The next big Major League Soccer star may one day look back and remember the Chicago Fire as the club that offered a springboard to his pro soccer career.
A national search for undiscovered youth soccer talent that began with 1,200 total entrants across three tryout locations (Chicago, Orlando and Los Angeles) has been narrowed to four final honorees. Remarkably, three of the four were among those that emerged as winners of the Chicago-based tryout hosted in conjunction with the Chicago Fire on May 16-17.
The four finalists were announced Sunday at the StubHub Center in Los Angeles -- where the 18 total winners from each regional tryout lived and trained as professionals for one week -- during a live broadcast on Univision's Republica Deportiva.
Eduardo Munoz, a Lafayette, Ind. native who emerged from the Chicago tryout, claimed the Portero Allstate honor as the top goalkeeper in the competition. He'll head to the Sueño MLS final in Miami next week along with three finalists from among the field players: Baltazar Duran of Cicero, Ill., Miguel Acosta of San Diego, and Isaac Arellano of Las Vegas, who came through the Chicago-area tryout.
On the line in Miami will be one spot in a Major League Soccer Academy program and a veritable path to an MLS First Team.
For more on the Sueño MLS program and each of the four finalists, visit MLSsoccer.com/Sueño.
Chicago Fire vs. Montreal Impact
MLS Regular Season
May 30, 2015
Frank Yallop, Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer
Thoughts on the match:
“A very good home win from our side, I thought in the first half especially, we played some really good stuff in getting the two goals, but it’s always good to get three points out of a game like this where I feel we dominated the match and played well.”
On the man advantage:
“It was three-nil, so pretty good. We had a spell a bit in the second half where it was a bit of a dull game, where we didn’t give them a bunch of chances but we didn’t play like we did the first half. Sometimes that’s normal, we’re trying to protect the lead, they’re trying to get into it a little bit but we stopped them playing at least, which is a change from the New York game when we allowed them to play. I thought we did a great job with everything tonight, just the spirit and will to win. The red card always changes games but I thought we played well in that first half to go 2-0 up, and then maintain that for a good 3-0 home win.”
On Kennedy Igboananike’s performance
“It’s always difficult for anybody to come and settle in any environment and I think he’s probably the last of the three DP’s, if you’d like to name them, to settle in and start to feel comfortable. I thought he played well in Columbus, he played well tonight and could’ve scored three, he had a couple of breaks where he couldn’t lift it over the keeper and the keeper made good saves, but it’s nice to see him score, he’s feeling good about himself. I like his threat in behind, he makes some good runs and keeps the back four honest. He had a good game tonight.”
If this was the most complete performance thus far this season:
“Yeah, I think so. I know they had 10 men, but we limited their chances pretty well, and that’s always a good sign of the team, they didn’t have many looks. They are a dangerous team but the way we played, especially in the first half, I didn’t think they got too much of the ball and it felt pretty comfortable. It’s no disrespect to Montreal, it’s just we played well. I think that it’s a building block and I still feel we have some room for growth, but the best thing is a good home game and now we look forward to Wednesday night and then next Saturday night here against another conference opponent. Things are feeling pretty good, but sometimes you get kicked in the teeth when you think things are going okay. I’m very happy with the guys tonight, really good demeanor and I thought that the subs that came on made a huge difference in the game again, not in the scoring but just with the play. They were all enthusiastic, wanted to get on, wanted to play and I think we are moving in the right direction.“
On the play of Joevin Jones and David Accam on the left side
“I was going to throw a life jacket on that far side in the first half because it was really wet and it looked like water was spraying up. I think Joevin Jones is a real quality player, obviously we picked him up in the offseason and he’s been excellent at left back and just a good player. David is electric, he still has a little bit of an ankle problem, his hamstrings are a bit tight because he hasn’t trained too much and that’s the reason I took him out, to rest him for Wednesday if I decide to play him. They’ve had some good combination between them. I thought Harry played well tonight, not just with the goal but with his overall play. He was sneaky in his little pockets where I like him to play and I think the goal gave him a bit of confidence. JJ and David are very dangerous and we’ve got some decent players who are starting to feel good about themselves, which is always good. “
On the selection of Jon Busch over Sean Johnson
“I decided to play Jon tonight, like I said last week it’s up to me who I pick and play. Jon didn’t have much to do this evening, which is good for the defensive side of things. Again, I’ll decide which goes on the next couple of games and moving forward. I go back to having two really good goalkeepers, obviously Sean is the guy I want to promote and push and make sure is correct and ready to go in his career, so that’s always on my mind, but in the meantime we’ve got a good goalkeeper in Jon that’s done a fantastic job and continues to do that.“
On dealing with Shaun Maloney’s upcoming absences
“I’m not going to give the team away but I think we have enough candidates to come on and play in Shaun’s absence. I thought Shaun played well tonight without maybe getting the last touch again for him, but he’s a driving force, he drives teams on and I feel like he did that for tonight for us. He’s busy, always tricky, picks the right pass, and he’s good. We’ll figure it out. It’s good for Shaun to have a good win for him, not just for him but for us as a club, but he can go away now and enjoy his international duty and try and make the European Championships, which is important to him and his career, and hopefully we can get some wins for when he returns.”
