There was a point Sunday afternoon in which things were looking pretty good for the Fire’s positioning in the East. DC United had just suffered a somewhat controversial 1-1 draw at home to Philadelphia while due north Bright Dike and Darlington Nagbe had put the West’s bottom team Portland up 2-0 at New York.
Of course Kenny Cooper and Tim Cahill had pulled the home side back level before halftime, the Timbers flubbed two breakaway chances and Heath Pearce headed home the winner in the 83rd minute to push New York back into sole possession of second place in the East.
Later on Sunday night, Columbus used goals from Cole Grossman and Eddie Gaven to erase a 1-0 deficit but had to settle for a 2-2 draw when Andy Gruenebaum muffed Adam Moffat’s 82nd minute equalizer.
WATCH: Red Bull 3, Timbers 2
The result meant that the Top 5 in the Eastern Conference closed the weekend the same way they entered it, effectively pushing the Fire back down to fourth place (losing the goals scored tie breaker to Houston).
All this is by way of saying its going to be a scrap or as Brendan Hannan put it this morning, a “real dog fight” the rest of the way in the Eastern Conference. With 10 matches remaining and five of them against the other four in the Top Five, the Fire control their playoff destiny and seeding perhaps just as much as anyone in the East.
"[Playoff qualification] is in our hands," head coach Frank Klopas told Chicago-Fire.com Monday. "They’re all obviously difficult matches because most of the games we play are going to be against teams that are going to be right there until the end. Its exciting but I think we feel good about having those games at home and having the opportunity to control our own destiny."
While Montreal and Columbus still have a shot at the postseason, popular opinion has the top five now remaining the top five come October 28 making a “mini-league” of sorts the rest of the way for the Fire, Sporting KC, Red Bull, the Dynamo and United.
See below the “mini-league” grid of remaining matches between the East’s top 5 teams.
|vs. 9/14||vs. 9/28||-|
|x||-||vs. 10/6||@ 8/29|
|HOU||@ 9/14||-||x||@ 9/2||-|
|CHI||@ 9/28||@ 10/6||vs. 9/2||x||
When looking at the chart, two things undoubtedly stick out...
1) No that's not a mistake, the East's top two teams Sporting KC and New York, will play eachother three more times through the end of the season. Depending on how their other matches go (something that will continue to be a common theme), the Conference's top seeds could well be decided in those three games.
2) The Fire are the only team in the Top 5 that will play everyone around them and have two games against D.C., meaning the team seems to have the best shot of controlling it's own destiny in the tight playoff race. With 15 points available in these matches, if the Men in Red can take anywhere around 11 or 12, they could be in very good shape for a top two finish.
Either way, the Fire manager reiterated the game of most importance is the one upcoming.
"It’s up to us," continued Klopas. "We don’t have to rely on other teams like we did last year but the most important thing is to not look too far down the road and so our next game against D.C. is what we have to hone in on right now."
The Fire face yet another Eastern Conference foe at home this week: New England. The clubs appear to be heading in opposite directions with Frank Klopas’ side only losing one of their last five while the Revs have lost four out of five but the Men in Red can’t overlook this one. Here are a few things to watch out for from a tactical standpoint.
Who will replace the captain? Logan out 4-6 weeks
Last week’s 3-1 win in Philly was very costly, namely because of the injury to captain Logan Pause who, to date, has had yet another stellar year. With Logan out for at least a month, two major questions arise – who should replace him in the lineup and should his injury force the Fire to change their tactics? The answer to the second question is almost certainly no. The tactic of two holding midfielders has served the Fire well this season and there is no need to change it.
Replacing Logan is a difficult task but the Fire certainly to have options. Fernandez slotted in for Logan in the second half against Philly but players like Corben Bone, Mike Videira, Daniel Paladini and Victor Pineda can all play in the center of midfield.
Having this many options is a luxury for coach Klopas but the obvious candidate in my eyes is Fernandez. He is the most experienced MLS midfielder and did a fine job in that position last week. Fernandez also didn’t play in Wednesday’s reserve game which could be another indication that he will be getting the start alongside Pardo.
