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17 August 10:23 pm
Quote Sheet
Chicago Fire at New England Revolution
Gillette Stadium – Foxborough, Mass. – August 17, 2013
 
Chicago Fire assistant coach Mike Matkovich
 
“I think that as it wore on, [the Revs] found a goal – a long ball, pulled apart in the back – and Juan (Agudelo) made a good play out of it. I need to watch the replay to see if it went over the line. It’s a tough one and they call it, so now we’re chasing the game. It was a little helter-skelter in the end and they get a second one. We hit a post early. Mike (Magee) was in later in the game and speared one to Dilly (Duka) and we just couldn’t tap it in. We had our looks and it’s a tough place to play. At the end of the day, things just didn’t go our way.
 
Any time you bring new guys in, it takes some time. So I think is just a matter of getting to know each other and familiarity and all that type of stuff.
 
We’ll brush it off. There are 11 more games and you can’t get tied up in one game. It’s just unfortunate with the events that happened. It’s silly in some ways, but what are you going to do?
 
I don’t know what happened after the game and like I said earlier, I just don’t think non-players should be making comments to players on the field if that’s the case. I don’t know what I happened from there. It’s not for me to judge that. But I guess the referee judged it. So, it is what it is.  It’s unfortunate, and we’ll more on, brush ourselves off and get ready for the next game.”
 
Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson
 
“I thought they finished their opportunities, plain and simple. I thought it was a hard-fought game; (we) just ended up on the wrong side of the result.
 
You saw it, we lost. What more do you want me to say? Push and score a goal. It happens.”
 
Chicago Fire midfielder Jeff Larentowicz
 
“It was difficult. I think that the second half for us was a bit better. We were able to pressure more in the midfield. In the first half they had a lot of time. But that said, I don’t think they had a lot of chances in the first half. I think that as the game got stretched, as we pushed more guys forward, they got a second goal. For us it was a tough game, but we try and move forward.
 
It was tough. This was a big game. We were sitting right on top of the Revs before the game and now they leapfrog over us, so we’re hoping to continue to push to get into that playoff spot. We’re getting to a point in the year where they are running out of games. So whether it’s at home or on the road, we want to get points and tonight we let this one slip.
 
It’s always fun [playing against your former team.] You get to see familiar faces and play in the old stadium, but that all kind of goes out the window once the whistle blows and things get going. After the game you shake hands. It was good. I would have liked to have won, but that’s what happens.”
 
New England Revolution head coach Jay Heaps
 
“I thought it was a pretty hard-fought match, but we came out with the right mentality. We certainly changed the lineup from our last couple games. I thought the guys that got in tonight did an excellent job.
 
It’s a little bit feel, it’s a little bit going over a lot of film and just seeing where we might need an uptick in certain areas. I thought Matt (Reis) has been training really well and pushing Bobby (Shuttleworth) and Bobby’s played great all year. It’s a great little competition, but sometimes when guys are pushing in training – to reward and give an opportunity, I thought Matt earned it.
 
With Juan (Agudelo) coming back – he wanted to come back last week, but we had to listen to our medical staff because he had a knee injury and we wanted to be smart. For me, Juan has a really good presence up there. He’s not afraid to receive it and when he receives it, he’s actually always dangerous when he holds it. It’s not just holding it to play it; it’s holding it to get people in and then giving it up. So for me, he gives players like Lee (Nguyen) and Kelyn (Rowe) a little bit more time to find the gaps, and Diego (Fagundez) as well. When you have someone who can do that, it really opens up what we’re trying to do.
 
I think it was the effort from everybody. We were closing down on every opportunity and that’s exactly what we need as a constant. I think when we do that, from Lee to Kelyn to Scott (Caldwell) to Diego when he’s there in there. And Saer (Sene) came in and Chad (Barrett), and when we can limit them, there’s just a little bit more urgency we do a lot better. Then again, I thought A.J. (Soares) did a nice job coming in and was very vocal in training all week and very vocal on the field and we need that.
 
