Premier League giant Manchester United made a swing through the Windy City this week for its Wednesday night match against Paris-Saint Germain in the 2015 International Champions Cup. In conjunction with the visit, Manchester United Soccer Schools hosted a clinic Wednesday morning for Special Olympics Chicago at The PrivateBank Fire Pitch on the city's North Side. Participants in the clinic, which was sponsored by Aon, received coaching from former Manchester United greats Dwight Yorke and Quinton Fortune as well as coaches from the Man United Soccer Schools.
Check out a few images from the event in the photo gallery above.
MLS Regular Season
Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution
Toyota Park – Bridgeview, IL
Frank Yallop, Chicago Fire Head Coach
Thoughts on the match
“Obviously, a disappointment to end the game, we looked a bit laggy and not sharp first half. Maybe, it was because of our game Wednesday, I would think so, I haven’t talked to the players but I would think Wednesday took a bit out of us. But we hung in there and got the goal at the end of the half and I thought we in the end we didn’t play particularly well but we got the goal and then gave it straight back to them was just so disappointing. Huge error at the back, for the guys as a group we got back into the game and then we go on and score a, I thought was going to be the winning goal. I didn’t really feel they created a ton of good chances, nice possession and they had four shots on goal something like that and got two goals. The last goal is not good, I just saw it again, Adi’s got to clear it and he just lets it go, I don’t know what to say after that. You know, it just cost us the game.”
On looking to trade the rights for Didier Drogba to Montreal
“I have no updated on that, I just finished the game. I haven’t spoken to anybody before the game. There is no real update until there is one. I have not spoken to anybody, you know, I just finished the game. There might be an update tomorrow; right now there is nothing there.”
On Matthew Watson’s performance
“I’d probably say first half nobody really well but I thought Matty drove on second half and did a nice job, I think he played very well midweek as well in the Orlando game in the Open Cup. He did well tonight in the end. It was a tough game and I think we had an emotional night Wednesday and I am not making excuses but we just looked a little flat and I wouldn’t use the word tired because we shouldn’t be tired, we should be on our toes from the start but we just looked a little flat from Wednesday. Again we did enough to get back in the game, we were winning 2-1 in the 75th minute at home and didn’t feel the opposition was looking and they were dangerous at times but so were we. Just disappointed.”
On Razvan’s play driving the team back from a 1-0 deficit
“Raz has been playing great. Again, it is so disappointing you can see the soft goal and it so easy to clear it. I don’t know why Aid didn’t clear it; maybe he didn’t get a shout. It seemed like he got a shout from somebody, obviously I haven’t asked him so I don’t know. He’s just got to clear that and play on for not playing particularly well. A lot of teams find a way to win that don’t play particularly well, especially in our league. In many games like that, we play against teams that beat us and I don’t think they played very well and they win. So we should have been that tonight.”
On preparing for FC Dallas
“I haven’t thought about it right now, but obviously we will scout them going into the start of the week. They are a good side. We played Seattle and did okay against them, so hopefully we can do the same against Dallas. The thing for me is we got to let this go and get three points next Sunday. You know it was there for us and it was disappointing we didn’t get three points, which would have helped us and we would have a good week then, semifinal in the Cup and three points at home in the league. Things are looking more up, we dropped two points tonight and we’ve got to try to get three next weekend.”
Shaun Maloney, Chicago Fire Midfielder
Thoughts on the match
“I think overall a draw was probably fair, I think New England was a pretty good side tonight. Think once we got into the position at 2-1, to lose a goal so quickly hurt. I think overall was pretty good, but obviously getting to 2-1 and not holding on for long enough.”
On lacking energy due to the midweek game
“No I don’t think so. I think you have to give a little bit of credit to New England, and the way they played from the start. Their wide players tucked in and outnumbered us in the middle of the field, and we were fortunate probably to go in 1-0 to score late on. They played well and we showed up to match them at times, but I think losing the goal so quickly after scoring I think that’s the disappointing part from the team’s point of view.
On if the Drogba situation is a distraction
“Absolutely none. We’ve all been a part of clubs we’re there has been speculation of players leaving and going and that’s not something that has a detrimental effect on the team.”
On how he feels after coming back from injury
“Yeah, better again from the last game. I’m pretty happy with how I was feeling. So, a step up from last game.”
On taking the positives from going unbeaten in two games
“It’s difficult to look at it like that at the moment. I think Orlando was definitely a positive and there were patches today that were positive, but we’re right into the middle of the season and obviously its points that we need. Now that everyone is healthy I don’t think there’s any excuse for us not to pick up points, particularly at home.”
