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25 March 4:57 pm

The Chicago Fire Soccer Club welcomed community partner, City Year Chicago at Sunday’s home opener against the New York Red Bulls. City Year, an education-focused non-profit organization that combats the nation’s dropout epidemic by uniting young people of all backgrounds for a full year of full-time service in high-need schools. Because of the Fire’s support and the support of all of our team sponsors, City Year Chicago is able to place 206 corps members in 20 schools, impacting 5,000 5th through 9th grade students through academic supports, mentoring programs, after school activities and parent engagement initiatives.

As the partnership continues in 2014, the Club extended an invitation to all 200 members of City Year Chicago to attend the Fire’s first home game at Toyota Park. Those who were able to attend joined Fire owner Andrew Hauptman on the field prior to the match for photo op and recognition.

The Club will also have presence at City Year’s Family Engagement Night Tuesday evening as members of the Chicago Fire Foundation and Community Relations Department will be in attendance.

25 March 2:46 pm

On Tuesday I wrote about Fire newbie Greg Cochrane filling in admirably for veteran left back Gonzalo Segares during his club debut in Sunday's 1-1 draw with New York. You can't always fit every good quote into a story so without just throwing them all away, I decided to include them here...  

JC: How has getting time in the CONCACAF Champions League with LA Galaxy so early in your career helped you?

GC: When you’re going down to other countries  you’re playing in hostile environments where the fans throw stuff at you. From that point of view, I also got to see a lot of different styles – Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador – every country has their own flavor and I was able to pick up a lot of different stuff from those games, try to get better and keep improving

JC: When Mike Magee joined the Fire last year, he said playing with the likes of Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and David Beckham everyday gave him a certain confidence. Would you agree?

GC: Definitely. Training with those guys every day, Robbie and Landon and Omar Gonzalez are on national teams. They’re the best in their countries and are top class players. You learn so much from them and so when you come to other teams, it gives you confidence to keep doing what you’re doing.

JC: As a left back, who do you model your game after most?

GC: Right now my two favorites are Leighton Baines for Everton and Jordi Alba for Barcelona. They’re not the biggest of guys and neither am I but when you see guys like that succeeding at the highest level, you know you can do it too. Jordi at Barcelona is busing all over the field and Baines is one of the best left foots in the world serving a ball. I try to emulate both of them.

JC: How difficult would you describe the past few weeks, joining a new team and having to move to a new city all while trying to earn your spot in the team? 

GC: It’s been a fun experience. I try to take eeverything and put it in a good light. It was nice that the Fire were coming out to LA the first week so I didn’t have to rush to put anything into storage. It gave me a couple days to process the fact that I was traded and meet up with the team. Here, you’re in the hotels and you don’t have a permanent residence yet – that’s part is frustrating. It’s fun, I’ve enjoyed it so far – all the guys are real welcoming. It’s good to feel welcomed right away – it makes you feel like you can play like yourself and be yourself. 

24 March 10:36 am

Back by popular demand, the segment that lets you watch your favorite moments of the game in Slo-Mo from different angles, "Slow it Down".

This time, Harry Shipp serves in a great ball and captian Jeff Larentowicz is on the other end of it to head it home... let's slow it down:

23 March 6:48 pm
Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop

On playing his first game at Toyota Park
 
“Obviously disappointed to not come away with a win, but for the effort, I thought both teams played pretty well on a difficult surface today. What I did like about our guys was that we were probably closer to winning the match than to losing it, so that’s always good. We had a couple of good chances to get that second goal. I think that one chance, I haven’t seen the game on tape, Mike Magee’s chance late with his left foot there. Having said that, we didn’t lose the match; I thought we did some bright stuff, we tried to play the way we want to play, but I guess in the end, a draw is a fair result.”
 
On young guys making their first appearances at home
 
“I thought they did well. It’s never easy for these young guys to come in and play in such a big stage. I think both Harry [Shipp] and Benji [Joya] last week did a good job and played well today again. Victor’s [Pineda] first taste was today; I’ve seen more of Victor than he did today, but having said that, I think it’s always good to give those guys a chance to blossom and play; and I think that from our injury situation right now it’s a chance for a lot of guys to get some minutes and play and see how they get on, so I was pleased with all three of them.”
 
