Blog

Toronto FC

23 August 10:38 pm

Chicago Fire at Toronto FC
BMO Field – Toronto, Ontario
MLS Regular Season
Saturday, August 23, 2014

Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop

Thoughts on the game

“Hard fought, coming back in any game always feels like you got something out of it as opposed to letting it slip. I’m really happy with the fight back and the spirit of the guys. Obviously, quality wise we weren’t quite there yet but the fighting spirit was great.”

On Robert Earnshaw’s debut performance

“As TFC fans know, he knows where the net is. He hasn’t played for a couple months now and he said he probably has 15 minutes in him and I said, “How does 30 sound?” He’s dangerous and he creates the second goal with his forcefulness in the box and he is going to help us. I felt we were very dynamic once Ernie came on and it was nice to see.”

On the playoff chase

“Every team I manage I want them to fight hard. We’ve been in almost every game but we just don’t have quite enough quality in all our positions to really dominate and take games over. We do have the fighting spirit and once we add some pieces I think we’ll be okay, so it’s a building process but I’m happy with the overall commitment from everybody.”

 

Chicago Fire forward Quincy Amarikwa

Thoughts on the game 

“We didn’t make it easy on ourselves but as a team we fought together and we got the draw.”

On the goal

“We were trying to bring them into the middle and then get it out wide for some crosses.”

On the addition of Robert Earnshaw 

“That’s what we expected out of him, just to come off the bench and bring some energy. He came on and scored right away and hopefully this leads to more goals in the future. Hopefully we can build a little partnership.”

 

Chicago Fire forward Robert Earnshaw

On returning to Toronto

“It’s like I haven’t been away. Maybe just because it is a familiar ground and a place I am very fond of. I have been back and forth here, it’s a great place that I like to come to. I’d like to thank everyone at Toronto as I never got a chance to really thank everyone here. From Ryan Nelsen to the whole organization, I just want to say thank you very much. The goal I scored was a welcome to Chicago, but also a thank you very much to Toronto.”

On returning to Major League Soccer

“Yeah, I love to play. I enjoyed just coming in and getting the shirt on, getting a feel for the ball, felt great. I want to get better on a personal level. I’ve come here to give something extra, contribute and help each teammate to do better with my experience and quality.”

 

Toronto FC Head Coach Ryan Nelsen

Thoughts on the match...

“Well I thought we were pretty comfortable in the first half.  Obviously losing Steven (Caldwell) our captain was a little unsettling for us and we were in pretty good control until then.  Then that kind of happened and although we had a lot of the ball, a lot of possession, the analytical guys will say we had all the possession, but we really didn’t do much with it.  It was pretty comfortable possession in front of their team and they sat back and we didn't really punish them.  We had a couple of really good chances and we kind of left them in the game.  Obviously we conceded a soft goal and again losing Justin (Morrow) disrupted us.  We needed some energy and we needed something, a lift, someone to grab the game by the back of the neck.  I thought when Luke (Moore) came on he looked really good and we got ourselves a goal and could have made it three.  Then that second goal was horrendous to tell you the truth.  We’ve got to have a desire when an opposition player gets down to the endline we’ve got to have midfielders right on top of our backline defending our box.  We were spectators, we kind of watched it hoping that someone would make the play but in the end it was a deflection bicycle kick that fell unfortunately to them and they punished us.  We weren't in the right spots and we had guys just watching in comfortable positions.  When you put yourself out of the arena to affect the game, things like this happen.”

On the injuries to Seven Caldwell and Justin Morrow…

“Steven (Caldwell) had a really good week of training and he just felt his same quad on one of the stretches that he made, which he probably made 50 times during this week, but unfortunately in the game he hit it.  Luckily it wasn’t as bad as the original one, it was just something that we had to pull him off because it was only going to get worse.  With Justin (Morrow) it was his hamstring so we’ll have to get that scanned.  When we go down with injuries we seem to do it all at once.”

Does it sting even more that the two goals were scored by former TFC players?

“No, not at all.  We wish all the best for all our former players.  When any player scores against us it stings.  Any former player from TFC we wish them all the best.”

Dwayne De Rosario was dropped from the 18, is it safe to say that you haven’t got what you wanted out of him this season?

“No, not at all.  We’ve got absolutely everything from Dwayne, he’s been absolutely fantastic.  He’s been fantastic in the locker room and he’s a great guy but I’ve got a premier league striker on the bench, I’ve got a Nigerian striker who would have been going to the World Cup on the bench.  So it’s a hard squad to make these days.  This is a wee bit different and we’ve got to make tough decisions.  Even Daniel Lovitz unfortunately didn’t make it and Daniel has been absolutely brilliant for us.  His (Dwayne) position is up for grabs now every time we play.  They are under the microscope to play well because there are guys, Dwayne and Daniel being a couple of them, that really want to play.”