On now having eight days to recover after a congested stretch
“For some players, like Harry who has obviously played a lot of games and the players that have been pretty much relentless are looking forward to a bit of a break, but for the rest of us just coming back its more time to train and look forward to next week.”
On if the team is still in the playoff chase
“I think so. I haven’t seen the results from tonight. Yeah, I think we’ve been on losing streaks, we’ve been on winning streaks earlier in the season. I had to say Orlando was a positive and obviously doesn’t feel like that tonight. I think the talking has to stop we have to start doing it now.”
Razvan Cocis, Chicago Fire Midfielder
Thoughts on the match
“This is the way we’re doing till now cause we’re winning then we’re losing. I can remember Orlando we’re winning 2-1 and New York leading 2-0 and come out 2-2. So there are some points we lost where we’d be better in the table.“
On re-watching New England’s equalizing goal
“No, I haven’t seen it yet.”
On his goal
“I think it was off a corner kick and we just keep putting it in the box. Matt had a shot deflected and I was just in the right spot and put it in. It wasn’t too easy to put in because it was high, but I managed to put my heel up and put it in.”
On preparing for FC Dallas next week
“I think we prepare the way we prepare for every game. The coaches will analyze everything and tell us everything, what we have to do. We’re going to practice what we have to do. We’re doing a good job until now, it’s just we sometimes lose our concentration and give up some points.”
On wearing the captain’s armband
“Oh yeah, it wasn’t expected the first time I received it, I’m not so old in the team only being here one year, but I’m happy and honored to be the captain, but it is just until Jeff is coming back and Mike is coming back. So it is just for the moment.”
Frank Yallop, Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Scocer
Thoughts on the match
“I’m smiling, that is my opening statement. It was good to win.”
On the importance of the win
“Massive, I think I have said long enough to guys on the field that we are pretty good. I think that showed tonight, we had the difference makers out there. Obviously, Kennedy with his two goals, when he gets the service he can finish. David has world class sprinting speed along with great skills and was electric out there. I thought Shaun was excellent in the game too. He and David have not played much but Shaun wasn’t playing for five weeks, and to put that performance in, wonderful. I will say they are the three but the whole team was excellent tonight. I was really proud with the way we played and we kind of got guys out of position, Polster and people like that. I thought we thoroughly deserved to win the game, for sure. That was very pleasing.”
On how a performance such as tonight helps Kennedy gain momentum
“Yeah, I think any time you have a chance to get on the score sheet as a striker, that is the most important thing you are there for. You can play brilliant football and keep the ball and do other things but you are there to score. You are the focal point of the team and you are the striker, we need you to score goals. It was obviously a great finish off the post from David’s run and shouldn’t miss it but when confidence is not high you might do so. Good finish on the first run and the second one is a typical Kennedy goal, where he can do that and he can break away and finish things off. So that is very happy for him a good kid and he is trying hard and has not quite gone the way everyone has expected and wanted. But you scored four goals for us but I don’t know how many starts and any competition, that is still a MLS team we played there. I was very happy for him.”
On if he had spoken to Didier Drogba in recent days
“We will expect an answer in the next 48 hours, that is basically it and we can go over everything we talked about already, we are just waiting for a decision from their side and which way he wants to go. He has choices; he feels like we have put a good pitch in and is very happy with what we have done. But again it is up to the person to choose and we will see.”
On if having Matt Polster as a right back is a permanent move or a temporary fix
“I think Matt is the type of player who has been around the game for a long time and I think Matt is the sort of player who can play anywhere. Maybe not striker, but I think you could play him in a lot of positions and he will find a way to get it done. He is very athletic and he has good clean feet, he listens to the coaches and wants to learn any position he is in. I think that was a good position for him because he likes to get forward and he’s got pretty strong crossing and finishing when he gets the chance to get in there and he is very fit. That position needs it and I think it was good to have Joevin Jones back tonight as well. It was nice to have him back but he looked a little tired, but good to have him back with us and we can sort of start to build the team going into the second half of the season.”
On the play of Matthew Watson, whose performance flew under the radar
“Matt, I have been up and down with Matt and we go way back. Matt will give you everything he’s got if he is comfortable and knows his role and I think his role was that. He loves chasing the ball down, he likes to be physical, when he gets it, he likes to drive with it. We spoke for the game, I said, ‘just play your game,’ which I don’t want to give him too much information because it brings some guys down, and Matt is one of those guys. He just learns and gets on with it, he is pretty good and I thought he was great tonight. I thought he was good in Columbus but I thought he had an excellent performance. Trying to start the half off with Raz, Matty, and Shaun limited their chances. I think the first shot on goal was a goal, if I am not mistaken. They’re a good team, very proud with the way we defended and worked. They are going to have chances on their good side. I was happy with Matt, not only Matt, but the whole midfield there.”
