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05 June 12:17 am

Frank Yallop, Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer

On what to take away from the game:

“I thought it was a scrappy game. I don’t think either team really played that well. I think we both had a lot of changes. We played Sunday. They played Sunday. We’ve got a game Wednesday and we’ve got a game Saturday. We’re both eyeing the same thing. We can’t go 90 minutes with all of our gunner guys. And that makes it a little disjointed when the teams haven’t played together and we have a few starters who are actually tired in the end of the game. I thought Colorado pushed at the end and we had a great chance with Juan [Luis Anangono] with a bit of a break too. All-in-all, really happy with the point, not pleased with the performance. Having said that, I thought the guys really fought tonight. Effort was brilliant, absolutely fantastic. We didn’t play well but you can’t always play well.”

On Colorado’s “strange” lineup and how to prepare for it:

“Well, first, finding out who some of the players are. You know I was in the west for a bit but now I’m in the east and we don’t really play the west. I knew who they were but you have to double check to see how tall they are and kind of get as much info as you can, just to see positionally because I don’t know where they’re all going to play. So it’s not easy but I have a good coaching staff and we figured it all out and we kind of got it right. Just prepare them and we said that Brown will come on, Powers will come on, their big boys, and try to win the game late. And they did that. Everything was correct that we said. Everything that we did defensively was good. We didn’t give them a goal. We could have been a lot sharper towards goal but I’ll take it right now.”

On Sean Johnson’s performance:

“He’s been good. He’s still a young goalkeeper. He’s only just turned 25. He’s played a lot of matches but he’s still a young man. He’s been very good this season. He’s kept us in games at times. Tonight was no different, so it was good.”

On Dillon Serna’s shot off the crossbar and the defensive performance:

“I saw the flag go up so I wasn’t worried. I was just worried he was going to say play on, but it hit the crossbar anyway. We tried to just play a good solid back four and usually the byproduct of that is people going offsides. I don’t know if he was offside or not but I think we did a good job of letting him get behind us. I mean, I wouldn’t say the best in the league but Deshorn Brown’s probably the best at the breakaway. So we didn’t allow him that, thank goodness. Jhon [Kennedy Hurtado] covered Bakary [Soumare] the one time and vice versa, so we did a nice job on him at the end.”

Jeff Larentowicz, Chicago Fire midfielder

On getting possession after a choppy start:

“It’s hard. They clogged the midfield. You can tell that Pablo’s got them closing the ball down very hard and trying to win the ball. I think we tried to play very narrow in the first half and they clogged it up so it was hard to keep possession. They’ll pressure hard and when they do that, it’s difficult to pass and keep possession.”

On Pablo’s direction with the team:

“It’s the mentality of the coach. The team follows the mentality of the coach. That’s the way Pablo was. He was right in the middle of the field. If you’re not out there closing people down, I’m sure he’s going to get on you. You can see they have that fire. They closed us down, and we weren’t good enough with the ball in the first half. I think in the second half, the game opened up a little more. You could tell, with the week that we’ve had, the guys got a little leggy. It was bound to happen.”

On the chemistry of the team:

“The cohesion is not there exactly. It’s a fairly new system that we started this week to try to get us more solid in the middle of the field. All in all, it’s the first shutout of the year, it’s a point on the road, and we’ll move onto the game on Saturday.”

Harry Shipp, Chicago Fire midfielder

On the mindset going into the second half:

“I think in the first half we struggled to keep the ball, especially through the middle. It was tough for Jeff [Larentowicz] to get the ball and kind of face up and play. Partly cause they were trying to clog the middle, partly cause we really didn’t try to play. I think it was trying to find those pockets underneath. I think most of the times I touched the ball, it was off a long ball that just fortunately fell to me, which isn’t ideal. It’s not how we want to play, but it’s just kind of how it was at the end of this game.”