On game plan
 
“Well, I think the difficult part was we wanted to obviously possess the ball better and play better, obviously play our type of game, a possession-based high press; but I think that the field didn’t really suit either team. When we started the press a little bit, they just banged it along and we did the same, so it kind of got you a little bit of a scrappy affair. What I liked about the team was we did create some good chances in those sort of scrappy moments. I was pleased with that, and we had some good moments where I think on a decent surface we might have had a chance at scoring a goal; game plan changed a little bit, once we saw the surface we talked about it, we couldn’t take any chances trying to play out of the back too much with the field.  Having settled that, there was some good play in the final third from both teams, but I thought we had some good looks today, but we didn’t finish them.”
 
On Matt Watson’s play and versatility
 
“I’ve known Matt for a number of years, as I’ve stated before, but I just like those type of players that can slot in anywhere; kind of get what I want out of the player, and he does that, he gives you 100% any position he plays. I thought he played very well last week, I thought he played very well today; maybe some early moments, a little bit he had to get used to that position, but once he did, you saw he sticks to his task, and he does all the things I ask of him so it was a great pickup for us. He’s slotted in well with the injury situation we’ve had, the  suspension as well, so, I thought he played well.”
 
On Mike Magee’s Performance
 
“Mike’s not played a game for maybe 6 weeks, so, not to say it showed, but what I liked about it [was that] we spoke at halftime, he said ‘I’m fine.’ Once he gets through, once he gets into his rhythm, he’ll be fine. But, again, he had that good look, I think he had another chance, I think it was on a cross, I wouldn’t say usually he would probably score, but pretty close to it; but it’s good to get 90 minutes. He’s a big part of what we’re trying to do, and a big part of the club. He soldiered on, he looked tired obviously at the end; but he soldiered on, and on the break maybe we could’ve used him to get that winning goal, but it wasn’t to be today. But I was pleased with Mike’s performance.”
 
On the defense’s progress
 
“You’re playing against two really, really good players in [Tim] Cahill and [Thierry] Henry. They’re very, very crafty, they’ve played at the highest level, so it’s never an easy day. And I think, especially Thierry Henry, he knows how to find the spaces and he’s difficult to pick up. What I liked about us, especially the second half, we started to stay with runners and figure it out a little bit better than the first half. I thought they had a couple of opportunities in the first half where they carved us up a little bit from late runs, but we talked about it at halftime and I think we adjusted well and snuffed them out a little bit. They did have some situations that they looked dangerous on, but all in all, I was pleased with the back four and the defensive work we did.”
 
Harry Shipp, Chicago Fire midfielder
 
On the first half:
 
“We definitely had a good start to the game, we had some good chances after to make it 2-0, but unfortunately they pulled a goal back.   Overall, I thought it was a pretty good start heading into the half.”
 
On how comfortable he is:
 
“It’s only my second game professionally.  I’ve played less than 180 minutes total so it’s still a little fast.  I’m still getting a hold of things, in terms of getting comfortable going forward, focusing on defensive responsibilities and keeping things simple. I’m trying to get those balls, playing those passes because that’s what I like to do - I like to set up those guys up top to score some goals. Hopefully it shows in the next couple of games.”
 
On the surface:
 
“It was a little choppy.  We tried to get the ball in their attacking half and not play around with in our own half because you never know; you could slip or play a bad pass because of the field. 
Going forward when the field starts to get better we’ll start to get better possessing in the attacking half and hopefully we’ll score some more goals.”
 
Mike Magee, Chicago Fire forward
 
On how he feels:
 
“I’d feel better with a win, but individually I thought the first half I was sloppy and was having a hard time trying to find the ball.  Hats off to them, they came in with a great game plan.”
 
On the result:
 
“I would have preferred a win, but it’s nice to get the first game behind you.”
 
On the field conditions:
 
“It was rough and bumpy.  It was hard and took about two touches to get the ball under control, which was unfortunate for both teams. But considering how bad the weather was, it should have been a lot worse. It was actually a lot better than I was expecting it to be.”
 
