After picking up their first win of the season last week, the Fire travel to Houston for Sunday’s match (4pm CT on UniMas/La Ley 107.9FM) brimming with confidence. The Dynamo lost again on the road last week against Portland but are returning to BBBV Compass Stadium, a place where they have never lost. Here are a few things to look out for from a tactical perspective:
Giles Barnes – excelling in the role of second striker and deceptively good in the air
Giles Barnes has had an excellent start to 2013, playing in an almost free role just behind the target striker. Barnes is dangerous in a number of areas: he can drop deep or wide with the ball, taking on defenders, he can also win flicks on to his strike partner and he has come up with two headed goals already this season.
AthletiCo Coaching Corner
Against Portland last week and San Jose the week before, Barnes linked up well with central midfielders Adam Moffat and Ricardo Clark, taking the ball from them before turning and running at defenders from deep or around the box.
In the air, Barnes won many dangerous flick-ons against San Jose in Houston’s last home match. Barnes’ ability to win balls in the air seemed to baffle San Jose, who were clearly anticipating him to be running onto the flicks by Will Bruin.
In the matches against San Jose and the week before against Vancouver, Barnes chipped in with two headed goals. When teams play Houston, it is easy to get distracted by players such as Brad Davis or Boniek Garcia but Barnes has been their most dangerous player this season.
The Fire cannot give him space on the ground and players like Austin Berry need to match Barnes in the air.
The possible return of Arne – if he returns, who moves to the bench?
Much of the talk this week in the Fire camp is the potential return of Arne Friedrich to a Fire back line that has been decimated by injuries at the beginning of the season.
Though everyone is looking forward to Arne’s return, it brings up a very tough tactical decision for head coach Frank Klopas, namely who plays at right back.
Wells Thompson has done a very solid job over the past two matches in that position, improving from a shaky first half against Chivas to having a standout game in last week’s win against NYRB.
Wells stated this week that he would like to “lock the down the spot and become a regular starter" and he certainly has put forth a good case to the coaches.
Thompson’s distribution out of the back is excellent and as the away team this week, the Fire will be looking to hold onto the ball for as long as possible and not be wasteful in possession.
Paladini, Thompson Preview Houston
The other realistic candidate for the starting right back spot should Friedrich return is Jalil Anibaba, last season’s starter. Against a physical and big team like Houston, Jalil’s strength could be needed.
Anibaba is also excellent in the air and with players like Barnes and Bruin to contend with, Klopas may turn to the third-year defender.
Houston’s knack for scoring goals from set pieces is also well-known and Anibaba’s presence in the box could be all-important on Sunday afternoon.
The Dynamo's frequency of scoring from corners is such that the home fans get to their feet for every corner, expecting a goal or good chance to be created from each one.
Though there was a lot of talk about Logan Pause moving to right-back at the beginning of this season, I don’t see the Fire changing too much the in the midfield after last week’s performance.
A start for Jalil at right back would be tough on Wells Thompson after two great performances, but tactically, starting Anibaba would make the most sense.
Prediction: 1-1 with the Fire goal coming from Sherjill MacDonald
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @Irish_Steve.
Former Chicago Fire player Jared Montz is Juggling to save lives... and you should too.
The Online Soccer Academy World Juggle-A-Thon will take place on April 25th (World Malaria Day) to raise money for Nothing But Nets, a foundation that provides bed nets for people in Africa to prevent malaria.
Check out the cameos made by some Fire and Red Stars players, as well as some folks from Section 8 Chicago in Jared's #SoccerWalking Chicago video below.
For more information on the Juggle-A-Thon, or to make a donation Click Here.
Maicon Santos’ two-goal substitute performance had me thinking this week, how often have Fire players come off the bench to tally a brace?
The Answer: It’s a very rare thing… Santos’ effort on Sunday was just the fifth time (or .008%) in the club’s 573 all-time competitive matches that a player has scored two goals off the bench. It was just the third time in MLS league play and first since 2006.
Orr Barouch - Chicago Fire 4, New York Red Bulls 0 - U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinal (7/12/2011)
In a memorable match that was moved up to 5pm because of a massive power outage at Toyota Park, Barouch came on at halftime for Cristian Nazarit with the Fire already leading 2-0. It took the Israeli youth international just five minutes to make it 3-0 before closing the scoring off a feed from Diego Chaves in the 69th minute (WATCH).
PERUSE: TrueCar Player Registry
Barouch led the side with three goals in Open Cup play on the way to the tournament final that year.
Chad Barrett – Chicago Fire 2, Real Salt Lake 1 – MLS Regular Season (6/28/2006)
Throughout much of his first two seasons with the Men in Red, Chad Barrett was an oft-used second half attacking sub. In this match, he repaid Dave Sarachan’s faith in him, entering for captain Chris Armas in the 68th minute before heading home the equalizer off a cross from Justin Mapp in the 80th minute (WATCH).