On the decision to start Jon Busch in goal
“I wanted to play Jon, give him a game, not give him a game but play him. Jon was fine and I think he got an assist didn’t he? Not bad at all, he’s not supposed to get an assist but he did. It was good to get him a game and he did well. Sean had something wrong with his toe during the week, that wasn’t the reason I didn’t play him. But it gives him a chance to rest that and he should be fine.”
On the congested schedule around the semifinal match
“I haven’t even thought about it until it comes up, like I said to our guys. You just need to look for the next game and can’t look ahead because you will forget the game coming up. We have a game coming up this Saturday and a massive game next Sunday. Hopefully this win, although it was in the Open Cup, it was against a good contender and hope it lifts our spirits and have a great performance on the weekend and win. Lifts us all and go on a good run and make the playoffs. That is the plan to do very well in the Cup, I think we have done well to get to this stage and we have had a couple tricky ties at home, forget the opposition. If you look at the results in our league and in the Cup a lot of teams go through lower in league. We got through, big game tonight, and we got through and I thought we did well.”
On going through highs and lows this season
“Do you know why? Because certain players weren’t on the field, it is very difficult when you don’t have your team and try to explain why you aren’t very good.”
On preparing now for New England
“They will be a little fresher but I still think we will get the players’ bodies ready and their minds are fresh and strong. They want to play on the weekend obviously and I think we are looking forward to the game instead of dreading it now. We will be fine, and we’ll come in tomorrow and will get ready and pick a team for Saturday, hopefully we can perform pretty close to that and hopefully to win and that is what we are trying to do.”
Kennedy Igboananike, Chicago Fire Forward
On how speed factored into his two goals
I’m very happy we won the game and think it was a great energy to come in and make everybody happy.”
On his first goal, the game winner
”I didn’t even know if the ball was going to come, I just had to follow the rebound and keep believing that it would come to me. As soon as I saw it, I just had to put it in.”
On playing with David Accam again
“He’s like a brother to me. Everyone is like family here so for me, it doesn’t matter. We just have been a little bit unfortunate to not win games but I think we just have to keep going and keep believing that we can do it so that’s most important for now.”
On the up and down season and if this helps his confidence
“Absolutely. For me, the first season is always like this. You need to get things around you and know everything about yourself and the team. It’s been unfortunate for the team, things haven’t been going good for us but we just have to keep our head up because we’re professionals.”
If this performance will help him fight for a starting spot
“For me, absolutely. I have no strikes and the coach decides who to play. Everybody is a good player, so whenever you get the opportunity to play you just have to be ready to jump in and make a difference. I think everybody is ready to play.”
Game to game, week to week, the list of available players for the Chicago Fire this season has been in flux.
It seems when one player restores match fitness, another is sidelined with a knock. Fire head coach Frank Yallop on Monday was the first to point to “not getting the job done” as a primary reason for the club's 5-11-3 record to date, but inconsistency in the lineup certainly hasn't helped. So, where do they stand with a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal and home date with New England looming?
For starters, Mike Magee took a knock to the knee during Chicago’s 1-0 midweek loss to Crew SC and, after staying behind on the weekend trip to Columbus, did not train Monday. Yallop hopes the 2013 MLS MVP, recently returned from his lengthy rehab, could return by the weekend.
New acquisition Ty Harden has suffered multiple setbacks in his recovery from a lingering hamstring injury. On Friday, Yallop noted 7-10 days as a possible timetable for his return, leaving him questionable for Saturday’s match against New England.
But aside from that tandem, the news gradually becomes more positive. David Accam made a triumphant return Sunday from his hamstring injury and provided Chicago's lone goal at Columbus. He was subbed out alongside Patrick Nyarko with 20 minutes to go, a move centered on preventing any further injury.
“I felt Patrick and David did very well, considering where they’ve been physically in the last while,” Yallop said Monday via teleconference. “It would’ve been nice to have kept them on the field, but you have to protect players from themselves.”
Another key playmaker, Shaun Maloney, trained fully on Monday. Yallop said he “should be available to be on the bench” Wednesday against Orlando City SC. He last played in Chicago’s 1-0 U.S. Open Cup win over Louisville City FC on June 16 but has not seen league action since May 30, prior to departing for international duty.
