Select shots from Saturday's 0-0 draw vs. Sporting Kansas City
Credit: USA Today Sports Images
A nice reminder of June 29, 2012.
The Fire head to Kansas City Saturday afternoon (2:00pm CT on NBC Sports Network) on the back of two losses to start the season. The team has yet to score a goal or secure point but face a KC team smarting after a loss in Toronto last week. Both will be looking to kick start their season with a big win. Here are some tactical things to look out for.
Right back – three games, three different starters?
With injuries to both Logan Pause and Steven Kinney, it is likely the Fire will have to start a third different right back already this season. Jalil Anibaba started on the right against LA and had a difficult time of things but looked much more comfortable in his natural position at center back last week against New England.
With Kinney out, its almost assured that Anibaba will partner with Austin Berry in the middle which means we will likely see Mike Videra or Wells Thompson on the right. Both played there for a bit of preseason and Videra played at right back for the Men in Red during the 2011 season.
Previewing Sporting KC
Wells is the more experienced player and like Pause, has played in numerous positions during his MLS career. In a hostile atmosphere away from home, communication between the defenders will be key.
KC are particularly dangerous down the wings and Patrick Nyarko will need to be on hand to help out either Thompson or Videra who will face constant overlapping by the KC wing-backs.
Pressuring KC – copy the Toronto model
Sporting KC lost 2-1 in Toronto last week falling behind 2-0 after only twenty minutes. TFC pressured Sporting from the first whistle and it worked extremely well, with SKC constantly giving the ball away.
TFC’s first goal of the game came from pressuring and ganging up on the Sporting KC players. Folks will remember the goal stemming from a bad pass between Matt Besler and Aurelian Collin, but the reason the center backs had the ball at all was because TFC forced Sporting all the way back to their defenders.
TFC clearly flustered Sporting and the pressure prevented SKC from being able to get the ball to their danger men Claudio Bieler and Graham Zusi. Toronto was unable to keep up the pressure for more than the first half and in the second, KC was able to impose their game.
If the Fire can start in a similar fashion to TFC last week and sustain the pressure throughout the game (a tough ask, I know) it would go a long way towards allowing SKC to dictate the tempo, something they will look to do as the home team.
Testing Jimmy Neilson – difference between chances and half chances
A lot of the talk after the first two games of the season was that the Fire created many chances, but were unable to finish them. If we examine the amount of genuine saves Carlo Cudicini and Matt Reis actually had to make though, the numbers are very small, both have to overexert themselves on only one occasion, with the rest of the shots being hit right at them.
Both times the Fire forced the opposition ‘keeper into making a fine save was from shots outside the box. When the Fire do get the ball in the box, the team as a whole needs to start showing a bit of composure instead of rushing shots.
Muzzling Zusi – double teaming and picking him up when he comes inside
For the past few seasons, Graham Zusi has been Sporting’s best player by some margin. Zusi is dangerous because he can hurt you in so many different ways.
He’s comfortable playing outside on the wing and is just as effective when he switches wings as he did against TFC in the second half last week. Zusi also links very well with SKC’s outside backs, especially Chance Meyers who overlaps Zusi on a regular basis and picked up a lot of assists doing so last season.
Coach's Take: Sporting KC
Zusi also likes to cut inside, opening up more space on the outside for the wing-backs to move into. For the most part, TFC did a good job stifling Zusi last week and they did so mainly by double teaming him when he had the ball.
Zusi’s crossing is arguably his most dangerous weapon and with targets such as Bieler and Sapong lurking in the box, the less crosses the Fire allow, the better.
Prediction: The games in KC have been tight affairs recently, and I don’t see this one being any different. 1-1 Fire with a goal from Chris Rolfe.
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @irish_steve.
Hoping this match from July 4, 2001 in Kansas City is a good omen for the weekend. Peter Vermes should remember the game well, he played all 90 minutes in defense.
Fast forward to 57 seconds in...
SELECT SHOTS: From today's CONCACAF Gold Cup press conference at Solider Field
A lot of cool media around Section 8 Chicago's tifo from Saturday... One more piece is this movable GIF file done up by our web maestro Nick Sintich:
A stroll through my Google Alerts this morning leads me to wish a big congrats to former Fire captain Chris Armas on his induction with the inaugural class into the Long Island Soccer Hall of Fame this past Saturday.
The second captain in club history, the Brentwood, N.Y. product racked up 273 competitve appearances (4th all-time) along with 12 goals and 50 assists (2nd all-time) in his 10 seasons in Chicago. He joins C.J. Brown and Zach Thornton as the only three players in club history to be part of all six domestic championships and is one of seven men enshrined in the Ring of Fire.
PERUSE: TrueCar Player Registry
I did some further digging and found out that although he was unable to be in attendance at Saturday's ceremony, Fire owner and Long Island native Andrew Hautpman helped support the event by purchasing a table at the dinner and had this letter read to honor Armas' career achievements and contributions to the Chicago Fire Soccer Club:
Greetings Fellow Long Islanders –
I wanted to extend heartfelt congratulations to Shep Messing, Paul LeSueur, Kim Wyant and Chris Armas for your induction into the Long Island Soccer Player Hall of Fame. Your contributions to the sport of soccer and to Long Island have helped shape the game and our community in positive and powerful ways.
I apologize for not being able to attend tonight’s event (ironically, it's the home opener for my beloved Chicago Fire!). Speaking of which, I would especially like to acknowledge and thank the 'one and only' Chris Armas for his efforts with the Chicago Fire Soccer Club. Chris is the type of individual who has always done things the right way. His industriousness, talent, attention to detail and spirit has always separated him from his competitors on-and-off-the-field.
Having also grown up playing soccer on Long Island (in Smithtown where my mother designed all of the patches for the Smithtown Traveling Soccer Club), I immediately bonded and felt a closeness with Chris, not to mention having also admired his approach to the game. Chris is as hard working a player you will ever encounter and is perhaps the best holding midfielder of his generation. Despite winning five domestic trophies, being a five-time Best XI midfielder and earning 66 appearances with the U.S. Men’s National Team, Chris remains humble and true to his Long Island roots.
Before owning the Fire, I always looked at Chris as someone who exemplified all of the characteristics I valued in a soccer player. Once I was leading the club, I realized that Chris exemplifies all of the characteristics I value in a person. Chris is a trusting and caring individual who treats everyone with the utmost respect and tries to do the right thing...always. Above all, he is a committed family man and a wonderful human being.
Chris, thanks for your spectacular contributions to the game of soccer, to Long Island and to the Chicago Fire Soccer Club. I’m am truly honored to have gotten to know you and consider you a trusted colleague and a friend.
Again, congratulations to all of those being honored tonight -- I look forward to seeing the Hall of Fame grow from strength to strength.
Hopefully Saturday's recognition for Chris isn't the only Hall of Fame he enters in 2013. Armas, who made 66 appearances and scored two goals for the U.S. Men's National team, was once again on the ballot for the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame this year.
The announcement on the 2013 class is set to come later this month...
Fire Homegrown forward Kellen Gulley has headed to Georgia to begin training with the NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks this week.
Fire head coach Frank Klopas mentioned throughout preseason that the team was looking to send the 18-year-old forward out on loan this year and it appears that the club is working towards an agreement with the second division side.
Signed from the Mississippi Fire Juniors in August 2011, Gulley has yet to make his competitive debut for the club. The potential move should serve him well in gaining playing time as he continues to develop.
Coached by former FC Dallas head coach Brian Haynes, the Silverbacks open their 2013 NASL Spring campaign vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers on April 13 at Silverbacks Park.