We needed a win. Last week, we were really disappointed with the way the game went from top to bottom. We were really disappointed with (the loss) to Toronto as well, because we played decent enough to do something in that game. But we didn’t and that was a real kick to our psyche. We needed to rebound. I thought tonight after another loss, you really start asking a lot of guys, and tonight the energy was there. Right from the opening whistle, I felt really good about our chances.
 
To be honest with you I don’t know (what happened after the final whistle). I’ll need to go back and look on film. I know that there were red cards shown to (Bakary) Soumare and Saer Sene. I don’t know what exactly transpired to lead that. It’s two teams going at it and we’ll see it on film, but there was definitely a lot of emotion.
 
It’s funny, we talked a lot about (shutting Mike Magee down) and he still got a shot. That’s how he gets chances. It was a shot deflection and he’s just so elusive inside the box, you just can’t get too close to him. So, for us we talked a lot about where he arrives. He likes to drift, he finds the gaps – he’s really good at that. If we can keep an eye on him, that was the best – I think we did much better in the second half actually, to communicate every step he made. He’d start wide and drift in and go long, so as long as (Andrew) Farrell was communicating that pass on to A.J., it worked well. In the first half, it was a little bit of a breakdown, because Farrell had to come over all the way and he almost had his chance. But that’s what Mike Magee’s been doing. He’s just been lethal when he gets a yard of space and that’s hard to defend.
 
Not much (was different to create chances in the second half.) For me, we talk about possession and where you have good, dangerous possession and there’s a difference. In the weeks before we had center back, center back outside back – that to me is not dangerous. We were at the top of their box moving it from the final third area, not totally in the box. But we had them in the area where you limit counterattacks, you limit anything they’re doing and you’re not so far up the field. It was a good possession and I thought it was a dangerous possession, which makes (Chicago) work harder. In the second half, I thought it was a lot of the same, but we were able to break through.”
 
New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis
 
“I think that’s one of the things that I have always been good at throughout my career, whether it’s been in college all the way up until now. Even if I don’t get in a lot of games, there’s not that much of a drop-off when I do get in. It was nice to get back out there. It was great. I wasn’t sure if it was ever going to happen again, but I was happy to help the team. It was a big game for us. We really needed the points, and we came out and did everything we needed to do.
 
We really want to make it tough [for other teams] to play here, and being at home, we should be getting three points every time we play at home. I feel like if we can do that – if we can win out our games at home – we’ll put ourselves in a great chance to make the playoffs.
 
I thought as a team, we did a great job. We weathered the storm a little bit. We knew they were going to come out and really pressure us, which we did and then we were able to control the game from then on out. The guys did a great job and we broke them down. It took a while – we knew it was going to take a while, but we were persistent and finally got what we needed.
 
I think I have been doing this for long enough that the nerves are there, but it’s the excitement. You never know when it’s going to be your last game, you never know. You always got to enjoy getting out there. It was a lot of fun.
 
[Getting the start] felt good. I heard [I would be starting] I think it was Thursday or so. [The coaches] just asked if I was ready to play and I said ‘Yeah.’
 
Yeah, [Juan Agudelo’s goal] was a great goal, and that’s what he brings. He brings that little bit that you need. You can see why the premier leagues are asking for him.
 
[Juan Agudelo] does all the things well. He holds the ball up well, he gets behind well, takes people on. He’s got the complete package.
 
It’s one game. We are going to have to look at it, see what we did well, see what we didn’t do well and move on.
 
I thought [the back line] did well. We were saying before, they had a few chances in the beginning and then not too many throughout the rest of the game. We were organized. The chances that they did get were not spectacular chances. I thought we did great.”
 
New England Revolution forward Charlie Davies
 
“I’m glad that we got the three points. That’s the most important thing. Am I happy with my play? Absolutely not. But it’s good to get the junk out of my system now, before we start getting into tougher situations. Just getting out there felt great. This is a team where I think I’ll really be put in a position to succeed. The midfielders create a lot of space for the forwards and provide great chances and great service, so I’m psyched. I’m psyched for the games ahead and once I get my feet back under me after the craziest two weeks, three weeks. I think things will go much better than they had today.
 
