The Fire finally picked up three points last week in dramatic fashion with a 5-4 win over Red Bull in New Jersey and will look to make it two on the trot when they welcome defending MLS Cup champs Sporting Kansas City to Toyota Park on Sunday (2pm CT My50/TWCSC-WI/UniMas).
Sporting brings a depleted squad to Chicago but their first loss at home in some time at the hands of the Union on Wednesday night means they come to town with a bad taste in their mouth. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective.
Taking advantage of a depleted SKC defense – testing the makeshift back line
On Sunday, Kansas City will take the field without either member of their famed center backs – Aurelien Collin (injury) and Matt Besler (international duty). Right back Chance Myers is also a doubt. On the outside, Seth Sinovic could be the only regular starter in the back four to play on Sunday while Brazilian Igor Julião had a solid debut in Wednesday’s match against Philly.
In the past, SKC have dealt with the loss of Besler due to national team commitments but losing both center backs is a large blow. SKC’s patched up defense must have Mike Magee and Quincy Amarikwa licking their lips. Last week we saw Harry Shipp play an absolutely brilliant defense-splitting pass to put Mike Magee in 1v1 with Red Bull ‘keeper Luis Robles.
Against SKC, Shipp and whoever plays in the center of midfield alongside Jeff Larentowicz should be looking to play those types of passes in behind the SKC defense to the onrushing Magee or Amarikwa.
Repeating last week’s second half tactic on Sunday – putting high pressure on SKC
Amarikwa described Frank Yallop’s tactical switch at halftime of the New York game the best. When asked, he said, “We came in at half time and knew we were sitting in too much. We were giving New York too much respect to play and we know we can score goals. That’s what we’ve done consistently this year. So, we said in the second half we’re just going to high press, what do we have to lose, and I think it really caught them off guard.”
The exact same tactic should be in place from the first whistle against SKC. In Wednesday’s match against the Union, Sporting gave up the ball on far too many occasions, many times with minimal pressure applied by the opposition. The Union sat back and used the counter attack to their advantage but for the Fire, forcing a new-look SKC into mistakes will be critical.
If Benji Joya gets the start again in the center of the park, I expect to see more from him in this regard. Joya is slowly but surely improving the defensive side of his game but against a team like SKC, I expect him to take a page out of the Dax McCarty playbook and not allow the SKC players any time on the ball.
Joya has the comfort of Jeff Larentowicz behind him so taking a few risks and pressing higher up the field could reap rewards
Providing more support to the outside backs – wing backs exposed again against NYRB last week
As I discussed last week, a lot of the problems for the Fire defensively stem from attacks coming from the wide areas. That was again the case against the Red Bulls in Saturday’s game. It was obvious that NYRB coach Mike Petke told his team to try and isolate Greg Cochrane on the left hand side. During the first half, the Red Bulls attacked almost exclusively down the Fire left. Cochrane certainly held his own but he lacked support from Harry Shipp who was playing in front of him.
On the other side, Lovel Palmer had a tough game in New York. The Red Bulls were again allowed space and time to put in crosses and it really hurt the Fire. Case in point being the Red Bulls first goal, where Eric Alexander was given yards of space to pick out a cross and he duly found the head of Tim Cahill, the best header of a ball in the league.
Against a team like Sporting KC, who put an emphasis on getting their full backs forward to support the outside attackers, the Fire need to try and minimize the amount of 1v1 situations between our outside backs and the SKC wide men.
Prediction: The Fire are hitting KC at the right time: 2-1 Fire with goals from Mike Magee and Benji Joya.
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @Irish_Steve.
WATCH: No cardiac arrest after 5-4 win in New York
Wednesday night's Art of Futbol at Prairie Production Studio was another fantastic success. Check out some of the pieces as well as interviews from Gonzalo Segares, Benji Joya, Frank Yallop and Foundation Director Jessica Yavitz:
Check out select shots from the Art of Futbol 2014!
We’ll probably never know what was said at halftime in the away locker room this weekend in Harrison, NJ. We won’t know if things were kicked or thrown, if team leaders screamed, or if, as is Frank Yallop’s style, calm orders were dispatched.