The captain isn’t far away either. Jeff Larentowicz, who hasn’t played since June 24 because of a herniated disc in his neck, trained with fitness coach Adrian Lamb on Monday. A Saturday return appears to be possible, if not likely.
"He could be OK for the weekend,” Yallop said. “He’s not going to be fit, because he’s not done anything for three weeks or four weeks. He’s been sitting in his living room watching TV, I think, because he had to keep it pretty steady and stable and not do anything on the disc. It doesn’t help fitness, but Jeff’s a fit kid that wants to play, and I’m sure he’ll be pushing to be available – if not this Saturday, for sure the following [Sunday] he’ll be available for.”
As for absences not related to injury, Joevin Jones returns to Chicago on Monday after Trinidad and Tobago’s penalty shootout loss to Panama in the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals. And Lovel Palmer, who was excluded from Sunday’s 18-man roster, is simply regaining his fitness.
“I had a good chat with Lovel, and we both agreed that he should just get the fitness levels up,” Yallop said. “He’s been working very hard at that in the last couple days. He should be ready and good to go in the next little bit.”
With opportunities to shore up depth and performance, Yallop continues to be in talks with potential transfer window additions. He did not acknowledge names but stated that the two priorities are center forward and center back.
As much as he'd like to expedite that process, Yallop understands the difficulty of putting deadlines on players, as it could make them feel pressured and uncomfortable. But on the other hand, he's looking to avoid a situation in which a courtship drags on too long, whether or not it comes to fruition. The transfer window closes August 8, but Yallop would like to have moves made before then, if possible.
“We want to get a decision,” he said. “As I sit here now, one of those players that we’re interested in could sign somewhere else, because time’s ticking, right? That’s always the hard part.”
CHICAGO FIRE HEAD COACH FRANK YALLOP
On tonight’s performance
"Well, obviously, result-wise – not very good, but I thought we played pretty well. Up until the phantom red card, I don’t see it. I thought it was a penalty kick."
On what Chicago is looking to improve upon going into next week’s match against New England
"Results. It’s hard enough coming here to get a result, let alone not getting any help at all from certain individuals. It’s very tough. I thought that the calls didn’t go our way tonight, that’s for sure."
On Chicago’s level of play in the first half
"I thought the game was an even game up until the red card, and then it’s very tough, which I didn’t think it was a red card. It’s tough to lose, but I thought it was a poor game from us call-wise and in the end it costs you."
On injured players returning for Chicago
"Well we’re starting to get guys healthy now. [Chicago Fire midfielder] Shaun Maloney is back in, he should be playing. I thought David [Accam] played well today. We had to take him off because he only played 20 minutes the other night, and to play him 90 minutes right now and expect him to play Wednesday will be tough. The fact that we’re slowly getting guys back, we’re looking more like ourselves. Defensively, I thought we didn’t do a good job tonight, but it is what it is. Columbus were decent in their attacking stuff, but I thought we created enough chances to at least tie the game."
CHICAGO FIRE FORWARD DAVID ACCAM
On his return from injury
"I felt good. I was happy to be on the pitch. Even though I didn’t feel 100 percent, I was happy with my movement, everything was good. I was happy to be on the pitch playing."
On tonight’s match
"I think we gifted them two easy goals, but for me, the performance from everyone [was good]. Everyone worked really hard. On another day, we might get a good result because we worked so hard, even though we gave them two easy goals. I’m really proud of the team because they did really well."
On if Chicago can bounce back in its next League match against New England
"Yeah, for sure. We play at home and will go all out for the three points, so yeah, we can get three points as the outcome against New England."
On making his Chicago Fire debut
"The feelings are unexplainable, it was a tremendous feeling. I couldn’t have imagined it. I have been dreaming about [making his debut] ever since I was a little kid playing for the Fire, but I am happy to have made my debut for the Chicago Fire tonight. Tough result, but we are going to bounce back on Wednesday in the Open Cup."
On tonight’s match
"I thought the team worked well, I thought there were a couple of errors defensively. We need to work on it, we need to pick it up. The refs didn’t treat us to well in the game, but we can’t blame them [for the loss]. We just got to keep working hard and looking forward to the next game."
On if Chicago can bounce back in its next League match against New England
"I think so. I think the team is really looking forward to it. Our first focus is the Open Cup and [the New England match] is our second focus. We will be ready to go."