Shots from Distance: Be Wary
Though New England haven't scored too many goals of late, its not for lack of trying. Midfielders, Lee Nguyen, Saër Sène (sometimes a striker) and Benny Feilhaber are all not afraid to pull the trigger from distance. Just a few weeks ago, Sène scored an absolutely brilliant goal against the Union, cutting in from the right before blasting it past Zack MacMath.
PREVIEW: Fire vs. NE
Nguyen scored a goal-of-the-season candidate earlier this season when he volleyed the ball from outside the box into the top corner. The Fire cannot allow the Revs' midfielders space to shoot from the outside. New England will also have target man Jerry Bengtson back from international duty and will be looking to him to provide layoffs for shots from the outside.
Chris Tierney: A Threat from the Left
New England have deployed different formations in its past two games but one thing that hasn't changed is the team’s reliance on left back Chris Tierney to get forward to provide crosses into the box. Against KC, Nguyen constantly pushed inside to allow space for Tierney to move into on the left.
Against Montreal last week, New England played with one striker but again the Revs made room for Tierney on the outside to get the ball in the box. The players pushing inside also meant that New England had numerous players waiting to attack Tierney's crosses instead of just the forwards. In both of the past two games, the Revs have pushed Tierney up in advanced positions while keeping the outside right defender on more a leash.
If the Fire do indeed bring Fernandez into the middle it will be up to his replacement (presumably Nyarko) to track back and help either Jalil Anibaba or Dan Gargan when Tierney gets pushes forward into the attack.
PREDICTION: Chicago Fire 2, New England Revolution 0 with goals from Chris Rolfe and Sherjill MacDonald
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com, follow him on Twitter @Irish_Steve.
We pride ourselves as pretty snappy dressers here at Always on the Inside. With the Second Annual White Party just one week away, we thought it would be a good time for the Always on the Inside fashonistas to give the world the dos and don’ts on what to wear to the White Party.
DO: Rachel Bilson looks happy as a clam in a breezy white sundress (shopping bag full of groceries optional, but the event is for charity, we’d find something to do with it):
DO: Don’t worry gents, even you can look great clad in all white. This male model looks hot, even while rocking a fanny pack and croakies:
Just remember that while it’s a great idea to add color through your accessories, even Lindsay Lohan knows that a dress splashed (okay, it’s a multi-colored dream coat) with multiple colors is not the way to go for the White Party. Definitely a don’t.
As an added bonus, if you purchase a ticket to the White Party, you can print out your confirmation email and receive 20% off all full-priced items at any AKIRA Women’s, Men’s or Footwear boutique.
This is definitely a party you don’t want to miss out on so make sure to buy your ticket and join us on Thursday, Aug. 23 from 7:30 – 11:30 p.m. CT at the MCA Warehouse (1747 W. Hubbard). Get to know the Fire and the Chicago Fire Foundation off the pitch while enjoying a premium open bar, live DJ, hors d’oeuvres and a gift bag (who doesn’t love a goody bag?!), so dress in some stylish white attire and come party with us!
A quick round up of how Fire first teamers Marco Pappa, Orr Barouch, Sean Johnson and U18 Youth Academy product Reid Strain fared for their countries in Wednesday's FIFA international date...
Guatemala 3, Paraguay 3 - RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
Guatemalan midfielder Marco Pappa received the call up for los Chapines’ friendly against Paraguay. Pappa played for 77 minutes in the 3-3 draw, scoring a penalty that Carlos Ruiz drew. Pappa later set up Manuel Leon for Guatemala’s second goal on the night. Guatemala gave up the two goal lead, conceding three goals to Paraguay before former MLS star Carlos Ruiz tied the match from the penalty spot.
Israel U-21 2, Russia U-21 2 at Arena Khimki in Khimki, Russia
Making his fifth appearance for the Israeli U-21's, Orr Barouch logged 84 minutes and would tally his second international goal for the visitors in the 36th minute. Barouch’s shot, struck with his left foot from outside the box, hit the left post before going in the back of the net. Russia struck back, tying the game in the 56th. Israel took the lead again in the 71st when Mohamed Kalebat scored. Russia would not be outdone, and tied the match six minutes later in the 77th. See highlights of the match below...