What we do know, though, is that players after the game said they came out focused on putting more pressure on NYRB’s back line. And we know that whatever was said got the Fire refocused enough to turn around a 2-1 halftime score line, score four goals in 19 minutes and overcome a frustrating start to the season to get their first win.
Amarikwa was ready to throw his face in front of Luis Robles’s clearance if it meant continuing to pressure NYRB and continuing to build for the Fire the advantage they eventually, if not exactly calmly, rode to three points.
As much as I’d like to picture Yallop standing on chairs and screaming, there are other signs that point to a different kind of leadership at halftime. Look at Mike Magee here, barely five minutes into the second half, extolling the guys to push up and stay up. His eyes are popping out of his forehead!
One of the most competitive guys in the league, Magee could smell NYRB’s weakness after Amarikwa tied the game at 2-2. And Magee did his job after the Fire built their three goal cushion, helping through the midfield in the game’s dying moments to help the Fire fight off NYRB and finish off the win.
What all this points to is that whatever really went down at halftime, the orders were clearly to pressure NYRB’s back line and close out the game. The mistakes Magee, Amarikwa, Patrick Nyarko, and game hero Harry Shipp squeezed out of that back line were exactly what Yallop expected.
The true magic of the situation was that the orders were delivered in a way to convey a strategic, tactics-based message with enough emotional weight to overshadow the recent disappointments in the team’s mind. It led to eye-popping bodily sacrifice for the team. Everyone came together for the best 20 minute spell of the season, and it led to a deserved win.
Ben Schuman-Stoler is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @bsto.
Simon Borg's Instant Replay video series on MLSsoccer.com continues to be destination viewing. In this week's episode, Simon cites the updated FIFA Laws of the Game to explain why Harry Shipp's first goal on Saturday vs. New York stood despite offside shouts from just about everyone in Red Bull Arena.
He also looks at another play the Fire may have gained an advantage on...
As we've all learned, GoPro cameras make everything look so much cooler. The guys over at Chicago Fire Rec Soccer have taken that to heart by putting together some of the best highlights from their leagues each and every week.
Check out the video below and get more info on CFRS leagues, as well as registration by clicking here.
Sometimes in the stat world you need an assist. Sometimes in the MLS stat world, you quite appropriately may need a second assist.
This came for me Saturday night when Fire Analyst Kevin Egan tweeted to ask this question following a wild 5-4 win in New York:
— Kevin Egan (@kev_egan) May 11, 2014
— Tweed Thornton (@Tweed_Thornton) May 11, 2014
— Tweed Thornton (@Tweed_Thornton) May 11, 2014
Having finished the lamb sacrifice (kidding!), I woke up this morning to do some more research of my own. Kevin and Tweed were correct, not only did we see the first-ever Fire rookie/Homegrown score a hat trick Saturday night, we also saw the quickest four-goal barrage in the club's 17 season. Wow!
Here's a list of the ones that came (sort of) close:
|Date||Opponent/Score||Minute Span||Total Minutes||Goal Scorers|
|5/10/2014||5-4 W at RBNY||49-64||15||Amarikwa 49, Shipp 53', 58', Nyarko 64'|
|7/4/2001||7-0 W at KC||72-88||16||Nowak 72', 81', Stoitchkov 83', 88'|
|7/1/1998||4-1 W at DAL||7-36||29||Kubik 7', Razov 16', Kosecki 20', Podbrozny 36'|
|5/13/2000||4-1 W vs. SJ||5-40||35||Kovalenko 5', Kubik 12', og 13', Razov 40'|
|4/3/2008||4-0 W vs. NE||4-39||35||Barrett 4', Frankowski 22', 39', Blanco 37'|
|5/23/1998||5-0 W vs. COL||21-57||36||Brown 21', Razov 51', Podbrozny 55', Kosecki 57'|
Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop
On the spirit of the team:
“It’s been good. I mean, you know, I think last week we had that same situation. We’re 5-2 up in this game and they nearly come back and tied it. We’re two-nil up at home and they come back and win it, [Real] Salt Lake last week. So, what I’d like to think is we’ve learned something from last week. We can only get as hairy as this, but [we’re] playing against a really good team. You can’t take away from that.”
