On Friday, September 27, the Fire welcomed representatives from its Fire Juniors affiliates across the country, including the participation of the recently launched Fire Juniors City, for the third annual Chicago Fire Juniors Summit at Toyota Park.
The annual convergence of the 10 Fire Juniors clubs, representing more than 10,000 players across seven different states, is extremely worthwhile according to Fire Juniors Affiliate Manager Brian Roberts.
“The summit is a great opportunity to lay out the new initiatives set by the player development department at the Club,” he told Chicago-Fire.com on Monday. “But more importantly, it brings everyone together to exchange best practices and discuss new ideas in order to continue to grow and innovate."
This year’s weekend event covered a wide range of topics and new initiatives centered on the summit’s theme of “Tradition, Honor, Passion,” including presentations on everything from social media to sponsorship, and marketing and bookkeeping. Spread across two days, the event weekend was received high marks from attendees, capped off by attending the Fire’s thrilling draw with Montreal on Saturday night.
For more on the Fire Juniors visit http://www.chicago-fire.com/youth/cfjs.
After Saturday’s difficult to swallow 2-2 draw vs. Montreal, you may not want to read this week’s Playoff Math. Though sitting eighth currently, it’s important to remember the Fire are just two points out of the final playoff place, with four games left.
With that, let’s continue the Playoff Math…
1) New York Red Bulls
Current Points: 52 (15-9-7)
Games Remaining: 3 (2 home / 1 away)
Last 5 Games: DWWWW (13pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 10-2-3 / 5-7-4
Maximum Possible Pts: 61
Average Opponents Pts: 41.7
Remaining Schedule: 10/5 vs. NE, 10/20 @ HOU, 10/27 vs. CHI
Rundown: New York did a great job to get a point away to Seattle Sunday night and though they may not get the Supporters Shield, are still in good position for the top spot in the East. Red Bull can clinch a playoff place with a draw Saturday vs. New England.
Fire fans should hope for New York to win that game as well as October 20 at Houston, not only because it takes max points off teams Chicago can still catch but it could make their season finale vs. the Fire less meaningful, with the Fire almost certainly needing a result in that match to make the postseason.
2) Sporting KC
Current Points: 48 (14-10-6)
Games Remaining: 4 (1 home / 3 away)
Last 5: LWWWL (9pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 8-5-3 / 6-5-3
Maximum Possible Pts: 60
Average Opponents Pts: 35.5
Remaining Schedule: 10/5 @ CLB, 10/9 at HOU, 10/18 vs. D.C., 10/23 vs. OLI**, 10/26 @ PHI
Rundown: Fortress Sporting Park? Maybe not so much, as KC dropped their fifth home match of the season vs. Philadelphia Friday night. They didn’t lose their second place positioning but they took a definite hit in keeping up with Red Bull at the top of the East. With three of their remaining four matches away, KC also has the distinction of the best road record in the East at 6-5-3.
A win away to Columbus combined with a Fire and New England losses would see Sporting KC earn a playoff spot this weekend.
3) Montreal Impact
Current Points: 46 (13-9-7)
Games Remaining: 5 (2 home/ 3 away)
Last 5 Games: DLLWD (5pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 9-3-3 / 4-6-4
Maximum Possible Pts: 61
Average Opponents Pts: 40.3
Remaining Schedule: @ HOU, 10/12 vs. NE, 10/16 @ LA, 10/19 vs. PHI, 10/26 @ TFC
Rundown: After a missed penalty, a hit off the post, a goal line clearance and hopeful header, Montreal no doubt felt lucky to leave Toyota Park with a point Saturday night.
- Between the Lines: The Playoff Measurement
Now done with Champions League play, the Impact can concentrate solely on their playoff position and hold a game in hand on the rest of the field. Three of their remaining five matches come against teams directly below them so they can either solidify their place inside the top three, win out and potentially get the top spot from Red Bull or still tank with tough visits to Houston and LA in the offing.
