Blog

MLS Regular Season

21 June 8:54 am

The Men in Red extended their unbeaten streak to six games across all competitions on Wednesday night (4-0-2), coming behind to defeat the Colorado Rapids 2-1. Columbus notched a big win against Montreal last time out and face difficult trips to Kansas City and LA after the Saturday’s home game against the Fire.

Here are some things to keep an eye on from a tactical perspective in this big match for both teams (LIVE Saturday 6:30pm CT on My50).

The turnover game - both teams will look to pressure each other’s back line

In the Crew’s most recent loss to the Union earlier this month, the Ohio team had major problems retaining possession when put under pressure. The Union forwards, especially Jack McInerny, did not allow Columbus time on the ball and the pressure led to Philly getting on the score sheet.

Johnson, Rolfe Preview Columbus

As we know, players like Mike Magee, Chris Rolfe and Patrick Nyarko are excellent at putting pressure on the opponent’s defense and this will be important on Saturday night.

On the other side of the coin, the Crew like to deploy the high pressure tactic too, with former Fire player Dominic Oduro often hunting down defenders and not allowing them time on the ball.

READ: Berry recovers from blunder with winning goal vs. Rapids

In the Crew's 2-0 win over the Montreal Impact last weekend, Oduro stole the ball from a Montreal defender before slotting home the Crew's second goal in the 22nd minute.

Fire defender Austin Berry had an unfortunate incident in Wednesday's match against Colorado where he was stripped of the ball allowing rookie Deshorn Brown to give Colorado the lead.

In a game that is expected to be very tight, the team making the least mental mistakes could end up on top.

The battle on the left side - Duka/Lindpere vs Anor

Columbus winger Bernardo Anor won many plaudits for his performance against Montreal last week on his first start back from a horrible ACL injury.

The left-footed Venezuelan started on the right against the Impact and will be looking to build on that performance against the Fire Saturday night.

On the same side of the field, coach Frank Klopas will be choosing between former Crew winger Dilly Duka and veteran Joel Lindpere for the start.

Dan and Kevin Talk Crew

Duka played his best game for the Men in Red against Colorado on Wednesday night as he was able to get in 1v1 situations on numerous occasions and earned the penalty that equalized the match.

Lindpere has yet to fully live up to the high expectations put on him by Fire fans after his move from New York this offseason.

With the team in the middle of a 4 games in 11 day stretch, a start for Lindpere seems plausible.

Getting back into the stating XI in a huge Eastern Conference showdown could be the perfect motivation for Lindpere to put in a man of the match performance on Saturday night.

Dominic Oduro - A striker with a point to prove

With seven goals to his name this season, Dominic Oduro has landed on his feet in Columbus after his trade away from the Windy City. Oduro also seems to have developed into a more complete striker since his move.

The speedy Ghanaian’s patience on the ball has resulted in him making better decisions and linking with his midfielders more instead of going alone and trying to score.

What has impressed me about Oduro since the trade is his move away from a reliance on his right foot to a player that is comfortable shooting with both.

READ: The Influence of Jeff Larentowicz

Fire fans will remember Oduro's hot and cold finishing but on his day, he can be unstoppable. The Fire have held Oduro scoreless in two matches already this season but at home, the Ghanaian will be aiming to prove a point and it is up to the Fire defenders to keep him quiet on Saturday night.

Prediction: 2-1 Fire with a brace from midfielder Alex

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

20 June 3:03 pm

With all the talk of "Magic" Mike Magee and his ridiculous five goals in five games since joining the Fire, it was always likely that other players would be overlooked.
 
But as much as Magee (or maybe because of him) we’ve seen other players step up and contribute to the Fire’s season-saving June. Midfielders like Alex and Daniel Paladini mitigated the effects of losing Logan Pause, defenders Jalil Anibaba and new addition Bakary Soumare stabilized what was a less than sturdy backline, and up front, Patrick Nyarko, Chris Rolfe, and Sherjill MacDonald selflessly put in the work supporting Magee.
 
But perhaps the most influential non-Magee on the Fire this season has been Jeff Larentowicz. The veteran was brought in this offseason and immediately won a spot in the starting line-up, a spot he proved he deserved with his signature tackling, distribution, and even a game-winning goal early in the season.
 