On Harry Shipp:
“Great. Harry’s been playing really well. Each game he’s gotten better, and better, and better. I think just his passes with the one pass to Mike [Magee] when he just missed it, first half, to make it 2-1 I think, and they go down the other end and score. That pass, you know, he’s got that passing in as well as the finishing. I can’t say enough about Harry. He’s really working hard at his game, he looks like a real player, and I think he’s got a great chance at going all the way.”
On the importance of scoring the first goal:
“I always say, and I think there’s stats if you look at the stats, if you score first in our league it’s 83 percent, I think, you get a point or more. So, I think, you know, getting on the chart first is always a big thing. We’ve been a bit unlucky, to be honest. We’ve had two home games and we’ve had a penalty kick in the last minute of the game to win it and missed them both. So, we could’ve been on three wins, four wins, you know, maybe two wins, or whatever and we’re not stuck talking about it now. What I like about the group, you know, they’re really celebrating now because they deserve it, you know, we’ve deserved more that we’ve got. They have not dropped their heads, come to a really difficult place to play, and get a result, and score five goals, which is amazing really, in any game, not just coming to New York and doing it. I’m really proud of the guys the way they hung in there at the end, Sean [Johnson] made two great saves, and we preserved the win.”
Chicago Fire Forward Quincy Amarikwa
On the match:
“I think overall we showed a lot of fight. We came on the road, I think a lot of people, especially the analysts, didn’t think we could come out here and get the road win. I’m glad we were able to prove them wrong.”
On the second half:
“We came in at half time and knew we were sitting in too much. We were giving New York too much respect to play and we know we can score goals. That’s what we’ve done consistently this year. So, we said in the second half we’re just going to high press, what do we have to lose, and I think it really caught them off guard. We put away the number of goals we needed to get the win tonight.”
On the importance of getting the first win of the season:
“I think it’s a pretty big relief, you know, we’ve kept the morale high this entire time. We’ve known we’re capable of winning. I mean a lot of games came down, I think there’s two games that came down to PK’s that we just weren’t lucky on. It was nice to have a little bit of luck go our way today and I just think it’s what’s more to come. We know we can win and we just proved it tonight and we’re going to continue on with the rest of the season.”
Chicago Fire Midfielder Harry Shipp
On the match:
“Yeah I’m honestly just happy to get the first win for this team. I think over the past four or five games, or so, we’ve had some heartbreaking ties and losses giving up late goals, especially last week. So, I think just hanging on for the win, I think New York’s a good team, they were going to get back in the game, you kind of knew that, but just kind of some last ditch defending helped us in the last 10 minutes or so. I’m just happy, if I score three goals and we don’t win the game it doesn’t really matter. So, that’s what’s important.”
On his game:
“Yeah I think especially in the second half. I think I was finding spaces in the first half and played a ball to Mike [Magee], scored one goal, but I think we kind of knew going into half time, I think we knew we could exploit those spaces even more underneath, me coming inside off the left and so I think we really started pressing higher in the second half, trying to win the ball off their back four, which is how I got my second goal, or third goal was taking it off of them. So yeah, I think the first, especially 30 minutes of the second half were really good.”
On play of the team:
“Yeah it was surprisingly upbeat. You know, I think we played well for those first 70 minutes or so and then I think we collapsed down the stretch, but we know if we could take those 70 minutes and turn it into 90 minutes we have a chance to win every game and I think we’ve been playing well the prior three, four games before that and that was just a lapse of 20 minutes, like I said. But yeah, I think everyone was hungry in training, everyone was feisty trying to get after it, trying to get a spot in the [starting] 11, and I think, you know, it showed this game.”
As I did much of last year, I was excited to be invited back to Soccer House, headquarters of the U.S. Soccer Federation, for Thursday’s third round Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup draw.
I was joined on Prairie Street by Indy Eleven President Peter Wilt, who was there to witness his club’s first Open Cup coin flip.
If you read some of my Open Cup draw articles last year, you might have seen a very complicated process which involved bigger groupings of geographical possibilities, numbering pieces of paper and drawing from envelopes before any coins were flipped.
None of that was the case on Thursday as Competition Secretary Paul Marstaller was able to fit all potential third round matchups in to "logical geographic pairings" so only coin flips needed to take place.