It's Montreal in 2013… You don’t really know what to expect from them but a win this week over the Dynamo combined with Crew, Fire and Revolution losses would see the Impact needing just a point next week vs. New England to earn their first-ever MLS playoff berth.
4) Houston Dynamo
Current Points: 44 (12-10-8)
Games Remaining: 4 (3 home / 1 away)
Last 5 Games: WWLDL (7pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 8-3-3 / 4-6-4
Maximum Possible Points: 58
Average Opponents Pts: 39.8
Remaining Schedule: 10/4 vs. MTL, 10/9 vs. SKC, 10/20 vs. NY, 10/24 @ AU**, 10/27 @ D.C.
Rundown: Houston managed their last week quite well, winning in Champions League at midweek before getting enough out of a 1-1 draw at New England. The result keeps them four points ahead of the Revs and with their next two matches against Montreal and Sporting KC, they could legitimately be in second place by October 10.
Losses to both sides however could just as easily push them back out of the playoff bubble but no team outside the top three controls their own destiny in positioning like the Dynamo down the stretch.
5) Philadelphia Union
Current Points: 42 (11-10-9)
Games Remaining: 4 (2 home / 2 away)
Last 5 Games: WLLDL (4pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 6-4-5 / 5-6-4
Maximum Possible Points: 54
Average Opponents Pts: 33.8
Remaining Schedule: 10/5 vs. TFC, 10/12 @ D.C., 10/19 @ MTL, 10/26 vs. SKC
Rundown: After two weeks below the red line, the Union were the biggest winners this past weekend, coming away with a huge win at Sporting KC. Philly now has the potential to stake a serious claim for a playoff berth if they can get wins vs. Toronto and at D.C. the next two weeks. Six points in those two matches will be a must with the Union visiting Montreal and hosting Sporting to close the season out.
6) Columbus Crew
Current Points: 41 (12-14-5)
Games Remaining: 3 (1 home / 2 away)
Last 5 Games: WWWLW (12pts)
2013 Home / Away Record: 7-5-3 / 5-9-2
Maximum Possible Points: 50
Average Opponents Pts: 42.5
Remaining Schedule: 10/5 vs. SKC, 10/19 @ NE, 10/27 vs. NE
Rundown: Wow. The Crew continued their incredible push for a postseason berth with a 4-2 road win at FC Dallas on Sunday. They’ve now taken four wins from five matches under interim head man Brian Bliss and jumped from eighth to sixth place over the weekend, just one point out of playoff position.
Having played one more game than the rest of the pack, the Crew still have no room for error, with any loss in their final three matches doing serious damage to their playoff hopes. Their backs have been against the wall for a month and they’ve responded well.
7) New England Revolution
Current Points: 41 (11-11-8)
Games Remaining: 4 (1 home / 3 away)
Last 5 Games: DWLLD (5pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 7-5-4 / 4-6-4
Maximum Possible Points: 53
Average Opponents Pts: 40.3
Remaining Schedule: 10/5 @ NY, 10/12 @ MTL, 10/19 vs. CLB, 10/27 @ CLB
Rundown: New England missed a definite opportunity in Saturday’s 1-1 home draw vs. Houston. A win would have seen the Revs pull level on points with the Dynamo but instead things stayed the same. New England will now have to try and gain points in difficult road matches at New York and Montreal the next two weeks, a daunting task as the two sides also hold the best home records in the Eastern Conference this year.
Taking points from those two games though will at the very least keep the Revs in the equation for their end-of-season home and home series with Columbus.
8) Chicago Fire
Current Points: 40 (11-12-7)
Games Remaining: 4 (1 home / 3 away)
Last 5 Games: DLWDL (5pts)
2013 Home / Away Record: 9-4-3 / 2-7-4
Maximum Possible Pts: 52
Average Opponents Pts: 33.3
Remaining Schedule: 10/4 @ D.C., 10/12 @ FCD, 10/19 vs. TFC, 10/27 @ NY
Rundown: After coming away disappointed from Saturday’s game and other results pushing the Fire down to eighth, why even bother at this point right? Well because it’s Playoff Math and they're only two points out of playoff position. They also have the easiest remaining schedule of any team in the East.