 
On Wednesday night against Colorado, Larentowicz showed once again why he’s become the platform on which the Fire’s recent surge was built (see his heat map to the right).
 
It was his harrying and tackling that helped change the momentum of the game after Colorado’s early goal (see his 30th minute tackle, and the effort he put in to win a goal kick in his own box a few minutes earlier). Later in the second half, as Colorado pressed to equalize, his header just wide was the Fire’s best chance. 
 
Maybe one ten minute period showed it best: His skill in the 71st minute won the Fire a corner and diffused pressure; his block in the 78th maintained the Fire’s lead.
 
And just like his eagerness this season has led to some ups and downs (including that unfortunate red card at Montreal), his early yellow card for diving in a little over zealously threatened to hamper his effectiveness. Would he hesitate to tackle out of fear of his second yellow?
 
Nope. It seems like he doesn’t let anything shake him off. We’ve talked about “Magee Face”, that expression of all the emotions a soccer game can summon in a person, all the heartbreak and endeavor and passion. “Larentowicz Face” is the opposite. It’s stone cold. It’s not hashtag material. It’s focused and determined and sort of scary.

 


 

That’s why his reaction after his miss in the second half was so endearing. As Fire fans and the My50 announcers celebrated what looked like a goal from certain angles, Larentowicz reacted with unadulterated frustration and anger. In his mind, he should’ve scored, he knew he had it, and as a leader by example, he couldn’t contain the flash of the expectations he has of himself. It was a totally honest moment.
 
As the game Wednesday progressed, Fire fans licked their lips at the prospect of Magee (and later MacDonald), Nyarko, and Rolfe running through wide open spaces in the Colorado defense.
 
But none of the counterattacks panned out. In the end, what defined the end of the game was a little bit of luck, sure, but mostly it was the plucky work of the Fire as a unit, withstanding the pressure and closing it out. Nobody represents that more than Larentowicz, and you could read it on his face.
 
Onwards. Three points. Who’s next?

Ben Schuman-Stoler is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @bsto.

 

19 June 11:24 pm
Quote Sheet
Chicago Fire 2 – 1 Colorado Rapids
Toyota Park – June 19, 2013
 
Frank Klopas, Chicago Fire Head Coach
 
Overall thoughts on the win
 
“It’s a team effort. It’s always about the team and I think it was an important game for us in this homestand and we needed to get the three points and we found a way, again, to come back from behind. I’m just proud of the guys because I think we did create, even in the second half, good chances but also they had good looks. And that’s the game. Sometimes things have to go your way. We put the second goal [in], we created some more chances so we could get a little more comfortable lead, but in the end we suffered a little bit but the guys stuck together, they played well, and it was a great three points for us at home.”
 
On Mike Magee’s injury
 
“I think he’s a little bit sore we’ll see better tomorrow. I think he’s got ice on it, hopefully it’s not that bad but three games in seven days, we have to see how guys feel tomorrow and then make some decisions. We have players on the team that we can count on and that’s going to be the case throughout the season.”
 
On if Magee’s injury is a concern
 
“No, I think it’s not that bad but you never know. Tomorrow we will have a better idea. He’s got an ice pack right now. I felt that after that shot, he wasn’t one-hundred-percent and its good that we were able to take him out.”
 
On Austin Berry’s performance today
 
“I think it was a whole team effort. I think Austin is always a guy that is dangerous in the box and we knew that he’s very good in the air. He’s a competitor. The kid leaves everything on the field. He’s played some great matches. I think that every game he goes in and competes and leaves everything for the team on the field and that’s all you can ask for. Fantastic outing today again by him and by the whole.”
 
On if he was worried about Austin Berry after his early mistake to give up the goal
 
“No, not at all because I know him, how he is. I know him very well and I think that’s part of the game. Things happen and you have to move on. You can’t look back and as a team we always look forward and you saw his response. You see how the guy’s mentality is very strong and I think that that’s part of the game, it’s going to happen and you have to move on and we did and I think he responded well and the team responded well. But he’s got a pretty strong mentality and those things don’t faze him. Other guys maybe it’s different but with him I knew there was no issue.”
 