Kennedy Igboananike, Chicago Fire Forward
On improving every game:
“I think I’m coming into the system, trying to get better every training, every game, and I think I’m coming into the system now.”
If this was his best game yet:
“I don’t know yet, I never played my best game yet. I think more is about to come, so just starting to get used to the players and getting used to everything around me so I think I’m getting better and better every day.”
On the relief of getting on the score sheet:
“Yeah, at least now it has broken the yolk, so I think more is going to come. Just need to keep working hard and practicing and I’ll get better.”
On any impatience when he wasn’t starting:
“Of course, you have to be a professional, so that is what I am. Any time they give me the opportunity to play, I go in and do my best. The coaches decided best who goes on the pitch and play, so anytime they give me the chance, I’ll play.”
Harry Shipp, Chicago Fire Midfielder
On the team putting together a complete performance
"I think, in the second half, our goal was just to keep the ball. If they're not creating chances, they're not going to score goals. For us, we did a good job kind of preventing them. Obviously the red card helps, makes it a little easier to play the ball around; but even before they got the red card, I think we did a pretty good job moving around and finding spaces in behind."
On breaking a scoring drought
"I think the last couple games, I got kind of caught in the routine of being outside and just being aware of defensive responsibilities, and kind of blindly running up and down the right side. I think, this week, I really wanted to focus on going back to getting all over the field. I think you saw that in the first half: when the ball was in the left side, I came across and got the ball in the middle, because I'd much rather have the ball in the middle of the field near the goal than on the outside. So I think I did a better job of just finding little spaces to receive the ball."
On Kennedy Igboananike's performance
"His best thing he did today was probably pressure and work hard. You saw that on the goal I scored: he won the ball off Baky [Soumare] and played it in. He's an unselfish guy, and I'm happy to see him get a goal; it was long overdue and well deserved...I think we were playing all right without him, but having him is another weapon going forward. I think if you can get him and David [Accam] and myself and Shaun [Maloney] clicking on the same page, we'll hopefully be pretty hard for a front four to stop."
On his chemistry with Shaun Maloney
"I'm not looking forward to having him gone. I like playing with Shaun; I think we read the game similarly, he always shows in pockets. But with him gone, definitely, we need to look to pick up a little more pressure in the middle of the field and hopefully spring guys through like Kennedy [Igboananike] and David [Accam] in behind another team's back fours."
Montreal Impact Head Coach Frank Klopas
On justifying starting certain players with performances like tonight:
“Justify my performance? Why didn’t you ask other performance? Since you asked me about this game. All players can have a bad game. Did you see the last game we played? Maybe it’s in your eyes, that the guy is slow. But in his performance tonight, if you point him out, you point the whole team out. Or point me out. I am the coach, it’s my responsibility. But the other games, you didn’t talk about Donadel. He’s a very good player. All players can have off games. All teams can have off games.”
On replacing Jack McInerney at halftime after the red card in the first half to get him time to get ready for the next match
“I think all that. We were thinking either him or Piatti, I could have taken Piatti off too. The way the game was going, the field conditions…I just felt that he could have helped us a little bit more with holding the ball. I think issues in the midfield, not that we couldn’t hold the ball, we turned the ball over a lot. I think that those turnovers turned in to opportunities for them in the open field.”