Perspective: Friday’s game is away to a D.C. United side which will play their final meaningful match of the season in Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup final at Real Salt Lake. Along with three points, the Fire will certainly be looking for revenge for August’s semifinal defeat and will be doing so against a D.C. team that will have played two time zones away, three days earlier.
A win in that match combined with New England and Columbus losses at New York and vs. Sporting KC respectively (possibilities) would see the Fire jump at the very least back to sixth place. A Philadelphia draw home vs. Toronto (maybe less likely) would also see the Fire move back into fifth place (on the wins tiebreaker). A lot that needs to happen for that this weekend but a win will keep the Fire in position regardless.
Then take into account a game at an FC Dallas side that is all but out of the Western Conference playoff picture and the home finale vs. Toronto on October 19.
Dropping five points in three matches the last month leaves the Fire with little room for error anymore but nine points are far from out of the question over the next three games.
A quick word about points before some Juan Luis Anangono gifs from Saturday.
In all the European leagues this week, fans and onlookers, for the first time this season, started looking at the table in earnest. Suddenly those campaigns feel far enough along to warrant real despair or optimism. From highs at Napoli and Arsenal to the crises at United and Madrid, people spent the weekend frantically counting points, looking up past point totals, tracking average points per match stats, and worrying or gloating about their projected finishes.
That panic and fervor is why I don’t look at the table until at least halfway through a season. It’s too stressful and too small a dataset. But also, you can get a much better idea of a team’s title chances by watching them play a lot of games and watching other teams play a lot of games. Even though the table is king, there’s more to a game than its points.
I swear I’m coming back to the Fire but two quick things about points in general. First, they have a strange way of accumulating over time. You can only get zero, one, or three points, and yet they often feel like they’re coming or going in heaping clumps, like Salvation Army donations. They don’t feel like they grow calmly the way points per match stats indicate. (Anyway those stats are a little ridiculous. What do we really learn from a two-point-something line?) Points feel at once impossible to gain, then coming down in sheets.
But this is why the collection of points feels so good in soccer leagues all over the world, so much better than a regular season NBA win, to name the obvious example. You “steal a point” or “earn three points,” week in and week out. You figure a point saved is a point earned and the point savings account will pay off at the end of the season. You figure.
Points, despite their bewitching growth patterns, don’t lie when schedules are balanced and you know everyone’s playing everyone. At the end of the season the team with the most points is deservedly top. End of story. With the same points available over so long a time, it’s impossible to hide under a quick run of wins the way a team can in a playoff.
In MLS, it's a bit strange because most teams in the East play each other three times over the course of the season so qualifying for the playoffs will show who did the best against each other in the conference, not necessarily the best teams overall. Still, those teams deserve the chance to extend their season because they earned it from March to October. It's a huge dataset. No matter what happens between the Eastern Conference teams vying for the final playoff spots (Houston, Philadelphia, New England, and Chicago), I think that even with the imbalanced schedule, the points will have proven that over the long haul they were one of the top five teams.
Unless it’s the 2013 Fire. The 2013 Fire are doing their best to undermine the cold faultlessness of the point system, driving fans crazy with their fluctuating quality from half to half and game to game. Forget the table, at this point I’m convinced we won’t know if the Fire have made the playoffs until the final whistle of the final game in New York. They will continue to tease out points here and there until then. The others will slip, there’s nothing invincible about any of them, and the Fire either will or will not take advantage.
What I mean is that even though at this stage of the season it’s natural to whip out the calculators and do your Playoff Math and all that, it’s possible that even with just twelve points up for grabs, it’s still too early to talk conclusively about points. We should still be talking quality. If the Fire play the way they’ve shown they’re capable of, and as they did during parts of the second half on Saturday night, the points will come and they’ll make the playoffs. You don’t need a calculator to see that. Despite the despair of some fans and one player who called Saturday night’s game “heartbreaking,” I like Mike Magee’s comment: “We have four games left and we’re going to make the playoffs.”