On the team conceding goals in the air recently
 
“I think we got to keep working on our box defending. This is something we have talked about. Baky [Soumare] is someone that’s not new into the group and we have been working on that and that’s crucial…our ability to mark in the box. But that’s not the kind of goal we gave up tonight. But I thought the back line was solid and Sean [Johnson]did a very good job coming out. Inside the box he was the man. He came out, he stopped a lot of plays in the air, but I think as a whole, that’s a crucial part of the game because where are the goals scored from? Inside the box. So our ability to get tight on the wide players so they don’t have easy service and then our ability in the box to defend is something that we work on constantly during the week but I didn’t feel there was an issue tonight. The guys did well. I think Sean [Johnson] was huge for us coming out with his sight and ability to pick up those balls. It was great.”
 
On how Dilly Duka is coming along
 
“We knew Dilly [Duka] and his ability. He’s only going to get better. He had another fantastic game tonight. He made the PK, he was very dangerous, and he’s a young player with a lot of ability. He just keeps getting better and stronger with every match.”
 
On what will be similar and different against Columbus this weekend
 
“We just got to assess where the team is. I think we have depth in the team and there’s opportunities when we play a lot of matches to count on the team as a whole. So we will see where the guys are tomorrow and we will adjust knowing that we have 3 games in 7 days but we will have a better picture of where guys are tomorrow. Like I said, we got to rely on the team and these are the times where you do that. I have confidence in the whole group.”
 
Austin Berry, Chicago Fire defender
 
On going down early in games
 
“A lot of it is our own fault, obviously tonight it was my fault.  There aren’t a lot of teams breaking us down and beating us, so if we shore things up from our end that should eliminate the early goals.”
 
On his mistake that led to the first goal
 
“Basically, I passed the ball to him.  I couldn’t have helped him out anymore. I was too lazy on the ball.  I didn’t play quickly enough and he caught me.”
 
On scoring after a mistake which lead to a Colorado goal
 
“I think this is the third time since last year that I’ve made a mistake, then come back to score a goal.”
 
On the unbeaten streak
 
“It feels good. Even early in the season we kept a good mindset.  We were still focused on the goals at hand and now we’re starting to score some goals and get the victories.  It feels good to be rewarded for all our hard work.”
 
On pattern of going down early, like last season
 
“It’s great that we can get good results to make up for our mistakes.  We have to remember not to get down on ourselves, but like we keep saying, we can’t always rely on coming back; sometimes we aren’t going to be able to put goals in the net.  Luckily tonight we were able to get that goal back in the first half, I think that was key to the victory.”
 
Patrick Nyarko, Chicago Fire midfielder
 
On giving up the early goal
 
“We need to have great concentration coming out of the gates.  I can’t wrap my mind around it happening today because I thought we were playing really well – we were creating chances and getting possession in the midfield.  The goal was just a bad mistake, but it happens.  But it let you see how strong the kid is, he came back and scored a goal and we won the game.  Giving up the early goals has got to stop.  Personally, I think it was better today because we had control of the game.”
 
On the game plan in the second half
 
“I think in the first half we handled ourselves pretty well.  It wasn’t the perfect game, but I think we were on top.  This was one of our better games all year putting the first and second halves together.  Last game we played better in the second half, but not so much in the first half.  This game we didn’t let them play to their strengths.  We dominated them, not entirely, just enough to win.”
 
Mike Magee, Chicago Fire forward
 
On the five goals in five games streak
 
“If I start talking about that it won’t be six in six, so no comment.”
 
On the PK
 
“The only thing you need to know about that goal is Dilly [Duka].  He did an incredible job to beat his guy.  He was going one on one with Marvell Wynne, which is a pretty daunting task – he just went at him.  The finish was pretty simple.”
 
On his leadership on the field
 
“The intention is to help the team win.  Tonight wasn’t even my best game.  I thought Jeff Larentowicz was fantastic, I thought Patrick Nyarko was fantastic and my only job tonight was to tap in a penalty kick so not much credit should go to me.”
 
