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Vancouver Whitecaps FC

30 July 11:35 pm
Quote Sheet – MLS Regular Season
Chicago Fire vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Toyota Park – Bridgeview, Ill.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
 
Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop
 
On making changes in the center of defense
 
"I guess switching it up is a part of football. I thought they did well tonight. Other than, maybe winning the game. It is the most solid we have looked, limiting a pretty potent team to just a couple of chances. I think having said that we didn't look as dangerous as I think we've looked at home at times. It's a fine line. We had chances tonight, you know some good looks. I think if Mike slips it by the last defender he gets a good chance. I think Quincy had a good shot from a decent angle. I was pleased with the whole overall the defensive unit. I think Patrick [Ianni] and Jeff [Larentowicz] did a good job."
 
On reports of signing Jermaine Jones
 
"We have interest in the player, for sure. You know we have spoken to the agent. At this point there is nothing to add until someone agrees or it gets concluded. The truth in the matter is we have interest in the player, but nothing has been finalized yet. That's all I can kind of say on that."
 
On the decision to not start Harry Shipp
 
"He’s just tired. I had a good chat with Harry. I think he looked a bit tired, not in the Tottenham game, but the San Jose game, everyone looked tired. They hit a bit of a wall, these young guys, when they come into the league, and I think he just hit a bit of a wall. But, I think he looked fresh when he came on, so that was good, and we will decide what to do on the weekend. It was for resting and just getting him fresh.”
 
On Razvan Cocis’ debut
 
"I think he did okay against Tottenham, its hard, he's not really trained with us. He's been doing his own work. We have been away on a road trip and we came back, and we’ve not really trained because we played three games in a week. He's clean and simple and once he gets his legs under and becomes part of the team, it will be a lot easier for him.
 
On the direction of the Fire after multiple ties
 
“Where do we go from here? Trying to get a win is the next plan. It is what it is. We’re obviously not ready to go and take a game over and win, because we would’ve done that by now. Not losing is sometimes a good thing, but at this point in the season we need to win. I think that tonight was a good opportunity to do that, and we didn’t quite do it. I thought we played a pretty good game all around, without being really dynamic in the final third; and that’s what wins games. Another big one coming up in the weekend; we’re still kind of in the picture, and so that’s the most important thing for the club.”
On the health of Patrick Nyarko
 
“I just spoke to him tonight, and he’s still struggling a little bit. He was getting his ankle scoped the next week, and he did his knee in the KC game, and that’s what he’s been out with for two to three months. Yeah, we miss Patrick; I said to him tonight, ‘I haven’t seen you for two or three months,’ You know, you miss quality, and he’s a quality player. I think he may have maybe made a difference a little bit tonight. But you can’t stop injuries, and that’s the way it goes with him.”
On Mike Magee and Quincy Amarikwa playing together
 
“I think tonight they played closely together, and it was better than it has been. The forwards should be closely together if they’re playing as a twin pair. I always like them to be underneath or working off each other. I thought they did a better job; again, if Mike slips by a guy and scores, and then Quincy has that chance where Mike plays him in and all of a sudden you’re sitting there and they’ve done well. It’s a work in progress; we have to make sure that we stick with it and try to keep going because it’s all we have at the moment.”
On the amount of draws
 
“You’re not playing for a tie, that’s the big thing. We put people in to change the game, and so did they. They’re putting on their players to try and get a goal, and we’re putting on our guys to try and get a goal. I can’t put a finger on it. Sometimes you tie a lot of games in the season, and you don’t know why, sometimes you win a ton, and you’ve played the same as you would have done if you had gotten the ties, and it looks like you’re doing great. I think we’ve played well enough to get more wins out of the ties, but maybe there should be some losses in there, which means more points. I don’t know, I can’t put a finger on it. I will say, we’re trying hard, and I think we’ve made some strides. We had a clean sheet tonight, which is important, so that was good.”
 
 
Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson
 
On the defensive performance:
 
“I thought we were very organized, we didn’t allow many chances and kept everything in front of us. I think we were able to play a bit more out of the back, which helped us with possession and going forward.  We were able to deal with the pressure teams have been able to put on us, so overall the performance was good.”
 