On the team’s defensive performance:
“We gave up three goals. There’s not much to say. We played short-handed for most of the game, our overall team performance was poor.”
On Nigel Reo-Coker playing a deeper position:
“They had a fast player on that side. For sure we could have done better. I think there were moments where we turned the ball over a lot in the midfield, we weren’t sharp, whether the field condition was wet, whatever, I think we turned the ball over with our mistakes, and then they got opportunities in the open field, and I think we all could have done a lot better. Overall as a team we could have done better.”
On having two great games at home and coming to Chicago and starting flat:
“Yes, yes, disappointing. For sure. It’s one of the those nights we have to take a hard look at everything and move on.”
On the short turn around to the next game:
“It’s always good, no matter whether it’s good or bad. You have to put it behind you and focus on the next game because it’s coming quick.”
Montreal Impact Midfielder Calum Mallace
On the defensive matchups:
“We were a little slow to react in the middle there, obviously I think some of the match ups out wide, you know they have some pace, so it was difficult. They’re a very fast team. Obviously with just the red card, and two goals in the first half, and how bad the conditions were, it was just a tough game overall.”
On why the team started flat:
“I don’t really know how to explain it. It is just one of those games, we had two good wins in a row, and we’re trying to build off of that. It wasn’t the start we wanted, sometimes that happens and we have to learn how to play through it. If maybe we didn’t give up a goal so early, we would have grinded it out a bit and figured out how to play.”
On the fluctuating lineup due to injuries:
“It’s very difficult. Injuries are never a good thing, and we’ve had so many this year. It’s so difficult to really get a starting 11 out there that really gels together. As we’ve said in the past, we have confidence in every player that does come up and come through, and when they get the chance, we have confidence in them. We are just going to keep grinding through it. And try to get guys back healthy and keep them healthy.”
Montreal Impact Goalkeeper Evan Bush
On the match
"I don't know that we saved ourselves from any embarrassment; I mean 3-0 is still 3-0. Just overall...we started off poorly, for one, we had a lot of pressure in the first 15 minutes, gave up the first goal which was a fantastic strike, I thought; I actually thought when it went past me, it was going to go a little bit far, but looking back at the replay, top corner is a fantastic strike. After that, we get a red card and then a penalty; the red card is probably the right call, but the penalty, I don't know, I have to look at it again, but from what happened, I don't know if I necessarily agreed with it. But that's how it is. And then you get down 2-0 playing with 10 guys, and it's an uphill battle; basically, at that point you're just hoping to hang on and kind of keep it close, and maybe pull one back, and we weren't able to do that. But, we look forward to Wednesday now."
Saturday is sure to stir fond memories for Chicago Fire midfielder Shaun Maloney.
Premier League sides Aston Villa (where Maloney plied his trade for the better part of 2007 and 2008) and Arsenal are set to contest the final of England's FA Cup, the oldest association football competition in the world (11:30 a.m. CT, FOX).
Two years ago, the Scotsman played a leading role in an FA Cup final for the history books, wherein Maloney's little-heralded Wigan Athletic side embarked on a memorable march to domestic glory. With iconic Wembley Stadium in London as the setting, Maloney scored the first goal of Wigan's 2-0 semifinal defeat of Millwall, launching the Latics into a championship matchup with heavily favored Manchester City. The affair pitted that season's Premier League runners-up against a Wigan club that was destined for relegation.
But the FA Cup delivered the dramatic underdog ending that so often defines it, with Maloney assisting on the game's only goal to help secure Wigan's improbable upset over its fellow Manchester-based club.
Watch the video above for Maloney's thoughts on Saturday's Arsenal-Aston Villa matchup or revisit the MLS Insider piece below for an in-depth look at Maloney's raising of the FA Cup. Now, whether or not Maloney's FA Cup success will translate to his new club when the Fire begin U.S. Open Cup play on June 16 is a question that remains to be answered.
Late-game tension. Poise under pressure. Right-place-at-the-right-time positioning and the technical ability to snap home a crucial header.
