Because we love quoting what Landon Donovan says about current members of the Fire, we couldn't help ourselves when we saw his quote about his former coach with both San Jose and LA, Frank Yallop in Sunday's feature in the Chicago Tribune.
"Frank is the epitome of a players coach," Donovan said. "Every player who ever has played for him absolutely loved their time with him and would run through a wall for him. … He treats his players with respect and inspires hard work and success through calm leadership."
Landon's quote goes along with everything I've heard about the Fire's new head coach and Director of Soccer from former players and while Yallop admits he has a lot of work to do this offseason, you can't help but be excited about the first time he actually gets to coach the Fire in 2014.
Just 11 more Saturdays until the start of preseason and 15 until March...
Check out the full feature from Jack McCarthy here [+].
Quotes from newly acquired Fire forward Mike Magee and head coach Frank Klopas following Monday's training session at Toyota Park.
Chicago Fire Forward Mike Magee
Reaction from friends and family to his return to Chicago…
“People are coming out of the woodwork. I moved away when I was 15 and I haven’t moved back since. I got a lot of family here, I’ve kept in touch with all my friends so its good to be back to say the least.”
Realizing the trade was a possibility…
“It’s been on my mind pretty much since I left. I tried to get back [here] a couple times in the past and then I think throughout the process with Robbie Rogers, that whole saga with him trying to get to LA, it crept in my mind that somebody had to go to Chicago and I raised my hand.”
On if he thought he would be the player traded…
“No, I didn’t [think it would be me]. I have to thank the Galaxy. I had a good talk with Bruce, mentioned I’m from here and that it was long past due that I get home. The Galaxy were great in facilitating that.”
On if he expects to play this weekend…
“I hope to play on Wednesday. I haven’t spoken to them about what the plans are but they brought me here to play.”
On if the Fire can still make the playoffs…
“Of course. We’re trying to catch Philly who I believe is 10 points ahead of us and we have two games in hand. We have to start getting some points. It’s still a very young season. Even watching the guys, they played well and things aren’t going their way. Little finishes and they’re getting punished for all their mistakes and sometimes that’s how it goes. We’ll get it right.”
On how much he’s watched the team recently…
“Not as much as I’d like to. Obviously I watched the game in Salt Lake and I’ve seen them here and there but I need to catch up quick.”
On if he’s talked to Frank Klopas about his role…
“No we had a general conversation. We were more talking about Chicago things but he knows I like to play forward and midfield. I’m the kind of guy that just wants to be on the field.”
On which spot he prefers playing more…
“It really doesn’t matter to be honest.”
On if he feels pressure coming into a team that hasn’t scored a lot this season…
“I put enough pressure on myself just to perform anyways. It’s obviously added pressure when you’re on the outside of the playoffs looking in. Instantly when the trade became official I felt that pressure but there’s no added pressure to score goals and do anything different than what I’ve done. The main focus is to starting getting points, starting catching Philly.”
On the first time he walked in the Fire locker room…
“It was the first time I was nervous in a while. Obviously there’s awkward conversations and kind of meeting some guys, catching up with some old guys. I haven’t had that feeling since I went to LA.
“Everything was great. It was more than I expected and there were a lot more faces I knew than I thought I would. They have a great environment here but unfortunately the points aren’t showing it.”
On how many guys he knew before coming to the Fire…
“I’ve known Rolfie and Logan [Pause] for a while. [Mike] Matkovich – I’ve known him since I was young. I played for the Sockers and he was a Magic guy so I hated him then. Not so much now.
“I’ve known Frank as well since I was a Fire fan. As cliché as that is, Frank’s a guy I’ve always loved as a player and we’ve kept in touch. Maicon [Santos] from his Chivas days, Wells [Thompson] from us being in the league forever. There’s just a bunch of good guys to be honest.”
On translating his MLS Cup winning experience to the Fire…
“I hope so. It’s weird coming in. I have to cut the cord with LA and try not to mention anything about that. Nobody wants to hear me talk about any of that stuff. Obviously there are certain things that we had there and I’ll try to implement some of those things. I played with some pretty cool players in LA so hopefully I’ll try to take some of the things I learned from them and teach some of the young guys here. They have good leadership here. Larentowicz and Logan are two good guys – good locker room guys.”
