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27 March 4:12 pm

After picking up a point in the home opener against Supporter’s Shield winners New York last week, the Fire head to D.C. looking to steal all three points for the first time this season (LIVE 3pm CT on NBC Sports Network).
 
D.C. are in transition and are also in search of their first win. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective:
 
Continuing to attack with pace - utilizing Alex
 
Against New York last week, the Fire looked very dangerous on the counter attack when Alex was given space to run at the Red Bulls defense. Not only was the Brazilian able to beat players 1v1 but he drew defenders out of position, opening up space for players like Mike Magee and Quincy Amarikwa to move into.
 
In D.C.'s last match away in Toronto, Ben Olsen's team was also incapable of defending against the quick counter attack. Michael Bradley and Co. found it much too easy to bypass the lone United defensive midfielder Perry Kitchen who received little help from his fellow midfielders.

I expect D.C. to deploy another central midfielder to help out Kitchen against the Fire, but if the Men in Red can continue to break with that much pace and the interplay between Alex, Magee and Amarikwa continues to improve, the Fire should fare well on Saturday.
 
More attacking play from wide - taking advantage of D.C. team not fully settled
 
Against New York last weekend the Fire were forced into making changes at both outside back positions due to injury and suspension respectively.
 
Matt Watson and Greg Cochrane have had barely any time to work with their new teammates since their recent moves and it showed at times in last week’s game. Against D.C., where there is a good chance both will start again, I look for an improvement in the attacking play from both players.
 
It will also be interesting to see how Watson/Shipp and Cochrane/Joya combine down each flank after another week’s worth of training together. While there is certainly a weakness in the D.C. midfield, a balance between attacking down the middle and from the wings is necessary.
 
With so many new players on the field for D.C., positioning, especially defensive positioning, is a major problem. This was quite obvious in the Toronto match, with D.C. players often gesturing to one another in an attempt to determine who to mark.
 
If the Fire can get Watson and Cochrane forward to support the attack, it will pin D.C. back and could benefit the away team.
 
Keeping Eddie Johnson isolated and limiting set pieces - making it harder for D.C. to find the net

 
D.C.'s most notable offseason acquisition was striker Eddie Johnson, who on his day is one of the league’s best strikers. In his first two games however, Johnson was an isolated figure up front, managing only 1.5 shots according to the website Who Scored.
 
The Fire’s defense did a fine job shutting down Thierry Henry last week and will be looking to do the same against Johnson and perhaps register a first shutout of the season. D.C. have yet to score this year but are a major threat from set pieces with players like Jeff Parke, Bobby Boswell and Fabian Espindola looking to get on the end of quality deliveries from Luis Silva.

D.C. got men in the box at any opportunity against both Toronto and Columbus and I expect it to be no different on Saturday. After giving up yet another goal from a set piece last week, the Fire coaching staff will no doubt be encouraging the players to keep their concentration, especially against a team desperate to pick up its first points and goal of the season.
 
Prediction: 2-0 Fire with goals from Alex and Quincy Amarikwa.

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

WATCH: Sean Johnson, Matt Watson preview D.C. United

27 March 8:17 am

I've spent some time this week on Twitter pondering whether or not New York Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill would receive any additional suspension for a swing he took on reigning 2013 MLS MVP Mike Magee in the waning moments of Sunday's home opener.

The thoughts crossed my mind after seeing the two game suspension that Fire defender Lovel Palmer received the previous week for a foul that didn't look nearly as egregious as the one Cahill committed on Magee. My suspicions were only heightened when the play didn't make it into MLSsoccer.com's weekly "Instant Replay" feature earlier this week.

Watch it again below:

The MLS Disciplinary Committee decided Wednesday that the foul Cahill committed was only deserving of the yellow card that referee Drew Fischer showed to the Australian international and that no further disciplinary action would be necessary.