Yes, Jason Johnson’s 94th-minute equalizer against Columbus Crew SC had all of that. But so too did the effort of Andrew Shaw earlier this week as he attempted to put his Chicago Blackhawks in the win column in Game 2 of the NHL’s Western Conference final vs. the Anaheim Ducks.
With the game already in its second overtime period, Shaw saw a chance to end it when a deflected puck was sent airborne in front of the net. Rather than wait for it to find his stick, Shaw -- who is already notorious for his soccer-like "Sewerball" skills -- went after it with his head and with all the gusto of a target No. 9 striker.
The goal would be disallowed by the officiating crew, allowing the game to enter a third OT where Marcus Kruger would play the hero for the Blackhawks. Still, the Chicago Fire and soccer fans everywhere were impressed by Shaw’s creativity in front of the goal -- and curious about his potential to similarly finish in the penalty area.
We can't say for certain that the members of the Men In Red took any direct inspiration from Shaw's headsmarts, but both David Accam and Jason Johnson tallied off headers in the Fire's dramatic draw on Friday night.
Regardless, should Shaw ever feel the urge to test his mettle on the soccer pitch, he now has the gear and a standing invitation from the Chicago Fire to give it a go:
— Andrew Shaw (@shawz15er) May 23, 2015
Jon Busch has played in more than his fair share of memorable matches since debuting in Major League Soccer in 2002, but there’s no doubt that Friday night’s draw at Columbus Crew SC will earn a place in his all-time ledger.
Busch achieved a milestone that only four other MLS goalkeepers have reached in the league’s 20-year history, appearing in his 300th regular-season league match. Fittingly, the occasion came in the same venue where he made his very first showing on April 20, 2002, while minding the net for Columbus against the New England Revolution.
Only Kevin Hartman (471), Nick Rimando (379) and Joe Cannon (342) made their way into more matches as an MLS goalkeeper. Exactly half (150) of Busch's career appearances came during his five-year stay with the San Jose Earthquakes from 2010-14, during which time he was a two-time MLS saves leader and the anchor for the 2012 Supporters' Shield-winning Quakes.
Busch, who endeared himself to the Chicago Fire fanbase during his ultra-successful first stint with the club (2007-09), was typically humble about the milestone's significance after the match.
"For me, I knew going into it that it could be my 300th but I didn't want to make it a big deal," he said. "But the nice thing is it worked out. The Man Above had a plan and to get it in Columbus, where I got my first-ever start, was really cool. It means a lot to me.
"I've never been one that's big on stats, I just kind of do my thing and at the end of the day if you've had a good career, your stats will speak for themselves. I've had the good fortune to play with so many good players, it's been a blessing."
As fortuitous as it was for Busch's 300th appearance to come in the place where it all started, so too did the stars align for him last offseason when he decided to return to Chicago.
“When in you’re a club like this that has the history that it does, you get a pride for the club," he told Chicago Fire Weekly on Saturday. "Knowing where this club is going, seeing what they’re doing and how hungry they are, it was a no-brainer when Frank (Yallop) and I talked. We’ve got a great bunch of boys in the locker room and now we’ve just got to put it together on the field. That’s part of the challenge of coming back. I have a lot of love for this club."
CHICAGO FIRE HEAD COACH FRANK YALLOP
On getting a draw on the road against Columbus Crew SC
"Any time you can come back in a game like this is huge, against a very good team too. So, you got something out of the game and you come back, and I think the boys are really happy. I felt we, to be honest, we could’ve won it. We had the chances I thought late, but Columbus had a few as well so it was a pretty even game. But I feel that the general play for us was good. Just the first half, I just said to the boys, we just in the final third weren’t as crisp as we should be, but that’s been our problem kind of all year. And obviously you have a couple of chances and you score one goal. So what I liked about it, we had a good chat about it at halftime, the guys came out in the second half and really went to town, tried hard even going two [goals] down, and came right back into it and did okay. It was a good result."
On the second half adjustments made by Chicago Fire
"We pressed a little bit higher. I thought we did a really good job of denying [Federico] Higuain space in the first half. As soon as you go down, you got to push on them and then he really starts to come into the game a little bit. So it was kind of cat-and-mouse, and I thought we did a good job defensively on him, and the whole team actually, Columbus, I thought. They didn’t have that many chances in the first half. But then the game opens up at two-nil and then he starts to come into it. So what I liked about us, we kept going, we got the goal in the end that we deserved and that was a big moment for us."