Not a single one of the (what, eight or nine?) media and Twitter-hyped “MUST WIN” games have really been must-anythings so far. They’ve been opportunities to tweak and grow and get some points. The Fire now need points everywhere, but except perhaps for their ugly away record, the 12 points are actually quite feasible. DC will be coming off an emotional Cup Final, Dallas like the Fire has 40 points and all but out of the Western playoff race, Toronto is beatable, and NYRB may have clinched and have little to play for.
Of course, the Fire could also lose all four games. Who knows? The only sure thing is that there are twelve points for four teams to fight for, and the 2013 Fire has to earn it this year, conclusively, finally, or not. And that will be the measure of this team.
Saturday. I loved Frank Klopas’s adjustments at half. I loved the second half in general. But the first half was rough. In the first 15 seconds we have Juan Luis Anangono not quite focused yet:
Cut to the second half though, and Anangono, again symbolizing the entire team, was everywhere. He reacted quickly and had a point blank shot blocked before the ref whistled for that ill-fated PK. He was running at people (not always successfully, but still) and creating space for Chris Rolfe, Alex, and Magee to connect. But my favorite was in the 82nd minute: His super well-worked though unlucky chance that Rolfe created and Troy Perkins saved off the post. Anangono didn’t give up, he got the rebound and set up Magee, whose shot was cleared off the line:
More of that please, and with more of that we won’t even have to look at the table to know the Fire have extended their season.
Select shots from the Fire's 2-2 draw with the Impact.
After a disappointing loss in Columbus last weekend, the Fire come back to Toyota Park to face the Montreal Impact in the second to last home game of the season (LIVE 7pm CT on My50/Time Warner Sports 32). Montreal have dropped their last three of their fo MLS matches and are stalling at the wrong time. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective.
Replacing Bakary Soumare at center back – a new partnership in the middle?
Since the return of Bakary Soumare to the Fire at mid-season, the Malian and Austin Berry have essentially played every match together in the middle. Though Baky has made a number of individual errors this season, his suspension comes at a bad time.
This opening provides a conundrum for coach Frank Klopas.
We could see the return of Hunter Jumper in the middle after his goal scoring exploits against SKC last month. Jalil Anibaba could also slot over to his natural position of center back with one of Wells Thompson, Mike Videira or Logan Pause filling in at right back.
In last weekend’s loss to the Crew, Jeff Larentowicz moved back into central defense after the Soumare red card. Starting Larentowicz in this position seems the most likely option but it would mean breaking up the midfield tandem of the former Revs player and Arevalo Rios, which has made the Men in Red an extremely difficult team to break down.
Whoever replaces Soumare will be tasked with stifling a Montreal team that has scored the third highest amount of goals in MLS this season.
Matching up against Marco Di Vaio – attempting to slow down MLS’s top goal scorer
There isn’t much to say about Marco Di Vaio that hasn’t been covered already. At 36 and in his first season in the league, he has made it look easy, scoring 18 goals to date.
An even scarier stat is that none of his goals have come from the penalty spot with Canadian Patrice Bernier continuing as the Impact’s regular PK taker.
Similar to Robbie Keane, Di Vaio’s finishing is a step above most MLS strikers. He also puts himself in excellent positions, with many of his goals coming from tap-ins. His header from two yards out against Columbus was a prime example of this.
Fortunately for the Fire, one of Di Vaio’s favorite set up men, Felipe, will be missing due to suspension. The absence of the Brazilian is a blow for the Impact but with Patrice Bernier and Justin Mapp having excellent seasons, Di Vaio will have ample opportunities Saturday night.
In a tactical preview for the Fire’s game against Montreal back in April I talked about cutting the supply line to the Italian but he still managed to bag the second goal in the Impact’s 2-0 win.
With the plethora of creative midfielders on the field for Montreal, the Fire players must not neglect Di Vaio because one lapse in concentration can be fatal.