On the physical play:
 
“It got chippy at times, I don’t think it was too bad.  As the game when on it was so wide open that both teams were just trying to end the play as quickly as possible.  The pitch was so bumpy that it got to a point that it was even hard to counter or connect passes to the middle, so the whole team was just knocking it forward.”
 
On play of the younger players:
 
“These kids are good – Benji [Joya] and Harry [Shipp] are both good.  That’s the plus to take away from these first three games.  The future with them looks good and they will only get better.”
 
Victor Pineda, Chicago Fire midfielder
 
On his first professional appearance:
 
“It’s a lot of fun to be out there.  It’s something that I’ve been working for, for a while now.  It was exciting just to be in a game that was 1-1 knowing that you can score the goal to help your team win the game.”
 
On waiting for the appearance:
 
“I didn’t lose hope, but at times it got frustrating.  I think that helped me to mature in a lot of ways.  Mentally I’m a lot tougher now than I was, not just from when I first signed but from just a year ago or two years ago and I think that’s going to help me a lot in the future.”
 
On what Frank Yallop said to him before he entered the match:
 
“He just said to enjoy it and he asked me if I was ready and just laughed a little bit.  I feel like I’ve been ready for a while.”
22 March 1:12 pm

The vital information on your 2014 Chicago Fire ahead of Sunday's home opener vs. New York Red Bulls...

 Tickets still available for Opening Day, Sunday at 2pm CT vs. New York! Click here!

21 March 11:17 am

The Chicago Fire Mobile App has undergone another makeover with some great new enhancements for Matchday! Check out the Top 5 below and make sure to use them for Sunday's Season Opener!

1)  Ticket Account Manager

Off the pitch, some of the biggest news this season has been the introduction of the Season Ticket Holder card. As Fire Sr. Vice President Mike Ernst best said in the New Season Ticket Card FAQ, “it’s all about providing convenience for our supporters.”

To build on that convenience, the Chicago Fire Mobile App powered by Cricket Wireless now allows fans access to their Ticket Account Manager. Once you enter your username and password, check the box to remember your login and easily manage your tickets, scan them at the gate at Toyota Park, or email them to a friend.

On iOS devices, users can even send their tickets to Passbook.

2)  Updated Stadium Map

This particular feature is not new to the mobile app, but it has been completely overhauled to provide a better in-stadium experience for users. The interactive stadium map of Toyota Park allows fans to quickly view various seat locations around the stadium, concession stands, and more.

3) Concession Information

We believe fans shouldn’t have to miss out on any of the action while they are in their seats. Instead of spending time walking around the concourse trying to find a hot dog (Chicago style, of course) or a domestic draft for $2 beer night, fans can pull up all of Toyota Park’s concession menu’s on their mobile app to quickly locate their choice of food or drink. The app lists out the locations of each concession stand and its full menu with pricing. 

 

4) Supporter Songs Catalog

One of the greatest sights and sounds in soccer is seeing and hearing thousands of supporters chanting songs to cheer on the team on the field. There are plenty of well-known chants that fans are used to hearing every matchday. Check out the Supporter Songs feature to familiarize yourself with both Section 8 and Sector Latino’s catalog of tunes.

 

5) VOTE for Man of the Match

Last, but certainly not least, the Mobile App now allows fans to cast their vote for the Fire’s Man of the Match. Have your say on who you think the team’s top performer was over the course of 90 minutes and stay tuned after the final whistle to see which player is named MOTM. The player with the most votes will be announced as MOTM in-stadium, on My50/TWC, and on Chicago Fire social media.

(Ticket Account Manager and MOTM voting coming soon for Android). Download the Fire mobile app via iTunes and Google Play! 

20 March 8:43 am

After picking up a fantastic point in Portland, the Fire head back to Chicago to face the New York Red Bulls in the team’s home opener Sunday afternoon (1:30pm CT on My50/TWCSWI).

The Men in Red will be looking to avenge the 5-2 season-ending defeat at Red Bull Arena last season - a result that kept the Fire out of the Playoffs. Here are a few things to keep an eye on from a tactical perspective.

Possible changes on outside - will Sega be fit to play?

After picking up a knock against Portland, Fire stalwart Gonzalo Segares is currently listed as questionable on the Athletico Injury Report with an ankle sprain for Sunday’s game. In his possible absence, the Fire coaching staff have a big decision to make.