Five minutes later, Mapp would slot Barrett through the RSL backline before the second-year striker put slid his effort past Scott Garlick and in off the post for the winner (WATCH).
The effort was the first of two braces for Barrett during his time with the Men in Red, the other coming in a 5-1 victory at Red Bull on May 25, 2008.
Dipsy Selolwane – Chicago Fire 4, San Juan Jabloteh 0 – CONCACAF Champions Cup (3/17/2004)
With the team coming off a somewhat shocking 5-2 first leg defeat away to the Trinidadian side, the Men in Red returned to Soldier Field needing four goals in the second leg in order to advance.
Though Damani Ralph took the aggregate score to 5-3 just before halftime, Selolwane entered for current Fire captain Logan Pause to provide more offense after the break. The Botswanan international’s long-range effort in the 51st minute brought the Fire to within a goal before his empty net finish 11 minutes later brought the score level.
Selolwane proved to be Man of the Match when he set up Chris Armas’ 90th minute series winner to push the Fire past Jabloteh 6-5 on aggregate and into the Champions Cup semifinals.
Interestingly, that performance was the only brace of Selolwane's Fire career, though he did come up with back-to-back game-winners in the team's run to the U.S. Open Cup final that season.
Hristo Stoitchkov – Chicago Fire 7, Kansas City Wizards 0 – MLS Regular Season (7/4/2001)
Of course the Mad Bulgarian was the first to do this with the Fire and of course it came in the Fourth of July Massacre.
With the team already leading 4-0, there was little need for Stoitchkov to come on in the 78th. One minute after entering the match, Piotr Nowak scored his second to take the game to 5-0 and then Stoitchkov proceeded to drive the dagger in tallying in the 83rd and 88th minutes to exact revenge for the Fire’s MLS Cup loss to Kansas City the year before (WATCH).
Like Barrett, Stoitchkov tallied two braces while with the Men in Red. The first came in his debut appearance, a 4-2 Opening Day loss to the Dallas Burn on March 18, 2000.
Last month we asked you to help us pick who our Quaker Bobblehead giveaway should be for our July 7 game against Sporting KC.
After two weeks of voting, it was clear that one player campaigned much harder than the rest of his teammates for the right to be immortalized on a Quaker Bobblehead.
The first 5,000 supporters into Toyota Park that day will receive one. Get your tickets here!
Following Sunday's 3-1 win over New York the two club's reserve sides also played. With a lot of injuries, the Fire were forced to field five Academy and one guest player in what we'll call a character-building 6-1 defeat...
I'll be honest, there wasn't much pretty about the game but Fire rookie midfielder Yazid Atouba did reward the fans that stuck around with the beautiful strike. Que Golazo!
Maicon Santos' 83rd minute goal on Sunday was big for more than one reason. Yes it was the game-winner. Yes it got the 899 minute scoreless monkey off his back but it also stands as the 700th regular season goal in Chicago Fire history.
See below the list of other Fire centurions... Ironically enough, three of the club's seven centurion goals came against New York...
|100||Josh Wolff||8/22/1999 4-3 L (SO) at Dallas|
|200||David Hayes||6/30/2001 3-1 W vs. MetroStars|
|300||Damani Ralph||7/19/2003 3-1 W vs. New England|
|400||Thiago||8/10/2005 3-2 L vs. Kansas City|
|500||Chad Barrett||5/25/2008 5-1 W vs. New York|
|600||Peter Lowry||10/8/2010 vs. Columbus|
|700||Maicon Santos||4/7/2013 vs. New York|
Now, what could be better? Maicon's 83rd minute winner is also up for MLS Goal of the Week. VOTE HERE or Text G5 to 22442!
...current Fire captain Logan Pause scored his first career MLS goal in a 1-0 home opening victory over New England at Toyota Park.
The now 11-year Fire veteran's first strike came in his 97th career MLS match as he headed home a beautiful cross from Justin Mapp on the right (see 39 seconds into first video below).
With only three goals in 259 MLS appearances, Pause has never been known for his offensive prowess BUT all three of his goals have been somewhat memorable...
The second strike of his career, a long distance bomb in a 4-1 loss to Toronto FC in May 2010, ended up winning that season's Fire Goal of the Year while Pause backed his way into a tying goal by redirecting Pavel Pardo's free kick in last April's weather-shortened 1-1 draw with Houston.
Watch all three goals below...
Pause Goal vs. New England (2007)
Pause Goal vs. Toronto FC (2010)
Pause Goal vs. Houston Dynamo (2012)