On Jeff Larentowicz’s performance on the backline
 
“I thought he was great. Jeff’s a leader and he leads by example – he’s great to have back there. You saw in the first half that he blocked a shot for me that was one that was going to be difficult to deal with.  He throws himself into difficult spots, which is good, you always want that from a defender. He’s aggressive and it’s always good to have him in front of me.”
 
On the third clean sheet of the season:
 
“You always want to work on keeping the ball out of the back of the net. For us it’s a building block coming off the San Jose performance, we just wanted to make sure that we got back there and really focused on the little things.  For us defensively, that was getting back on track, and getting a shutout after a game like that is great for us.”
 
 
Chicago Fire defender and captain Jeff Larentowicz
 
On playing on the back line:
 
“I thought we did alright. A shutout is good. I haven’t gotten much training back there, but it’s a place I’ve played before for a number of years so I’m pretty comfortable and I felt alright.”
On the clean sheet restoring confidence in the defense:
 
“Clean sheets are good.  However we want to play, we have to work as a unit.  Whether it’s me or anybody else – you have to communicate, you have to work well with each other.  I think that’s what we did tonight, and I think that’s what we didn’t do in San Jose.  I don’t think it was just a backline issue, I think it was kind of everybody.  Tonight, for sure, we worked together and communicated.  Good defenses make the goal keeper’s job easy and I think we did that for Sean tonight.”
 
On Jermaine Jones potentially joining the team and his role if that happens:
 
“I want to be on the field, I don’t mind where it is. He’s a good player and we love to have good players on our club. If that’s the truth, great.  I just want to be on the field wherever I can help, I don’t mind where it is, he’s a good player.”
 
On what Jones would bring to the team:
 
“It would be good [to bring in Jones]. He’s got tons of experience.  It’s good to have experienced guys, it’s good to have guys with strong character on your team. I’ve been around him very little, but he’s a very good player, he’s a tough guy and that would help. Wherever he goes, he’ll do well in the league.”
 
 
Chicago Fire midfielder Razvan Cocis
 
On his first competitive match at Toyota Park:
 
“It feels great, but we didn’t win this game, so I only have a little reason to be happy.  It’s good to be on the field, but I’m not happy with the result.”
 
On how he’s been treated by the team:
“The team has treated me very nicely and kindly. I knew American people are kind and welcome everybody. Everybody has been nice to me and asking me questions like I was one of them from the first day.”
 
On choosing Chicago and his plans to stay in MLS:
 
“I don’t know if I chose [Chicago], I had this offer and I took it.  I hope to stay in MLS, that’s why I came here.  When I came here, I came to stay of course.”
 
 
Vancouver Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson
 
On the team’s effort today:
 
“I could have predicted [the tie] before the game.  I think you guys could too.  Frank the same so, but yeah we’re disappointed.  Think it was a game we could have won.  I’m sure Frank will feel the same as well.  We played on Sunday, difficult for us to come to the east coast, but the boys showed a lot of blood, guts, and thunder if I am honest.  They couldn’t have given me any more effort that then did today.  I think we had our best period of the game in the first twenty minutes of the second half.  We controlled the game.  We ended up getting probably the best chance of the game but we couldn’t take it.  I won’t fault a single player because they’ve been absolutely fantastic.  Today, as well as all season.”
 
On another tie:
 
“You’re right, it is frustrating.  You win one, you lose one, and it’s probably better off doing that than being unbeaten in four.  I’m not happy with the draw, but we’ll take the draw because the performance, the effort was there from the guys.  We move on.  We got a big game in ten days time.”
 
Collecting a point on the road:
 
“You always want to try to win games.  Frank probably is saying the same as well.  It’s an opportunity for him as a home game.  We are in a run at the moment where we are drawing a lot of games.  But it’s a fine line this game.  It really is, between winning and losing.  I think you see that, especially today because it was an okay game, but it wasn’t a great game to watch.  We had a great game to watch on Sunday, because playing against Dallas, and we ended up with a draw as well.  It’s the same result unfortunately, but probably two different performances.”
 
 
Vancouver Whitecaps FC forward Omar Salgado
 
On the match:
 
“It was a hard fought match.  Zero-zero’s are always hard fought games.  Chicago is a good team, and we came in here knowing who we are playing, and it’s good to get a clean sheet.”
 