Oscar Pareja, Colorado Rapids Head Coach
 
On what he saw tonight
 
“Our team had a very good start to the match.  We created some chances and I think we controlled the game.  The plan we designed with the boys at the beginning of the game went very well.  Unfortunately we gave up one play in the first half, where Magee took the penalty kick and scored.  Second half I thought it was tight; Chicago pushed and found an early goal in the second half off a set piece.  We reacted and we had chances to equalize but at that point, I thought the game was back and forth.  Chicago waited for us and they didn’t move their line up from the back.  Also, we tried to have the initiate to create chances and they tried to play on the counter.  Again, it could have gone both ways.  Unfortunately for us, it went to them.”
 
On feeling like they could at least had a point tonight
 
“You always think that you can get more.  At this point we have learned our lessons and we cannot keep saying we deserve more.  We just need to make it happen on the field.  We have to get the points and the points sometimes you get the points by doing the small things all the time.  I thought today we mostly were good and we had initiative but we still made some mistakes and it cost us.”
 
On the second game in a row where the defense allowed two goals
 
“We’re concerned about it.  It’s just something we were showing a lot of improvement and now in the last three we have let in goals.  That’s our main concern now.  I think it’s a bunch of little things.  We can’t point out just one, because when you attack and you defend it’s a collective effort.  We attack as a unit, we defend as a unit.  When we correct the defensive mistakes we have to see the whole team.”
 
On Chicago’s second goal and if it was offside
 
“No, I didn’t see it.  I didn’t have replay where I was.  Unfortunately I couldn’t be on the line.  I would have to see it again.  It looks to me he was off, but I have to see it and judge well.  At that point, I thought the assistant referee had him and I hope it’s not the case.”
 
On Martin Rivero’s injury
 
“He felt some tightness in his quad.  He’s a bit confused now-he’s not sure if it’s a knock there or a pull in his muscle.  We’ll be waiting for the doctors.”
 
On getting ready for Portland
 
“It’s a mental stage for us.  We had a good stretch of games where we were getting points and winning, now we had some games where we got no points.  So it’s a mental game now.  We have to prepare our team mentally and we will jump over this hurdle that we have.”
 
Deshorn Brown, Colorado Rapids Forward
 
On the match
 
“I think it was just a tough loss tonight.  We go out there and get the first goal and we thought we had the game in hand.  The team turned around and started to harm us.  We had some chances that we should have put away.  We didn’t make the chances and that turned around and hurt us.”
 
On his goal
 
“I saw the defender play back to his other defender.  I just read the play and kept going, hoping he would make a mistake, and he did.  Just got into an one-on-one with the goalkeeper and put it into the back of the net.”
 
On scoring 3 goals and four assists in his rookie season
 
“I think I’m doing pretty good and trying to get used to the league more and understand how to play a lot better so I will keep pushing myself.  Hopefully as time goes on, we progress and get ready for Portland on Sunday.”
 
On what the team needs to do to prepare for Portland
 
“We need to get some rest, and focus on the mistakes we made in this game and correct them.  Make sure we go to Portland, and switch on, do the right thing and get three points and go home happy.”
18 June 12:44 pm

After a rousing comeback against Portland last time out in the league, the Fire start a busy period Wednesday night against a tricky Colorado Rapids team (LIVE 7pm CT on My50) who just their six-game unbeaten streak snapped at the weekend by San Jose Earthquakes. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective:

Exposing the Rapids center backs: targeting Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne

Colorado's usual starting pair at the center of the defense is Shane O'Neill and Drew Moor but with the Irish-born youngster in Turkey with the US U-20 team, right back Marvell Wynne has slotted into the middle.

FIRE vs. RAPIDS: Tickets Still Available

Against San Jose last week, this pairing had a lot of trouble, especially when the Quakes attacking players separated and isolated the center backs.

The movement of Rolfe and Magee, both very mobile strikers, could open up the Colorado defense. If the Fire’s attacking pair can draw Moor/Wynne out, it can lead to space being created behind them, something San Jose did well last weekend.

Keeping an eye on Deshorn Brown - the rookie has 4 assists this season

Similar to my thoughts a few weeks ago about D.C. rookie Kyle Porter, Deshorn Brown has caught my eye for Colorado this season.