 

Toronto FC defender Justin Morrow

What was the injury?

“I just turned it. I felt in on a longer run right at the beginning of the second half. I just kind of felt it.”

Any idea of how long you might be out?

“I’m going to get it scanned on Monday and see how it is but I don’t think it should be too bad. It’s sore right now but it should be alright.”

How gutted are you to see the team concede so late and throw away points?

“Yes its tough but we have to take a positive out of it in that it is a tie. We do expect more out of ourselves at home and we should get three points. So we are a little disappointed with that but we have a lot of games coming up, games that we should win.”

 

Toronto FC forward Gilberto

How did you feel scoring in successive games?

“I’m very happy that I scored my first goal at home in my stadium in front of my fans. I feel the team is doing really good work right now but unfortunately we couldn't get the result. But I am really happy with the progress of the team.”

Do you feel comfortable with Luke Moore upfront?

“If you look back Jermaine Defoe scored six or seven goals when we were playing together so it really has nothing to do with my comfort with Jermaine or Luke. I’m happy now, I wasn’t scoring goals and now I am.”

 

Toronto FC defender Mark Bloom

Overall thoughts of getting back into a full game?

“It was good for me to come off of injury and start my first time back. I felt like my fitness was good and I didn’t focus about my knee at all. It didn’t bother me at all so in my mind I’m back fully fit.”

Tough to see Caldwell and Morrow going down to injury, did you feel some of the energy was deflated when they went out of the lineup?

“Those two guys are crucial to our team. I mean you take our captain and a guy that has played every single game, that is definitely hard. It takes away the heart of our defence but we have the players to cover them and I thought we did well. Unfortunately we gave up two goals.”

23 August 10:31 pm

Select shots from the Fire's 2-2 draw with Toronto FC.

02 July 11:44 pm

Chicago Fire vs. Toronto FC
MLS Regular Season
Toyota Park – July 2, 2014

 

Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop

On team's overall performance

“I thought we did enough to win the game. When it is eleven men against ten, we should win the game. We had our chances.  It's frustrating, I've said it a few times; we've tied and maybe deserved to win the game, but we haven't. That's our problem right now: we can't seem to win a game. We haven't lost a ton, but we haven't won many. It's a weird situation, it's frustrating; we can't get over the finish line with a win. The guys are frustrated in there, we are, as a staff, and me as a head coach. It's not from lack of effort, which is important, it's just lapses of concentration at the wrong time. They had one or two chances and scored one goal; we probably had five to six, seven, eight chances and scored one. It's the story of our season so far, so it's been frustrating.”

On issues with low number of shots on goal

“We'll have to look at them again. I thought we had enough chances to hit the target. I'm not out there, I can't remember all the chances we had. I think the one cross that went in, if we just get a nick on it, we score; Joe Bendik made a very good save, he traps it. [We had] one on a good volley; the offside goal, I haven't seen whether it was offside or not, so it was another good chance. You can't always tell if you’re hitting the target is the right thing; if you try to bend it around the keeper and it just goes wide, sometimes that's unlucky too. But we had enough looks in the final third and in their box to get more than one goal; but we didn't, so that's the story of our season if you like, and our theme tonight.”

On the performance of midfielder Harry Shipp

“Good. On a positive note, Harry's starting to blossom into a good player. I think he's starting to play with a lot of confidence, and he knows he's a good player. He's maturing nicely, and I think that it's no surprise that he does well. He's in a lot of the good stuff that we do going forward. So, very happy with his development. Good goal again; I think he's at six goals already, a great tally for any player, let alone a rookie coming into a brand new, professional league. He's done fantastically well.”

On the performance of forwards Quincy Amarikwa and Mike Magee

“It was difficult. I thought the two center backs were physical and strong, and I spoke to the boys to play a little quicker and try to separate them a little bit. I think, in the second half, we did a better job creating chances. I know it's against ten men, but still, the same back four, or back eight if you like, they got one up front in Jermaine Defoe. I think we created enough opportunities to do better with what we had, and I haven't spoken to either guy yet, but both of them had pretty good looks tonight; just that final, last, little piece was just missing. But I'm not going to fault them for effort, I think that they worked well. They tried to do the right things, moved the ball pretty sharply for us, passed it well. Again, it's a little easier against ten men, but I still think we did the right things to create enough chances, but we just didn't get our final touch.”