On Colorado clogging the middle of the field:

“They did a good job doing that. I think it’s hard when for periods it was just me and Juan [Luis Anangono] up top isolated, it’s 2v6. It’s not really anyone’s fault, we’re playing at altitude, we played three days ago, the outside mids are tired in the last 20 minutes of the game, so they aren’t getting up as much. We’ll take the point, move on, and hopefully win on Saturday.”

Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire goalkeeper

On earning the first shutout of the season

“I think it was very important for us to get a shutout, especially in a tough game on the road in a tough stretch with three games. Coming off a Sunday game, it’s not easy to play and then travel, especially at altitude, so it was really important for us. I’m happy for everybody, not just the defenders in front of me but all the guys on the field that worked over 90 minutes to grind and get the result. Now we have to look to build and keep going and look forward to Seattle on Saturday and look to get another result.” 

04 June 8:56 am

 

After a gutsy draw in the heat against LA Sunday, there’s no time for rest for the Fire as the team jet off to Colorado to play the Rapids on Wednesday evening (8pm CT on My50/TWCSC). Colorado come into this game on a hot streak, scoring seven goals in the past two matches. With another game on Saturday against Seattle before the World Cup break, the Fire will be looking to come back home with something. 

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

Continuing the disciplined defensive line – not allowing the Rapids players to get in behind

In Sunday’s match against LA, the Fire backline played extremely well as a unit, with players keeping their shape and not getting pulled out of position. Importantly, the players kept a good defensive line, preventing the LA attackers from getting behind. LA tried this tactic quite often each time, they were caught offside.

With players like Dillon Powers and especially striker Deshorn Brown, Colorado look to get behind the opposition defense at every opportunity. Powers and Brown play in a similar way to Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, with coach Pablo Mastroeni essentially giving the players a free role to operate wherever on the pitch.

With this in mind, the Fire could play a similar formation to what we saw on Sunday, with homegrown player Chris Ritter playing alongside Jeff Larentowicz in a 4-2-3-1 formation. This worked to perfection against LA, where the central midfield/defensive block of four (Soumare, Hurtado, Larentowicz and Ritter) prevented Donovan and Keane from getting much time and space on the ball to create.

Against Keane especially, the Fire players played a very physical game, constantly launching into aggressive tackles against the Irishman who was clearly irritated at this tactic. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar tactic played out on Wednesday night.

If the Fire’s defense and central midfield can put in a similar performance to the one against LA, the Rapids will find it very hard to break the Men in Red down.

Keeping tabs on Marvell Wynne -- locking up the right hand side of the Rapids attack

Over the Rapids’ last two matches, right back Marvell Wynne has had stellar performances getting forward on the right wing. For most of his career, Wynne has made a living getting forward and putting in dangerous crosses.

With Gonzalo Segares playing only after getting injections in his injured ankle,  it would not surprise me if Mastroeni targets the Fire’s left and sets up to have Wynne getting forward all night. If the Fire continue to play with the two holding midfielder formation, it provides more cover for Segares.

On the left hand side of midfield, Dilly Duka put in a much improved defensive performance against LA and if he again gets the start Wednesday, I expect to see a similar effort. Another tactic is to force Wynne to defend and not allow him to get forward and support the attack.

The threat of Quincy Amarikwa getting in behind the Colorado defense can be a strong deterrent. If the Fire can also get the ball to Duka in the attack, it will also force Wynne to focus more on his defensive duties.

The Fire’s new attacking threat from the right – the Grant Ward/Lovel Palmer combo

Last weekend, Coach Yallop started young Englishman Grant Ward on the right hand side of an advanced midfield trio with Harry Shipp playing centrally and Duka on the left. Though naturally left footed, starting Ward as an inverted winger means he is free to cut into the middle onto his stronger left foot.

With Harry Shipp on the other side of the field in previous matches this season, Ward frequently moved into the middle of the field against LA, linking up with Amarikwa and co. Not only does Ward’s attacking shift to the middle create problems centrally for teams, but it opens up a lot of space on the wing for Lovel Palmer to get forward.