On the performance of Chicago’s substitutions
"[I’m] very happy. You put them on for a reason. You want to change the game or you see something, we need a little more pace with [Joevin Jones] wide, let Guly come on the field. I think Quincy [Amarikwa] obviously had a great twenty minutes or whatever it was. He was excellent. I said to the guys, well done to the team that started, but well done to the subs. They really made a difference in the match, seeing them sort through and could’ve won the game. So very happy with the all-around squad today."
On starting goalkeeper Jon Busch over Sean Johnson
"I just think Jon [Busch] needs games. I always think you’re not dropping off a level when you play Jon Busch, so I just felt it was time to give him a game and see how he does. Sean has got a couple of little things he’s nursing, but I don’t need to say what they are, but I just felt I wanted to play Jon in this game and he played great."
On Jon Busch’s 300th MLS appearance
"Anybody who’s played in that amount of games at any level, especially this highest level in this country, is fantastic. And Jon is a great pro, he’s a good teammate to the players in there, and he works very, very hard and I think that he’s a winner. He wants to win. It was a great pickup for us to bring Jon in, someone with his experience, and obviously 300 games is a wonderful milestone to get to."
CHICAGO FIRE FORWARD JASON JOHNSON
On his thoughts on his first goal of the year
"Not much. I’m just getting ready for the next game. We are still in the season, it is not like we won a trophy tonight, but it is great to get a tie on the road. I’ll enjoy the little goal I had tonight, but I am focused on the next game."
On the adjustments made
"Credit to the coaches and how they handled the game and the players as well, David Accam to be exact. [He] took us back in the game after we were down two-nil. It was a very important goal. A couple minutes after [Crew SC’s] goal, to get a header from a Kennedy [Igboananike] cross, that kind of gave life and motivation for the players. I was happy the coaches called my name and I am happy to have gotten a point for this team."
On what he can build off of tonight’s performance
"Just keep working hard. There is no area of my game [in particular] that I think I need to improve, because every day you think you can get better, so I’m just working hard at everything I do in training and just focus."
CHICAGO FIRE DEFENDER ERIC GEHRIG
On if this game was redemption after last week’s result
"It’s tough, we were a little unhappy with the past couple of weeks. But at the end of the day, you just have to keep going. Week after week, we play good teams and we knew it was a good opportunity to come here. Obviously Columbus is a great team at home and we knew they were looking to win after last week’s loss, but we have a good team as well. Unfortunately we gave up two but we were able to get back two and I think that both teams deserve a point."
On what it was like to play against former teammate/roommate Justin Meram
"I lived with Justin for three years and I know he is a great player. In my mind I think he is one of the best players in the league. He’s a dangerous player and he can hurt you in a lot of ways but it was a good total team effort tonight. Definitely special seeing Justin on the other side and we talked about trading jerseys. He’s a good guy and he asked me to be in his wedding yesterday, so it’s been a pretty cool weekend."
On acknowledging the fans in the Nordecke at the end of the match
[Crew SC] gave me a chance and I came here as an undrafted rookie and they probably didn’t even know who I was to be honest, but it didn’t matter. They showed me love the last four years and I’ve had some good memories here. I was away from home and they kind of took me in. It was definitely a special moment and they are good to me still, its special."
Chicago Fire fans and self-proclaimed soccer experts tested their knowledge in 5 rounds of soccer-themed trivia at Johnny O’Hagan’s in Lakeview on Thursday night.
Questions covered everything from the Chicago Fire to the U.S. Men and Women’s National Teams, European League stars, World Cup statistics and more.
Chicago Fire play-by-play announcer Dan Kelly was the emcee for the evening, posing questions to fans including: "Who is England’s all time leading scorer in World Cup history?”; “Name three venues the Chicago Fire has called home since the club’s inception,” and more.
The winning team, “Irish Wrist Watch” took home a total of 20 points, with the “Fire Ballers” coming in close second with 14 and the “P-Town Beat Down” coming in third with 9.