USA 1, Mexico 0 - Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, Mexico
Goalkeeper Sean Johnson was called up by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann for the United States Men’s National Team’s friendly match against Mexico Wednesday night. Johnson didn’t see any time in the match, but was able to be a part of the history that was made when the US defeated Mexico at the Azteca for the first time in the 75 year history between the two sides.
Spain 2, Puerto Rico 1 - Bayamon, Puerto Rico
Chicago Fire U18 Youth Academy product Reid Strain was an unused substitute in Puerto Rico’s 2-1 loss to Spain. The result was considered positive for the Puerto Rican side and was a valuable experience for Strain.
WATCH: Barouch Scores in Israel U-21's 2-2 Draw at Russia
While Fire first teamers Sean Johnson, Marco Pappa and Orr Barouch all take to the field for their national sides Wednesday, another player in the club will be part of an international friendly as well.
Meet Reid Strain. A member of the 2012 Chicago Fire U18 Youth Academy side that went 26-1-1 en route to the 2012 U.S. Club Soccer National Championship, the Barrington, Ill. product has joined the Puerto Rican national team for Wednesday’s friendly against Spain in Bayamon.
Eligible for Puerto Rico through his mother, Strain missed the U18 Youth Academy’s run at last month’s U.S. Club Soccer National championships after being called up for the territory’s U-20 CONCACAF World Championship qualifying matches.
“He was very reluctant to play for the U-20 Puerto Rican national team when he got the call up last month,” said Chicago Fire U18 Youth Academy head coach Paul Cadwell. “He didn’t want to miss the national championships with his Fire team so it took some talking to him from his parents and from myself to encourage him to not miss such an opportunity.”
In those games, the forward tallied two goals, both game winners, in 2-0 victories over Barbados and Bermuda. A 0-0 draw in the group finale vs. Haiti pushed Puerto Rico to a second-place finish on goal difference but advanced the side to the final round of CONCACAF’s Caribbean U-20 Finals – the first time a Puerto Rican team has made it out of its qualifying group in and youth tournament.
The finals will be played November 3-11 in Jamaica and with his role in the previous matches as well as being the only uncapped player called up for Wednesday’s friendly vs. Spain, it’s a good bet Strain will play a part.
Why haven’t we heard more of Strain until now?
“Unfortunately, Reid has been plagued by an ankle injury the last 18 months,” said U18 Youth Academy Head Coach Paul Cadwell. It’s one of the reasons he didn’t make our Fall [U.S. Soccer Development] Academy team. We didn’t get the ability to get a good look at him but he’s a great youth player for us this season. He has shown the ability to score a variety of goals.”
I’m very proud of Reid at having the opportunity to play against the world’s number one team is a dream. Whether he sees the field or not, just the fact that he is going be listed in a squad that plays the current world and European champions is something that he will never forget.”
Have you ever wondered what your favorite Fire players are like off the pitch? Well, we aim to please here at Always on the Inside. Each week we are going to sit down with a different player to get answers to those pesky Burning Questions.
In this edition we sat down with the easygoing Jay Nolly. A Littleton, Colo. native with a great head of hair, Jay had an incredible four-year goalkeeping career with the storied Indiana University soccer program, where he led the Hoosiers to back-to-back NCAA Division I National Championships in 2003 and 2004. Jay took some time to answer our Burning Questions about playing for legendary coach Jerry Yeagley, his love for the outdoors and why “Superman” just might be an appropriate nickname for the laid-back ‘keeper.
Always on the Inside: You’ve been living in Chicago for almost a year now. How are you liking it? Do you have a spot that you frequent enough to have a standing order?
Jay Nolly: My spot is actually Starbucks in the morning. There’s a little shop next to where I live. Me and my wife know all the girls that work there; we talk to them all the time. I usually have a 35 minute drive with traffic in the morning, so it’s nice to have a cup of coffee on the way. They see me walk in the door and they have it ready. I’m simple; I just get a tall, mild coffee with cream. The just know. They’re like, “Same thing? Tall?” And I’ll just say, “Yup.”
There’s a another place we go to once in a while; it’s called DMK, the burger bar. Whenever we go there I’ll have an Allagash White, so they’ll just ask, “Another Allagash?”
AOTI: You’re one of the few guys on the team that does not reside in the city. What’s the best part about living out in the ‘burbs?