I expected to come on. Once you get the actual ‘you’re going in,’ (I felt) just sheer excitement. I’m so happy to be back. I’m so happy to be part of this team and this organization that I’ve grown up watching and it’s an exciting time. It’s 10 games left now and the playoffs are on the horizon if we continue to play like we did today. I was also very impressed with the way we played today. The way we were able to control the ball in their half and keep possession and keep moving it. I think that is a great sign of how far soccer has come in MLS – just in the two years I’ve been gone or year and a half or so. Teams are starting to understand how to keep the ball and how to keep the defense moving even if you can’t break them down. I’m excited to be a part of this team.
 
I was thinking to myself, ‘This is a perfect time to come on. They’re going to be pushing forward and they’re going to leave so much space open,’ and they did. I was just unlucky not to finish my chances but they’ll come. As a striker, it has to go in and out if it doesn’t work out for you.
 
It depends how much time you get with the guys [to learn a new system.] I’m just taking it game by game and we’ll see what happens. I think fairly quickly, I’ll be able to be on the same page as these guys. I think it’s just a matter of timing at this point. A lot of the guys know how I play, which is great. I think soon enough it will click.
 
It’s amazing (to play soccer in New England again.) I’ve grown up here, played soccer here for 18 years. There’s so many people that I’ve played with or against here in New England and have come to support me. It’s an amazing feeling to know that I feel like I’m on the last hurdle; the last step before I can get back to where I was before the accident. I think I’m very close to crossing that finish line and that’s why I came here, because it’s a perfect opportunity for me to play with players like this, to cross the finish line.
 
(My fitness is) alright. Obviously, with more minutes, the better it’ll get, so there’s still 10 games left. Soon enough I’ll be 90-minutes fit and then it’s just a matter of finishing your chances and getting the opportunity.
 
As long as you capitalize on your chances and take advantage of your opportunity, you’re going to play. That’s all I have to focus on and I’m just glad there’s competition here, because it pushes people and it’ll only make the team better.
 
My brother, who’s like my best friend and just a lot of friends (were at the match.) Unfortunately, the families don’t make it out till next week. I guess that’s a good thing. You know, get the bad game out of the way and then for the next game, I’ll be ready.
 
I don’t feel pressure from anyone else except for myself. I put all the pressure on myself – I’ve always done that. I’ve kind of come in here with the idea of playing a lot, helping this team win and putting all the pressure on myself to be the guy that the team can lean on and depend on to grind out results, to make it happen, to get this team to the playoffs. We’ll see how each game goes and step-by-step I think I’ll get there.
 
Yeah, a little bit (of nerves stepping onto the field.) First time in a while but, that’s a good feeling.”
16 August 8:31 am

The Fire head east for another six pointer Saturday night, facing a slumping New England Revolution squad in Foxboro. Despite being without key players Mike Magee and Patrick Nyarko, the Men in Red beat Montreal at home last weekend. The Revs got handily beaten 3-0 in KC and are 0-2 in the month of August.

Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective.

The Magee/Anangonó partnership – how will it fare?

With Chris Rolfe not training this week and Mike Magee back, it appears the Fire will start with Magee and new DP striker Juan Luis Anangonó up front on the turf against New England.

The U.S. Open Cup semifinal defeat is the only time both players have been on the pitch together and it will be interesting to see how they combine against a New England team that has given up the second least amount of goals in the East.

Anangonó is very mobile for a target forward and is capable of dropping deep, something that Magee is also comfortable doing. On the turf, it will be important to keep the ball on the ground and retaining possession will also be key and I believe it will be up to both Magee and Anangonó to get other players like Dilly Duka and Joel Lindpere involved in the attack.

Any new strike partnership takes time to gel, but I look for Magee and Anangonó to not stray too far from each other and be heavily involved Saturday night.

The Rios/Larentowicz partnership – another potential central midfield pairing

WATCH:  Lindpere, Larentowicz preview Revolution

Last weekend, we saw the return of Logan Pause, partnering Jeff Larentowicz in the middle and allowing the Ginger Ninja to get forward and support the attack.

This week, we could see a debut for Uruguayan midfielder Egidio Arevalo Rios, assumingly partnering the former New England man in the center of the park.