Playing on the left of a front three he’s dangerous and a good supplier of the ball for striker Edson Buddle. Much of Colorado's chances in the past few matches have come from Brown’s side.

Larentowicz, Duka Preview Colorado

The Rapids will be without Atiba Harris after his red against San Jose last week which puts even more emphasis on Brown to step up in the Kittitian’s absence.

Right-sided players Jalil Anibaba and Patrick Nyarko will need to be very wary of the rookie on Wednesday night.

Fire squad rotation - my case in for it

The Men in Red have a tough stretch of 4 games in 11 days and it would be very demanding on the players to try and stick with the same starting XI for all four because of a risk of burnout.

A more likely approach would be one of steady and not drastic rotation meaning making a few changes each match and not starting a completely different team. This is of course assuming the team doesn't pick up any injuries or suspensions during this stretch.

READ: Nyarko says next eight day stretch is "crunch time"

Giving a few players a break Wednesday night with one eye on the tough away Eastern Conference match against Columbus on Saturday might be a worthwhile policy for head coach Frank Klopas.

Fire squad rotation - my case against

Something fans have criticized coach Klopas for is sticking to a regular starting XI and not making too many changes from game to game.

That being said, the team is currently unbeaten in four games and if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

The last 20 minutes against Portland last weekend was the team’s best spell all season and if they can continue that form the next few weeks could see us in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals and moving closer to the MLS Cup playoff positions in the East.

With the back line finally stable and the Mike Magee/Chris Rolfe partnership starting to really gel, there is a strong case for coach Klopas to stick with the same XI during this run of games.

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

17 June 9:47 am

In what was widely considered one of the best results of 2012, the Chicago Fire earned a 3-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls at Toyota Park on June 17, 2012.

Patrick Nyarko got the scoring going early with a powering fourth minute header which left Red Bull defender Roy Miller on the ground in its wake. 

The shortest man in the box would equalize just after halftime as Mehdi Ballouchy picked out Dax McCarthy at the back post to level things at 1-1 in the 55th minute. 

The Fire should have gone back ahead nine minutes later. Making his home re-debut, Chris Rolfe slipped Dominic Oduro through the Red Bull back line and the Ghanaian hit a desperate sliding effor that Ryan Meara got a piece of but would trickle all the way over the line.

Despite the whole ball crossing the line, former Fire defender Wilman Conde slid to scoop it out of the net and referee Baldomero Toledo relied on his linesman who waved off the goal, sending Fire players into a bit of fury.

The Fire would rightfully go ahead four minutes later as Gonzalo Segares was fed into the box on the left and saw his first effort saved by Meara before emphatically slamming home the rebound, charging the home crowd up in the 68th minute.

Rolfe would ice the game 13 minutes later when a great piece of individual skill from Nyarko down the right eventually found the veteran Fire striker at the back post for a tap-in, giving the Fire a 3-1 win on Father's Day.

12 June 8:59 am

According to the TrueCar Player Registry, Amos Magee played only eight competitives games, three goals and 225 minutes as an A-League "call-up" player for the Men in Red in 2001 and 2002.

In fact, as of now, he has a better strike rate than man of the hour and namesake Mike Magee (three goals in 267 minutes).

Despite his short time with the Fire, the revered lower-league striker wrote a legend of his own in Chicago with one very memorable extra time goal in the 2001 U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal victory over the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Wheaton College.

In the first of our Fire "Unsung Heroes" series, we speak to Amos "Chesty" Magee about the cult following he earned from his short time with the Fire. 

10 June 5:06 pm

A smattering of the changes the Fire made in coming back from 2-0 down for the draw Saturday night [clears throat]: Chris Rolfe moved from up top to out left, Patrick Nyarko moved from out right to up top, Dilly Duka moved from the left to the right, Maicon Santos came in for Rolfe and moved up top, Nyarko moved out left, Sherjill MacDonald came on for Duka and went out left, Nyarko moved out right (completing his left-right-center trifecta), Daniel Paladini came on for Jeff Larentowitz.
 