On the second center midfield position

“We're looking. It's a spot where Alex has been injured a lot this season; I don't know how many games he's played, it's not been many, he's not played a league game for a good nine weeks or so. Once they went to ten men, I felt we needed something more offensive, and Alex obviously has more of an offensive mind than Chris [Ritter]; Chris had a pretty good bang on his eye, so I think it was a smart move to do that. If you look at the game as a whole, with Alex in there, we did create enough chances to get something out of it. Whether he played really well himself, he didn't play for a while, so he was going to be a little rusty. But I think that the formation was fine, and it gave us enough chances to get into the game or win the game.”

On going for it by substituting forward Juan Luis Anangono for defender Greg Cochrane

“I tend to think, for me, if we're tying, we need to win games. If we had lost 2-1, it didn't really change too much (the points) so we're trying to get three points. We went to three in the back, but it didn't quite work, so I put Jeff [Larentowicz] back. So we were going to go with Jeff, Baky [Soumare], and Patrick [Ianni], but we decided to just go with four and just push Lovel [Palmer] and [Grant] Ward, playing right back, he's really a right wing, forward. We possessed the ball enough, did enough to get something out of it, so we were definitely going for it to try and get a win.”

Chicago Fire Midfielder Jeff Larentowicz

On the break:

“It’s disappointing.  We talk about the little things.  There’s one chance in this game for the other team and they took it. We were second best.”

On the team’s reaction Yallop’s comments at training:

“What he said was taken in by everybody. There’s time left, however.  We can’t hope to hang our hat on ties at the end of year, especially home games and conference games.  We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”

On the substitutions:

“In other games, earlier in the year, Frank has shown he wants to win and puts on players that are going to make a difference. Last week Juan [Luis Anangano] did that for us in the game.”

On the difference between ties and losses:

“There’s always a difference. However, when you have so many ties that feel like losses, it’s tough.”

Chicago Fire Midfielder Harry Shipp

On his goal:

“I think someone played it out to Mike [Magee] off a corner kick, and I was actually jogging over to take the corner when I saw it go out and I sort of slipped along the endline. I think Mike made the pass, I took a few touches then took the shot and scored.”

On not being able to get the win playing a man up:

“It’s really frustrating, it sucks and it feels like a loss.  We should have scored about four goals in the second half.  I think we all need to figure out how and what we can do better to not fall behind in the game, that’s the key I think.  We started getting into the game, up a man, they scored a goal and that kind of killed us going into halftime.”

On the possibility of Rookie of Year Honors:

“It’s not even on my mind.  When you’re on a team like this with two wins all year, you’re focusing everyday on trying to go in and get a win and to learn how to get better.  I’d rather not score a goal all year and be on a winning team than score however many goals I score and be on a losing team.  So, Rookie of the Year is not really on my mind.”

On the substitutions:

“We had the ball pretty much the entire second half.  Being up a man obviously helps that, but we can’t afford to tie at home.  We came in to this game knowing that we needed a win, we kind of billed it as a game to turn our season around, which hopefully gives us momentum heading into the second half of the year.  It didn’t happen, so we have to look toward Kansas City on Sunday.”

Toronto FC Head Coach Ryan Nelson

On surviving with a point on the road:

“Yeah, any point on the road is a very good point, especially when you go down to ten men.  The guys were absolutely fantastic.  Really in control of the game, up until the decision, and even then I thought we looked like we were going to get one on the break.  They [Chicago] did very well in the second half, as they would, Frank’s a very good coach, and pushed us high and we kind of sat back and we didn’t have the confidence to maybe press a little higher, and force them into making mistakes.  They kind of trapped us in a wee bit, but we had to defend.  We defended very well.  When you’re down to ten men, you need a lot of organization and a lot of character and a lot of strength, and I think the boys showed that in abundance.”

On Jackson’s goal:

“We worked on that potentially but our wide guys would have a lot of influence running in behind their defenders and it just happened to be that he got himself into that position and it was a perfect cross.  Really good finish.”

On the team holding its defensive shape for the duration of the second half:

“They had every excuse to lose it. Away from home, and Chicago desperate for a win, absolutely desperate for a win, and Frank’s done a great job with them, they are a great team.  Obviously with then me, we had to sharpen our steel; this point is very valuable.  It proves now that at six unbeaten that when we are away from home, and being down to ten men twice, we’ve managed to get something out of the game.  That’s extremely important.”

Toronto FC Defender Nick Hagglund

On fighting through being down to ten men for over 60 minutes:

“I was pretty proud of the guys and how we responded with that red card.  A lot of times, people go down, especially when you go early in the game, you’re down and out.  Usually a red card towards the end of the game is a little different, and you push a little bit more.  I thought we being zero-zero, I thought we did well.”