Most observers see Rios as a tough tackling midfielder who breaks up opposition attacks. This is certainly the case, but like Larentowicz, the Uruguayan also likes to get forward.

What will surprise some teams and even some Fire fans is Rios’s willingness to get forward when possible. Though he won’t score many goals (he had five in 53 matches last season) Rios will certainly start quite a few attacks from breaking up play in  the opposition’s half, something we’ve seen Patrick Nyarko do a lot of this season.  

What will be very important on Saturday night is that both players must know where the other is and not have a situation where they’re caught too high up the field. Communication and discipline from both players will be important, but I have no worries considering the wealth of experience the duo possesses.

New England’s Attack – who will get the start on Saturday night?

When people look at the Revs attack, Diego Fagundez and Saer Sene immediately spring to mind. In addition, New England have a couple of American strikers that have the ability to change games, namely Juan Agudelo and Charlie Davies.

Agudelo is back to fitness after missing the last eight matches and is a familiar foe for the Fire, scoring in a 4-1 defeat by Chivas USA at Toyota Park back in March. He scored three goals in five games for the Revs before being injured and is certainly a threat.

Davies is looking to get his career back on track with the Revs and has a point to prove in MLS but he hasn’t played a competitive match in a few months.

With the addition of the former U.S. international, the Revs have excellent strength in depth at the forward position and have the luxury of bringing on high quality strikers if need be.

I touched on this issue when the Fire played Philly back to back earlier this season and it will be important that the team is prepared to change midway through the game and adjust to whoever comes off the bench. All four strikers bring different qualities and it will be important for the Frank Klopas to adjust his side accordingly.

Prediction: With so many question marks about who will start and new partnerships on the field, this game is very difficult to predict. I am going with 1-0 Fire (first clean sheet in two months!) with a goal from Juan Luis Anangonó.

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

13 August 4:46 pm

If you saw this week's MLS save of the week nomination earler, you may have noticed something weird.

Helper to the 'keeper/forward, Chris Rolfe is up for his line clearing header that "saved the day". (VOTE HERE)

But let's not forget that "The Milkman" delivered too.

Sean Johnson made three big saves on Saturday night, and none more stellar than his point blank stop on Justin Mapp in the 39th minute of play. (watch above)

For his performance, MLSsoccer.com has named Sean to the Team of the Week, proving once again that they don't call him "The Milkman" for nothin'!

10 August 11:54 pm
Quote Sheet
Chicago Fire vs. Montreal Impact
Toyota Park – August 10, 2013
 
Frank Klopas, Chicago Fire Head Coach
 
On the win today
 
“All the credit to my players. I think everybody had written us off for the start but it’s not how you start it’s how you finish. Early on things didn’t go our way, obviously we had some injuries but this team has never given up on our goal, on our focus. This was just a massive game. We’ve been in this spot before and obviously we didn’t take advantage of it to be .500 and now you’re running out of games and they’re massive games, we need points, we are right there and I give all the credit and commitment of the group that in the difficult moments, which are always important because those are the moments that you learn not when things are going your way. It was a massive, important, huge win. Credit to my players that have never given up and that never will until the end. Now we just have to move ahead, it’s a good feeling but the commitment has to be even more from everyone in order to reach our goal.”
 
On the importance of the early goals, even with the top Fire players out
 
“If you look at the statistics, when we score first we are a difficult team. Not just us, but on the road. We are playing against a very difficult team especially defensively and I think we scored some very good goals early on but I think if we were a little bit better with the ball, because we did get in good spots, I think we could have been a little bit more dangerous. I think that in transition opportunities we needed to look to play forward. We addressed that at halftime and look, third game in 8 days. You saw the guys that a little bit maybe second half there were moments when they were running a little bit out of gas but it was their will that got them through and stuck together and being at home with our great fans obviously that was a huge help. The two goals did help for sure. Our goal was to get a clean sheet and it didn’t happen but Sean made some big saves in the end and we defended well.”
 