JN: It’s easier for me and my wife. We both grew up in the suburbs. Neither of us have ever really lived in a big city; even in Vancouver we lived in the suburbs. You know, just having grocery stores and restaurants around, there’s less traffic, better parking, it was just less stress for us. We’re pretty easy going people.
AOTI: Do you have any pets?
JN: We have a dog, a Yorkshire Terrier named Hercules.
AOTI: You have been described as an avid fly fisherman. Have you found any good fishing holes in Illinois?
JN: I’ve been fishing a little bit; it’s back to my Midwest roots which is Bass fishing. I was on the IU Bass Fishing Team. I’ve gotten to Bass fish a little bit more. I’ve set up some things to meet friends once the salmon start running in the river to go fly fishing in Michigan City or down lower.
AOTI: Best fishing movie?
JN: It’s got to be “A River Runs Through It.” Great actors, great place.
AOTI: Do you like other outdoor sports or activities in addition to fishing?
JN: Pretty much everything outdoors, I love. When I was younger we did a lot of camping, white water rafting, canoeing. I have my own one-man pontoon boat that me and a couple buddies have taken fly fishing out on the river. But I pretty much just love the outdoors. I grew up with two older brothers and we were pretty much in the mountains all the time.
AOTI: What was it like winning back-to-back national championships with Indiana University?
JN: It’s unreal. That’s just one of those things, you’re playing for a school, you’re in college. I was younger but the history that the school has to keep that tradition going, especially cause it was Jerry Yeagley’s last year and then it was Mike Freitag’s first year my last two year. It was sending Coach Yeagley out on a great note because he’s probably the iconic figure for college soccer. It’s something that I feel is so fresh even though it was eight, nine years ago.
AOTI: What was it like to play for Jerry Yeagley?
JN: It’s unreal. He respects every player and all he really asks of you is to give an honest effort. He doesn’t like people to cut corners. I think that’s why the school has done so well over the years is that they just get honest players that work hard.
I’d play for Yeagley over and over again. It’s just the person that he is; he still calls his players. I got a call from him last week and I’ve been out of college for nine years. He still reaches out to players; that level of respect that he has for people that he’s coached is just unreal.
AOTI: There are currently five people in the front office who also went to IU, so we have a few Hoosier-themed questions for you. First off, which pizza place do you prefer: Mother Bear’s, Mad Mushroom or Avers?
JN: Can I say Pizza Express? The Big Ten. It was a large pizza, ten breadsticks and two Cokes; that was the go to. It was $10 or $11. That was the best when you got cheese and ranch dipping sauces. That was the go to for us, we only did Pizza Express.
The soccer team was kind of sponsored by it but the cups were the best cups to have; they had IU Soccer on them. If you put ice and anything in them, they were just the best cups. We had like 35 of them at our house. I don’t know what it was about the cups, it was just one of those things.
AOTI: Best Bloomington bar: Killroy’s-Sports or Nick’s?
JN: That one’s tough because I knew some of the guys that worked at Nick’s and I have a jersey that’s hanging up in Nick’s. That’s the classic place. For happy hour and a college lifestyle it was Killroy’s. But now if I were to go back, it’d be Nick’s for sure.
AOTI: Favorite Indiana movie: “Hoosiers” or “Breaking Away”?
JN: “Breaking Away.” One, because I’ve jumped off those same quarries that they went to. And Little 500 is just awesome. “Hoosiers” is such a classic but I would say “Breaking Away.”
AOTI: Switching gears now, while you were in Vancouver you saved a young pitch invader. First, how does it feel to be a hero and second, how often do you deter pitch invaders?
JN: I’ve had people run across the field before but that was the first time that someone was actually close. It was just a little kid and he was running out and laughing. I think he got away from his brother or something, and just started running onto the field. Luckily the ball was on the other half. The only thing I thought about was to get him off real quick, so I picked him up and turned around but no one was there to hand him to, so I had to run over to the side. Luckily the ball never came down to our end but they kept on playing; nobody stopped the game. So it feels good to feel like a hero, to save a life.
AOTI: Who would you consider your celebrity doppelganger? We want to get your thoughts first because we have someone in mind.
JN: When I was younger, people thought I looked like Heath Ledger from “10 Things I Hate About You” because of my nose and smile or something.