On the draw being a fair result:
 
“Yes, I feel so.  Both teams had their chances.  I feel like we had the clear chance with Eric, and if we put that away, it’s a one-zero game, and we take it away.”
 
On his performance:
 
“It was good.  I feel like I was able to get the ball a little more than against Salt Lake and I tried to put the ball in to the box.  It was a good team performance overall. “
 
On turning ties into wins:
 
“Yes, just score goals, obviously.  We’ve had our chances.  Last game we had over 30 so, we just need to score our chances.”
 
 
Vancouver Whitecaps FC goalkeeper David Ousted
 
On the match:
 
“I thought it was a story of two teams trying but not really getting there.  Both teams really wanted to go for it, but the ability just wasn’t there today.”
 
On being too cautious and not pushing for the win:
 
“No…that’s why I say the ability was missing a little bit.  I don’t think it was fear on our part, but I think we said in the locker room we wanted to try to go and get the win.  We need the win. I think Chicago was the same way. It was a lot of trying but not a lot of succeeding.”
 
On the team’s defensive performance:
 
“Yes, I thought we did well.  It’s always nice to get a clean sheet, especially away from home.  But it’s finding the balance of doing well both defensively and offensively in the same game.  We’re still looking for that.”
 
On getting out of the tie rut:
 
“There is. Go get a win. That’s the easiest way.  I think we are there.  I think the little details are there.  Once we get a win, we will get over the hump.”
 
On it being more of a mental game than a physical game to register a win:
 
“I think it’s a little bit of both.  It’s physical, when you’re coming here, after playing a game on Sunday, traveling then, and coming to Chicago which is a tough place to play.  But it also mentally, getting over that hump, and doing the little things correctly and getting that win.  It would be nice for us.”
 
On facing off against Sporting KC:
 
“Another really tough match.  Now we are getting into a bye week.  A little weekend off here.  That’s going to be really nice for us.  We need it.  And then KC at home.  Big game for us.  A game we have a good chance of winning.”
30 July 10:55 pm

Select shots from the Fire's draw with Vancouver.

05 March 8:17 pm

Chicago Fire acquire midfielder Matt Watson on March 5, 2014

(Photo courtesy of Vancouver Whitecaps)

When asked about finalizing his roster before the start of the 2014 season Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop said on a conference call last week that he and his staff were "looking at other possibilities with other teams about maybe trading. We’re forever on the lookout.”

The options have become clearer as Yallop and his staff have pulled the trigger on two trades in three days.

On Monday, the team acquired left back Greg Cochrane from the LA Galaxy while the team acquired midfielder Matt Watson (above) from Vancouver in exchange for an international roster spot.

Neither player is brought in with a view of starting but it seems likely Yallop and his staff will look to both to provide depth. Cochrane played 12 matches for LA during his rookie season in 2013, filling in mostly for veteran Todd Dunivant. 

Watson, who's known for a high work ethic and steady, consistent performances, played a more regular role with the Whitecaps over the past two seasons, appearing in 21 matches in 2013. 

The acquisitions mean that the team roster sits at 29 players four days out from the season opener vs. Chivas USA. While MLS rosters can accomodate 30 players, Yallop has said he expects to start the season with 28, likely using the open two spots to earn allocation money from the league to help with the team's tight salary situation.

With the team admitting they're working towards a loan deal with Tottenham Hotspur's Grant Ward, it seems likely more moves could be imminent.  

Stay tuned.

16 July 11:35 am

And here the Fire go into the second half of the season, now suddenly in a losing streak, with as many questions swirling around everybody as there were in March. Last week I wrote about how the Fire have an opportunity to define their season, but it’s games like Sunday’s in Vancouver that show how this Fire team this year, for good or for bad, just refuses to be defined.
 
There are a million ways to look at games like Sunday’s. I mean, the Fire lost. They didn’t score when they had the chances, they gave up three goals, and they didn’t get any points. Those are the facts that count, sure, but games are never completely comprehensible in a quantitative way, and, especially as we all try to figure out the true identity of this team, the mysteries are confounding.
 