On the one hand, the team could slot Hunter Jumper into a position he played in sparingly last year, famously scoring the winning goal against Kansas City in August and serving up an assist against the Red Bulls early last year. Reading into Frank Yallop’s lineup selections for the first two matches, a more likely scenario would be bringing newly acquired left back Greg Cochrane into the back line.

Cochrane was on the bench for the season opener and brings more experience than Jumper, playing in 12 games for the Galaxy last season. Whoever the starter is on Sunday will have to keep pace with the tricky Lloyd Sam on the Red Bulls right side. New York’s strikers also have a tendency to drift wide, opening up space for midfielders, which can result in 2v1 situations for the outside back to deal with.

As a unit, the Fire defenders had a much more composed match against Portland last week in comparison to the season opener and against a high powered attack like New York's, the coaching staff will be focusing on making this possible change to the back line as smooth a transition as possible.

Continuing the no target striker formation - with a focus on retaining possession in the attack

Last week, the Fire's no target striker formation worked quite well, with the team not letting one player get isolated in the attack. That being said, the team did play many long balls and empathized picking up second balls.

Against New York, a similar target-less striker formation is an attractive option, but the focus must shift from long balls to more possession in the attack. The Fire were able to do this at times against Portland, with Quincy Amarikwa linking well and getting behind the Timbers defense on numerous occasions.

New York relies too much on Dax McCarty to break up opposing team’s attacks and if the Fire can get players in between him and the defense, it can be very beneficial. In the Red Bulls last game, the Rapids were able to play through McCarty a number of times but didn't have enough players in support to take advantage. If the Fire can continue to keep the attacking players narrow and close to each other like they did against Portland, they will certainly create chances.

Being wary of forwards peeling off - not allowing the Red Bulls strikers easy tap-ins

Ball watching can be one of the most frustrating things for coaches and fans to witness on the field. Though exclaiming that a defender should be watching his man and not the ball is easier in theory than practice, too many soft goals are given up each season because of it.

In the games involving both the Fire and the Red Bulls last weekend, cases of ball watching occurred, with much different results for each club. In Portland, Timbers attacker Gaston Fernandez was able to slip into the box unnoticed by a number of Fire defenders who only saw him when it was too late: after Sean Johnson parried the ball into the striker’s path resulting in an easy finish (see below).

In New York, Thierry Henry, the master of slipping away from defenders, did it again against the Rapids and headed home the lone Red Bulls goal (see below).

The Fire must continue to focus on not letting players like Henry peel away on the back post and lurk unmarked.

Prediction: The Fire's good home form from last season continues over to 2014. 1-0 Fire with a goal from Mike Magee. (Steve’s record in 2014: 1-1)

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

WATCH: Shipp, Joya preview Sunday's match vs. Red Bull

14 March 8:32 am

After a lackluster performance last weekend out in LA, the Fire are in Portland for what should be a much sterner test against a Timbers team unbeaten in home regular season play for over a year (1:30pm CT on My50 / TWCWI). The Timbers will also be looking to avenge the 2-2 draw in the team's only meeting last season where a brilliant Fire comeback left Caleb Porter seething. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective.

A tweak in formation option A: Packing the midfield

Against a Portland team playing their usual 4-3-3 formation, a safer option for the Fire, especially away from home, is to play another holding midfielder alongside Jeff Larentowicz in an attempt to pack the midfield. Portland rely on late runs from players like Will Johnson and another holding midfielder would ensure the Fire would be able to track these runs more effectively.

Logan Pause would be the prime candidate to partner Larentowicz in the engine room. Portland always look to get playmaker Diego Valeri on the ball and rely on his through balls to create many of the team's chances. Pause and Larentowicz read the game extremely well and are masters at intercepting the kind of balls Valeri will be looking to play.

This option requires that the Fire drop one of its attacking players, which in this case could be Chris Rolfe who is battling an injury. The approach could be seen as a negative one, but playing against a team unbeaten at home for over a year and one that scored the third highest amount of goals in the league last season, the Men in Red also need be realistic.  