Sean Johnson stood tall for the Fire Wednesday against Columbus Crew SC, recording a season-high six saves in his 144th career start as a member of the Chicago Fire. Check out a few of Johnson's toughest saves in GIF form below and click here for complete match highlights.
Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew SC
MLS Regular Season
Toyota Park – Bridgeview, IL
Frank Yallop, Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer
Thoughts on the match
“Obviously not good, probably the worst we’ve played, the first half. Not happy from the endeavor and the fight of the team, which I felt we had in the last five games but tonight it wasn’t, especially in the first half. The second half we had a bit of a go. We were totally out-played tonight.”
On the effort of the group
“I think with a group it wasn’t the best we could do but what I did want from the group is some fight and endeavor and some scrapping. Wasn’t there for some reason in the game and sometimes you get gigged up for the game and you talk about it and getting ready for the match. You talk about this is a very, very, very, important game for us and we didn’t come out of the game. Obviously, down on me when we don’t do that and it surprised me. It just think we lost confidence, playing against a good side and they played well tonight and I got to give them that. They pulled us apart in different areas but again like I said at half time dow 0-1, we still have time to get back in the match. It should have been 3 or 4 probably after and maybe more after the final whistle but it wasn’t, so we still had a chance to pull ourselves up and get something out of the match. But we hoofed a bit but we didn’t really look like we were going to score and they looked like they were going to score most of the attack, so it’s tough playing against good teams at full strength. They were up full strength and they were playing well.”
On the congested schedule playing a part
“Yeah, I think and you have to ask the guys, we look a little nostalgic as a group and try to have the same team out from last week game against Seattle. Maybe, I don’t know, we just thought one more game we start to lack confidence sometimes, looks like a lack of effort which didn’t know where to run or when to run and who to close down, so it look like you’re not trying. I don’t think the guys purposely didn’t try but didn’t know what to do. Especially first half and it seems very disjointed and again I’m not going to sit here and criticize the players at all because I felt, especially the last five games, they have given everything and I think I said earlier sometimes you just come out a little flat and don’t know where to run or what to do and I think that was the case first half.”
On the performance of Sean Johnson
“Very good. Sean’s looked sharp. Been at his best the last couple of games. Tonight he made some very good saves, was very alert and kept us in the game. With a chance to maybe equalize, but again I think we were outplayed tonight and Sean was key because there could have been more goals”
On preparing for Sunday
“Well, obviously we try to get guys healthy. David at least came in for a few minutes, or 20 minutes. He did ok, looked rusty but we’ve just got to pick ourselves up and get ready for the next game. The big thing for us now is we got to make sure we don’t dwell on this one, we got to move forward and get a result in Columbus now but obviously its going to be tough, but we’re capable of doing it so we got to get ready for it.”
On the frustration from the fans
“I’m frustrated as hell as well. Pisses me off when we don’t play well. Pisses me off when we don’t have the right players on the field too. You get judged on what you play like, it’s not always the true picture but you can’t say anything, it’s excuses. I’m pissed off we didn’t get our side out there. There are guys injured so it’s very frustrating. And you’re playing a team that’s good, so you got to be at your best. We had a few guys missing Saturday, and proved we can get results when it’s pretty even, but we got some guys put together tonight that couldn’t handle their play, and it’s not easy, but it’s easy to see they were better tonight and had better players on the field. We had 6 guys sitting watching.”
On facing Columbus Crew SC again on Sunday
“Well, they’re probably looking forward to Sunday. They played well and did what they wanted to do and looked sharp with their chances. Adailton should be back into our defense , but Jeff and a couple of the guys are still a ways away. We’ll be familiar with them, we’ll try and work with the guys but it is what it is we got to pick ourselves up and get ready for it. Every game’s different. If we score early then the game can change and be different. They’ve come in here and played quite well away from home. We’ve played well away from home to at least get a couple of wins, but it wasn’t to be. So we got to make sure we do it this time. Talk is cheap we got to just do it. Whether we’re depleted or not we got to find a way to do it.”
Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire Goalkeeper
On losing the match despite a good individual performance
“My performance aside, I think it's always disappointing when you don't get three points. As a team, it's another loss in the loss column. I think when we came out of the gates, we weren't prepared to deal with what they threw at us, we didn't make the necessary changes. The good thing is that we have them again on Sunday. It's a quick turnaround, we'll get back to training and correct some things going into that game. It'll be a different game come Sunday.”