For the Open Cup nerds out there, this may disappoint you and if you'd rather go no further, I suggest you just read U.S. Soccer's official release on the potential third round pairings. If you would still like to know some of the interesting intricacies of the day's happenings, keep reading:
- Five lower-league professional sides did not apply to host third round matches: USL PRO's Harrisburg City Islanders, Orange County Blues, Arizona United SC, Oklahoma City Energy FC and NASL's Atlanta Silverbacks.
- As they did last year, USL PRO's Dayton Dutch Lions did apply to host but their field does not meet U.S. Soccer's competition requirements (a common theme here). Their second round opponent, North Chicago side Schwaben AC also applied to host but their venue does not meet requirements as well.
- Why would both clubs apply to host if they didn't meet requirements? While it's unlikely it would happen, supposing the opponent that pair was matched up with also didn't meet field or venue requirements or didn't apply to host, U.S. Soccer could then award hosting rights to either club. In the case of Dayton/Schwaben, because Indy Eleven applied to host and their home venue meets requirements, a coin flip did not occur for this matchup.
- Another interesting example of this was on the last flip of the round in the matchup of Cal FC / LA Galaxy II and PSA Elite / San Diego Flash. Of the four teams, only LA Galaxy II's venue met requirements, while both PSA Elite and San Diego Flash applied to host although neither team's field met requirements. So in the case that Cal FC won, the winner of the PSA Elite / San Diego Flash match would host a third round match up by default.
With USL PRO's Charleston Battery having the only suitable host venue in their potential match up (they play the PDL's Panama City Pirates in Round 2), they automatically were rewarded hosting rights should they advance to a third round matchup against the winner of Jacksonville United FC / Orlando City U23s. Jacksonville United did apply to host but their home venue was deemed not to fit stadium requirements. However, should Charleston lose and Jacksonville win, the NPSL side would host Panama City in the third round. Should both Panama City and Orlando City win, because neither applied for hosting rights, U.S. Soccer would quickly quoroum with both clubs to figured out a host for a third round match.
- USL PRO's Wilmington Hammerheads applied to host but their field was also deemed unsuitable. Paired with NPSL's Chattanooga FC in the second round, should Wilmington win, they would host by default as Atlanta Silverbacks did not apply to do so.
- Because of some of these differing scenarios, coin flips did not occur as matchups defaulted to a suitable host team.
Complete Third Round U.S. Open Cup Grid (as I saw it today).
BOLD: Applied to host; Venue meets requirements
ITALICS: Applied to host, Field width doesn't meet requirements
BOLD ITALICS: Applied to host; Venue doesn't meet requirements
N/A - Matchups where coin flips did not occur because of hosting defaults
|Greater Binghamton Thunder (NPSL)/Reading United (PDL)||W. Mass. Pioneers (PDL)/Rochester Rhinos (USLP)||X|
|Brooklyn Italians (NPSL)/Jersey Express (PDL)||New York Cosmos (NASL)||X|
|NY Greek Americans (USASA)/Ocean City Nor'easters (PDL)||X||Richmond Kickers (USLP)/RVA FC (NPSL)|
|Harrisburg City Islanders (USLP)/Lehigh Valley Utd. (NPSL)||X||Icon FC (USASA)/Baltimore Bohemians (PDL)|
|NY Red Bulls U-23 (NPSL)/Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USLP)||X||RWB Adria (USASA)/Michigan Bucks (PDL)|
|Carolina Dynamo (PDL)/Charlotte Eagles (USLP)||Carolina Railhawks (NASL)||X|
|Wilmington Hammerheads (USLP)/Chattanooga FC (NPSL)||N/A||Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL)|
|Jacksonville United (NPSL)/Orlando City U23s (PDL)||Panama City Pirates (PDL)/Charleston Battery (USLP)||N/A|
|Ocala Stampede (PDL)/Orlando City (USLP)||x||Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL)|
|Red Force (USASA)/Laredo Heat (PDL)||Fort Lauderdale Strikers (NASL)||X|
|Dayton Dutch Lions (USLP)/Schwaben AC (USASA)||Indy Eleven (NASL)||N/A|
|NTX Rayados (USASA)/Austin Aztex (PDL)||San Antonio Scorpions (NASL)||N/A|
|Real Colorado Foxes (PDL)/Des Moines Menace (USASA)||X||Minnesota United SC (NASL)|
|Oklahoma City Energy (USLP)/Tulsa Athletics (NPSL)||Arizona United SC (USLP)/Portland Timbers U23 (PDL)||X|
|Orange County Blues (USLP)/Fresno Fuego (PDL)||Sacramento Republic (USLP)/Ventura County Fusion (PDL)||X|
|Cal FC (USASA)/LA Galaxy II (USL Pro)||N/A||PSA Elite (USASA)/San Diego Flash (NPSL)|
Thank you again to U.S. Soccer for allowing me to play witness to the draw once again. Chicago-Fire.com plans to bring coverage of the fourth round draw procedure when it occurs next week.