A tweak in formation option B: Eliminating the target striker 

A more progressive option for the Fire this weekend would be eliminating the target striker completely in favor of a smaller and quicker attack. This move would see Juan Luis Anangono, a player isolated during large stretches of last weekend's match, drop to the bench in favor of a quicker, more dynamic player such as Quincy Amarikwa, a player on the cusp of a starting eleven place.

In last weekend's match against the Union, Portland were undone on more than a few occasions by some neat and quick interplay by the Philly midfielders and strikers.  With this smaller formation, the Fire will have more opportunities to play this type of game.

The interplay between players such as Duka, Rolfe, Joya, Amarikwa, Alex and Nyarko could certainly cause the Timbers problems with Benji Joya's goal last week serving as a classic example of this: Amarikwa playing a brilliant through ball to Alex who in turn found Joya at the back post for a tap in finish.

While this formation would certainly make the Fire quicker, it should also provide the Men in Red with an opportunity to have more possession and even slow the game down at times, especially if the away team manages to take the lead. With possession below 45% in last week's loss, an emphasis on keeping more of the ball is also necessary.  

Set pieces: a weakness for both teams

Both the Fire and Timbers have had problems defending set pieces in the past and that was apparent again during the first match of the season for both teams. Fire defender Bakary Soumare admitted fault after his mark was able to head home the winner for Chivas while Portland also gave up a goal from a corner against the Union.

The Fire's defensive play from crosses and set pieces was certainly suspect last weekend and coach Frank Yallop made no secret of his disappointment at how his team gave up goals in this manner.

Though Portland are not a very big team, players like Diego Valeri and Gaston Fernandez are some of the best set piece takers in the league and a more cohesive performance by the Fire back four is needed on Sunday afternoon.  On the other side of the ball, with the Timbers also looking frail on set pieces, I expect the Fire to load the box when the dead ball opportunities arise. 

Prediction: 1-1 with the Fire goal coming from Alex

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

WATCH: Clint Mathis on what it will take to earn a result in Portland

13 March 10:31 am

Quincy Amarikwa has become somewhat of a statistical phenomenon in his time with the Chicago Fire.

Throughout his six seasons in MLS, Amarikwa has collected his paycheck in a super-sub role, bringing that extra bit of energy to go at defenders when his team is looking for a goal. Amarikwa has just 14 starts in 82 MLS appearances, nearly half of which (6) came with Toronto FC in 2012.

While he could always help generate some offense, Amarikwa’s stat line wasn’t anything too special during his first four MLS seasons, tallying four goals and four assists in 67 regular season games for San Jose, Colorado and Toronto FC between 2009-2012.

Flash forward to last year the way he earned his spot with the Fire. in a preseason friendly against San Jose in Santa Barbara, Calif. Amarikwa, who joined the team at their preseason training base earlier that day, ended up coming in for the final 15 minutes of a 0-0 deadlock.

Amarikwa made the most of his short time on the field, earning  a penalty that was eventually converted by Jeff Larentowicz to give the team a 1-0 victory over the Quakes.

Those 15 minutes earned him a contract with the club and were the start of what has become dubbed as “Quincy Time”, i.e., the short amount of time Amarikwa has to work with in order to produce offense.

This bore out over the course of last season when the veteran MLS forward racked up the best goals to minutes ratio in MLS, tallying three in just 299 minutes or .90 goals per 90 minutes.

With his goal in Sunday’s 3-2 defeat at Chivas USA, his scoring rate with the Fire actually increased to 1.08 per 90 minutes. Meaning in theory, statistically, Amarikwa is good for at least a goal a game.

In 332 minutes with the Fire, Amarikwa has matched the goal total he racked up playing 1958 minutes over his previous four MLS seasons.

So what’s the craziest part of all this?

He’s never started a match for the Fire, making 15 MLS appearances in just over a year. After consulting the TrueCar Player Registry, aside from newbie Benji Joya, Amarikwa is the only player in club history to score a goal without having started an MLS match.

Furthermore, Amarikwa has never even played a full half for the Men in Red – the most minutes logged in one game has been 43, which came in the 4-1 destruction of D.C. United on July 20 last season. Even though he didn’t score in that game, he did earn the penalty kick that Mike Magee converted for Fire goal number four.

