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24 March 10:36 am

Back by popular demand, the segment that lets you watch your favorite moments of the game in Slo-Mo from different angles, "Slow it Down".

This time, Harry Shipp serves in a great ball and captian Jeff Larentowicz is on the other end of it to head it home... let's slow it down:

23 March 6:48 pm
Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop

On playing his first game at Toyota Park
 
“Obviously disappointed to not come away with a win, but for the effort, I thought both teams played pretty well on a difficult surface today. What I did like about our guys was that we were probably closer to winning the match than to losing it, so that’s always good. We had a couple of good chances to get that second goal. I think that one chance, I haven’t seen the game on tape, Mike Magee’s chance late with his left foot there. Having said that, we didn’t lose the match; I thought we did some bright stuff, we tried to play the way we want to play, but I guess in the end, a draw is a fair result.”
 
On young guys making their first appearances at home
 
“I thought they did well. It’s never easy for these young guys to come in and play in such a big stage. I think both Harry [Shipp] and Benji [Joya] last week did a good job and played well today again. Victor’s [Pineda] first taste was today; I’ve seen more of Victor than he did today, but having said that, I think it’s always good to give those guys a chance to blossom and play; and I think that from our injury situation right now it’s a chance for a lot of guys to get some minutes and play and see how they get on, so I was pleased with all three of them.”
 
On game plan
 
“Well, I think the difficult part was we wanted to obviously possess the ball better and play better, obviously play our type of game, a possession-based high press; but I think that the field didn’t really suit either team. When we started the press a little bit, they just banged it along and we did the same, so it kind of got you a little bit of a scrappy affair. What I liked about the team was we did create some good chances in those sort of scrappy moments. I was pleased with that, and we had some good moments where I think on a decent surface we might have had a chance at scoring a goal; game plan changed a little bit, once we saw the surface we talked about it, we couldn’t take any chances trying to play out of the back too much with the field.  Having settled that, there was some good play in the final third from both teams, but I thought we had some good looks today, but we didn’t finish them.”
 
On Matt Watson’s play and versatility
 
“I’ve known Matt for a number of years, as I’ve stated before, but I just like those type of players that can slot in anywhere; kind of get what I want out of the player, and he does that, he gives you 100% any position he plays. I thought he played very well last week, I thought he played very well today; maybe some early moments, a little bit he had to get used to that position, but once he did, you saw he sticks to his task, and he does all the things I ask of him so it was a great pickup for us. He’s slotted in well with the injury situation we’ve had, the  suspension as well, so, I thought he played well.”
 
On Mike Magee’s Performance
 
“Mike’s not played a game for maybe 6 weeks, so, not to say it showed, but what I liked about it [was that] we spoke at halftime, he said ‘I’m fine.’ Once he gets through, once he gets into his rhythm, he’ll be fine. But, again, he had that good look, I think he had another chance, I think it was on a cross, I wouldn’t say usually he would probably score, but pretty close to it; but it’s good to get 90 minutes. He’s a big part of what we’re trying to do, and a big part of the club. He soldiered on, he looked tired obviously at the end; but he soldiered on, and on the break maybe we could’ve used him to get that winning goal, but it wasn’t to be today. But I was pleased with Mike’s performance.”
 
On the defense’s progress
 
“You’re playing against two really, really good players in [Tim] Cahill and [Thierry] Henry. They’re very, very crafty, they’ve played at the highest level, so it’s never an easy day. And I think, especially Thierry Henry, he knows how to find the spaces and he’s difficult to pick up. What I liked about us, especially the second half, we started to stay with runners and figure it out a little bit better than the first half. I thought they had a couple of opportunities in the first half where they carved us up a little bit from late runs, but we talked about it at halftime and I think we adjusted well and snuffed them out a little bit. They did have some situations that they looked dangerous on, but all in all, I was pleased with the back four and the defensive work we did.”
 
Harry Shipp, Chicago Fire midfielder
 
On the first half:
 
“We definitely had a good start to the game, we had some good chances after to make it 2-0, but unfortunately they pulled a goal back.   Overall, I thought it was a pretty good start heading into the half.”
 
On how comfortable he is:
 
“It’s only my second game professionally.  I’ve played less than 180 minutes total so it’s still a little fast.  I’m still getting a hold of things, in terms of getting comfortable going forward, focusing on defensive responsibilities and keeping things simple. I’m trying to get those balls, playing those passes because that’s what I like to do - I like to set up those guys up top to score some goals. Hopefully it shows in the next couple of games.”
 
On the surface:
 
“It was a little choppy.  We tried to get the ball in their attacking half and not play around with in our own half because you never know; you could slip or play a bad pass because of the field. 
Going forward when the field starts to get better we’ll start to get better possessing in the attacking half and hopefully we’ll score some more goals.”
 
Mike Magee, Chicago Fire forward
 
On how he feels:
 
“I’d feel better with a win, but individually I thought the first half I was sloppy and was having a hard time trying to find the ball.  Hats off to them, they came in with a great game plan.”
 
On the result:
 
“I would have preferred a win, but it’s nice to get the first game behind you.”
 
On the field conditions:
 
“It was rough and bumpy.  It was hard and took about two touches to get the ball under control, which was unfortunate for both teams. But considering how bad the weather was, it should have been a lot worse. It was actually a lot better than I was expecting it to be.”
 
On the physical play:
 
“It got chippy at times, I don’t think it was too bad.  As the game when on it was so wide open that both teams were just trying to end the play as quickly as possible.  The pitch was so bumpy that it got to a point that it was even hard to counter or connect passes to the middle, so the whole team was just knocking it forward.”
 
On play of the younger players:
 
“These kids are good – Benji [Joya] and Harry [Shipp] are both good.  That’s the plus to take away from these first three games.  The future with them looks good and they will only get better.”
 
Victor Pineda, Chicago Fire midfielder
 
On his first professional appearance:
 
“It’s a lot of fun to be out there.  It’s something that I’ve been working for, for a while now.  It was exciting just to be in a game that was 1-1 knowing that you can score the goal to help your team win the game.”
 
On waiting for the appearance:
 
“I didn’t lose hope, but at times it got frustrating.  I think that helped me to mature in a lot of ways.  Mentally I’m a lot tougher now than I was, not just from when I first signed but from just a year ago or two years ago and I think that’s going to help me a lot in the future.”
 
On what Frank Yallop said to him before he entered the match:
 
“He just said to enjoy it and he asked me if I was ready and just laughed a little bit.  I feel like I’ve been ready for a while.”
19 March 4:41 pm

Select shots from this afternoon's Giordano's Pizza Partnership Kickoff.

19 March 11:47 am

One took over the defending continental champions. Despite his 15 trophies as a manager, there were questions about how much better he could make them. Two-thirds through the season, he’s taken the champions to a new level of excellence.

Another replaced a legend in taking over the league champs. His experience and consistency made him a safe choice, but how would he lead the club into a new generation? Today the team sits seven places out of first.

The third assumed leadership of a historically successful club dealing with a few tough years. Fans wondered what would come next as contracts turned over and a new crop of youngsters presented themselves. With five coaching trophies, he’s highly knowledgeable with regards to the competition and what works in the league, but fans eagerly wait to see how he’ll plot the path forwards.

Which of the above new coaches came to the Fire? If you separated Frank Yallop from Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich and David Moyes at Manchester United, good for you.

Coaching changes are so commonplace that they’re not in and of themselves particularly remarkable. In the Barclay’s Premier League so far in the 2013-2014 season, already five managers have been fired; that’s on top of the six managers who left clubs before the season already started. That means more than half the teams changed managers this year.

And in general with sports, personnel changeover is as much a part of the grind as winning and losing. It’s as much if not more common in the current adolescent stage of MLS, where parity dominates, new teams are forthcoming, and personnel rules and financial regulation necessitate almost constant player movement.

But what do the changes mean for the Fire?

This year is a new beginning. Even though the ownership and front office maintain a steadfast commitment to the club’s history and traditions, the technical staff was overhauled leading into the 2014 season. MLS legend Frank Yallop replaced Fire legend Frank Klopas. He brought C.J. Brown, another Fire legend, along with, and added assistant coach Clint Mathis on top.

And the change touched the players as well. Some consistent starters from seasons past, like Austin Berry and Jalil Anibaba, are gone. Led by Harry Shipp and Benji Joya, a new crop of youngsters are fighting veterans for their places. Meanwhile, except for Sean Johnson in goal, Jeff Larentowicz in the middle, and the reigning MVP Mike Magee (whenever he’s back fit) up top, every place in the side is up for grabs.

Things change, okay, but this is now a totally different Fire team than the one we’ve seen the past few years. New players and new management means a new culture, new approaches both on and off the field. A 4-1-4-1 formation is in the works. But the gutsy 10-man point in Portland and loss at Chivas showed that old habits take time to correct.
 