On what Coach Nelson said at halftime:

“He said just to stay organized.  We knew that they were going into halftime, they were going to change their plan a little bit more and figure us out with ten men versus eleven men, but I thought we made sure we were tight and made it difficult for them to score.”

On coming away with a point:

“I think in the locker room we were pretty disappointed.  I think the goal was soft.  Could have been deflected.  Joe got a hand on it.  I think everyone here is disappointed that we didn’t get the three points, because we were up.  I think it’s a step in the right direction.  To be disappointed with getting a tie and not three points [especially on the road].”

On going into the three game home stand coming off the World Cup break:

“We are pretty excited to get Mike [Bradley] back in the lineup.  Being at home, we are tough at home.  That is where we thrive.  We still have two or three games in hand on most teams so there’s an opportunity for us to jump up standings.”

Toronto FC Midfielder Jackson

On earning a hard fought point:

“We weren’t expecting to play with ten men.  However, this team is a strong team, and we fought through it.  As a whole we played really together and we got that point that we needed.”

On his goal:

“At training we talk a lot and we practice it and we communicate constantly.  Fortunately, I was at the right spot at the right time.  We continued to fight and continued to be a team as whole and get ahead.”

On taking advantage of the space on the flanks to utilize on counterattacks:

“I was fully aware of the space I had so I was just waiting for that one spot, that one time, and I got it with myself and Dom [Oduro].  Unfortunately, the goalkeeper got a hand on it and I was happy with that touch but I want to reiterate again that we have to continue working strong as a team, whether we have ten men or eleven men.”

02 July 10:30 pm

Select shots from the Fire's draw with Toronto FC presented by MiAllstate.

11 April 7:58 am

Whether you like having just a few libations with some of the club’s most ardent supporters, enjoy the beautiful landscapes of rural Indiana, Michigan and Missouri, or just really like seeing the Chicago Fire play away from home, Section 8 On Tour Bus Trips (#S8OT) have something for everyone.

Returning this year, the Independent Supporters Association is offering all Fire supporters an away season ticket, which guarantees round trip bus fare and match tickets for this season’s Fire away games in Columbus (May 24), Kansas City (July 6) and Toronto (August 23) for just $200.

While the execution of an Away Season Ticket isn’t something new to Section 8 Chicago, it does return for the first time in a number of years because of the way the MLS schedule fell for the club’s three closest away trips according to ISA Chairman Jeff Marinacci. 

“The stars aligned for us,” he told Chicago-Fire.com this week. “When we saw the schedule, having Toronto on a summer weekend makes it an easy sell. Though Columbus or Kansas City are good road games, Toronto just offers so much more, the trip is worth doing outside of just going to watch a match.”

Toronto nightlife no doubt has more to offer than Kansas City or Columbus but what Marinacci is referring to is the fact that the past few seasons, the team has played away in Toronto at midweek in September, making it difficult to coordinate a strong contingent of Fire supporters to travel by bus.

 This year the Columbus and Toronto trips both fall on Saturdays, while the Kansas City trip falls on the Sunday of Independence Day weekend making the travel much easier all around.

As they do on all buses, Section 8 Chicago is subsidizing an additional $35 per person on the 2014 Away Season Ticket on top of the $50 subsidy provided for individual bus travel to these matches.

“Our commitment to spending our money is to support the guys on the field home and away,” he said.

A great deal no doubt, not what if someone buying can only make it on one or two of the trips instead of the full complement of three? Marinacci said that while there is no partial away season ticket (and no refunds), the ISA will accommodate ticket transfers as coordinated through communications@s8c.org.

Now through mid-May (when bus tickets for the Columbus trip will cut off), Section 8 Chicago is in a heavy push to sell the Away Season Ticket for the year. As part of that push, the ISA will be raffling one off during Saturday’s Watch Party at A.J. Hudsons

Next Saturday, the ISA will raffle off a second Away Season Ticket, purchased by the Club, at their tailgate in the north lot prior to the Chicago Fire/New England Revolution match.

If you’d rather just support a great initiative to get more Fire fans out on the road this season, go ahead and buy your Away Season Ticket by clicking here.

25 November 3:04 pm

One of my favorite days of the year is the day the MLS schedule is released.

For many fans, this announcement means compiling a list of blackout days where the Fire are playing at Toyota Park. For Fire fans not residing in the Chicagoland area, it means finding out when the Men in Red will be visiting your nearest MLS team. But for someone like me who has been on quite a few road trips (over 50 but not as many as this guy), the schedule release day means not only looking at the home fixtures but also the away ones.