Chicago Fire head coach Frank Klopas
I just think there’s opportunities to bring quality players in who with any team, you start the season and obviously you look at situations you have to address. [Bakary Soumare and Mike Magee] are two quality players, I think those are two quality players. They’ll make our team better and add more depth to the squad. There are a lot of games left to play. There was a need in the back with our injury situation so getting a guy like Baky with his experience, I feel he’s missed a lot over the year but every game that he plays once he gets back to his form and fitness level. You saw it the other day and he’s not at the level he should be [yet].
Mike obviously you know his experience but he’s just a quality player. Plus this is a guy from Chicago, here. The pride that he has with the team and what it means for him to be back. I think that’s important – bringing two quality guys that have ties, with Baky starting his career here and Mike being from here, I think that’s important.
On if Mike Magee will play in Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup match at Charlotte…
“I can’t give you my scouting report because everybody’s watching. [Laughs] I think the chances are pretty high.”
On where he envisions Magee playing…
“Goalkeeper, goalkeeper. I’m going to invert positions. Sean’s going to go forward, Mikey’s in the back.
“I think you get him around the goal, that’s where he’s played. Depending on the need, you can move him around but I think around the goal, with his ability to combine and finish plays is quality. I think its important to get him closer to the goal but obviously things can change depending on what happens or the circumstances with injuries because he can play out wide also or in the midfield.”
On taking momentum from Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Real Salt Lake into Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup match at Charlotte.
“It’s one game but it’s something to build on. Cup games – you look around the world, you can’t underestimate them. They’re difficult matches if you approach them in the wrong way. We need to be very focused and serious and it’s a tournament that we enter because we want to win. I think there are four banners up there that show the success the club has had and we want to do everything that we possibly can to try to put ourselves in a position to win. We start Wednesday and we need to be very focused and not underestimate anyone. You see upsets all over the world with games like this. The guys understand that, they’re focused and ready and we’re going to put out the best squad to give us a chance to win.”
On if Mike Magee’s MLS Cup championship experience is something that can translate in Chicago…
“For sure. With his experience and also being in games like that. He’s been around different teams and played with a lot of great players that he’s benefited from but also they’ve benefited from him. You can put some guys to play next to Messi but you have to have some quality too. For sure that experience will help but he’s just a quality player. He’s easy to play with but also makes everyone around him better and he’s from Chicago.”
On if Soumare and Magee’s ties to Chicago will help with the transition process…
“Í think that helps a lot but also these are guys within the league. They know the league well but also they feel at home here. Baky started here, Mike grew up here, his family is here and Baky has a lot of people here he calls family. I think that’s important but more than anything they’re guys that really care about the club.
"There’s a deep meaning to these guys and there’s a pride when they put the jersey on. You have to care, it’s gotta be something that hurts inside when you don’t do well. It might not be the same for any other club but for us, that’s what it means here. When we walk around, we have a lot of passion for the team, the city and soccer here in this town. For me and my staff and guys like Baky and Mike and the rest of the team, that’s how we feel. You gotta care, you gotta be honored to put that jersey on and that’s what it means to these guys.”
Should the Chicago Fire come away victorious over the Charlotte Eagles in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup next Wednesday, the team is guaranteed to host its fourth round match against either the Columbus Crew or Dayton Dutch Lions on Wednesday, June 12 at Toyota Park.
I'll have a full play-by-play of the draw later today on Chicago-Fire but until then, see below all fourth round U.S. Open Cup matchups:
#1 – New England Revolution/Rochester Rhinos hosts Reading United AC/New York Red Bulls winner
#2 – D.C. United/Richmond Kickers winner hosts Ocean City Nor’easters/Philadelphia Union winner
#3 – Chicago Fire hosts Dayton Dutch Lions/Columbus Crew winner
-or- Columbus Crew host Charlotte Eagles
-or- Dayton Dutch Lions host Charlotte Eagles
#4 – Sporting KC host Colorado Rapids/Orlando City winner
-or- Colorado Rapids/Orlando City hosts Des Moines Menace
#5 – FC Dallas hosts FC Tucson/Houston Dynamo winner
-or- Houston Dynamo hosts Ft. Lauderdale Strikers
-or- Ft. Lauderdale Strikers vs. FC Tucson (Host TBD)
#6 – LA Galaxy/Carolina Railhawks winner hosts Chivas USA/LA Blues winner
#7 – Atlanta Silverbacks/Real Salt Lake winner hosts San Jose Earthquakes/Charleston Battery winner
#8 – Seattle Sounders will host Wilmington Hammerheads/Portland Timbers winner
-or- Portland Timbers will host Tampa Bay Rowdies
-or- Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Wilmington Hammerheads (Host TBD)
The Fire head to Philadelphia on Saturday night to take on the Union for the second time in seven days (Coverage begins 6pm CT on My50). The Men in Red dropped a heart breaker 1-0 at home last week despite creating a number of chances. Philly played LA at home at midweek and lost 4-1 after a second half defensive collapse. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective.