Was Sunday’s game as bad as the score line looked? Or did the Fire not get all they deserved? Was the lineup wrong? Or was the lineup fine but certain plays didn’t go the Fire’s way, that’s life, etc.? Let’s look a bit closer…
 
View 1: The Fire died in the second half, gave up three goals in 20 minutes, and couldn’t muster a comeback.
View 2: The Fire stood up against a plastic pitch and hostile atmosphere, dominated the first half and were unlucky not to score, then broke down against Vancouver’s momentum after Camillo’s first goal (which was brilliant and would’ve come off against anyone.)
 
View 1: The Fire’s defense is too exposed and the additions of Soumare and Francis, as well as moving Anibaba out wide, couldn’t keep Vancouver at bay.
View 2: The Fire’s defense has cut down the blatant mistakes we saw earlier this season, Segares was suspended, first choice goalie Sean Johnson is with the USMNT, defenses take time to gel, it’s hardly the end of the world, none of Vancouver’s goals were due to terrible defending or mistakes.
 
View 1: Sunday’s result makes sense because the Fire haven’t been strong away from Toyota Park.
View 2: One of the Fire’s best results this year was a scrappy away draw at RSL in May.
 
View 1: Klopas’ second half subs aren’t making a difference the way they used to.
View 2: The gist of the substitutions - refreshing center midfielders and providing more options up front (see Lindpere, Quincy, and Maicon) - are exactly the same as they were when they changed games in the unbeaten run. Also, without Paladini and Pause in Vancouver, he had fewer options.
 
View 1: Magee’s hot run is over.
View 2: Magee created multiple chances in the first half, just missed the back post twice in the second, had a shot blocked later, and was generally all over the place and annoying for Vancouver.

And so on...
So - was the Fire’s unbeaten run a fluke? Were the losses against KC and Vancouver proof that the Fire can’t convert against the best in MLS? Did the additions of Magee and Soumare, the resurgence of Duka-Rolfe-Nyarko trio, and the presence of Larentowicz all flame out?
 
OR: Did tough-fought results against Portland and RSL prove that the Fire can fight against anyone in the league? Maybe back-to-back losses against KC (the best team in the East) and at Vancouver (one of the hardest places to play in MLS) aren’t totally surprising, even for top teams? Maybe the Fire lost to a brilliant goal and a tough atmosphere/pitch, were unlucky not to score a handful themselves, and should just wash themselves of this game and move on?
 
In other words, there are no answers. I don’t think the Fire were dominated in Vancouver. But they lost. If the Fire had converted one of their first half chances, maybe Vancouver loses some confidence, and the Fire come away with some points. If not for Camillo’s second goal, the ball didn’t manage to squeeze past three Fire players, and the Fire equalize, who knows?
 
The “if” game is tough. One could say that the best way to address is that is to decisively remove all “if”s, convert the chances, not give up goals and be champions -- end of story. Fair, but maybe the best approach this year is to embrace what this team is. Maybe this year’s Fire is defined by a transient identity, a team finding itself through wins, losses, and draws. Maybe that’s what’s best about them?

14 July 10:21 pm
Quote Sheet
Chicago Fire vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC
BC Place – Vancouver, B.C. – July 14, 2013
 
Frank Klopas, Chicago Fire Head Coach
 
Thoughts on the match
 
“I felt that we had a good start to the game and for 45 minutes we had a lot of good opportunities in the final third that I think we should have taken advantage of but the second half was different. In a game like this it’s disappointing for us with I think the way we played and the chances we had in the first half not to walk away with points from here but the game is 90 minutes and I felt that little things in the second half, just seconds balls and those things that kind of turned the game their way and they were able to put their chances away.”
 
On how the team will respond to losing two successive matches:
 
“It’s important how you respond from situations like this. We have a tough stretch coming up right now, we have away games and we need to find a way to get results and points. It’s a crucial month and a half with a lot of important games coming up so we need to get points or we’re going to fall behind.”
 
On losing two goals in quick succession:
 
“It’s always difficult when you fall behind. The important thing is just getting the next one but three behind makes it a little more difficult. When it’s two you can get that one back; the pressure changes. We let things slip away from us.”
 
Shaun Francis, Chicago Fire Defender
 
On Chicago not taking their chances early on:
 
“It was an away game so we all knew that they were going to come out and put a lot of pressure on us at home. We weathered the storm and we did a good job in the first half and kept it at 0-0. We got a couple of chances and we didn’t make use of our chances.”
 