Questions I asked myself earlier today: Does Toronto away fall on weekend instead of a Wednesday night? How much does it cost to fly to Portland in March? These important questions get answered on this special day.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at five exciting dates in the 2014 Fire calendar:

Week 2 – Portland away – Saturday, March 15 

Ever since Portland came into the league in 2011, the Fire supporters umbrella, Section 8 Chicago, has had a very good relationship with the Timbers Army, Portland’s main supporters group. The relationship is based on mutual respect and a shared “dislike” of all things Seattle.

Fire fans are always treated well in Portland and it’s not uncommon for Fire and Timbers fans to hang out before and after the games, something you would never see Fire fans doing in Columbus or Kansas City.

The atmosphere at JELD-Wen Field is also second to none. Though is certainly isn’t going to be the easiest away trip on the field or the lightest on the wallet, I think we will see quite a few Fire fans making the trip to Portland in Week 2 instead of traveling to LA to watch the Fire face Chivas in the season opener.

Week 6 & 22 – Montreal away – Saturday, April 12 and Sunday, August 16

The Fire were the Montreal Impact’s opponents in the Canadian club’s first home MLS back in 2012 and I was lucky enough to be at the game and had a great time.

That game was played indoors at the Olympic Stadium with a less than favorable playing surface – something many of the Fire fans observed firsthand the day before the game when we were invited to watch the team train (see photo above).

Now the Impact have Saputo Stadium refurbished, which provides another incentive for traveling Fire fans who may not have gotten there earlier this year.

Montreal is also a unique MLS city for a number of reasons. I can’t think of another MLS city where fans can brush up on their French by talking to the locals or take in the spectacular Notre-Dame basilica while eating some amazing poutine!

Montreal can be quite cold in April, but luckily for Fire fans, the April date is only the first time the Men in Red visit The City of Saints. I hear the weather is a lot nicer in mid-August, when the Fire visit for the second time.

Week 11 – Columbus away – Saturday, May 24

Columbus or Fire House East as many Fire fans call it is the closest away trip of the season distance wise. Due to this fact, the number of Fire fans attending this match is exponentially bigger than most other away games.

In 2001, Fire fans went to Crew Stadium in their hundreds, even when the Fire was not playing! The Fire had been knocked out in the Conference Semifinals by the Los Angeles Galaxy and many fans turned up to cheer against LA (and for the then Frank Yallop-led San Jose Earthquakes) at MLS Cup.

There have been many highs experienced in Columbus, such as Paulo Wanchope’s winning goal in a 2007 match after the game was delayed due to a torrential downpour. Fire fans were also 45 minutes away from MLS Cup in 2008 but for a Crew comeback in the second half which left Fire fans, including myself, devastated. There’s also the 2012 invasion which saw 600 Fire supporters make the trek.

The Fire only play once at Fire House East this season and I expect to see a lot of red behind the goal on May 24.

Week 16 & 32 Kansas City away –Sunday, July 6 &  Friday, October 10

Kansas City is another road trip that fans have attended in large numbers throughout the years. My first trip to Kansas City was a disappointing one, with the Fire losing to the Kansas City Wizards in the final of the U.S. Open Cup in 2004.

Since then, the Kansas franchise has a new name and a soccer specific stadium. You can no longer play the count the crowd game that we often did when the Wizards played at Arrowhead Stadium.

Most fans travel to this game by bus thus skipping the “delights” of downtown Kansas City and the bus ride does offer one cool treat – a visit to the world’s largest truck stop in Iowa.

Though SKC are not really a Fire rival (despite efforts made by the KC front office to make it into something bigger) there is certainly a dislike between the players and fans on both sides.

With the October 11 game coming so late in the season, it may be a pivotal one in terms of Playoff positioning.

Week 23 – Toronto away – Saturday, August 23

By far my favorite MLS city to travel to is Toronto. It's roughly the same distance from Chicago as Kansas City and again many fans travel to Canada on supporter’s buses.

Each visit, Fire fans shack up at a great hostel where we run into soccer fans from all over the world. Toronto itself is a great city aside from the prohibitive drinking laws on weekends (who doesn’t want to have a pint at 10am while watching the Premier League the next morning?).

BMO Field is located right on the shores of Lake Ontario and is thus left exposed and is often windy and chilly but the warm pies served at some of the concessions stands are an excellent halftime treat.

On the field, the Fire have had some good success against a TFC team that has languished near the bottom of the MLS table since starting in 2007. Thankfully, this match is on a Saturday in August so I expect a much larger contingent of Fire fans to attend.

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

21 October 1:46 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 12:22 pm

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.

20 October 5:13 pm

I'm not going to bog you down with a bunch of math, it is Sunday afterall.