Yallop praised Palmer after the LA match and for good reason, the right back providing a constant threat down the outside. Just as the Rapids will be hoping Wynne can be the difference for Colorado on their right, a strong attacking performance from Palmer on Wednesday evening could be the difference for the Fire.

Prediction: Even though the Fire are banged up and facing a hot Rapids squad, the team come away with a big victory – 1-0 Fire with a goal from Quincy Amarikwa.

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

02 June 10:27 am

Select shots from the Fire's draw with the LA Galaxy presented by MiAllstate.

PHOTO CREDIT: Abel Arciniega | Chicago Fire

02 June 9:55 am

When Quincy Amarikwa earned a 67th minute penalty kick in Sunday’s 1-1 draw vs. LA Galaxy, it occurred to me that the Fire had received a lot more spot kicks in 2014 than they have in recent seasons.

Upon further review, the Fire have received six penalty kicks in 12 matches this season, averaging one every two games. It’s safe to say the Fire wouldn’t have earned as many opportunities without the ability of Amarikwa to draw so many penalties…

Have a look...

Date/Result Penalty Earned Penalty Taken Converted Miss/Save
3/16/14 - 1-1 at POR Quincy Amarikwa Jeff Larentowicz X  
4/5/14 - 2-2 vs. PHI Juan Luis Anangono Mike Magee   X
4/19/14 - 1-1 vs. NE Victor Pineda Juan Luis Anangono   X
5/18/14 - 2-1 vs. SKC Quincy Amarikwa Mike Magee X  
5/18/14 - 2-1 vs. SKC Benji Joya Mike Magee X  
6/1/14 - 1-1 vs. LA  Quincy Amarikwa Jeff Larentowicz X  

While the table serves as a reminder that the Fire probably would be further up the table if not for a few penalty saves in April, let me also point out that the rate of penalties so far this year is a club record to this point in any of the team’s 17 seasons of existence. In fact, there are only five other seasons in which the club has earned six or more spot kicks the entire year.

See below:

Season Overall Conversion Rate Conversion Through 12 Games
2000 5/10 0/3
2003 7/9 3/4
2005 4/7 1/1
2001 4/6 2/3
2006 3/6 1/2
2014 4/6 4/6

The penalty earned by Amarikwa Sunday was his fourth since joining the Fire last season.  It's a relatively small sample size, but the team has never missed a penalty that #QuincyTime has earned as Mike Magee also scored on the penalty he won last July in a 4-1 romp of D.C. United. 

Amarikwa seems perfectly built to be a player that can draw dangerous opportunities for his team. Strength on and of the ball along with lightning quickness that turn what look like "meh" opportunities into beautiful chances mean defenders have their hands full whenever he's on the field. 

There have been a few times where he's fallen gracefully (and been punished for it) and Sunday's penalty call *may* have occurred just outside the area but there's little doubt that something will probably happen in or around the box whenever Amarikwa is on the field. 

Like in the MLS Fantasy Challenge, perhaps "Penalties Earned" should become an official statistic in Major League Soccer. Until that happens, perhaps you should take in the latest episode of #QuincyTime

01 June 7:39 pm

Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop

 

On today’s performance…

 

“I thought we played really well today. I thought we had some great individual performances from a lot of the young guys playing, and other than one mistake, I thought we very deserved to win. Obviously very frustrating points wise, but very encouraging performance wise. I thought they gave their heart for this club and the team today and tried their best to get the result.”

 

On decision to start Chris Ritter…

 

“I think Chris has done well in the games he’s had with the reserves, trains well. With a few bumps and scrapes that we do have, I thought our forward play has been good. I thought today, other than the chance that they got and they scored on, we kept them pretty quiet. A very good team that’s good at going forward. The stability of Chris next to Jeff, it really wasn’t a defensive move. It was more making that box that Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane love to operate in. I think that Chris, Jeff, Baky, and Jhon did a really good job making it difficult for them to get any space and go and that’s reason that I am playing Chris. It loosened Jeff to get on the ball and we had some good solid possession and solid attacks.”