On his team making mistakes:
 
“The game is all about mistakes and who makes the most mistakes and the other team’s going to capitalize on those chances. They capitalized on their chances and scored.”
 
Patrick Nyarko, Chicago Fire Midfielder
 
On his goal:
 
“It came out, we were trying to push at that time, it set up perfectly and I went up to get it.”
 
On recovering from two goals in five minutes:
 
“It’s hard, it was definitely hard. I think we let our foot off the gas a little bit for a couple minutes and they punished us and that decided the game.
 
On outplaying Whitecaps FC in the first half:
 
“Absolutely, I think we deserved a better result. When you play like that and you end up losing like this it hurts but we shot ourselves in the foot but we got to go back to the drawing board and figure out the mistakes we made.”
 
Mike Magee, Chicago Fire Forward
 
On why Chicago lost the match:
 
“We were good in spurts today, obviously we weren’t good with our attacking chances and they made the most of theirs. The fans are great, it’s a great atmosphere, the field is definitely not easy to get used to. But yeah, obviously they’re a quality team.”
 
On having several chances either blocked or saved:
 
“It just wasn’t my day, I tried my best and sometimes they don’t go in.”
 
Joel Lindpere, Chicago Fire Midfielder
 
On his contributions as a substitute:
 
“I tried to play smart, especially when you play away you got to keep the ball and give good passes to your teammates. I think I went in and did good, and did what I’m supposed to do: keep the ball, play good passes to my teammates and got an assist. I had two chances to score myself also, but I was happy I got a chance to play in the middle.”
 
On Vancouver’s home-field advantage:
 
“We played a great first half, but for us it doesn’t matter if we’re playing on turf or grass, I mean we played a very good first half, we had to realize in the second half a lot of our players didn’t have the legs after spending so much time attacking in the first. We should’ve played a little smarter, kept possession for a little while, hold back and play smarter.”
 
On the effects of the midweek friendly versus Club America:
 
“I played 60 minutes in that match and I would love to play 90 minutes normally. We’ve had a couple of practices since then and I’ve been feeling good so hopefully I get more minutes in these upcoming games. I was hoping to play even more today, it’s not my decision but I’m ready to step in each game as necessary. Hopefully we bounce back at home next week, it’s a crucial end of the month, we have a cup semifinal at home coming up, we need to get our confidence back after these two straight losses.”
 
Martin Rennie, Vancouver Whitecaps FC Head Coach
 
Thoughts on the match:
 
“I thought the first half was a little bit slow. The tempo wasn’t too great from us and I didn’t think we kept the ball as well as we have been and we didn’t create as many chances as we have. In the second half I thought we improved a lot, we created quite a lot of good opportunities; hit the post, had a couple of good chances before we scored and then I felt it was fitting that Camilo got the 100th goal for the club. I think that’s his 28th (actually his 29th) out of the 100 so I think that’s fantastic from him and then for him to get another one right after that was fantastic.”
 
On the positives to be taken from the win:
 
“It was a big win for us. I’d have liked to have seen us see the game out just a little bit better at the end but that’s a big win at home. Especially I thought after last week I wondered if it might be a little bit flat and it was but in the second half we really got it going and that’s our seventh win in our last 10 games. We’ve picked up 23 points out of the last 30 on offer. There’s a lot of positives there; we move up the league with that result, we’ve looked at that as almost one of our games in hand and once again we’ve scored a lot of goals for our fans and they’ve backed us all the way again. It was a great afternoon for us and it sets us up for the next game.”
 
On Brad Knighton making some key saves:
 
“He played well again and I felt it was important that we stayed in the game at that point. Sometimes if you’re not playing at your absolute best the most important thing is that you’re still in the game and it was important at halftime that we were tied even though we hadn’t played as well as we’d like to, but we had that belief and that confidence and I think that in the second half we turned it up a gear and it made a big difference.
 
On Camilo’s first goal and overall performance:
 
“For the most part, I think once he got squared up against Soumare he was supremely confident that he was going to score. As soon as he gets squared up in the box he’s really deadly and he gets past people and he set that goal up really well. I thought he’d missed out on the second one but he did well on that; it was a great ball from Kekuta. Camilo’s on a fantastic run, he’s the top scorer in MLS at the moment I believe and it makes a big difference to any team when your strikers are scoring and also when you’ve got players like Mattocks and Kekuta to come off the bench, that’s a luxury that not many teams have and it’s exciting for us to be able to bring those guys on.”
 