Admittedly I'm a homer and I'm sure there has at some point in the 19-year history of MLS there have been more egregious plays that have gone unpunished but it was hard not to feel like Lovel Palmer, who will be suspended again for Saturday's game at D.C. United, was the one losing out in this whole situation.

As I learned Wednesday night, clearly I should have just called on the services of young Keira Magee, who with the help of her father, quite plainly put the whole situation in perspective better than multiple tweets from the club's Team Writer ever could:

Anyways, it may be time to get the below hashtag some love on Twitter...

26 March 9:07 am

It's Opening Day on Sunday and I'm making my normal pre-game rounds at the Section 8 Chicago tailgate. As I parade through the gaggle of the club's most vocal supporters, I stop and welcome back familiar faces from Ultras Red Side, one of the bigger groups inside of Section 8.  

As we chat about our hopes for the game and what kind of spirits are keeping us warm, one Antwon Galante reveals a fresh tattoo he had done the night before. 

"I had it planned for a while now but I wanted to get it for the new season -- fresh ink and a fresh start for 2014," Galante told me by phone on Wednesday.

The new tattoo features a large Fire logo on his right wrist and above it, an illustration of "The Harlem End" where Section 8 Chicago is based in Toyota Park. 

"Obviously I wanted to pay homage to the Fire but also pay tribute to Section 8 and The Harlem End," he said. "It's a special part of our stadium and it's been like a second home to me."

While the tattoo was still obviously raw (and a little painful for Antwon), I quickly took out my iPhone and threw it up on the @ChicagoFire Instagram account. Shortly after @MLS did a #regram of it and Antwon was famous in the #MLSInk world.

You come into work on Wednesday and see the whole #cf97Ink hashtag has started to be populated on Twitter by others that have made that life-long decision to have some type of Chicago Fire-related art adorn their body. 

A few more... 

Have #cf97Ink? Join the party by tweeting photos of your Chicago Fire-related tattoos to us @ChicagoFire using #cf97Ink. We'll post them in this blog throughout the day! 

Extra credit goes to the person that doesn't have #cf97Ink but goes and gets it by the end of the day... 

25 March 4:57 pm

The Chicago Fire Soccer Club welcomed community partner, City Year Chicago at Sunday’s home opener against the New York Red Bulls. City Year, an education-focused non-profit organization that combats the nation’s dropout epidemic by uniting young people of all backgrounds for a full year of full-time service in high-need schools. Because of the Fire’s support and the support of all of our team sponsors, City Year Chicago is able to place 206 corps members in 20 schools, impacting 5,000 5th through 9th grade students through academic supports, mentoring programs, after school activities and parent engagement initiatives.

As the partnership continues in 2014, the Club extended an invitation to all 200 members of City Year Chicago to attend the Fire’s first home game at Toyota Park. Those who were able to attend joined Fire owner Andrew Hauptman on the field prior to the match for photo op and recognition.

The Club will also have presence at City Year’s Family Engagement Night Tuesday evening as members of the Chicago Fire Foundation and Community Relations Department will be in attendance.

25 March 2:46 pm

On Tuesday I wrote about Fire newbie Greg Cochrane filling in admirably for veteran left back Gonzalo Segares during his club debut in Sunday's 1-1 draw with New York. You can't always fit every good quote into a story so without just throwing them all away, I decided to include them here...  

JC: How has getting time in the CONCACAF Champions League with LA Galaxy so early in your career helped you?

GC: When you’re going down to other countries  you’re playing in hostile environments where the fans throw stuff at you. From that point of view, I also got to see a lot of different styles – Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador – every country has their own flavor and I was able to pick up a lot of different stuff from those games, try to get better and keep improving

JC: When Mike Magee joined the Fire last year, he said playing with the likes of Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and David Beckham everyday gave him a certain confidence. Would you agree?

GC: Definitely. Training with those guys every day, Robbie and Landon and Omar Gonzalez are on national teams. They’re the best in their countries and are top class players. You learn so much from them and so when you come to other teams, it gives you confidence to keep doing what you’re doing.