 

On the original back four together after a couple months…

 

“I thought they did well. Gonzo’s not really training much. He got an injection before the match, he has to get his ankle cleaned out, but I think he has done well for what he’s done. Baky and Jhon were strong, and played with authority today. Lovel wasn’t our best player but pretty close. I thought he had a great game. Once they start to play together again, and it’s been up and down and injuries and other things come into it, but I was very happy with the chances we didn’t give to L.A.”

 

On the health of the team…

 

“I think we are okay. Lovel has just a bit of tight hamstring. Quincy has been feeling a little bit fatigued. With the game on Wednesday I thought ‘take him out.’ We were one up at the time. I think we are okay. I haven’t check with Bo [Leonard] yet, but I think we should be okay.”

 

On changing to a more defensive formation in a 4-2-3-1…

 

“The balance has not quite been right and I think the balance was good today. I think we created enough chances to win the game, but we limited them to not many good looks. Whether it’s Chris or the system we played, I liked it. Logan probably would have played in there had he been healthy, but I was very happy with Chris’ performance. I was very happy with the whole demeanor we had and the way we went about it. I thought we played high up the field, which is important. I thought we created some good turnovers, our penalty comes from a turnover, but it was good play by us.”

 

On Landon’s performance today…

 

“He scored so…that’s Landon. I actually texted him when he broke the record and I was there for his first goal in the MLS and I just saw it again today, but Landon is a good player. I think you saw his quality on the finish, and any time we can keep him under wraps, and Robbie Keane, two very good players. Our team did a nice job of that, we didn’t give them some good looks, which usually they have.”

 

On Duka and Ward out wide…

 

“I think both guys did well. Dilly’s been kind of injured all year and he played in the Columbus game and wasn’t effective. He never got himself going. I talked to him this week and said ‘you got that game under your belt; that was the game to get your legs moving, now we got to start to play.’ I thought he did well, a couple of shots, but he is going to tire. He hasn’t played much, but I liked the fact that they are attacking players, both of them, with Harry and Quincy it’s four good attacking options we have and the supply was good from Chris and Jeff. I though Grant Ward played well today. He is a good player, a young kid. It’s a shame we’ve not had him and just got him now. We got to make a decision pretty soon so we will see how that goes.”

 

Chicago Fire Forward Quincy Amarikwa

 

On battling in the heat against the Galaxy

 

“That’s what it was, it was a battle. It’s hot, you could tell; a little bit different than what we’ve been playing in recently. As a team, we battled, we fought hard; unfortunately one mistake got the best of us. But we’ll bounce back and hopefully get a win on the road in Denver.”

 

On the team adapting to multiple injuries

 

“I mean, a couple of guys have come down with injuries, so we’ve had to adapt. I think the guys that were called upon today did really well to fit into the system and really show themselves, and show that we have depth all the way to our 18th man and beyond. I think the guys showed well, and it’s going to carry on through rest of the season.”

 

On how upcoming week will test depth

 

“Yeah, definitely, any time you have three games in eight days, your depth is going to be tested. I think we rose to the occasion today; it only builds confidence for the rest of the week.”

 

On combating fatigue after Columbus game

 

“I feel pretty good. For that reason, I came off a bit early, I think in the 60th minute. Just looking to save my legs a little bit, especially since we’re going to altitude on Wednesday. I think the guys that stepped on did really well. Again, it’s unfortunate to concede that goal; but overall, I think that’s one of the better performances we’ve had, especially at home, this season.”

 

Chicago Fire Homegrown Midfielder Chris Ritter

 

On first game in MLS

 

“It was an exciting day for sure. Getting your first start, or even just making your debut, is certainly a special day. The game didn’t go the way we wanted it to, and I feel a bit at fault for the one goal; but definitely a learning experience, and playing more games this season could make it up.”