And that’s just the visible changes. Because what was just as apparent were the invisible changes: the change of mindset, the change of momentum, the change of attitude. Something changed in the Fire, something transformed from dejection into something like triumph - all of which you can see on Mike Magee’s face after Paladini’s equalizer, right about here:


 

“Tonight I about lost my mind, I’ll admit it,” Magee said after the match, referring to his spats with the ref and others that earned him the respect of every Fire fan watching (and a yellow card). “I was just yelling, showing emotion and trying to light a fire under whoever was looking.”
 
But look also in the moments just before the game-tying freekick:

Forget the tired legs, forget the frustration of being down. Look at Jalil Anibaba, Nyarko, Alex, and Paladini all working together, throwing themselves around, eventually overcoming the Timber players on the far side and feeding Magee. Nothing represents Saturday’s comeback as well as that image of Alex anticipating the ball squeezing up the line, hustling back from the Portland box, and sliding in, while at the same time Paladini, tracking the play, anticipates the result, hurries over to help Alex, saves the ball after his tackle from going out, and plays Anibaba, who plays Nyarko, who plays Magee.
 
The crowd goes wild.
 
For the third game in a row, Klopas’ second half gambit worked. The game changed. It changed physically, in terms of where players were and what numbers on the scoreboard said, but it also changed intangibly, mentally, emotionally. It’s becoming a pattern: most of the Fire’s goals this season (6 of 11) have come late in the 82nd minute or later.
 
Part of that is preparation, is team togetherness, the kind of stuff coaches like to talk about. Klopas told reporters he talked over readiness with his subs: “‘Listen, just be prepared to go in right from the start. Or when you get called on in the second half, your ability now to come in and influence the game, you have to be ready.’”
 
Or like Paladini said after the game: “It’s one of those things where you have to be ready when your name’s called upon – you either shy away from it or you step-up to the plate.”
 
The good news for Paladini and the other subs is that with the team in the midst of a stretch of 11 games in 49 days, they’ll definitely be getting more time to influence other games. As Logan Pause gets fit again, too, Klopas is going to have some interesting decisions to make in June.
 
After finally getting close to something resembling a consistent line-up, will Pause take his spot back from Alex? And what about the way the subs keep affecting games? Does Paladini deserve to start again? Can we keep expecting Klopas’ late game changes to make the difference?

07 June 11:55 am

Much like the shirt exchange post-match, the scarf exchange between supporters of opposing clubs is held as a sacred tradition.

Seeing as almost all of the live soccer I take in these days comes from a press box view, the scarf exchange is one thing I haven’t had the opportunity to carry out of late.

Take a trip back a few weeks ago when I set off for Philadelphia to cover the Fire’s match against the Union. Sitting near (but not in) the desired exit row on my Southwest Airlines flight, I was diligently working on an article for the next day when I looked up to see one of the flight attendants wearing an apron decked out in Timbers Army patches.

I meandered through how Alaska Airlines might feel about this whole situation before asking the Southwest attendant how much of a Timbers fan he was.

Jason or “A-B” as he’s know in the Southwest world was quick to tell me he was a member of Timbers Army and went to as many matches as his work schedule would allow.

I then went ahead and told him what I did for a living working with the Chicago Fire at which point he got out his phone (on airplane mode of course) and showed me a number of photos from the two side’s previous encounter last May in Portland.

Speaking of the Section 8 Chicago/Timbers Army friendly alliance, he even took some photos with Fire supporters, many of which are friends of mine.

He then had to go back to his duties, serving drinks to the many passengers behind me.

Remembering that I always travel with a Fire scarf, I dug through my carry-on bag and pulled out the very famous Tetris scarf produced last season by Section 8 and as he passed through the cabin again, I stopped and gave it to him, to his great surprise.

He walked to the back of the plane and soon enough, returned with his own Timbers Army scarf, complete with many of the same patches that adorned his apron. I was completely surprised by this gesture as you could see that this scarf had been worn through many a match and held great importance.

I asked him if he was really alright with parting with such an important piece of his Timbers memories and he didn't even think twice. 

And thus, soccer diplomacy occurred once again. Those Timbers Army folk (of which there will be 175 at Toyota Park Saturday night), aren't so bad.