As they do every week, MLSsoccer.com's Dan Haiek and Matt Doyle give their view on Sunday's clash between the Fire and Dynamo...
After picking up their first win of the season last week, the Fire travel to Houston for Sunday’s match (4pm CT on UniMas/La Ley 107.9FM) brimming with confidence. The Dynamo lost again on the road last week against Portland but are returning to BBBV Compass Stadium, a place where they have never lost. Here are a few things to look out for from a tactical perspective:
Giles Barnes – excelling in the role of second striker and deceptively good in the air
Giles Barnes has had an excellent start to 2013, playing in an almost free role just behind the target striker. Barnes is dangerous in a number of areas: he can drop deep or wide with the ball, taking on defenders, he can also win flicks on to his strike partner and he has come up with two headed goals already this season.
AthletiCo Coaching Corner
Against Portland last week and San Jose the week before, Barnes linked up well with central midfielders Adam Moffat and Ricardo Clark, taking the ball from them before turning and running at defenders from deep or around the box.
In the air, Barnes won many dangerous flick-ons against San Jose in Houston’s last home match. Barnes’ ability to win balls in the air seemed to baffle San Jose, who were clearly anticipating him to be running onto the flicks by Will Bruin.
In the matches against San Jose and the week before against Vancouver, Barnes chipped in with two headed goals. When teams play Houston, it is easy to get distracted by players such as Brad Davis or Boniek Garcia but Barnes has been their most dangerous player this season.
The Fire cannot give him space on the ground and players like Austin Berry need to match Barnes in the air.
The possible return of Arne – if he returns, who moves to the bench?
Much of the talk this week in the Fire camp is the potential return of Arne Friedrich to a Fire back line that has been decimated by injuries at the beginning of the season.
Though everyone is looking forward to Arne’s return, it brings up a very tough tactical decision for head coach Frank Klopas, namely who plays at right back.
Wells Thompson has done a very solid job over the past two matches in that position, improving from a shaky first half against Chivas to having a standout game in last week’s win against NYRB.
Wells stated this week that he would like to “lock the down the spot and become a regular starter" and he certainly has put forth a good case to the coaches.
Thompson’s distribution out of the back is excellent and as the away team this week, the Fire will be looking to hold onto the ball for as long as possible and not be wasteful in possession.
Paladini, Thompson Preview Houston
The other realistic candidate for the starting right back spot should Friedrich return is Jalil Anibaba, last season’s starter. Against a physical and big team like Houston, Jalil’s strength could be needed.
Anibaba is also excellent in the air and with players like Barnes and Bruin to contend with, Klopas may turn to the third-year defender.
Houston’s knack for scoring goals from set pieces is also well-known and Anibaba’s presence in the box could be all-important on Sunday afternoon.
The Dynamo's frequency of scoring from corners is such that the home fans get to their feet for every corner, expecting a goal or good chance to be created from each one.
Though there was a lot of talk about Logan Pause moving to right-back at the beginning of this season, I don’t see the Fire changing too much the in the midfield after last week’s performance.
A start for Jalil at right back would be tough on Wells Thompson after two great performances, but tactically, starting Anibaba would make the most sense.
Prediction: 1-1 with the Fire goal coming from Sherjill MacDonald
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @Irish_Steve.
Former Chicago Fire player Jared Montz is Juggling to save lives... and you should too.
The Online Soccer Academy World Juggle-A-Thon will take place on April 25th (World Malaria Day) to raise money for Nothing But Nets, a foundation that provides bed nets for people in Africa to prevent malaria.
Check out the cameos made by some Fire and Red Stars players, as well as some folks from Section 8 Chicago in Jared's #SoccerWalking Chicago video below.
For more information on the Juggle-A-Thon, or to make a donation Click Here.
Last month we asked you to help us pick who our Quaker Bobblehead giveaway should be for our July 7 game against Sporting KC.
After two weeks of voting, it was clear that one player campaigned much harder than the rest of his teammates for the right to be immortalized on a Quaker Bobblehead.
The first 5,000 supporters into Toyota Park that day will receive one. Get your tickets here!
Following Sunday's 3-1 win over New York the two club's reserve sides also played. With a lot of injuries, the Fire were forced to field five Academy and one guest player in what we'll call a character-building 6-1 defeat...
I'll be honest, there wasn't much pretty about the game but Fire rookie midfielder Yazid Atouba did reward the fans that stuck around with the beautiful strike. Que Golazo!
Maicon Santos' 83rd minute goal on Sunday was big for more than one reason. Yes it was the game-winner. Yes it got the 899 minute scoreless monkey off his back but it also stands as the 700th regular season goal in Chicago Fire history.
See below the list of other Fire centurions... Ironically enough, three of the club's seven centurion goals came against New York...
|100||Josh Wolff||8/22/1999 4-3 L (SO) at Dallas|
|200||David Hayes||6/30/2001 3-1 W vs. MetroStars|
|300||Damani Ralph||7/19/2003 3-1 W vs. New England|
|400||Thiago||8/10/2005 3-2 L vs. Kansas City|
|500||Chad Barrett||5/25/2008 5-1 W vs. New York|
|600||Peter Lowry||10/8/2010 vs. Columbus|
|700||Maicon Santos||4/7/2013 vs. New York|
Now, what could be better? Maicon's 83rd minute winner is also up for MLS Goal of the Week. VOTE HERE or Text G5 to 22442!
A quick update on the injury front for Sunday's game vs. New York...
MLSsoccer.com's Franco Panizio reports that forward Fabian Espindola, who has been listed as questionable all week with a hamstring strain, will not be traveling to Chicago for Sunday's game.
Espindola also missed Red Bull's 2-1 win over Philadelphia last week.
Panizio also reports that frontline partner Thierry Henry will be part of the 18, though he seems likely to come off the bench for the second-straight week.
Also listed as questionable in recovery from an MCL strain, the Frenchman played 31 minutes and scored the game-winner in his team's victory over the Union.