 

On the coaching staff’s advice in first game

 

“He kind of just told me to play my game, which is, I think, the best thing to hear from a coach. I think the whole coaching staff had all the confidence in the world in me, so it made going out there pretty easy; so I’m hopefully doing well.”

 

On giving up a goal and learning a tough lesson from it

 

“It just shows how quickly top-notch players like Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan can punish you, so definitely a lesson learned.”

 

On technical adjustments in the midfield prior to the game

 

“I think we do a good job adjusting to all the teams we play. It’s kind of a mix of adjusting and letting them adjust to you, so I thought playing with two holding midfielders was effective and held them to limited number of chances.”

 

On being part of the first two Homegrown players to take the field in club history

 

“Definitely exciting. Harry [Shipp] has done a great job this year, and I’m kind of just trying to follow in his footsteps. It’s fun to be out there with Harry, a guy I know pretty well and spend some time with off the field; so definitely a special moment.”

 

Chicago Fire Defender Gonzalo Segares

 

On first individual performance coming back from injury

 

“First game of the season; not completely fit yet, but it was good for me to come back. I feel that defensively, it was pretty good, but I had a few issues with the ball. Definitely not sharp yet, but you just have to keep working.”

 

On health of ankle after the game

 

“It’s okay until the medicine goes away [laughs], then it’ll start hurting. It’s something I’ve been dealing with for a long time, I think it’s around 9-10 weeks, and the bone spurs started growing after the injury that I had. But I’m just glad that we know what it is, and the injection definitely helps me be in the game and not have pain; it’s something that we eventually hope will get fixed.”

 

On being surprised about the starting backline meshing well

 

“No. I’ve worked with Baky [Soumare] for a long time, with Jhon [Kennedy Hurtado] and Lovel [Palmer] I’ve been playing with for a while; we worked a whole preseason as well, so we’re used to each other. I felt we were very satisfied with how we did defensively. It’s unfortunate that the one play, I think the only look that we gave them, they definitely took advantage of that; that’s what you get with Keane and Donovan. I think we learned from that, and we’ll just keep building up. There’s an important game against Colorado this Wednesday, and we need to go over there and get some points.”

 

On tying Chris Armas’ mark of 214 appearances for the Fire

 

“It’s definitely an honor. Chris is a guy that helped me a lot when I came into this league, he’s a Fire legend. It’s definitely an honor to have as many games as him. It’s not easy to stay at one club in MLS, and I’ve been lucky enough and fortunate to have been here for that long.”

 

Los Angeles Galaxy Head Coach Bruce Arena

 

On the match:

 

“Awful game today.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve told the league when it’s this hot and humid in Chicago in June, we don’t want to play afternoon games.  This is not fair for the players.  It’s difficult.  It’s not fair for the fans.  We shouldn’t be playing this game at this time.  Difficult, difficult game for the players to deal with.”

 

On players suffering from the heat:

 

“Difficult conditions. You can’t play these games this early in the afternoon.”

 

On Robbie Rogers play:

 

“Rogers played very well.  He did a good job for us.”

 

On Landon Donovan’s goal:

 

“Not his best day but he got a goal and he hung in there for 90 minutes so that was good.  It was a lousy game today.  There’s no other way to put it.  I think Chicago played a little bit better than us, but the conditions were difficult for both teams and it made for a not-good game.”

 

On the penalty kick against LA:

 

“If a referee doesn’t see it, he shouldn’t call it.  If he thinks he saw it, then fair enough.  It may have been a foul but it was probably outside the penalty area.  I don’t know how they do that without discussing it between the linesman and the referee.  And if they did then they got it wrong.”

 

On getting a point on the road:

 

“[Happy] we got the point.  We’ll take the point and get out of Chicago.”

 

On Dan Gargan’s condition:

 

“Just heat issues.”