On the forward combo of Anangono and Alex
 
“They were very good. That’s where Alex is more comfortable playing a little bit higher up the field. Juan brought something different. I think physically he’s suited for the league. He has pace, he looks to run behind, we did a lot of stuff in the final third with him and Alex as far as the movement we needed from the forwards. We had a little bit of trouble in the midfield, they were dropping [Hernan] Bernardello deep, we had to address that issue but I thought it was good. They created chances, they were dangerous, and it’s the first game, it’s only going to get better. We have some depth there and that’s good when you miss some key players. Its’ about the team coming in and winning a massive game.”
 
On if the Fire are peaking at the right time
 
“We definitely have the quality and the depth in the team. I think last year, when you look at the playoff game it came down to little things and I think now all these game and the experience we got last year in those playoff games those little things really matter. Now everything gets a little bit tighter. With the addition of, Juan is going to help, but also a guy like Rios. He’s an unbelievable quality player and it speaks volumes of the commitment. Everybody can talk shit and everything about the commitment of our owner, excuse my language, to bring a guy like that at this point because this is a world class player and I can guarantee you a lot of teams, a lot of teams, would not have made that commitment but it’s all about winning. He’s been there, we haven’t always gotten it right. This guy’s a world-class player. We made the commitment we said ‘this is the guy, bring him’ and he brings depth, leadership, and all that stuff so that’s what it’s all about. We’ll see, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but we definitely have the quality right now and the depth to make a strong push. I know the group is committed and they are going to leave everything on the field, and that’s what it’s all about. At the end of it it’s a game and we have to enjoy it too.”
 
On Dilly Duka’s injury and how it affects the team out wide
 
“I think with him and Patrick [Nyarko] obviously the pace and our ability to go one-on-one just create so many opportunities because when you look at the game its basically you’re one-on-one duos. Can you create advantage? I think those guys with the ball at their feet can a lot of times create those advantages because they’re so good one-on-one, they have pace, but it’s about the depth. Joel, again, when he’s called to step in he’s done great. He scored a big goal, worked hard defensively. Look, we have to rely on everyone but the good thing everybody is healthy and is ready. I mean, not everyone is healthy and ready, but I am going and keeping my fingers crossed.”
 
On what happened to Duka’s leg
 
“It’s his ankle, we will see better tomorrow. I think he rolled it, he was icing and stuff. I don’t think it’s serious, but with the stretch of games you’ve got guys with tired legs and it is what it is. Massive win and we will deal with the injuries.”
 
On what Magee’s status is
 
“Day by day.  Day to day. I think he has a calf strain and we will see how that feels. So we will see, its day to day with him.”
 
Gonzalo Segares, Chicago Fire defender
 
On Anangono’s start:
           
“I think he was excellent today - he was putting pressure on Alessandro Nesta and [Matteo] Ferrari causing trouble and winning a lot of balls in the air, holding the ball and creating space to move the lineup.  For being his first start, I thought he was great.”
 
On all the new players coming in:
 
“Our team’s gotten a lot of new players and we need to get them acclimated to the team as soon as possible. They are quality players and they are going to help us to improve now that we are coming down the last stretch of games. We need to make a great push and it’s going to be important to take advantage of the experience that they bring.  They will be great for our team.”
 
On the defense’s performance:
 
“I think that even though we didn’t get the shutout that we wanted, the last couple of games the defense has really been holding – we bend, but we haven’t been breaking.”
 
On hitting .500:
 
“We’ve talked about that.  The main focus is putting pressure on the teams ahead of us like Houston, New England and Philadelphia.  With the win tonight we are right there and stepping on their toes.  We’re putting pressure on them but there’s still a lot of games left, but the motivation is still high and we need to keep pushing and fighting for a playoff spot.”
 
Chris Rolfe, Chicago Fire forward
 
On the result:
 
“This was a big game for us.  We were excited about the game and looking forward to getting a victory after the Open Cup memory and I think we did that.”
 
Dilly Duka, Chicago Fire midfielder
 
On his goal:
 
“I’m not sure who I received the ball from, but I was driving down the field, I was surrounded a bit and then it opened up in front of the keeper and I just slid it in.  I was a little fortunate, but it was a big play and it ended up being the game winner.”
 
On his injury:
 
“I tweaked my ankle.  I planted and he got my planted foot.  It’s just tweaked a little bit.  I normally tweak my ankles so it’s just a couple days and I’ll be back.”
 
Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire goalkeeper:
 
On the result:
 
“This is one where I was just trying to keep us in the game.  I thought we did well pushing the ball out wide and I was able to close the angle and make the plays.”
 
On the defense:
 
“The defense was fantastic tonight limiting chances; not only the back line but Rolfe [Chris] clearing on the line was huge, Austin [Berry] making a play sliding in closing out the ball, Baky [Soumare] biking the ball out.  I think everyone contributed tonight and that’s why we came away with three points.”
 
On being fouled by Paponi:
 
“I think it was an extremely dirty play by Paponi.  I made a good read on his touch, I got to the ball and he just went two feet into me – into my knees.  I wasn’t very happy about it, but I was able to come away and finish the play.”
 
Logan Pause, Chicago Fire midfielder
 
Thoughts on getting his first start since June 22…
 
“It feels great to be back and on the field but most importantly getting three points tonight at home, getting to .500 and continuing to climb up the ladder is the most important thing.”
 
On the work of the team missing Mike Magee and Patrick Nyarko…
 
“I think what tonight shows is the depth and quality we have in this locker room and on our roster. The guys stepped up. When guys have been called upon, you see it time and time again and they continue to step up. I’m just proud of the guys and the guys that are shifted around and maybe in different roles. We’re all in it to continue to move things forward and get wins to climb up the ladder.”
 
On coming back from his back injury…
 
“My back – there’s no issue there. Towards the end of the game of course I was a little tired. That’s to be expected and I got through it and I think it’ll just continue to build the more minutes I play.”
 
On the amount of depth the Fire currently have on their roster…
 
“It’s one of the advantages that we have with a deep roster. We sometimes joke we have two starting teams. You look around the locker room at guys that aren’t playing and there are a lot of guys that would be playing on other teams. I think it’s a good thing, it’s a good problem to have for the staff and down the road as we’re going to make a push it’s going to be important.”
 
Montreal Impact Head Coach Marco Schallibaum
 
On putting more pressure on the Fire in the second half:
 
“Yes, but the result is the most important, and we lost the game.  I think the first half wasn’t too bad but we weren’t good in the offensive part.  We played good second half ball.  We needed to get the ball in their box.  The second half was good, we scored and we had a lot of chances.  The second half was very good, but we left with zero points, and that’s disappointing.”
 
On why Di Vaio didn’t get the start:
 
“No, he played Saturday, Wednesday, and I spoke to him yesterday and this morning and he was tired.  He’s not the youngest player.  It’s better than this because I don’t want to lose him because he has a problem.  He was just out because he was tired.”
 
On being frustrated only having one win in 8 games:
 
“It’s not easy to win away.  Chicago is a good team.  But we believe we can win until the end and at every game that we can come away with points to make the playoffs.  We have a good position but we needed more points today.  That’s a good thing; we have enough games to make this game up.”
 
Montreal Impact Goalkeeper Troy Perkins

On the match:
 
“A tale of two halves, really.  Almost with two teams.  We came out in the first half a little flat.  They came out and pressed us and got two goals, a little bit fortunate for them.  We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities.  The second half was the way we should have come out to begin with.”
 
On the impact of Di Vaio and Martins in the second half:
 
“We definitely went more attacking in the second half.  We have to.  You’re down 2-0 on the road, and you throw caution to the wind a little bit.  It definitely changed the game for us and we were much more effective I think.”
 
On what was said at halftime:
 
“That it just wasn’t good enough for us.  We know it wasn’t good enough for us.  That’s basically what was said.  We had to come out and we had 45 minutes to make up for it.”
 
On feeling like the team could have equalized in the second half:
 
“I think we deserve a point from it.  I think we are a little unfortunate not to as well.  That’s the way this league is.  In five minutes, it makes a game.”
 
Montreal Impact Midfielder Justin Mapp
 
On the differences between the first and second halves:
 
“We came out a little flat, I think.  We gave up two kind of soft goals.  We were behind the eight ball.  I still thought we have some decent possession in the first half.  But in second half we had the possession [of the match].  Plus we were dangerous.  We pulled a goal closer, but we couldn’t quite get the second one to tie it up.  The guys battled.  I thought we were the better team.  Unfortunately points wise, it didn’t indicate that.”
 