On Kektua Manneh’s introduction:
 
“I think at that point we were playing quite well but it just gave us a little more width, he stayed wide a bit more naturally and the main thing is he’s got penetrating pace. He can go past people, he can run behind people and I think at that point we were much more penetrative in the way we were playing and I thought the weight of his pass for Camilo’s goal was fantastic and then his trickery to score the second was excellent so I just think he’s a really talented player, there’s no question about it. We just want to keep introducing him into the team little by little but he’s got so much quickness and talent that he’ll certainly be playing more and more minutes for us.
 
He’s still 18 years old and he’s still young so we don’t want to overdo it but I think we want to give him experience, we want to give him minutes and we gave him I think about 30 minutes today so he got a good run at it and he rewarded us all with his performance.”
 
On conceding a late goal:
 
“I think we should have done more to keep that clean sheet. It’s the last kick of the ball, we’re 3-0 up and I think when we look back on it there are things we could have done more. ‘Keepers absolutely thrive on clean sheets just like strikers thrive on goals and I think I would expect him and others to be disappointed with that goal that we lost, but it doesn’t really take the shine off a fanastic win for us. It was an excellent win and a big three points, a really important three points today and thankfully we had that cushion today to allow us to let up there at the end which is something we need to improve on.”
 
Brad Knighton, Vancouver Whitecaps FC Goalkeeper
 
Thoughts on the result:
 
“Obviously we didn’t start the way we wanted to. It’s my job to keep us in the game and was fortunate to make some saves to keep the game nil - nil for the half. The guys took over in the second half and the result speaks for itself.”
 
Thoughts on the ending of the game:
 
“Yeah, well, to get shutouts. It’s what I’m here for, to keep the ball out of the net and it didn’t happen. It’s not good enough on our part. We’ve got to see the game out. 20 seconds from the last kick of the game and we let a goal in is not good enough. If you want to talk about the playoffs and this and that, that’s going to be the difference, it’s about the little things. We’re fortunate to get the three points and the three goals but defensively we deserved a shutout from the whole team. It’s a letdown.”
 
Camilo Sanvezzo, Vancouver Whitecaps FC Striker
 
On scoring so consistently:
 
“We work hard for the opportunity for every time we score. Today I had a lot of chances. I’m happy that some went in.”
 
Thoughts on 100th goal:
 
“It’s very important for me to be part of club’s history. And I hope it’ll continue like that.”
 
Thoughts on difference on him this year:
 
“I think we played more as a team, we work for each other, we fight for each other We pass the ball for each other. And when the opportunity comes we do our best.”
 
Thoughts on 2nd half:
 
“Martin says it’s not good enough. We know. Martin says we’re not good enough, we’re playing at home. We need to do a better job.”
 
Kekuta Manneh, Vancouver Whitecaps FC Winger
 
Thoughts on his goal:
 
“I don’t know how I got the goal. But when I had the ball I tried to take on the guy and try to force him down the field and try to get the ball back and try it all again. That’s what the coach was telling us, if we get the chance to shoot, give it some power.”
 
Thoughts on his confidence and taking on the defense:
 
“That’s how I play, that’s my style of play and I feel like that’s what they expect from me every single time I play. Every time I play, I score goals if I can and that makes me more confident.”
12 July 10:50 am

 
After a disappointing home loss against Sporting KC last weekend, the Fire head to the Pacific Northwest on Sunday to face a resurgent Vancouver Whitecaps side. The ‘Caps beat arch rivals Seattle last weekend and are unbeaten in five games.
 
Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective.
 
Shaun Francis full debut – a baptism of fire?
 
Shaun Francis only joined the Fire Wednesday and seems likely to make his full debut for the team in Vancouver. The left back should replace suspended stalwart Gonzalo Segares and will need to hit the ground running in an intimidating atmosphere.
 
Luckily for Francis, Vancouver are without their usual wide right player in the 4-3-3 formation, Russell Teibert who is in Canada’s Gold Cup squad. The winger has tallied six assists this season, twice the amount of the leading Fire player (Jeff Larentowicz and Daniel Paladini with three) . Instead of facing the pace of Teibert, Francis will likely be battling Corey Hertzog, who is in his first season with Vancouver.
 