AOTI: We think Dean Cain.
JN: I’ve heard that. And also the other guy that played Superman later. Brandon Roth. In Vancouver the weight trainers called me Superman; they said I looked like him but only when he was Superman. I don’t know, usually when I show up to training I have my hair done and I look presentable, so they would just always call me Superman, cause that’s just what I look like, I guess.
Follow "Superman" on twitter: @jaynolly
The Comeback Kids were at it again. The Chicago Fire moved into fourth place in the Eastern Conference with the sixth come-from-behind victory of the season as the Fire dispatched the Philadelphia Union 3-1. Chris Rolfe’s brace and Arne Friedrich’s first MLS goal helped the Men in Red escape Philadelphia with the full three points. Catch all of the highlights here.
Though his brace Sunday evening was the fourth time the veteran striker scored multiple goals in a Fire match, Rolfe said that he thinks there’s still room for improvement. “I think overall it was okay,” said Rolfe. “I had quite a few mistakes that I need to work on.”
While there’s always room for improvement, folks are already noting the Fire’s recent run of good form. In his most recent MLS Power Rankings for ESPN, Jeff Carlisle had the Fire in fifth place, up one spot from last week.
ESPN wasn’t the only one to notice how well the Fire players have been performing. Three Fire players, goalkeeper Sean Johnson (United States), midfielder Marco Pappa (Guatemala) and forward Orr Barouch (Israel U-21) were all called up for international duty to represent their respective nations on the upcoming Aug. 15 FIFA international date.
On a more bittersweet note, the Fire announced this morning that midfielder Marco Pappa has signed a pre-contract with Dutch Eredivisie side SC Heerenveen and will join the club when the transfer window opens Jan. 1, 2013. Pappa will finish out the season with the Fire. “I plan to do the club proud,” said Pappa, “And put everything I have into the remaining matches with the Fire.”
Former Fire forward Brian McBride is stepping back out of retirement tomorrow as he lines up for ninth-tier English side Wembley FC in the aptly named “Extra Preliminary Round” of the 2012/13 F.A. Cup.
In a move sponsored by Budweiser, the legendary American striker who played for Fulham, Everton and Preston North End will lineup with the likes of fellow former English Premier League stars Martin Keown, Ray Parlour, Claudio Caniggia and Graeme Le Saux as Wembley opens up Cup play against Langford FC Saturday morning. Fans can watch the match LIVE on Facebook beginning at 6:45am CT
The game marks the second time McBride has “stepped out of retirement” to take to the field in England. Last year the former Fire forward lined up with fellow American Brad Friedel and the New York Cosmos to play in Paul Scholes Testimonial match at Old Trafford in Manchester last summer.
Check out the full read on Brian’s return to English football from Avi Creditor at Soccer By Ives
Last week, the Fire played a team with a newish coach and it’s the same with week when the Men in Red travel to Philadelphia to face a Union team headed by interim coach John Hackworth. Philly have had some ups and downs but are a very difficult team to beat on their day. Here are a few tactical things to look out for in Sunday night's game:
Freddy Adu: Jekyll and Hyde
COACH'S TAKE: Matko on Philly
Freddy Adu has a long history of inconsistency. When he is on, he can be one of the best attacking players in MLS but far too often fans haven't seen the best of him. This season has also been a mixed one for Freddy but the past two games in particular, he has failed to show up. He did score a penalty in a 2-1 win over New England but in Montreal last week he was very isolated on the right wing.
Fullback Sheanon Williams failed to get forward to support Adu on the outside and this forced him to constantly play the ball into the middle when he would get it in a wide position. He even switched wings for a time but this didn't help. Under Hackworth, Philadelphia have become an attacking force but last week the wing play of Davy Arnaud and Justin Mapp prevented their outside backs from getting forward.
The Fire should look to mimic that tactic, especially because it limits the support for young Fredua.
New Forward Taking On New Defender?
Last week, Fire Designated Player Sherjill MacDonald replaced Dominic Oduro at halftime and helped the team overturn a 1-0 deficit. MacDonald is getting back to match fitness and Sunday’s game could be a good opportunity for him to get his first start.