Last Saturday’s injury time loss to RSL prolonged the Fire’s misery for another week as the team continues to search for their first win on the season. It doesn’t get any easier this weekend, when the Men in Red travel to Red Bull Arena to face New York on Saturday evening (5:30pm CT on My50/TWCSC). The Red Bulls have yet to really hit the ground running the season and will be looking to repeat the drubbing of the Fire in the last regular season game of 2013.
Here are some tactical observations to look out for on Saturday evening.
A potential shakeup in the back? A return for Segares likely but other changes possible
Frank Yallop didn’t have positive things to say about his team’s defending for the last 20+ minutes against RSL as and I expect him to make one or more changes to the back four for Saturday’s game. With Gonzalo Segares making the 18 last Saturday, one potential switch is at left back in place of Greg Cochrane.
Cochrane’s attacking ability has been a highlight during his stint in the starting eleven but he was caught out defensively on more than one occasion during the last 20 minutes against RSL. From a purely tactical perspective, the return of Segares would boost the Fire’s aerial defending prowess, especially against threats such as Tim Cahill.
A few weeks ago, Frank Yallop spoke about the need to get Patrick Ianni game time with both Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Bakary Soumare in the team’s reserve game vs. Charlotte, in the case he may need to be utilized in a future match.
Some of the mental mistakes made by Soumare last season have crept back into his play of late and this could result in Ianni getting a run Saturday vs. Red Bull. a
New York have scored the most goals in the East this season and the Fire cannot afford to make any more mental mistakes especially against a team boasting the Conference’s top goal scorer in Bradley Wright-Phillips and Thierry Henry, the Fire’s arch nemesis over the past few seasons.
What to do up front? – Will Amarikwa or Anangono partner Magee up front?
In a game where it was imperative that he put in a solid performance, Juan Luis Anangono gave a good shift against RSL last week, picking up a goal and linking well at times with Mike Magee. His competition for a starting spot on Saturday evening is the returning top goal scorer Quincy Amarikwa who missed the match due to red card suspension.
Tactically, there are arguments to be made for both players to get the nod. Amarikwa’s constant high pressure on the opposition’s backline would be welcome against a New York team who continue to be weak defensively in the wide areas.
Quincy is also the more ideal player to have in 1v1 situations, especially if the Fire can get him against one of the Red Bull center backs. In the middle, Jamison Olave has lost a step of pace from his days in Salt Lake and his partner Armando has yet to settle fully into MLS.
Anangono’s size is an important factor to consider, both in the attack, and defensively where he would be useful for set pieces. It is also important for the Fire to start being smarter in possession, especially holding the ball up in the attack.
Anangono has been a mixed bag in this regard so far this season but if he is given his second start in a row, I expect to see an emphasis on this tactic on Saturday night.
Monitoring Lloyd Sam – Stepping out and pressuring the Red Bull winger
Just looking at Lloyd Sam’s four assists this season gives you a good indication into the threat the Englishman poses. From his wide right position, Sam’s crossing is extremely accurate. Not only does he put himself into good wide positions, his ability to still put in a cross while under pressure from a defender makes him even more dangerous. Another problem with the Fire’s late game collapse last week was the lack of urgency by the team’s outside midfielders and defenders to close down the RSL wide players resulting in free crosses.
In Saturday’s game, the Fire must not allow Sam to get similar amounts of space granted to RSL. Stifling Sam will also cut the supply to Wright-Phillips and Henry.
Prediction: If I predict we will win, the team will end up with a tie so I’m going with a 2-2 tie with goals from Quincy Amarikwa and Benji Joya.
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @Irish_Steve.
WATCH: The Centerback