Isolating the Impact’s aging Italian defenders – getting in 1v1 situations with Ferrari and Nesta
For allof Montreal’s attacking prowess, the Impact have given up the most goals of any team currently holding playoff positions. Both Alessandro Nesta and Matteo Ferrari are excellent and experienced defenders, often making up for a lack of pace with brilliant positioning.
Both players have shown to be uncomfortable however when they are in 1v1 situations against a player with a lot of pace. This does not happen often but if the opportunity arises, most likely from a counter attack, the Fire must capitalize.
The movement from the Fire’s attacking players has dragged center backs out of position on numerous occasions this season and I look for Mike Magee and Co. to do the same on Saturday night, especially against players who have lost more than a step of pace.
Prediction: 1-0 Fire with a goal from Magic Mike Magee
Chicago Fire midfielder Egidio Arevalo Rios has been named as part of Uruguay's provision 29-man roster for La Celeste's crucial final CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers next month at Ecuador (October 11) and vs. Argentina (October 15).
While not officially called up, Rios has been a constant fixture in the midfield for Uruguay during qualifying and seems very likely to be part of the final squad set to be named next week.
If that is the case, he would miss the Fire's away match at FC Dallas on October 12.
Earlier this month, Rios missed the Fire's 2-1 loss at Seattle (September 7) and 1-1 draw at Toronto (September 11), as Uruguay earned six crucial points with a 2-1 away win at Peru and 2-0 home win over Colombia.
Uruguay sit in CONMEBOL's fifth spot, which if qualifying ended today would see them take on Jordan in a two-match intercontinental playoff for a place in next summer's FIFA World Cup.
There is huge opportunity for the side to control their own destiny for one of CONMEBOL's four automatic places as they sit tied on points with Ecuador (6-4-4; 22pts) ahead of their clash on October 11 in Quito.
The World Champion, Judah Friedlander tells the story of the champion of third to last picked, Richard Jata.
Last October we noticed a spike in people tweeting at us. Most of the tweets included the keywords "hot guys", "OMG", and "love the show"
We felt that we would be remiss if we didn't take the time to highlight and respond to some of the best tweets.
Oh hello boys of @ChicagoFire
— Alexandra Sims (@Alexandra_Sims) September 25, 2013
Oh... you mean these guys?
— michelle (@chi_town_chelle) September 25, 2013
The new guy?! Arevalo Rios is not creepy! As you can see below, he's a pretty awesome dude.
Like how am I supposed to study when @ChicagoFire is on!?
— Amber Bottens (@amberrose712) September 25, 2013
Bring your books, we promise Sparky won't eat your homework.
— _Blue_Pop_ (@_Blue_Pop_) September 25, 2013
We didn't know that Lady Gaga was a huge soccer fan!
kelly is the best!!!! He really scared me tonight!!! @chicagofire
— cali back (@crazy_zebra14) September 25, 2013
Yes, Dan Kelly is the best, we'll tell him to stop scaring you.
— Alexander Martinez (@aweALEXsome) September 25, 2013
Do you love playing FIFA? I know I do, and I'm pretty amazing at it. (Okay, the second part's a lie) Sean Johnson also loves FIFA, and he's pretty amazing at it (that's the truth).
If you're a fan of FIFA, and Sean Johnson (who sn't?), you can put him on the cover of your copy of FIFA 14... It's easy and simple. Just follow the steps below.
Step 1: Click on the image below
Step 2: Right or control click the awesome cover image
Step 3: Click Save Image As... and save the image onto your computer
Step 4: Open the image and print it.
Step 5: Cut it out and slip it into your FIFA 14 case.
Step 6: Hold your copy of FIFA in the air and scream... WHOSE HOUSE?!? SEAN'S HOUSE!!!
Step 7: DOMINATE AT FIFA
Now, I can't guarantee that It's going to channel Sean's FIFA playing abilites and make you better at the game, but hey... it's worth a shot, right?!