Oduro has struggled to find the net of late and his speed could be a game changer off the bench. If Philly are in need of a goal, Oduro is the perfect person to bring in because his “freaky fast” pace enhances the Fire's counter attacking ability ten-fold.
Whoever starts up top for the Fire Sunday could be facing a new center back paring for the Union, who may give a first start to former Fire player Bakary Soumare. The Mali international has been rehabbing a knee injury since returning to MLS from Germany side Karlsruher in June but he did play 90 minutes in a reserve game last week and could replace second-year defender Amobi Okugo at the heart of the Union defense.
New partnerships have the potential to be shaky and if Soumare does indeed start, I would look for the Fire to test out the new look back line as early and often as possible.
This, of course can also be achieved through set pieces. Philly have had a major problem this year in that department, giving up the most headed goals in the league. As we saw last week, the Fire and especially rookie-of-the-year candidate Austin Berry are a threat from corners and free kicks and this could be key to unlocking the Union.
Depth: If we need it, it’s there
With any team, having strong options off the bench is a massive bonus. It can help the coach to change his tactics but it also increases competition for the first team. After last month’s acquisitions, the Fire now have a bench that is not only stronger but has plenty of MLS experience.
Take last Saturday’s game for example: the Fire lineup card had names like Dan Gargan, Patrick Nyarko, Daniel Paladini, Alex and Sherjill MacDonald on the sub’s list. Soon enough we could be adding Cory Gibbs there.
The team's depth is going to be very important in the push to move as high up in the Conference standings as possible. If things aren't going well on Sunday, coach Klopas has tried and tested players that he can call on, something that could be the difference between one point and three.
Prediction: Chicago Fire 2, Philadelphia Union 0 behind goals from Marco Pappa and Sherjill MacDonald.
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @Irish_Steve.
#3 - Chicago Fire 3, LA Galaxy 1 - September 27, 2006 - Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final - Toyota Park, Bridgeview, IL
Vying for an MLS-record fourth U.S. Open Cup trophy, the Fire put their best foot forward against the LA Galaxy when Nate Jaqua scored in the opening minutes of the game (10’). Jaqua scored off of a diving header to knock in the ball which had been pinging around the box after a free kick. Six minutes later, Andy Herron would head in a crossed ball from Justin Mapp, pushing the Fire up 2-0. To make the match more interesting, LA’s Alan Gordon pulled one back in the 51st minute. Still, the Men in Red did not back down as the game wore on. Fire winger Tony Sanneh burned down the left side and passed across the box to Thiago, who chipped the ball into the goal in front of a celebratory Section 8 at Toyota Park.
#2 - Chicago Fire 2, Columbus Crew 1 (asdet) - October 30, 1998 - U.S. Open Cup Final - Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
One week prior to the Fire’s first appearance in the US Open Cup final, they had won the MLS Cup in California. With an excited 18,615 fans greeting them at Soldier Field, the Fire had reached the final game of their inaugural season. Only a minute before the end of the first half, the Columbus Crew goalkeeper Juergen Sommer gave up a penalty. Fire striker Jerzy Podbrozny calmly buried the penalty kick. The Crew, however, leveled the match in the 53rd minute with a goal from Stern John. Tied at the end of regulation, the match headed into extra time. Finally, in the 99th minute, the Fire got their chance from a corner kick. The short kick dropped to Ante Razov, who headed it downward in front of goal. Frank Klopas was there to receive the pass and lifted the ball into the upper netting to give the Fire the “double” in their first season in Major League Soccer.
#1 - Chicago Fire 2, D.C. United 1 - October 25, 1998 - MLS Cup Final - Rose Bowl, California
After going 20-12 in their inaugural season (draws led to shootouts at the time), the Fire made their way to the MLS Cup Final against D.C. United, who had reigned as champions since 1996, the first two years of MLS’ existence. Goalkeeper Zach Thornton stepped up on the day, making 8 saves to keep the clean sheet. The first goal from the Fire was assisted by Peter Nowak, who drew out the goalkeeper before laying the ball to Jerzy Podbrozny to score. The second goal was also assisted by Nowak, who made a run along the edge of the box before shooting. Nowak’s shot deflected off of Diego Gutierrez, who was credited with the goal.
Stay tuned next week as we begin our #Fire15 Goals Countdown... Check out our previous Memorable Matches videos below: