “Chicago Fire Velvet Swirl”. For each Fire Swirl cupcake sold, $1 will go back to the Chicago Fire Foundation.

Molly’s will match all tips collected during the evening with proceeds benefiting the Chicago Fire Foundation.

21 July 2:32 pm

Select shots from the Chicago Fire Season Ticket Holder Meet the Team event.