Francis, who likes to get forward, will also have to face another outside back who likes to do the same in Young-Pyo Lee. Despite being 36, Lee is an extremely fit player and though he has lost a step of pace, is still very dangerous in the attack.
 
It will also be interesting to see how well Francis and presumed starting left mid Dilly Duka combine in Vancouver. A strong performance in this away game will not only boost Francis’ confidence but will be necessary if the Fire want to leave Canada with points in the bag.
 
The Fire’s back four – cutting out the individual mistakes
 
Before the game against Kansas City last weekend, ESPN showed a stat that since the arrival of Bakary Soumare, the team’s goals against average per game has dropped. This is certainly true but stats can also be deceiving.
 
In the KC game, the Fire had a shambolic first 10 minutes defensively, giving up two very soft goals. The first came from a poor clearance from a long throw and the second from allowing KC’s best player Graham Zusi too much space to shoot/cross from outside the box.
 
Since the arrival of Bakary Soumare and the switch of Jalil Anibaba to right back, the team’s back four has remained stable and for the most part work well as a unit. Individual errors like those in the SKC game are the issue.
 
These are a hard thing for a coaching staff to work on because the majority are mental mistakes.  It’s been nine games in the league since the Men in Red kept a clean sheet and one would be very welcome on Sunday evening. If the back four and goalkeeper can keep their concentration for 90 minutes and communicate well with one another, a clean sheet can be achieved.
 
Breaking down the Whitecaps – how to defeat the 4-3-3
 
Vancouver coach Marin Rennie favors a 4-3-3 formation with three ball-winning midfielders and three attackers who are very mobile. There are a few weak spots in this formation however that the Fire should look to exploit.
The first is getting balls in behind the three-man midfield, either by playing through balls or looking over the top. In Vancouver’s last loss, a 3-2 defeat by Seattle, the Sounders were able to get behind the three-man wall catching the Whitecaps center backs out of position.
The Sounders capitalized numerous times in that match when gaps opened up between the Whitecaps center backs. In Vancouver’s recent 3-1 win against Chivas USA, the Chivas goal also came from getting behind the central midfielders, this time from a brilliant pass from the center of the park which split the Vancouver mids and resulted in a 1v1 between the Chivas striker and a Whitecaps defender.
Another area where the 4-3-3 can be exploited is on the outside, a strong area for the Fire. Patrick Nyarko and Dilly Duka’s ability to stretch the three man midfield of Vancouver will be very important, not only because it leaves gaps in the middle to exploit, but it also forces one of the midfielders into a 1v1 battle with one of the Fire wide men. I would bet on our wingers in that fight.
When you add the Fire’s outside defenders to that equation, it makes it difficult for Vancouver to defend. I look for the likes of Alex, Nyarko and Duka to try and exploit the 4-3-3 system whenever possible, for the Fire’s benefit. 
Prediction: 1-1 with a goal from Alex.
02 March 10:38 am

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...

  Jeff Crandall
Co-Host
Eunice Kim
Co-Host
Nick Sintich
Producer
Philadelphia vs. Sporting KC
(3/2 4pm CT; MLS Live)
SKC SKC SKC
Vancouver vs. Toronto FC
(3/2 5:30pm CT; MLS Live)
VAN VAN VAN
Houston vs. D.C. United
(3/2 7:00pm CT; NBCSN)
Draw HOU Draw
FC Dallas vs. Colorado
(3/2 7:30pm CT; MLS Live)
FCD Draw Draw
Seattle vs. Montreal
(3/2 9:30pm CT; MLS Live)
SEA Draw SEA
Chivas USA vs. Columbus
(3/2 9:30pm CT; MLS Live)
CLB CHV CLB
LA Galaxy vs. Chicago
(3/3 4pm CT; UniMas)
Draw CHI CHI
Portland vs. New York
(3/3 6:30pm CT; ESPN2)
Draw POR Draw
San Jose vs. Real Salt Lake
(3/3 9:00pm CT; MLS Live)
RSL SJ SJ
2013 Records 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0

 

22 February 8:15 am

Even if its a preseason tournament, its nice to see the Fire atop these standings:

 

Team GP W L D Pts. GF GA GD
Chicago Fire 2 2 0 0 6 5 3 +2
Houston Dynamo 2 1 1 0 3 4 4 0
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 1 1 0 3 4 4 0
Charleston Battery 2 0 2 0 0 3 5 -2

 

But as I spoke to Chicago-Fire.com contributor Irish Steve Thursday about the scenarios for the team to clinch the Carolina Challenge Cup Saturday, one potential scenario had my head spinning.