Rolfe and Nyarko up top – repeat the first half of last week
In the first half against the Union at Toyota Park last week Patrick Nyarko terrorized the Philly defense, running at them with pace and creating a number of opportunities.
Rolfe and Nyarko combined well and were very close to each other on the pitch. The movement of the pair dragged the Philly center backs out leaving massive pockets of space in behind for the Fire to exploit.
WATCH: Nyarko, Berry Preview Philly
This happened on a number of occasions and NBC analyst Kyle Martino pointed it out over and over again on the broadcast.
In the second half however, the duo were too far apart and then Rolfe was moved out wide later. It goes without saying they’ll need to play closer together on Saturday.
When Rolfe and Nyarko force the center backs out of position, players like Dilly Duka and Joel Lindpere need to do a better job of tucking in and taking advantage of that space, something the team didn’t do enough of last week.
Philly were unable to deal with the pace of Nyarko last week and the Fire should look to get the ball to the Ghanaian as much as possible again Saturday.
Kleberson – keeping an eye on the “unknown” Brazilian
In Philly’s game against the Galaxy Wednesday night the Union gave a first start to Kleberson in midfield. In the first half, LA was unable to deal with his movement and defense-splitting passes.
Kleberson got forward constantly to help out Jack McInerney and Sebastian Le Toux in the attack and was allowed two or three shots from just outside the box. He also dropped deep and found the strikers with some brilliant through balls.
In the second half, LA was a lot tighter on the Brazilian and he was less effective. Though he may not be fit enough to play the entire 90 minutes against the Fire, I would expect him to start after his excellent full debut against LA.
Logan Pause and either Daniel Paladini or Jeff Larentowicz must track Kleberson's runs and be wary of balls played in behind. Logan did a fantastic job of cutting out through balls in last weekend’s match and the Fire will need a similar effort from the captain on Saturday, especially if Kleberson gets the start.
Focusing on Philly’s left side – opportunities for Duka and Thompson
I spoke last week about the weaknesses of Philly defender Raymon Gaddis who filled in on the right for the suspended Sheanon Williams last weekend. Against LA on Wednesday night, Gaddis returned to left back and was again caught too far forward on a number of occasions.
On the one hand, Gaddis and Keon Daniel combine very well in the attack and are certainly a threat but both players fail to track back defensively when the Union turns the ball over.
On a number of occasions on Wednesday night Bakary Soumare had to come over to almost the left wing to cover for Gaddis who was nowhere to be found. LA took full advantage of this, attacking down Gaddis’ side for most of the match.
Against Philly last weekend, right back Wells Thompson looked somewhat reluctant to come forward despite the fact that Dilly Duka was constantly coming inside and leaving space for Wells to run into. Both Thompson and Duka should be looking to attack Gaddis at every opportunity on Saturday night.
Prediction: 3-1 Fire with goals from Nyarko, Rolfe and Lindpere
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @Irish_Steve.
In case you missed it, I had the opportunity to serve as a witness for today's Third Round U.S. Open Cup draw at Soccer House in Chicago.
I detailed the interesting tidbits of how the draw is done but in case you don't want to nerd out, just check out the potential third round matchups below...