 

Los Angeles Galaxy Captain and Forward Robbie Keane

 

On playing the game in hot conditions:

 

“I don’t know who makes these f***ing stupid decisions.  Play a f***ing game at three o’clock in the afternoon.  Who wants to watch that crap?  Do you?  I don’t want to watch that crap.  These people who haven’t got a clue about soccer make these decisions when we play a game.  Why not play at eight o’clock? It wasn’t on national television.  It’s so stupid.  They need to look at these games and use their head and be clever.  No player wants to play in that humidity.  Everyone was affected by the heat.  Why would you want to play at three o’clock in the afternoon?  On the hottest day of the year so far here in Chicago, knowing it is going to be that hot.  And you can’t blame the Kings-Hawks game because you didn’t know that was going to happen until two days ago.  This is absolutely ridiculous.  We have to stop.  We have to listen to the players instead of listening to people who have never kicked a soccer ball in their whole life.”

 

Los Angeles Galaxy Forward Landon Donovan:

 

On his goal:

 

“I feel great.  I feel great helping the team.  To get a tie on a day where we didn’t really play well and sometimes during the season you have to games where you don’t do well and you have to find a way to get something out of it.  I’m glad to help out.”

 

On the conditions:

 

“That’s the way the league is at times.  There are games where it is ugly.  You play during the day, it’s hot, the field is slow and that kind of stuff happens.  You have to have the character and the resolve to find a way to get a result and we did that today.”

 

On the team battling the conditions:

 

“It was difficult for both teams.  Both teams you could tell couldn’t really get around the ball and press the ball.  You couldn’t move efficiently as you wanted so again, it probably doesn’t look great from a spectator standpoint but that’s the way it goes.”

 

On Robbie Rogers’s assist for his goal:

 

“I thought he did well.  Coming into the game was tough and he hasn’t played in a while so fitness wise it was going to be tough but I thought he defended pretty well.  He made a few good plays and the assist was a really good ball.”

 

Los Angeles Midfielder Robbie Rogers

 

On looking confident on the field:

 

“I think just being able to train for three or four weeks and sustaining that kind of workload has really benefited me.  I think there’s tons of things I can improve on and today I thought there were things I could have done better but I was happy to provide Landon with that assist and get a point on the road.  I really think these are the kind of games that when you get three points, and I think we are a good enough team to do that, but sometimes you just kind of have to grind it out.”

 

On the heat affecting him:

 

“For me, not too much.  But I could tell it affected the other guys.  I only played like 60 minutes or something which is a bit different, and it was hotter in the first 20 minutes of the game and you could tell guys were tired on both teams.”

 

On a turning point for his comeback:

 

“It’s one assist in one game.  It’s a lot of work that I have ahead of me this season so it’s a positive to contribute in that way and to help defensively but there’s a lot of work to be done.”

 

On his assist being against Chicago:

 

“No, it doesn’t mean anything to me.  I think maybe this is my third or fourth assist I’ve had playing in Chicago when I was playing for Columbus.  I’ve had some success here.  I don’t know why.  I’ve always enjoyed playing here and the fans are great.  It’s a great city.  I enjoy it.”

 

On his assist:

 

“I just kind of noticed that the guy put his head done when he was passing it to the outside midfielder and it’s a slow field, you can pick things off, so I kind of just read that and when I went to take a touch, I reached for it and I saw Robbie.  I also saw Landon coming in the back post so I thought just if I could whip it into the back post he would run on to that.  He had an amazing finish.  It wasn’t an easy ball to finish.  Those are the kind of balls a winger and an outside back has to play and we work on that kind of stuff.  It’s not a routine thing but it’s kind of something you do ten, twenty times at training so it was a great finish.  You have to give Landon a lot of credit.”

