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After picking up a point in the home opener against Supporter’s Shield winners New York last week, the Fire head to D.C. looking to steal all three points for the first time this season (LIVE 3pm CT on NBC Sports Network).
D.C. are in transition and are also in search of their first win. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective:
Continuing to attack with pace - utilizing Alex
Against New York last week, the Fire looked very dangerous on the counter attack when Alex was given space to run at the Red Bulls defense. Not only was the Brazilian able to beat players 1v1 but he drew defenders out of position, opening up space for players like Mike Magee and Quincy Amarikwa to move into.
In D.C.'s last match away in Toronto, Ben Olsen's team was also incapable of defending against the quick counter attack. Michael Bradley and Co. found it much too easy to bypass the lone United defensive midfielder Perry Kitchen who received little help from his fellow midfielders.
I expect D.C. to deploy another central midfielder to help out Kitchen against the Fire, but if the Men in Red can continue to break with that much pace and the interplay between Alex, Magee and Amarikwa continues to improve, the Fire should fare well on Saturday.
More attacking play from wide - taking advantage of D.C. team not fully settled
Against New York last weekend the Fire were forced into making changes at both outside back positions due to injury and suspension respectively.
Matt Watson and Greg Cochrane have had barely any time to work with their new teammates since their recent moves and it showed at times in last week’s game. Against D.C., where there is a good chance both will start again, I look for an improvement in the attacking play from both players.
It will also be interesting to see how Watson/Shipp and Cochrane/Joya combine down each flank after another week’s worth of training together. While there is certainly a weakness in the D.C. midfield, a balance between attacking down the middle and from the wings is necessary.
With so many new players on the field for D.C., positioning, especially defensive positioning, is a major problem. This was quite obvious in the Toronto match, with D.C. players often gesturing to one another in an attempt to determine who to mark.
If the Fire can get Watson and Cochrane forward to support the attack, it will pin D.C. back and could benefit the away team.
Keeping Eddie Johnson isolated and limiting set pieces - making it harder for D.C. to find the net
D.C.'s most notable offseason acquisition was striker Eddie Johnson, who on his day is one of the league’s best strikers. In his first two games however, Johnson was an isolated figure up front, managing only 1.5 shots according to the website Who Scored.
The Fire’s defense did a fine job shutting down Thierry Henry last week and will be looking to do the same against Johnson and perhaps register a first shutout of the season. D.C. have yet to score this year but are a major threat from set pieces with players like Jeff Parke, Bobby Boswell and Fabian Espindola looking to get on the end of quality deliveries from Luis Silva.
D.C. got men in the box at any opportunity against both Toronto and Columbus and I expect it to be no different on Saturday. After giving up yet another goal from a set piece last week, the Fire coaching staff will no doubt be encouraging the players to keep their concentration, especially against a team desperate to pick up its first points and goal of the season.
Prediction: 2-0 Fire with goals from Alex and Quincy Amarikwa.
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @Irish_Steve.
WATCH: Sean Johnson, Matt Watson preview D.C. United
I've spent some time this week on Twitter pondering whether or not New York Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill would receive any additional suspension for a swing he took on reigning 2013 MLS MVP Mike Magee in the waning moments of Sunday's home opener.
The thoughts crossed my mind after seeing the two game suspension that Fire defender Lovel Palmer received the previous week for a foul that didn't look nearly as egregious as the one Cahill committed on Magee. My suspicions were only heightened when the play didn't make it into MLSsoccer.com's weekly "Instant Replay" feature earlier this week.
Watch it again below:
The MLS Disciplinary Committee decided Wednesday that the foul Cahill committed was only deserving of the yellow card that referee Drew Fischer showed to the Australian international and that no further disciplinary action would be necessary.
Admittedly I'm a homer and I'm sure there has at some point in the 19-year history of MLS there have been more egregious plays that have gone unpunished but it was hard not to feel like Lovel Palmer, who will be suspended again for Saturday's game at D.C. United, was the one losing out in this whole situation.
As I learned Wednesday night, clearly I should have just called on the services of young Keira Magee, who with the help of her father, quite plainly put the whole situation in perspective better than multiple tweets from the club's Team Writer ever could:
— Mike Magee (@magee9) March 26, 2014
Anyways, it may be time to get the below hashtag some love on Twitter...
It's Opening Day on Sunday and I'm making my normal pre-game rounds at the Section 8 Chicago tailgate. As I parade through the gaggle of the club's most vocal supporters, I stop and welcome back familiar faces from Ultras Red Side, one of the bigger groups inside of Section 8.