JC: As a left back, who do you model your game after most?

GC: Right now my two favorites are Leighton Baines for Everton and Jordi Alba for Barcelona. They’re not the biggest of guys and neither am I but when you see guys like that succeeding at the highest level, you know you can do it too. Jordi at Barcelona is busing all over the field and Baines is one of the best left foots in the world serving a ball. I try to emulate both of them.

JC: How difficult would you describe the past few weeks, joining a new team and having to move to a new city all while trying to earn your spot in the team? 

GC: It’s been a fun experience. I try to take eeverything and put it in a good light. It was nice that the Fire were coming out to LA the first week so I didn’t have to rush to put anything into storage. It gave me a couple days to process the fact that I was traded and meet up with the team. Here, you’re in the hotels and you don’t have a permanent residence yet – that’s part is frustrating. It’s fun, I’ve enjoyed it so far – all the guys are real welcoming. It’s good to feel welcomed right away – it makes you feel like you can play like yourself and be yourself. 

24 March 10:36 am

Back by popular demand, the segment that lets you watch your favorite moments of the game in Slo-Mo from different angles, "Slow it Down".

This time, Harry Shipp serves in a great ball and captian Jeff Larentowicz is on the other end of it to head it home... let's slow it down:

23 March 6:48 pm
Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop

On playing his first game at Toyota Park
 
“Obviously disappointed to not come away with a win, but for the effort, I thought both teams played pretty well on a difficult surface today. What I did like about our guys was that we were probably closer to winning the match than to losing it, so that’s always good. We had a couple of good chances to get that second goal. I think that one chance, I haven’t seen the game on tape, Mike Magee’s chance late with his left foot there. Having said that, we didn’t lose the match; I thought we did some bright stuff, we tried to play the way we want to play, but I guess in the end, a draw is a fair result.”
 
On young guys making their first appearances at home
 
“I thought they did well. It’s never easy for these young guys to come in and play in such a big stage. I think both Harry [Shipp] and Benji [Joya] last week did a good job and played well today again. Victor’s [Pineda] first taste was today; I’ve seen more of Victor than he did today, but having said that, I think it’s always good to give those guys a chance to blossom and play; and I think that from our injury situation right now it’s a chance for a lot of guys to get some minutes and play and see how they get on, so I was pleased with all three of them.”
 
On game plan
 
“Well, I think the difficult part was we wanted to obviously possess the ball better and play better, obviously play our type of game, a possession-based high press; but I think that the field didn’t really suit either team. When we started the press a little bit, they just banged it along and we did the same, so it kind of got you a little bit of a scrappy affair. What I liked about the team was we did create some good chances in those sort of scrappy moments. I was pleased with that, and we had some good moments where I think on a decent surface we might have had a chance at scoring a goal; game plan changed a little bit, once we saw the surface we talked about it, we couldn’t take any chances trying to play out of the back too much with the field.  Having settled that, there was some good play in the final third from both teams, but I thought we had some good looks today, but we didn’t finish them.”
 
On Matt Watson’s play and versatility
 
“I’ve known Matt for a number of years, as I’ve stated before, but I just like those type of players that can slot in anywhere; kind of get what I want out of the player, and he does that, he gives you 100% any position he plays. I thought he played very well last week, I thought he played very well today; maybe some early moments, a little bit he had to get used to that position, but once he did, you saw he sticks to his task, and he does all the things I ask of him so it was a great pickup for us. He’s slotted in well with the injury situation we’ve had, the  suspension as well, so, I thought he played well.”
 
On Mike Magee’s Performance
 
“Mike’s not played a game for maybe 6 weeks, so, not to say it showed, but what I liked about it [was that] we spoke at halftime, he said ‘I’m fine.’ Once he gets through, once he gets into his rhythm, he’ll be fine. But, again, he had that good look, I think he had another chance, I think it was on a cross, I wouldn’t say usually he would probably score, but pretty close to it; but it’s good to get 90 minutes. He’s a big part of what we’re trying to do, and a big part of the club. He soldiered on, he looked tired obviously at the end; but he soldiered on, and on the break maybe we could’ve used him to get that winning goal, but it wasn’t to be today. But I was pleased with Mike’s performance.”
 