 

On the differences between the first and second halves:

 

“I felt like Chicago got a little tired and were playing very direct and launching balls behind us.  I thought in the first half they were finding little passes here and there so it made it a little easier for us to predict.  I thought we started off the beginning of the second half really well.  Chicago got that goal but besides that I thought we were playing pretty well.  We finished the game all right.  Everyone was dead at the end of the game.   We will take that point on the road.”

29 May 3:13 pm

After a lackluster performance in Columbus last week, the Chicago Fire need to pick themselves up for a massive week ahead, starting with Sunday’s game at home against the LA Galaxy. Landon Donovan’s USMNT snub means he will be looking to prove Jürgen Klinsman wrong all while adding to his MLS scoring record. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective…

Winning the midfield battle – a change of formation against LA may be necessary

While there is an obvious attacking threat that needs to be stifled, LA’s defense is leading the league with only nine goals given up all season. A key to that has been the play of the Galaxy midfield, dominating possession and not allowing the other team to attack.

With this in mind, a change in formation from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1 could be in the cards. This would provide more support to Jeff Larentowicz in the middle and would also match up well against LA’s narrow midfield. A holding midfield duo Larentowicz and one of Logan Pause or Matt watson would not only put more on pressure on Juninho and co., but would also mean another player to pick up Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane when they drop deep – which I will explain in more detail later.

Pause has had some stellar performances off the bench of late and is pushing for a starting place. Ahead of the proposed Watson/Pause/Larentowicz duo, I would like to see Grant Ward and Benji Joya on the outsides with Harry Shipp operating behind the striker, presumably Quincy Amarikwa in the absence of Mike Magee. Shipp is most effective when he drifts inside and links with the strikers.

With Patrick Nyarko missing and Dilly Duka not doing enough defensively last week, a Ward/Joya tandem on the wings would not only provide some dynamism in the attack but also provide more protection for the Fire’s  outside  defenders. Dan Gargan and more so A.J. DeLaGarza are constantly getting forward, and benefit from the Galaxy’s narrow midfield.

This formation would put a lot of pressure on Quincy Amarikwa to man the forward line alone, but the 4-2-3-1 formation would mean less emphasis on the striker to hold up the ball and would allow Amarikwa to what he does best: harass the opposition’s defense.

Some may see this  formation as a negative one, especially when the Fire are at home, but against a midfield as strong as LA’s, I think this could give the team its best chance of winning.

Slowing down the Donovan/Keane juggernaut – doing a better job than against Higuain last week

After watching the clearly inspired performances of Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane last weekend against the Philadelphia Union, it’s impossible for me to write about anything else for this preview. Donovan was clearly a man on a mission to surpass the MLS scoring record following his surprise snub from the final U.S. World Cup squad.

The Union were unable to handle the combination play and movement of Donovan/Keane as one dropped deep to collect the ball while the other would make a defense-splitting run.

Dropping deep, especially by Keane, allows players like Gyasi Zardes to move into that space and look for passes from the Irishman. Last week, I highlighted the attacking threat of Federico Higuain and the Fire did not deal with the Argentine well, allowing him to dictate the game and set up both of the Crew goals.

A much better job needs to be done this week but unfortunately, the Fire need to deal with two players instead of one. The Fire midfield, as I mentioned earlier, have an important role to play in attempting to stop Donovan/Keane from getting the ball when they drop deep for it.

The Fire defense also needs to be stingier. Too often, including on both of the goals, Columbus players were able to get in behind the Fire back line - something that needs to be addressed and prevented on Sunday. If the Fire do a better job of stopping Donovan and Keane than they did last week against Higuain, it will massively improve the Fire’s chances of picking up a positive result.

Prediction: Fire start a testing week with a positive result - 1-1 with a goal from Benji Joya. 

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

28 May 4:30 pm

Coming soon to Chicago-Fire.com, the #cf97 TrueCar Grand Prix! Select players along with Head Coach Frank Yallop, Technical Director Brian Bliss and Fire broadcasters Dan Kelly and Kevin Egan took to K1 Speed in Addison this afternoon to film a two-part video series for Chicago-Fire.com

If the tweets mean anything, clearly an exciting day of racing has been had... 