As we chat about our hopes for the game and what kind of spirits are keeping us warm, one Antwon Galante reveals a fresh tattoo he had done the night before.
"I had it planned for a while now but I wanted to get it for the new season -- fresh ink and a fresh start for 2014," Galante told me by phone on Wednesday.
The new tattoo features a large Fire logo on his right wrist and above it, an illustration of "The Harlem End" where Section 8 Chicago is based in Toyota Park.
"Obviously I wanted to pay homage to the Fire but also pay tribute to Section 8 and The Harlem End," he said. "It's a special part of our stadium and it's been like a second home to me."
While the tattoo was still obviously raw (and a little painful for Antwon), I quickly took out my iPhone and threw it up on the @ChicagoFire Instagram account. Shortly after @MLS did a #regram of it and Antwon was famous in the #MLSInk world.
You come into work on Wednesday and see the whole #cf97Ink hashtag has started to be populated on Twitter by others that have made that life-long decision to have some type of Chicago Fire-related art adorn their body.
A few more...
— Frank Cardenas (@wbo5elguapo) February 27, 2014
— Jëff Kräusë (@DFBJeff) March 26, 2014
— Chow (@chow3) March 26, 2014
— Stephen Young (@SteveY8) March 26, 2014
— Elle (@elle_tiburon) March 26, 2014
Extra credit goes to the person that doesn't have #cf97Ink but goes and gets it by the end of the day...
The Chicago Fire Soccer Club welcomed community partner, City Year Chicago at Sunday’s home opener against the New York Red Bulls. City Year, an education-focused non-profit organization that combats the nation’s dropout epidemic by uniting young people of all backgrounds for a full year of full-time service in high-need schools. Because of the Fire’s support and the support of all of our team sponsors, City Year Chicago is able to place 206 corps members in 20 schools, impacting 5,000 5th through 9th grade students through academic supports, mentoring programs, after school activities and parent engagement initiatives.
As the partnership continues in 2014, the Club extended an invitation to all 200 members of City Year Chicago to attend the Fire’s first home game at Toyota Park. Those who were able to attend joined Fire owner Andrew Hauptman on the field prior to the match for photo op and recognition.
The Club will also have presence at City Year’s Family Engagement Night Tuesday evening as members of the Chicago Fire Foundation and Community Relations Department will be in attendance.
On Tuesday I wrote about Fire newbie Greg Cochrane filling in admirably for veteran left back Gonzalo Segares during his club debut in Sunday's 1-1 draw with New York. You can't always fit every good quote into a story so without just throwing them all away, I decided to include them here...
JC: How has getting time in the CONCACAF Champions League with LA Galaxy so early in your career helped you?
GC: When you’re going down to other countries you’re playing in hostile environments where the fans throw stuff at you. From that point of view, I also got to see a lot of different styles – Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador – every country has their own flavor and I was able to pick up a lot of different stuff from those games, try to get better and keep improving
JC: When Mike Magee joined the Fire last year, he said playing with the likes of Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and David Beckham everyday gave him a certain confidence. Would you agree?
GC: Definitely. Training with those guys every day, Robbie and Landon and Omar Gonzalez are on national teams. They’re the best in their countries and are top class players. You learn so much from them and so when you come to other teams, it gives you confidence to keep doing what you’re doing.
JC: As a left back, who do you model your game after most?
GC: Right now my two favorites are Leighton Baines for Everton and Jordi Alba for Barcelona. They’re not the biggest of guys and neither am I but when you see guys like that succeeding at the highest level, you know you can do it too. Jordi at Barcelona is busing all over the field and Baines is one of the best left foots in the world serving a ball. I try to emulate both of them.
JC: How difficult would you describe the past few weeks, joining a new team and having to move to a new city all while trying to earn your spot in the team?
GC: It’s been a fun experience. I try to take eeverything and put it in a good light. It was nice that the Fire were coming out to LA the first week so I didn’t have to rush to put anything into storage. It gave me a couple days to process the fact that I was traded and meet up with the team. Here, you’re in the hotels and you don’t have a permanent residence yet – that’s part is frustrating. It’s fun, I’ve enjoyed it so far – all the guys are real welcoming. It’s good to feel welcomed right away – it makes you feel like you can play like yourself and be yourself.
Select shots from Monday's reserve game vs. the New York Red Bulls