On missing players
“I think we have the depth for guys to step in at any point in time. You can't blame it on any one person. I think, as a team tonight, we just weren't good enough, didn't start fast enough. The first half was definitely one to forget, or one to look back at and take away things to correct. The second half was a lot better; the guys who came on, I think they did fantastic jobs to help out and change the dynamic of the game. But we weren't able to notch one late, and ended up with the loss...I think we started off slow, and they came out and they really put their foot forward and really pinned us back, and we didn't have an answer for it in the first half. From front to back, including myself, I think we've got to look at ourselves and really correct things, because that can't happen.”
On his performance
“It's good to be back in and playing. I think the most important thing is just doing what I can to help the team win. Like I said, it's disappointing to come away with no points, especially at home. My performance doesn't mean anything if we don't get any points. I've never been one for individual glory or praise. Team-wise, we are in a tough spot, and we need to find a way to dig ourselves out.”
“You have no choice, you can't let it go south. We're in a tough spot; we still have a few games in hand, and you don't want to keep saying that because your games will run out before you know it. We have to come out Sunday with a different attitude, and a different mentality. Like I said, it'll definitely be a different game come Sunday.”
On a rivalry with Columbus
“They're a good team, and any good team, you have to be willing to match them physically, mentally, and emotionally. Tonight, we didn't do that. When you give a team like that space and time like we did, they'll pick you apart. They're a good passing team, and respect them for playing a good game. We've got to do a better job of doing the things necessary to come away with points.”
Frank Yallop has a vision.
The Chicago Fire head coach wants to play an attacking-minded style. He wants goals. That’s why he brought in the likes of David Accam, Shaun Maloney, Kennedy Igboananike, Joevin Jones
and Guly do Prado in the offseason and Jason Johnson in April. And despite having a tough time getting everyone fit at the time same, Yallop’s mindset hasn’t changed.
“When we’ve got everyone on the field, for sure,” Yallop said when asked if he still envisions his side as a consistent attacking threat. “We’ve got some real dangerous attacking-style players that haven’t played in the last three or four weeks. That’s been a little frustrating. We created enough chances in [the Seattle] game to score more than one goal. Seattle had their moments, but just for us, we missed some good chances. Getting to those moments or those spots is part of it, and the really tough part is finishing the play off.”
The Fire continue to lead the league in shots per game (14.7) but would like to have converted on more than 19 of those opportunities. Even the side's most clinical finishers have had moments they'd like to have back, including a Mike Magee header Saturday that the Fire striker lost in the lights.
“I almost jumped off the seat expecting to see it hit the back of the net,” Yallop said. “Mike doesn’t miss those.”
Yallop remains hopeful that his vision will come together when the roster comes together as well. Shaun Maloney remains out with a back injury, though Monday marked “his first day with the ball with his boots on,” Yallop said. David Accam continues to recover from a hamstring injury, and Guly do Prado suffered a slight knock to his ankle against Seattle, but both are hopeful to be available for selection Wednesday. Joevin Jones, meanwhile, remains on international duty having helped his Trinidad & Tobago side earn a spot in the Gold Cup knockout rounds.
The return of Magee and Patrick Nyarko has helped, but Yallop continues to be cautious when working them back into the lineup. Both got their first MLS starts since coming back from injury, but Nyarko came off after 65 minutes and Magee after 70. Putting too much on them too soon remains a concern for the technical staff.
“We’ve got to make sure that we don’t send these guys back to the treatment table, because it is a vigorous, tough, hard spot,” Yallop said. “It’s a lot running. It takes a lot out of your body. It takes you a while to recover from a 90-minute match.”
With four games in the next two weeks, off days are less about training and more about regeneration and rejuvenation. The list of options remains shorter than Yallop would like, so everyone has to be ready to contribute.
It shows in someone like Jason Johnson, who struggled for playing time with Houston only to arrive in Chicago and score two goals in 187 minutes on the pitch. Regardless of who is in the match, Yallop wants to see an attacking mentality and a finishing ability that puts the crowd on its feet, like Johnson did Saturday.
"I see the team as a team that the fans want to come watch,” Yallop said. “Once we get everyone on the field, it will be that.”
“You won’t see a better goal...Well…”
Frank Yallop’s voice trailed off. The Chicago Fire head coach was describing Jason Johnson’s sublime 92nd-minute strike to beat Seattle Sounders FC Saturday night, and in doing so, he reminded himself of some of the wonder strikes goals scored against his team at Toyota Park this season.
There was Cyle Larin’s bending shot in the late stages that drew Orlando City level in a 3-2 loss for the Fire back on June 6. Conor Doyle blasted a shot from 25 yards out to give D.C. United a 1-0 victory on June 24. Maybe those were “better” goals. It’s up for debate. But Saturday's feeling of being on the other end of things was priceless.