He’s also scored each of his last three appearances for the Fire, dating back to a 3-0 win last October at D.C. United.

Amarikwa has surely done well enough in his short minutes with the Fire to earn more playing time and perhaps even his first start. Surely it’ll come at some point this season and when it does, his impressive goals to minutes ratio will inevitably drop.

Still, it’s hard to argue against seeing more “Quincy Time”.

WATCH: Quincy Amarikwa’s body of work for the Chicago Fire

)

09 March 7:42 pm

Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop
 
Overall thoughts on the game
 
“If you look at the game as a whole, for us, we were poor. I thought our whole demeanor wasn’t what we’ve seen and worked on in preseason. Just very disappointing. Having said that, coming back and tying the game 2-2, we fought back, kept going, got back to tie the game, and to give up a set play like that is poor on our behalf. We’ve got to learn from it, we got to move on, but very disappointing.”
 
On the rebuilding of the backline
 
“Defensive set plays is everybody. I haven’t yet seen a replay of the third Chivas goal, but it didn’t look good from where I was sitting. It looked like a free header from six yards out. If you give that to anybody, they’re going to score. All in all, I thought we had a few chances in the game. Sunday afternoon, tough conditions with the heat, but there’s no excuses for us; we have to make sure that we’re ready to play and dig deep when we need to. We should’ve at least gotten a tie out of the game.”
 
Thoughts on Benji Joya’s debut
 
“Yeah, he scored a goal, he did well. He’s young; you’re going to get young decisions. He had a couple of fouls where I thought maybe he shouldn’t have dived in, but he did fine.”
 
On Mike Magee
 
“To be honest, he’s still a bit injured, so I didn’t want to risk him in this game. We said maybe, but I had already put Logan [Pause] on, Chris Rolfe was cramping, and we had already used all our subs. Mike was good for maybe ten minutes but we had to change it a little bit. It is what it is. I think Mike wanted to be part of it today and I did as well, but I didn’t want to risk it and give him 25 minutes when he probably only had 10 in him, and his hamstring is still a little bit tight, so I didn’t want to go there.”
 
If he saw anything of concern
 
“I think just our demeanor especially in the last goal against, our heads dropped a little bit with the two goals against. I think Quincy [Amarikwa] sparked us a little bit, did well, made it difficult for them to play against us, and all of a sudden, they get chances out of that. There are some positives, if you like, but losing is terrible, it never feels good no matter how you look at it. For us as a group, we have to make sure that we don’t buckle under and we’re ready for the fight until the last minute of the game. If you’re not ready to fight, then we’re in trouble.”
 
Chicago Fire defender Bakary Soumare
 
Overall thoughts on the game
 
“It was unfortunate. We worked really hard the second half to comeback; we could’ve gotten away with one point, unfortunately it didn’t happen. We have to regroup for next Sunday and hopefully get a good result.”
 
On Chicago’s spirit in making a comeback
 
“It showed character. It showed that the guys that came into the game, Quincy and Benji, they already played and they gave us a great push. They came out in the right moment, worked hard and gave us two goals to comeback and we let it slip in the end.”
 
On the backline’s performance
 
“Every time you give up three goals, you can’t say you’re figured out too well. Our goal this season was not to concede as many goals, and today we gave up three so you can’t say we did a good job. We worked really hard; the coaching staff has done a great job with the backline, working on defense. We know we conceded three goals today and we’re not happy about that.”
 
Chicago Fire midfielder Benji Joya
 
First goal in first game as a professional
 
“This week, all I’ve put in my mind is to get the debut and get a goal and get my name on the score sheet and luckily, the first touch I had today turned into a goal and I’m really proud of that.”
 
Overall thought on the game
 
“It’s part of the game. Sometimes you comeback and at the end, you get a little bit low and they get a good corner, good cross and that’s what pros are going to do. If you slack, they’re going to come out on top. I’m really proud of the effort of the guys and it’s the beginning of the season and we still have another game to look forward to and we really need to focus on the next game and get the win.”
 
On the team’s effort to win the game
 
“The effort was there, things didn’t go our way this game, but it happens. Soccer is back and forth and you just have to be constant. Things didn’t go our way today and we have to keep looking forward to the next game.”