“Anything for the Fire, I’ll turn up for,” said Jimmy Garcia, a Fire fan and member of the winning trivia team.
Some participants went home with more than bragging rights, though. Prizes and raffles saw fans leave with a home kit signed by all of the Men In Red (pictured), an exclusive scarf, four match tickets and more.
“Any time you can have your greatest asset, your supports, gather around and talk about a subject that is dear to them, Chicago Fire soccer, around trivia and conversation, it’s always a good evening. ” said Kelly.
Fans can catch all Chicago Fire games at Johnny O’Hagans, including Friday's match against Columbus Crew SC (7 p.m. CT).
New Chicago Fire signing Kennedy Igboananike has scored some nice goals in his time with AIK, including a pretty incredible bicycle kick on April 28, 2013 vs. Halmstad BK.
Check out some of his body of work below:
Though the end result was another draw, there were a few great GIFable moments in Saturday's 3-3 stalemate with D.C. United at Toyota Park.
For starters, Quincy Amarikwa perhaps showed the best finish of any of the 10 goals he's scored across all competitions this year to give the Fire a 1-0 lead...
His celebration after the fact was simple, yet effective...
Then Quincy went and earned this penalty kick, his league-leading fifth of the season...
Jeff Larentowicz redeemed himself for his penalty miss from the week before, bagging his fifth goal of the season...
And then D.C. United did what they did, leading to Matt Watson's first career MLS and Chicago Fire goal...
And the celebration...
NUMBERS GAME: Was Saturday the first time two Fire players scored against their former team? Sort of...
Every season I like to take in a few away matches as a fan and with a Toronto away date finally coming on a weekend again, I did so on Saturday.
The ups and downs of that match are easily memorable and even though the team didn't walk away with three points, the fighting spirit displayed to earn a point at a bolstered TFC side gave positive feelings as we walked away from BMO Field.
During that maze of an exit through the carnival going on at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Section 8 Chicago chairman Pattrick Stanton pointed out to me that both Robert Earnshaw and Quincy Amarikwa scored against their former side Toronto FC and said, "That has to be the first time two players have ever done that for the Fire."
While I fancy myself a "stat man", i honestly couldn't rifle through the previous 520 matches in my head to confirm. With the help of a small bit of free time, I can confirm that Pattrick is right.... sort of, with an asterisk*
Technically on August 25, 2001 Ante Razov -AND- DaMarcus Beasley scored in a 3-1 victory over the LA Galaxy at The Rose Bowl. The reason this stat was asterisk worthy was because while Beasley, who scored a second half brace in that match was originally allocated to the LA Galaxy in 1999, he never played for the side that year.
- PERUSE: TrueCar Player Registry
Instead the Fort Wayne, Ind. native played a couple games with the Project-40 team (a precursor to Generation adidas) and the bulk of his time that year with the U.S. U-17 National Team that finished fourth at the World Championships in New Zealand. At that tournament, DMB was awarded the Silver Ball, as second best player of the competition behind teammate Landon Donovan.
In other words, while Beasley was part of the Galaxy, a lot of his time was spent away from LA before being traded to the Fire for the club's natural first round SuperDraft selections in 2000 and 2001... HISTORY SIDE BAR: The Galaxy selected Danny Califf (2000) and Isaias Bardales, Jr. (2001) with those picks.
So with that in mind I'll make up a new stat...
Saturday's goals from Earnshaw and Amarikwa were the first from Fire players in the same game who actually played for the former team they scored against. A mouth full for sure, but certainly noteworthy.
In my research, I also found three instances where a player scored a brace against his former side. All of these are listed below.
|May 22, 1999||3-1 W vs. Kansas City||Diego Gutierrez 27' 75'|
|August 25, 2001||4-1 W at LA Galaxy||Ante Razov 5', DaMarcus Beasley 64, 93'+|
|June 12, 2004||2-3 L at LA Galaxy||Ante Razov 28', 67'|
|October 12, 2008||2-2 D vs. Columbus Crew||Brian McBride 13', 79'|
|August 23, 2014||2-2 D at Toronto FC||Robert Earnshaw 70', Quincy Amarikwa 90'|