“In the past year in a half, we’ve witnessed the same type of game go against us,” Harry Shipp said. “I thought we played well throughout the game, and we probably deserved to score two or three goals at least, had a lot of chances. To finally persevere and get a goal, the guys who came on did a great job. It’s what we’re all about right now, battling through. We’ve got guys out, guys injured. To pick up three points is huge for our sake.”
It’s fair to say the Fire earned it. They managed 16 shots against the co-leader of the Western Conference, a side the club had not yet beaten in nine previous tries. The Men In Red held Seattle to 10 shots, four of which were on target. The 18,528 fans saw live the renewed energy and vigor the Fire displayed in a 1-1 draw at Houston on July 3. Fighting back to secure a point gave the team confidence that a pair of U.S. Open Cup wins couldn’t.
“We discovered something about ourselves in the second half in Houston,” Patrick Nyarko said. “To come out with a win, a positive win, in the very next game, is going to catapult us.”
The Fire players gave much of the credit to a replenished lineup. They’re still dealing with a plethora of key injuries (Jeff Larentowicz, Shaun Maloney and David Accam, among them), but the return of Nyarko and Mike Magee has been crucial. They’ve combined to create a multitude of chances, and even though the match was scoreless when they left it, they put Seattle on their heels. Following their departure, Jason Johnson and Michael Stephens combined for the stoppage time winner after fellow reserve Guly do Prado twice came close to breaking the ice.
The Fire's strong record of results with both Nyarko and Magee in the fold is telling, but even more than their attacking savvy, Nyarko and Magee have given the Men In Red a mental edge since their respective returns. It’s been visible in an improved demeanor during training, and the mentality has carried over to matchday.
“I think it’s just the attitude,” Shipp said. “It starts with Mike and Patrick coming back, fresh attitude. You get kind of stale attitude-wise if you’re kind of going through the same thing over and over. To have those guys come in and just kind of kickstart our change of attitude has been huge. It started back in Houston. I know we didn’t win that game, but I think for us, the attitude’s been totally different.”
Head Coach Frank Yallop
On the match
"Obviously great to get three points. I thought we played well enough to get three points tonight. Although late, much needed goal and very good to get three points at home. Looking forward obviously to our home stretch we got coming up. Very pleased."
On the importance of the fresh legs
"It was very important, if you look at the two guys Patrick and Mike, guys that are still not at hundred percent. It is important for our subs to come on and make a difference. And I think JJ and Mikey combined greatly for the goal. Terrific finish and obviously won us the game. I have been pleased with the spirit of the squad and we have been through some rough patches in the last few weeks. But we stuck together and are looking forward to our next game. We are looking forward to the Open Cup game coming up as well, so tonight was a very important three points. We spoke after the game on the field and I said to the guys, 'this is the feeling you want to have. You know, you worked hard to get this very important part. We have put our bodies through turmoil and fight, knocks, bumps, and bruises and you come out victorious.' I thought we deserved to win tonight, we fought hard, we tried to win the match and we were lucky, which is important."
On the play of Patrick Doody
"I am happy for Patrick and it was a solid good performance. If you look at Seattle obviously they are a good side and top of the West for a reason. And it is not just having both Dempsey and Martins out. They are tough to play against, they are good defensively. I thought we did great stuff early in the first half. In the first thirty minutes I thought we dominated and should have scored but we didn't, that was disappointing. But we kept going, we scored but a little late but we scored, that's important."
On the health of Patrick Nyarko and Mike Magee
"Mike got a knee to the back, he's a little sore, so I guess one good thing is we haven't run him into the ground for Wednesday, that's good news. Patrick looked like he got a knock but then he had a play afterwards where he didn't look too bad, dribbling the ball and playing. I have to see the medical staff and see how he is feeling and doing. But I thought both guys did well, after all it is just a long layoff for them to spark all the time is tough. They did a great job tonight, held it 0-0 and end up playing well the first half to maybe get ahead in the match. But again, we saved minutes for them which are important for Wednesday night."
On the importance of getting a late goal
"I think, I have been around this game a long time and you talk about different parts of the game, late goals scored and blame. To be honest it is the same type of thing if they score early. If you score late it changes for us all the time. We talk about not conceding late goals but we seem to do it quite regularly and early in the season. I think for us throughout the season but tonight was a good example; they have a few little sniffs and a little chance but didn't score. I feel Larin's goal against us was a word class goal. And if you look at the D.C. goal, I mean you don't see a better goal then that. Those two goals are what really hurt us and we lost because of it. So good to get through this defensively and it gives you confidence going into the next match. I thought we put our bodies on the line tonight and I was really proud with how the boys fought and dug in and got the goal and then didn't let it go. I thought it was good."