HOME TEAMS LISTED FIRST
#1 Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USL-Pro) vs. Philadelphia Union -or- Philadelphia Union vs. Ocean City Nor'easters
#2 Richmond Kickers (USL-Pro) vs. D.C. United -or- D.C. United vs. Icon FC (USASA)
#3 Rochester Rhinos (USL-Pro) vs. New England Revolution -or- New England Revolution vs. GPS Portland Phoenix (USL PDL)
#4 Charlotte Eagles (USL-Pro) vs. Chicago Fire -or- Chicago Fire vs. Seattle Sounders U-23 (USL PDL)
#5 Orlando City Lions (USL-Pro) vs. Colorado Rapids -or- Colorado Rapids vs. Ocala Stampede (USL PDL)
#6 Ft. Lauderdale Strikers (NASL) / Laredo Heat (USL PDL) vs. FC Dallas
#7 Charleston Battery (USL-Pro) / Portland Timbers U-23 vs. San Jose Earthquakes
#8 Sporting KC vs. Minnesota United FC (NASL) - Des Moines Menace (USL PDL) / Madison 56ers (NPSL)
#9 Real Salt Lake vs. Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL) / Georgia Revolution (USASA)
#10 LA Blues (USL-Pro) / Ventura County Fusion (USL PDL) vs. Chivas USA
#11 Carolina Rail Hawks (NASL) / Carolina Dynamo (USL PDL) vs. LA Galaxy
#12 Columbus Crew vs. Dayton Dutch Lions (USL-Pro) / Dearborn SC (USASA) winner
#13 New York Red Bulls vs. Harrisburg City Islanders (USL-Pro) / Reading United (USL PDL) winner
#14 San Antonio Scorpions (NASL) / FC Tucson (USL PDL vs. Houston Dynamo
#15 Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL) vs. Seattle Sounders FC -or- Seattle Sounders vs. VSI Tampa Bay (USL-Pro)
#16 Portland Timbers vs. Wilmington Hammerheads (USL-Pro) / Austin Aztex (USL PDL)
The 2013 MLS campaign kicks off today and the All-In Podcast crew has made their picks for the weekend matches... We'll tally these throughout the season and be sure to point out who does the worst every week on the Podcast...
Philadelphia vs. Sporting KC
(3/2 4pm CT; MLS Live)
Vancouver vs. Toronto FC
(3/2 5:30pm CT; MLS Live)
Houston vs. D.C. United
(3/2 7:00pm CT; NBCSN)
FC Dallas vs. Colorado
(3/2 7:30pm CT; MLS Live)
Seattle vs. Montreal
(3/2 9:30pm CT; MLS Live)
Chivas USA vs. Columbus
(3/2 9:30pm CT; MLS Live)
LA Galaxy vs. Chicago
(3/3 4pm CT; UniMas)
Portland vs. New York
(3/3 6:30pm CT; ESPN2)
San Jose vs. Real Salt Lake
(3/3 9:00pm CT; MLS Live)
While most of MLS kicks off today, we in Fire country have to wait more sleep before we watch the Men in Red take on two-time defending MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy Sunday at 4pm on UniMas.
Whet the appetite with this video where MLSsoccer.com's Dan Haiek and Matt Doyle talk one of the most intriguing matches of Opening Weekend...
The Fire start the 2013 MLS season at the Home Depot Center on Sunday against the two-time defending champions LA Galaxy (LIVE 4pm CT on UniMas). Both teams made some major changes over the off-season and will be looking to start 2013 off on the right step. Here are a few tactical things to keep an eye on...
New central midfield pairing – how will the JL’s play together?
Last season, the Fire paired Logan Pause and Pavel Pardo in central midfield. This season, two new midfielders take their places: MLS veterans Jeff Larentowicz and Joel Lindpere. Both have played together in preseason but the regular season, against the defending champions at the Home Depot Center is a different animal.
Lindpere is noted for his attacking ability but he will be required to help Larentowicz defensively, especially when the Fire turn the ball over. It will be important for both players to hold their positions and not get caught too far apart.
In an away match, it is vital to hold on to possession when you get it and it will be important for both of the JL’s to link well with each other through the match.
Set pieces – how will LA deal with service from Lindpere?
One thing that really stood out during the preseason was Lindpere’s ability to deliver a good ball into the box, especially from dead ball situations. Time after time, Lindpere put balls into the danger area – the space between the penalty spot and the six yard box. The Fire got some goals from set pieces last year and players like Austin Berry are a major threat from them.