Following New York's 3-0 win today at Houston, the Eastern Conference playoff picture has become very clear heading into the final week of the season.

First I give you the updated table via MLSsoccer.com:

 

Now, the remaining Eastern Conference fixture list...

Saturday, October 26
Philadephia Union  vs. Sporting KC - 2pm CT (NBC Sports Network)
Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact - 3pm CT (MLS Live)

Sunday, October 27
D.C. United vs. Houston Dynamo - 12:30pm CT (NBC)
Columbus Crew vs. New England Revolution - 3:00pm CT (MLS Live)
New York Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire - 4:00pm CT (My50/Time Warner Sports WI)

The Chicago Fire can qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs the following ways...

- Win at New York
- Draw/lose at New York and have either Houston draw/lose at D.C. or New England draw/lose at Columbus
- Draw at New York AND Montreal lose at Toronto
 
The Fire can clinch the East's third seed if...

- Win at New York AND Toronto FC win/draw vs. Montreal
- Draw at New York AND Montreal loses at Toronto FC AND New England draws/loses at Columbus AND Houston draws/loses at D.C.

19 October 11:54 pm
Quote Sheet
Chicago Fire vs. Toronto FC
Toyota Park – Bridgeview, IL
Saturday, October 19
 
Frank Klopas, Chicago Fire Head Coach
 
Thoughts on the team’s 1-0 win over Toronto FC…
 
“I think we wanted to make sure this wouldn’t be our last game here at home. It was a good atmosphere tonight and I thought the guys came out and from the start we talked about the field being heavy a little bit with the rain, maybe at times, depending on how the field as to be a little more direct out of the back and play smart. I thought we were good the first half – we created chances and we corrected some things at halftime. We created a lot of opportunities but we were just a little bit unlucky. We didn’t make it as exciting as it was in the end. It was a great result for us in a game where we needed to get the three points and all credit to the team and my players. We’ll enjoy tonight and go back to work tomorrow to prepare for New York.”
 
On not being able to clinch a playoff berth tonight with New England’s win over Columbus…
 
“I think the way the league is when you look at both divisions, the one thing we talked about is just making sure we take care of business and focus on ourselves. Regardless of the other scores, if we don’t get the three points tonight it doesn’t really matter what happens with the other teams. We focused on putting ourselves in a great spot, the team stuck together and I think all these games, even adversity in the beginning has made us a better team. I think you get better through difficult moments and I feel this team right now is better in that sense than the team I had last year winning 17 games. We don’t clinch tonight, it doesn’t matter, we just focus on the next game and it’s exciting to have the opportunity to play another game because one day going by without soccer is not a good day for us. We’re glad we have another one next week and then hopefully more games after that.”
 
On Jeff Larentowicz’s yellow card meaning he’ll miss the season finale at New York…
 
“Jeff is a veteran player but we rely on the team. We’ve talked about this since the beginning and I think there are moments in the season where you’re going to rely on everyone. Jeff has been fantastic for us but other guys will step in and get the job done.”
 
On Mike Magee being a legitimate candidate for MLS MVP after winning the team award Saturday night…
 
“I think with Mike the most important thing is helping the team win, regardless of if he scores or not. That’s the kind of competitor he is. Obviously his performance on the field and what he’s done to be able to change our team since he’s been here – he definitely has to be considered. He’s had a big impact with our team and I think he for sure deserves the award because I’m his coach. I hope he gets it but he’s definitely been a huge part to get our team to the point where it is right now.”
 
On Juan Luis Anangono’s high shot rate and hitting the woodwork twice Saturday night…
 
“The positive thing is that he’s creating opportunities. I think it’s going to come and as a forward you have to have a mentality that you want the next opportunity, regardless if you’re missing or not. Juan does so much work off the ball that he’s a threat every time we get the ball to be able to play in depth and he stretches the opposing team out. In the first half we could have done a better job with his movement and finding Mike [Magee] between the lines because there were big gaps between there and we didn’t find him enough. But he works so hard with the ball, without the ball – he’s creating opportunities and it’s going to come. I think he’s got that kind of mentality and as a forward you say ‘give me that next opportunity’. In a game it’s the next play. There’s nothing you can do to go back. He’s a positive guy, he created chances, he hit the post today, next week it’ll go in.”
 
On how closely he followed the New England/Columbus game…
 
“I looked at it. Believe me every time I went back – I saw 2-2 then I saw 3-2 – you look at that. At the end, it’s really up to us, so regardless of what they do, if we take care of business then we’re there and it’s a credit to everyone in this organization. You look at it, it’s hard not to but I think we just have to focus on ourselves – that’s the important thing. We put ourselves in the spot where it really is up to us.”
 