On the central partnerships in midfield and defense
"I thought Razvan especially was outstanding tonight, he covered so much ground. He is really coming into his own now, playing like the great professional we know he is, he is playing very well. And Polster is obviously a young kid that is learning and his enthusiasm I love, and he gets kind of caught up in that position once in a while but I'd rather him do that and learn from it then being timid and not getting himself out around the field. So very happy with those two in the middle and I thought both Adi coming off injured in the game in Houston and he worked very hard to get himself ready for this game. He is probably still sore here and there but I thought him and Eric were outstanding again. They fought; they battled and didn't want to give anything up. I think that is important and I talked to the guys and when we had a video meeting after the Houston game and I showed a ton of clips where we out fought Houston and we didn't win the game. I thought we fought tonight and didn't allow them to bully us and I thought that is important enough in our league and for us moving forward. Forget the players that are playing and if you don't want to fight, it is bad for your teammate and yourself. Often you are in the wrong spot and the last little spill. In the last couple games we have had there was desire to win the match and that is important."
On what was said to Jason Johnson before he entered the match
"Yeah, I said, 'get on the right wing, cut in and shoot in the far corner.' No, I didn't I just said make a difference. Just get up and down wherever you're playing. We do tend to mix it up a little bit, we were going to go three in the back but we decided to put JJ up front. Just get dangerous, we need a goal so whatever you need to do to get it onto to your left foot and get a strike off, please does it. It's not really one instruction it is more be forceful, be positive, get your shots off, and get your crosses off because that is what we need in this game. He was on for 15 minutes, give everything you have and close them down when they have it. And when you get a chance to goal go at them, get your shots and crosses off and he did that. It was a wonderful goal; I haven't seen a better goal this season. Well I have seen a few against us but for us this season this is a great goal. I am very happy for him and a good kid as well."
Patrick Doody, Chicago Fire Defender
On making his MLS debut
"As a Homegrown guy, it's something that I've thought about for quite some time. So to make my first appearance at home, with my family here, and obviously, more importantly with the win, in that type of fashion, it was a really special night, something I won't forget."
On the match
"It was awesome. Even though it came late, I'm not lying, we really thought it would come, and we kept at it defensively, didn't really give them much. It was a special play, special moment, and I think it was just a fun night for the Fire, fun night for the fans and just a really big team night."
Jason Johnson, Chicago Fire Forward
On the goal
"It was quite simple. It was a good ball from Mikey Stephens. Good counter attack and I just had one thing on my mind, to shoot. That's pretty much it. No doubt. Even before the ball was played, my mind was set to the option I did. Sometimes it goes on the other side of the post but I'm thankful that it went in tonight. It was great for the team."
On the recent struggle to get goals
"I don't think the team has been struggling to get goals. What does it do for the team? I think it was great. It was a great team effort tonight to get a win and get us back on track for the next couple of games. Good momentum for the team to get a couple more wins in the next few weeks."
Michael Stephens, Chicago Fire Midfielder
On the match
"I think it started in Houston more than tonight. Houston was a good effort, I think tonight we just continued on what we did there. But I think that was a big game for us, things were more positive in training this week and then we continued into the game, but I think Houston was a big turning point for this team."
On recovering from his injury earlier in the season
"I was out longer than I would have expected, I was out for four weeks, that takes a toll on you, obviously you lose some fitness. I've been back for the last three or four weeks training hard, trying to get back into the team so hopefully tonight helps me get more minutes."
On what the coaching staff has said about his role in the next four to five games
"Not as much as far as what my role is in the next four, five games, but we've been in communication about things they want to see me doing. We have an open dialogue. These are coaches that are honest and communicate with the players well, so I've had good conversations with them and haven't felt like I've been out of the team fully, so I've just been biding my time and waiting for my opportunity."
On the goal
"I saw that I was on a break and knew that I wasn't going to beat the guy with my speed. I saw Jason coming around my shoulder and I thought, 'the chances of him beating this guy with his pace are a lot better than mine,' so I let him go. It was a central midfielder caught in a left back position. Playing central midfield, you're not used to being in that position so I just round-footed him a little bit. He thought I'd go outside and the inside would open, but he's not used to being in that position."