On the defense’s progress
 
“You’re playing against two really, really good players in [Tim] Cahill and [Thierry] Henry. They’re very, very crafty, they’ve played at the highest level, so it’s never an easy day. And I think, especially Thierry Henry, he knows how to find the spaces and he’s difficult to pick up. What I liked about us, especially the second half, we started to stay with runners and figure it out a little bit better than the first half. I thought they had a couple of opportunities in the first half where they carved us up a little bit from late runs, but we talked about it at halftime and I think we adjusted well and snuffed them out a little bit. They did have some situations that they looked dangerous on, but all in all, I was pleased with the back four and the defensive work we did.”
 
Harry Shipp, Chicago Fire midfielder
 
On the first half:
 
“We definitely had a good start to the game, we had some good chances after to make it 2-0, but unfortunately they pulled a goal back.   Overall, I thought it was a pretty good start heading into the half.”
 
On how comfortable he is:
 
“It’s only my second game professionally.  I’ve played less than 180 minutes total so it’s still a little fast.  I’m still getting a hold of things, in terms of getting comfortable going forward, focusing on defensive responsibilities and keeping things simple. I’m trying to get those balls, playing those passes because that’s what I like to do - I like to set up those guys up top to score some goals. Hopefully it shows in the next couple of games.”
 
On the surface:
 
“It was a little choppy.  We tried to get the ball in their attacking half and not play around with in our own half because you never know; you could slip or play a bad pass because of the field. 
Going forward when the field starts to get better we’ll start to get better possessing in the attacking half and hopefully we’ll score some more goals.”
 
Mike Magee, Chicago Fire forward
 
On how he feels:
 
“I’d feel better with a win, but individually I thought the first half I was sloppy and was having a hard time trying to find the ball.  Hats off to them, they came in with a great game plan.”
 
On the result:
 
“I would have preferred a win, but it’s nice to get the first game behind you.”
 
On the field conditions:
 
“It was rough and bumpy.  It was hard and took about two touches to get the ball under control, which was unfortunate for both teams. But considering how bad the weather was, it should have been a lot worse. It was actually a lot better than I was expecting it to be.”
 
On the physical play:
 
“It got chippy at times, I don’t think it was too bad.  As the game when on it was so wide open that both teams were just trying to end the play as quickly as possible.  The pitch was so bumpy that it got to a point that it was even hard to counter or connect passes to the middle, so the whole team was just knocking it forward.”
 
On play of the younger players:
 
“These kids are good – Benji [Joya] and Harry [Shipp] are both good.  That’s the plus to take away from these first three games.  The future with them looks good and they will only get better.”
 
Victor Pineda, Chicago Fire midfielder
 
On his first professional appearance:
 
“It’s a lot of fun to be out there.  It’s something that I’ve been working for, for a while now.  It was exciting just to be in a game that was 1-1 knowing that you can score the goal to help your team win the game.”
 
On waiting for the appearance:
 
“I didn’t lose hope, but at times it got frustrating.  I think that helped me to mature in a lot of ways.  Mentally I’m a lot tougher now than I was, not just from when I first signed but from just a year ago or two years ago and I think that’s going to help me a lot in the future.”
 
On what Frank Yallop said to him before he entered the match:
 
“He just said to enjoy it and he asked me if I was ready and just laughed a little bit.  I feel like I’ve been ready for a while.”
22 March 1:12 pm

The vital information on your 2014 Chicago Fire ahead of Sunday's home opener vs. New York Red Bulls...

 Tickets still available for Opening Day, Sunday at 2pm CT vs. New York! Click here!