Even though the Fire were frustrated to miss the playoffs a few times in recent years, they have the league MVP and enough player talent on paper to threaten the top teams in MLS. Yet by overhauling the technical staff, the Fire signaled a loftier statement: Being mediocre is not good enough, no matter how much successful history the club has.

Without going into huge detail about the strategic plans, the Fire players have said that this preseason felt different, that Yallop was fostering a different environment than Klopas’s. 

It’s important because whether we like it or not, this season will be defined by the changes the Fire made this offseason. Change is here.

The questions though: How much do you change, and how much do you keep? What is actually new? How exactly do you convey and impose a plan without sacrificing whatever was working before? What effect can a plan even have if there are many unpredictable and external issues?

It doesn’t look like Yallop is going to blow everyone away with some avant garde tactical system. Although the lineups have changed, in the first two games we saw tactical variations of familiar set ups, even if the advertised 4-1-4-1 was never totally deployed. We saw a cautious balance between MLS veterans and excited young guns.

In the media, we’ve seen a focus on working hard and coming together as a team - like the tactics and team selection, it’s a communications strategy that isn’t going to draw too much attention.

But don’t let the low key approach fool you. Yallop’s project with the Fire is massive. Whether he ends up tearing through the league like Guardiola, or taking a few steps back, like Moyes, certainly Yallop’s plan must be taken seriously for the long term. Change might be part of the game, but plans in this game only work when they’re given time to come to.

16 March 6:28 pm
Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop
 
Overall thoughts on the match
 
“Well, good to get a point, our first point this season. I thought we played very well in the first half; could have maybe been two-up, but that’s soccer. You’ve got to take your chances, but, in the end, with what happened in the match, getting the red card and being under a lot of pressure at the end, I think we did well to hold onto the point. Had a couple chances real late to maybe win it, so all-in-all happy with the performance of the team and, obviously, not overly pleased we didn’t get three points, but it’s a start for us. We’re building for the future.”
 
On the four line-ups changes from last week’s match against Chivas USA:
 
“Just wanted to freshen it up. I thought it wasn’t good enough last week when we played at Chivas USA. I thought we performed very well today. Harry Shipp had his first game, was great. Benji Joya had a start as well. Matt Watson, who I picked up from Vancouver, had a tremendous game today. I had Quincy Amarikwa up top and I thought Quincy was a real handful all game. He’s doing well, he works hard at his game, and those guys did really well today and I was happy.”
 
On the team’s performance:
 
“The response today was excellent. I thought our character was strong, we didn’t buckle, we kept going. That’s the sign of a good team, so hopefully that’s the sign for us moving forward. We don’t really have any natural wingers and I think Portland’s strength is down the middle. Once they get themselves dipped inside they’re very good in those underneath positions, underneath the back four and [Darlington] Nagbe coming off the line and stuff like that. So tactically we plugged the middle and I think we did a great job of that. Nicking balls and then broke on them a few times. Maybe could have punished them a bit better in the first half, but still our game plan worked. I thought we nullified a lot of the play, especially the first 60 minutes. Again, it was a good performance by us and I’m proud of the guys and proud of the way they handled themselves today.”
 
Thoughts on the red card for Nyarko:
 
“To be honest, I’d have to look at it again. But you have to make sure that’s worthy of a second yellow. I thought the first one, Nagbe had already played it, why didn’t he just play on or give a foul and not a yellow? The second one, it was right in front us. Patrick [Nyarko] was on the other side, so I couldn’t really see, but again it’s got to be worthy of the foul. I can’t really comment until I see it.”
 
Fire midfielder Matt Watson
 
On his first start in his first game with the Fire:
 
“It’s obviously good to get into the team. Obviously, I’ve got a lot to learn about how [Chicago] play and things like that. All the guys have been really welcoming since I’ve been here. We’ve come to Portland and to get a hard-fought point is good, but it’s disappointing we couldn’t get three.”
 
On Chicago’s performance
 
“I think we just need to clean up on small things. You can see the fight is there, things like that. All the basic fundamental things are there, but we need to just maybe relax a little bit on the ball; just play. If we can just take a step back, relax, play, we’ll be great this year. We’ve got some great guys. [Quincy] Amarikwa was fighting for every ball. When you see that, it just inspires you to play and get behind him and push up, things like that. If we clean up on the small things we’ll be great.”
 