Jeff Larentowicz, Chicago Fire Midfielder
 
Thoughts on the team’s performance in the 1-0 win over Toronto FC…
 
“We gutted it out. I thought Toronto played tough and although we had a lot of chances they held on. We got a break on the PK and we win the game. At this point in the year we’re faced with the challenge of having to win games and we’re doing that.”
 
On the disappointment on receiving a yellow card and missing the regular season finale next Sunday at New York…
 
“It’s extremely disappointing. The guys will be alright. I have faith in everyone here and they know the task at hand – they’ll take care of business.”
 
On the team’s spirit after three straight wins allowing them to knock on the door of playoff qualification…
 
“There’s confidence but we need to keep it in check. We know we have to be smart and I think that’s what we’ve done the last few games – we’ve been a lot smarter than we have in the past in terms of finishing games out and getting the results that we need. Going into New York I’m sure there’s going to be a lot on the line for them and for us as well. It’ll be a tough game but one where I think we can get a result.”
 
Feelings on seeing Mike Magee convert the penalty kick after missing his take three weeks ago vs. Montreal…
 
“It felt great, that’s the game-winning goal. We’ve had confidence in Mike, we know he has confidence in himself and that’s what we expect out of him. He stepped up and I’m sure it was on his mind the last few games but to finish it the way he did shows the confidence he has.”
 
On if he thinks Mike Magee should be MLS MVP…
 
“Absolutely, there’s no question. The guy that scores the most goals in the league is someone that’s having a good year. I think an MVP has to be on the team that’s winning and competing for championships. He’s said all along that his goal is to get into the playoffs and whatever happens after that happens. We’re with him on that. We hope he continues to score goals and I think if we get into the playoffs he should get it.”
 
Patrick Nyarko, Chicago Fire Midfielder
 
On the push to the end of the season:
 
"The momentum is building and we need to keep our concentration focused to the last day and hopefully into the playoffs."
 
On the result:
 
"I thought we had control of the game.  We created chances and were hitting the post, but their threat was on the set pieces and in these kinds of games you can really not count the other team out even if you have control because one set piece and they can put you behind.  I think we had control of the game, created chances when we wanted to, but we just couldn't put the game away. it's good we got the one goal and we walked it out."
 
On the play of Juan Luis Anangono:
 
"There was great awareness [of his position], he made good runs and people put the ball right there for him.  It's unfortunate that you're going to get these kinds of games where you hit it well and it still comes off the post.  Hopefully when we really need it, it will go in."
 
On following the results of other teams in contention tonight:
 
"I took a peek a little bit up on the board, but it didn't really affect me.  Like I said, I want us to stay focused, coming down to the last day might be an advantage for us with the momentum that we are building now and trying to build going into the playoffs.
 
I'd look up at the scoreboard when we'd win corners or when walking back if it was on the scoreboard, I'd take a peek and say to myself, 'I hope next time it comes up that it changes.'  We have to focus on ourselves, we have control of our own destiny and we hope to clinch it next week."
 
On next week:
 
"It doesn't make a difference [that the other games are starting before the Fire], because the guys in the locker room are experienced enough to know that it's about us now.  We are not looking for the results to get us in.  We need to get our own result to get us in.  I think we have experienced guys we are not going to pay attention that and will stay focused on the game at hand, which is New York and will be a tough game." 
 
Mike Magee, Chicago Fire forward
 
On taking the penalty:
 
"All that was going through my head was, ‘don't miss.’  I got up there with all the confidence in the world, I was looking at the goal and it looked a little smaller than normal to be honest.  I was never going to miss that."
 
On his approach:
 
"I tried to take a little glance at the goalie, and the approach is that I had to score.  Like I said, the goal was a little smaller than normal.  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."
 
On the game next week:
 
"We've got to win it next week from the way I see it.  I'm not going to watch other scores or anything like that.  I'm going to keep in the back of my head that we have to go to New York and get a result.  Until someone tells me we're in the playoffs, otherwise the other games are meaningless and this is the biggest game of the year for our team."
 
On the fans chanting MVP:
 
"It's awesome.  I'm in my city, the city that I love and hearing them chant that with my family in the stands is huge.  Having said that, I know what's really at stake and it's not an MVP award or a Golden Boot Award, or any other award, it's about getting to the playoffs and knowing anything can happen from there.  It feels good, don't get me wrong, but to be honest it's the last thing on my mind."
 
Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire goalkeeper
 
On the defense's performance:
 
"I thought the guys in front of me did a fantastic job tonight.  They were organized, one the same page, communication was there and the most important thing is that we came away with three points and that's what we were looking to do tonight.  At the end of the day the clean sheet is a bonus, winning the game is the most important thing.  As long as we get three points and play well, we don't care what the score is, we'll take it and run with it.  We're trying to make the playoffs and shutouts, if they're not wins in some games, don't help get you into the playoffs. We need to keep doing out jobs, both offensively and defensively we've been on fire and need to keep that going into New York."
 
On losing Larentowicz for the game next week:
 
"We have players that can step at any point in time.  He's an important player to our team, but we've got the depth, like we've shown, to have players come in and contribute.  Everybody can come in and step-up and play their part to help get us into the playoffs.  It's about getting results, so we'll use practice this week to prepare for whomever is going to be in there, and we're going to be ok."
 
Toronto FC Head Coach Ryan Nelsen
 
On being encouraged the team has played almost 250 minutes without giving up a goal:
 
“Of course.  I feel so sorry for the players.  We’ve taken both these games, the Philadelphia and Chicago games as a playoff games since both these teams desperately needed points.  In both games they’ve been absolutely fantastic.  It’s been two set pieces that have broken them down.  And the chances we had in the first half, they were incredibly good chances.  But we have to finish.  We didn’t.  And then you leave it in the hands of the gods, or maybe not a god, but a refereeing decision that I think when he looks back at and sees it, he’ll probably say he’s made a bit of a mistake.  But unfortunately that’s long gone and I won’t be holding my breath to hear a sorry from that one.”
 
On being patient playing the game with Chicago’s playoff implications:
 
“We knew they needed to win, and we knew that if we were solid, we’d get into situations on the counter attack which we did in the first half.  But we knew we’d have our opportunities, and what we didn’t want to do was go down early.   Because that obviously gives them life and the pressure goes off them.  As soon as that goal went in, we had to go out of our shell a little bit and our formation and structure and they got a little life.  Before that goal, the crowd was getting uneasy, they’re uneasy.  It was a very comfortable situation, and then again, the referee’s left his fingerprint on the game.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t stay out of the news.  That’s life, and we move on.”
 
On Stefan Frei’s performance:
 
“That save that Stefan made would probably be for me, the save of the season.  I haven’t seen it again but just from watching it live, I can’t think of any save that I’ve seen.  He walks into 80 or 90 per cent of any MLS team and he’s the starting goalkeeper.  He walks into there and he starts.  That’s so lucky for us to have.  Unfortunately Joe’s been so good as well.  He’s been absolutely fantastic.  And he hasn’t had many games and then to come and put a performance like that is a credit to Stefan.”
 
Toronto FC Captain and Defender Steven Caldwell
 
On the match:
 
“Difficult match for us.  We felt we played pretty well.  We were in the game.  We had to defend for periods, but had the ball and created some opportunities.  Very disappointing with the penalty kick decision.  We felt that it was a very poor decision by the referee and it cost us a point, or possibly three.”
 
On the young midfield that got minutes today:
 
“Yea, the two guys in the middle were outstanding.  I felt that Reggie Lambe on the left and Kyle Bekker coming in and not having an opportunity all season and probably being frustrated with that, and comes into a big game and play so well, and in a role that is not his favored role.  He defended a lot and was breaking things up.  I am extremely proud of them, they were magnificent.”
 
On finishing off the season strong:
 
“We want to win, obviously, we have one game to go; against Montreal.  Sort of a derby match.  And they are obviously fighting for the playoffs too.  I think that anyone that’s been or seen the last two matches between Philadelphia and Fire, we are treating these games as being extremely important to us because we are building the team and hoping to be in this position next season.  We’re putting everything into them.  We’ve been extremely unlucky with two games and coming away with nothing.  We will be going out there next week, last home game, last game of the season and we’ll be trying to get the three points against our rivals.”
 
Toronto FC Goalkeeper Stefan Frei
 
On the team’s performance tonight:
 
“We put together a pretty decent performance and it’s extremely frustrating not to get a tie out of it at least.  There’s some positives to take from it.  We knew that this was going to be a tough atmosphere for us and it was a very important game for Chicago.  They want to bring everything and try to get into the playoffs.  So great, great learning experience for us.  I think we handled the first half extremely well and they had a couple of chances and lots of corner kicks throughout the game but we handled those set pieces well.  No chances came from them.  That one goal came from a set piece and but it was from the middle referee.  But like I said, lots of positives to take from this match.  We knew we were out of the playoff hunt a long time ago and it’s more about growing as a team.”
 
On next week’s final regular season match versus Montreal:
 
“Again, it will be the same atmosphere and they’re going to know what they need to do in order to get into the playoffs.  Obviously Toronto and Montreal don’t get along and we will try to play spoiler for sure.”