On Montreal controlling the possession of the game:
 
“Yeah, sometimes possession doesn’t necessarily get you goals, which is ultimately what you need.  On the score sheet, they scored two and whether or not we had possession, that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
 
On feeling like they deserve to get a point:
 
“I think we definitely deserved it.  Like I said, I thought we were the better team on the night.  But on the score sheet, they scored two and we only got one, so it’s frustrating and it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.  The guys played hard and I thought we played some good soccer at times.”
10 August 11:25 pm

Select shots from the Fire's 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact

CREDIT: Brian Kersey Chicago Fire

08 August 12:19 am
Frank Klopas, Chicago Fire Head Coach
 
On the game today
 
“I don’t think the team was that different but it’s a tough loss. Obviously, a great opportunity at home Wednesday night playing at home, the fan support was fantastic. Sometimes it’s one of those games where those little things don’t go our way. Obviously the goals given up late and then the start…but we pushed and we had some chances that didn’t go in but what are you going to do. Definitely it’s going to hurt us tonight and for tomorrow we have to regroup and now really focus on the league because we’re right there and some big games are coming up to put ourselves in a spot in the playoffs.”
 
On what D.C. did differently today
 
“I don’t think they were that different. Pretty much their back line was the same other than Jakovic. We played this team before the way they were. I just think the little things went our way [in the last game vs. D.C.]. Obviously this was their whole season they put into this.  I think our guys were ready, we competed, for sure Patrick [Nyarko] coming out I think at that moment with his head injury had a little bit of effect with his ability with pace to stretch the team. We were a little bit different [after he came out]. Look, we had chances and sometimes it doesn’t go your way but I am proud of the group. It’s disappointing right now, obviously a great opportunity one more game to go to the final. We talked about it, we put a lot into it, and it’s going to be a hard night but tomorrow it’s a new day and we have to move on and get ready for Montreal.”
 
Gonzalo Segares, Chicago Fire defender
 
On D.C.’s first goal:
           
“The goal they scored was unfortunate, then we were fighting from 1-0 behind to get back into the game.”
 
On Pat Nyarko coming off early:
 
“I think that was key.  Patrick [Nyarko]was creating a lot of danger over there, he and Dilly [Duka] are very dangerous players – we had a lot of opportunity on the flanks, and having Patrick come off was one the keys for them, even for us.  Losing a guy like Patrick is definitely a tough situation and made a difference, that’s for sure.”
 
On D.C.’s motivation to win this game:
 
“Every game is different, because their season has gone so badly, so they have extra motivation to get into the Finals.  Today they were the better team and took advantage of their chances and that’s what made the difference.”
 
On putting the loss behind them to prepare for Saturday:
 
“It’s always tough to lose in the semifinals, we always take this seriously.  From the first game we played we used the starting line-up, and every single game had the starting line-up so that shows how seriously we take it.  We were pretty excited to come out today to try and get a win and go on to the Final.  Unfortunately, it didn’t happen and now we have to turn around, lift up our heads and tomorrow get ready for Montreal.  We are still in the hunt for the playoffs and we have a key game on Saturday on short rest and we have to be mentally ready for sure.
 
Jeff Larentowicz, Chicago Fire midfielder
 
On the difference in D.C.’s play from the last time they played each other:
 
“The difference between this game and the last time we played them is that we scored early.  It was a tight half – this is a different game, it’s a cup game, so it’s probably going to be tighter. I thought it was even in the first half, they scored on a mistake.  Then in the second half I don’t know how we don’t score.  They scored on a deflected shot, I thought they were a little fortunate tonight, but overall I thought it was fairly even.”
 
On Nyarko’s injury:
 
“Pat’s [Nyarko] a dangerous player. Even in the period he was on the field he was dangerous. Joel’s a very good player and a dangerous player, a different type of player, but I don’t think it was a big difference.”
 
Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire goalkeeper:
 
On the first goal and contact:
 
“Yes [there was contact], I think he did a good job getting in position where he could challenge.  Looking back, I should have probably just punched through it.  I thought I could have collected it, I thought I got a good jump, but there was a little bit of contact between me and the ball at the same time.  Credit to him, I should have just punched it away, I should have done better.”
07 August 11:08 pm

Select shots from the Fire's 2-0 loss to D.C. United

CREDIT: Brian Kersey Chicago Fire

07 August 8:36 am

The Fire head back to Toyota Park Wednesday night for the biggest game of the season to date, a U.S. Open Cup semifinal against D.C. United. Both teams enter the game on the back of wins and knowing they are only 180 minutes away from a CONCACAF Champions League place.

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With that in mind, league form goes out the window. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective.

Slowing down D.C.’s new attack – avoiding the Silva/DeRo red herring

United Coach Ben Olsen has used the 4-4-1-1 formation for most of this season but due to a number of factors, namely not scoring many goals and a numerous injuries, he is constantly changing his front two.

In last week’s match against Montreal, D.C. started Dwayne DeRosario and Luis Silva to great effect with both players’ movement caused Montreal problems, especially in the first 30 minutes.

Both took turns holding the line while the other dropped deep, making it difficult for the Impact to track. With Silva scoring three goals in his last three matches, it is easy to claim that both he and DeRo are the major threats to the Fire tonight, but that argument is too simplistic.

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In reality, both strikers have benefited greatly from some fantastic play from both the wide men and outside defenders in recent matches. Montreal’s lack of high pressure allowed D.C.’s outside defenders to act as auxiliary wingers at times, putting dangerous crosses into the Impact’s box.

With the defenders pushing up high, the wide midfielders were able to tuck inside and support the strikers in the box or pick up great positions just outside it.

For the Fire to be successful tonight, the team must not allow D.C.’s outside defenders to get forward as often as Montreal did. To do this requires a combination of high pressure from forwards such as Mike Magee and Chris Rolfe as well as positive attacking play from the outside mids, which will force D.C.’s defenders to stay back.

Minimizing set pieces – not allowing DC any unearned opportunities

In a cup semifinal, one mistake, or one brilliant piece of skill, can define the outcome. Countless knockout matches have been decided this way and it always leaves the losing team asking why they allowed an avoidable goal to be scored against them.
 

 

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Playing as the away team and knowing the Fire’s strengths on the counter attack, D.C. will not be flooding players forward needlessly in tonight’s match. When set pieces present themselves however, the Black and Red will be looking to profit.

In the Fire’s last match against Philly, the team played very well defensively but again failed to keep a clean sheet. The Union goal came from a needlessly given up free kick resulting in the ball being bundled over the line.

Fire players must not rush into tackles and need to try and avoid giving up corners whenever possible. D.C. may be lacking in goals this season but giving up a set piece when DeRo is on the field could decide the match in D.C.’s favor.

Quick transitions to the attack – by any means possible

In recent tactical previews, I have lauded Patrick Nyarko for consistently pressuring defenders in the Fire’s offensive third of the pitch and forcing turnovers.

In last weekend’s match against Philly, Paddy did it again, winning the ball and bursting forward before dishing to Mike Magee who smashed in the winner.

Last weekend’s match also demonstrated how quick transitions can come from all areas of the pitch.

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Goalkeeper Sean Johnson constantly looked to distribute the ball quickly and launch an attack through his kicking. Whenever Johnson collected the ball from a cross or shot, he looked for outlet runs and was able to pick out those of Rolfe, Magee and co. with his long kicks.

Supersub Quincy Amarikwa also demonstrated how pressuring defenders on long balls can result in turnovers. Late in the game, he challenged Amobi Okugo in the air before stalking the center back and forcing a turnover just outside the Philly box.

But for some better finishing, the Fire would’ve scored a third goal and effectively ended the match. A quick turnover from a player like Nyarko or an accurate kick out from Johnson could open up the DC defense tonight.

Prediction: I have seen the Fire win and lose U.S. Open Cup semifinals and know that games like this are almost always very tight and tense.  1-0 Fire with the goal coming from Patrick Nyarko.

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.