Fire midfielder Harry Shipp
 
On making his debut
 
“It was obviously exciting, especially playing here for 90 minutes in front of a great crowd. It’s definitely something I’ve been working towards my entire life and to finally make the debut is special. I wish, obviously, we would have gotten the three points. Thought we had it at the end in stoppage time, but overall not too bad of a way to start.”
 
On Chicago’s tactical approach to Portland
 
“We had a lot of changes from the lineup last week, so I think our first and foremost responsibility was getting those good spots defensively. I think Lovel [Palmer] on the right, Gonzalo [Segares] on the left really did a good job talking to the outside mids in terms of cutting off those interior passes because obviously that’s what Portland likes to do first is find those guys in the seams. So I think, kind of forcing them wide, we were able to do that and kept them from being extremely dangerous.”
 
On Chicago’s performance:
 
“Quincy did a great job drawing the penalty kick first. I think we came out confident. We didn’t want to be shy. We felt like we didn’t come out with as much energy as we would have liked to last week, so we really wanted to change that this week. Then giving up the goal wasn’t what we wanted, but I think we responded pretty well. We had a couple good chances after we gave up that goal to actually steal the game and win 2-1. So overall I think we responded pretty well to giving up the goal.”
14 March 8:32 am

After a lackluster performance last weekend out in LA, the Fire are in Portland for what should be a much sterner test against a Timbers team unbeaten in home regular season play for over a year (1:30pm CT on My50 / TWCWI). The Timbers will also be looking to avenge the 2-2 draw in the team's only meeting last season where a brilliant Fire comeback left Caleb Porter seething. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective.

A tweak in formation option A: Packing the midfield

Against a Portland team playing their usual 4-3-3 formation, a safer option for the Fire, especially away from home, is to play another holding midfielder alongside Jeff Larentowicz in an attempt to pack the midfield. Portland rely on late runs from players like Will Johnson and another holding midfielder would ensure the Fire would be able to track these runs more effectively.

Logan Pause would be the prime candidate to partner Larentowicz in the engine room. Portland always look to get playmaker Diego Valeri on the ball and rely on his through balls to create many of the team's chances. Pause and Larentowicz read the game extremely well and are masters at intercepting the kind of balls Valeri will be looking to play.

This option requires that the Fire drop one of its attacking players, which in this case could be Chris Rolfe who is battling an injury. The approach could be seen as a negative one, but playing against a team unbeaten at home for over a year and one that scored the third highest amount of goals in the league last season, the Men in Red also need be realistic.  

A tweak in formation option B: Eliminating the target striker 

A more progressive option for the Fire this weekend would be eliminating the target striker completely in favor of a smaller and quicker attack. This move would see Juan Luis Anangono, a player isolated during large stretches of last weekend's match, drop to the bench in favor of a quicker, more dynamic player such as Quincy Amarikwa, a player on the cusp of a starting eleven place.

In last weekend's match against the Union, Portland were undone on more than a few occasions by some neat and quick interplay by the Philly midfielders and strikers.  With this smaller formation, the Fire will have more opportunities to play this type of game.

The interplay between players such as Duka, Rolfe, Joya, Amarikwa, Alex and Nyarko could certainly cause the Timbers problems with Benji Joya's goal last week serving as a classic example of this: Amarikwa playing a brilliant through ball to Alex who in turn found Joya at the back post for a tap in finish.

While this formation would certainly make the Fire quicker, it should also provide the Men in Red with an opportunity to have more possession and even slow the game down at times, especially if the away team manages to take the lead. With possession below 45% in last week's loss, an emphasis on keeping more of the ball is also necessary.  

Set pieces: a weakness for both teams

Both the Fire and Timbers have had problems defending set pieces in the past and that was apparent again during the first match of the season for both teams. Fire defender Bakary Soumare admitted fault after his mark was able to head home the winner for Chivas while Portland also gave up a goal from a corner against the Union.

The Fire's defensive play from crosses and set pieces was certainly suspect last weekend and coach Frank Yallop made no secret of his disappointment at how his team gave up goals in this manner.

Though Portland are not a very big team, players like Diego Valeri and Gaston Fernandez are some of the best set piece takers in the league and a more cohesive performance by the Fire back four is needed on Sunday afternoon.  On the other side of the ball, with the Timbers also looking frail on set pieces, I expect the Fire to load the box when the dead ball opportunities arise. 

Prediction: 1-1 with the Fire goal coming from Alex

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

WATCH: Clint Mathis on what it will take to earn a result in Portland