Larentowicz is also good in the air, scoring a header in the Carolina Challenge Cup from a Lindpere corner. The Galaxy will be looking to avoid giving up silly free kicks around the area and will try to limit the number of corners the Fire but with Lindpere’s quality, the Fire can be very dangerous in this department.
LA will be debuting the vastly experienced ‘keeper Carlo Cudincini and the Fire’s set pieces will question whether he and his defense are on the same page.
Dilly Duka vs Sean Franklin – youthful exuberance vs experience
Dilly Duka looks set to make his debut for the Fire on Sunday, starting on the left wing. Duka’s opponent will likely be Sean Franklin, one of the best right backs in the league and a player with well over 100 MLS games under his belt.
This matchup is fascinating because just as Duka loves to get forward and take on his man, Franklin regularly pushes up to support in the attack, contributing with his fair share of assists. Duka will need to find a good balance between trying to keep Franklin pinned back by pushing forward, and helping out Gonzalo Segares when Franklin does advance to support the attack.
Duka is a very creative player and could end up giving Franklin a tough time but on the other side of the coin, if Segares and Duka are not in tandem, Franklin could hurt the Fire.
Robbie Keane – it’s not just all about goals
Robbie Keane’s goals dragged the Gals to their second MLS Cup victory in a row last season but his play is not all about goals. He likes to drop into the hole and link up with the Galaxy’s midfielders. Keane is very good and holding onto the ball in tight spaces and playing through balls to advancing players.
At Euro 2012, Keane played a similar role for the Republic of Ireland but was often crowed out, something the Fire should look to do if and when Keane drops deeper into the hole. Keane will certainly miss Landon Donovan and Mike Magee on Sunday but even without them, he is a major threat and should prove a handful for Berry, Friedrich and co.
Prediction: 2-1 Fire with goals from Sherjill MacDonald and Arne Friedrich.
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @irish_steve.
The beginning of MLS scheduling season came and went today with the announcement of all team’s First Kick and Home Opening matches for the 2013 campaign.
Praise to the heavens, for the first time in four years, the Fire won’t be charged with opening up a new stadium but that’s likely only because no new MLS grounds are set to open until 2014. See you then, San Jose.
In case you missed it, the Fire open up at two-time defending MLS Cup champions on Sunday, March 3 before returning home to host the New England Revolution for Opening Day at Toyota Park on Saturday, March 9.
Because Sporting KC opens up their first two matches on the road, we also found out that the Fire will be their opponent when they open their third season at LiveStrong Sporting Park on March 16.
Some interesting things you should know about the team’s first three games and opponents…
· If you felt a slight frost come over you with today’s announcement, it’s because both the March 3 First Kick match and March 9 Opening Day game will be the earliest competitive matches in club history.
· The earliest game in Fire history came in a CONCACAF Champions Cup match on March 16, 2002 at Guatemalan side CSD Municipal as the Men in Red used a 55th minute goal from Dema Kovalenko to take the first leg 1-0.
· The earliest home game in Fire history also came in the return leg four days later when Ante Razov and Carlos Bocanegra scored to give the Fire a 3-0 aggregate win and push them to the next round of the tournament.
· The Fire have actually played four of the team’s previous 15 home openers against New England, going 3-0-1 against the Revolution (2003: 1-1 draw, 2006: 3-3 draw, 2007: 1-0 win, 2008: 4-0 win)
· The Fire have faced at least one of their three opening opponents in 2013 in their first three matches 10 times out of 15 seasons.
· Much like the team opened up at home three years in a row against New England, they also had a spell between 1998-2000 that saw them face Kansas City in one of their first three matches of the year. In total, they’ve played Kansas City six times (1998, '99, '00, '03, '04, '11) inside their first three games of the season, going 3-2-1 in those instances.
· The First Kick match on March 3 marks the first time the Fire will open up a season against the LA Galaxy. It also marks the first time in club history the Fire will kickoff against the previous season’s MLS Cup champion.
· Overall, the Fire are a combined 5-3-4 when facing the three sides in their first three regular season matches of a campaign.
So what do you think of the first three matchups? What date are you picking in the “Full Schedule Release” pool?