 

Stay tuned to Chicago-Fire.com to see how everyone did!

28 May 3:46 pm

 

Last week MLSSoccer.com introduced the Brazil Bracket Challenge presented by Capri Sun!

It’s simple and fast… log in, boldly pick your bracket and compete against other Chicago Fire fans as the World Cup kicks off next month.

Sign up for the Chicago Fire Supporters League and test your World Cup knowledge against fellow fans! 

28 May 1:46 pm

This week, after a frustrating match in Columbus, it was revealed that the Fire are so decimated by injuries the assistant coaches had to fill in a practice scrimmage last week to make up numbers. Granted, even past their playing shape, the coaches C.J. Brown, Clint Mathis, and Brian McBride would win most 3v3 tourneys in this city today, but it shows just how handcuffed Frank Yallop’s roster can get when the injury bug hits.

Yallop said he won’t use injuries as an excuse, which is great, that’s what every coach says, but I don’t like it. I think that injury is a great excuse. It’s not an excuse for playing poorly, because every excuse for playing poorly sucks. Rather, injuries can be excuses for other things. For roster shake ups, for weird substitutions, for tactical changes, for second chances, and so on.

QUESTION: Would Rookie of the Year candidate Harry Shipp have gotten this much tick to prove himself if Alex and Dilly Duka weren’t hurt to start the season?  

Injuries are totally natural and can be a blessing when they force a team to break from what's comfortable, but basically they’re unpredictable and infuriating. I mean, every team and player has them, but no team or player has them exactly the same. So it’s the way teams, coaches and players deal with their inevitability that makes injuries what they are as well as an interesting excuse.

Once they hit, do you go to the market to find replacements or call on young players? Do you stack the squad with depth at the beginning of the season, or hope to ride out the injuries when they come? What about the players with previous injury issues - do you monitor their minutes? Alter their training regimen?

So far, I’ve found Yallop’s approach to injuries fascinating and impressive. The work he did to improve the squad this year is a real strength. Remember that after the frustrating results vs. Philadelphia last season, we were talking about the Patrick Nyarko/Chris Rolfe striking partnership.

This Fire team’s depth should be able to deal with an injury bug and the kinds of personnel changes a full season requires. That’s why it was nice to see Dilly Duka get a run out on Saturday, even if he’s short of match fitness, and Grant Ward get a chance to show why his name caused so much excitement during preseason.

All year, Yallop has rewarded players for playing well, simple as that. So you know that any injury also means an opportunity for someone else. When preseason starters like Gonzalo Segares and Alex were hit by injuries, they were replaced by rookies Greg Cochrane and Shipp, who’ve proved themselves to varying degrees.

On Saturday the Fire were without Alex, Bakary Soumare, Patrick Nyarko, Mike Magee, and Lovel Palmer, for reasons as diverse as calf soreness to kidney stones. Good luck preparing for those scenarios in preseason video sessions.

The other interesting thing about injuries is that they’re a totally natural thing. Their existence is the proof that what we watch and turn over as pastime is actually an excruciating tug of war between physical performance and physical possibility. Somewhere in between there is the place where muscles and ligaments break down, where a body suffers. Injury bugs are a reminder that we’re watching athletes push themselves to their limits.

Ben Schuman-Stoler is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @bsto.

27 May 8:41 am

Chicago Fire goalkeepers Sean Johnson, Kyle Reynish, Alec Kann and coach Aron Hyde will jump behind the bar at AJ Hudsons (3801 N. Ashland) to raise money for the Chicago Fire Foundation Tuesday from 6:30-8:30pm! A $20 wristband gets you select drafts, mixed drinks, wine and soda for two hours leading up to the U.S. Men's National Team's World Cup warmup friendly vs. Azerbaijan beginning at 9pm CT. 

Find more information on Tuesday night's event here