To be clear, with two wins in their pocket, a draw or win in Saturday's first game vs. Vancouver (live at 4:00pm on Chicago-Fire.com) would give the Fire their first Challenge Cup title.

But should the team lose, say 1-0 to Vancouver and Houston beat Charleston by the same score in the tournament finale, the Fire, Dynamo and Whitecaps would then be tied not only on points, goal difference (first tie breaker), goals scored (second tie breaker) and goals against (third tie breaker). 

Under that scenario, the table would look like this:

 

Team GP W L D Pts. GF GA GD
Chicago Fire 3 2 1 0 6 5 4 +1
Houston Dynamo 3 2 1 0 6 5 4 +1
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 3 2 1 0 6 5 4 +1
Charleston Battery 3 0 3 0 0 3 6 -3

 

Head-to-head would be next best solution, right?

Well consider in that circumstance the Fire beat the Dynamo (3-2 win), the Dynamo beat Whitecaps FC (2-1 win) and potentially Whitecaps FC would have beaten the Fire (1-0 win), i.e., they would all share three points in the mini-group between the three MLS teams.

With the results of each matchday pairing with each other, the goal difference in the mini-group would be even but then, the next most logical tie-breaker (what I would call the seventh tie breaker) would be goals scored in the mini-group, which would potentially give Houston the title. 

 

Team GP W L D Pts. GF GA GD
Houston Dynamo 2 1 1 0 3 5 5 0
Chicago Fire 2 1 1 0 3 3 3 0
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 1 1 0 3 2 2 0

However, after speaking to Battery President Andrew Bell post-game Wednesday, it seems the tie-breaking procedures beyond goals against are pretty fuzzy...

Good reason for the Fire to take care of business against Vancouver Saturday afternoon, though I hear Frank Klopas is pretty lucky in coin flips!

Carolina Challenge Cup Results/Fixtures

Date Team Score Team
2/16/2013 Chicago Fire  3:2 Houston Dynamo
2/16/2013 Vancouver Whitecaps FC 3:2 Charleston Battery
2/20/2013 Houston Dynamo 2:1 Vancouver Whitecaps FC
2/20/2013 Chicago Fire  2:1 Charleston Battery
2/23/2013 Chicago Fire vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC
2/23/2013 Houston Dynamo vs. Charleston Battery

 

15 February 5:09 pm

As they have the previous two years, the Chicago Fire ventured to the Three Lions Pub inside Blackbaud Stadium for the 2013 Carolina Challenge Cup kickoff luncheon Friday afternoon. The Fire were joined by hosts the Charleston Battery and the Vancouver Whitecaps at the luncheon while Saturday's opponents Houston were set to arrive into the Palmetto State later on Friday.

As I walked around admiring the wall-to-wall memorabilia inside the pub, I realized there were more than a few reunions occuring in the room...

First off was Fire assistant coach Mike Matkovich catching up with defender Jay DeMerit. Matkovich led the Fire PDL side when DeMerit played for it in 2001 and even appeared in "Rise & Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story" to talk about his memories of Jay...

A little further down the way, I spotted a Tottenham reunion as Fire trialist Pascal Chimbonda met up with Whitecaps defender Young-Pyo Lee. The two often manned the defensive flanks together for Spurs while at White Hart Lane from 2006-2008.

Finally, just as I turned around, I spotted Fire midfielder Daniel Paladini talking to his former manager and current Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie. The Scotsman was the one that brough Paladini to the second division Carolina RailHawks from Chivas USA in 2009 where the pair would spend two seasons together.

To finish the pleasantries Rennie, Fire head coach Frank Klopas and Battery manager Mike Anhaeuser did the annual trophy photo-op.

On to Saturday's first doubleheader featuring the Chicago Fire taking on the Houston Dynamo (if they show) at 4pm CT on Chicago-Fire.com. The Battery will host the Whitecaps in the second game at 6:15pm CT.