Saturday was rough. You could almost feel the sucker punch coming, and it still hurt. Bad. There were a few interesting moments in the game but I couldn’t stop thinking about the wind. It’s one of the identifying characteristics of footy that you play in basically any condition, and it affects the way you play, the way you think about playing, and, obviously the results.
For all its stripped down, no pads, anyone-can-play humanity, the NBA is sterile in this regard. Every court is exactly the same and predictable (unless you have a bad shooting night, then you can blame the stadium’s depth perception, or lighting problems). Football has to play in weather, but they ruin the fun by putting Super Bowls in safe weather cities. Baseball has to play in weather too, but they cancel games if anyone gets mud on their shoes.
No, soccer has to deal with the elements in every way, from bee attacks to snow to pitch problems to wind.
Saturday against Philly began as a perfect example. The wind was strong enough to blow the froth off your beer. I saw a garbage can at Toyota Park get blown over and almost tumble down an aisle. Meanwhile, Philly could hardly get the ball in the air, and when they did, the wind held it up like the perfect alley oop. Austin Berry and Jalil Anibaba were able to measure the long balls up easily and win them consistently, even over Connor Casey.
But as the game developed, it was interesting because the wind didn’t seem to influence the game as much as it could have. It was irritating for the players (I’ve never seen Gonzalo Segares overhit so many crosses), and definitely a factor (it made Sean Johnson look like superman, I swear he could’ve kicked a goal kick into a bags game on the Party Deck in the first half if he wanted to), but it wasn’t the storyline.
Anibaba and Berry kept winning headers off goal kicks and clearances going both directions, and neither team were obviously playing out of the back on the ground the way teams do when they’re avoiding long balls into the wind. It seemed like a stalemate between the wind and the two sides. If only the wind could’ve pushed Patrick Nyarko's second half chance just an inch or two left, we’d be here sipping champagne joking about the wind, but we got sucker punched.
Let’s take the funny with the tragic, here. The Fire were clearly robbed of three points, and the good news is that there’s plenty of time to recover these lost points. The Rolfe/Nyarko partnership is promising, the weather’s getting better, and at the end of the season we’ll look back at plays like this one from Anibaba and laugh.
Our Team for the World partner Club America took a big step towards their first domestic title since 2005, defeating Pumas UNAM 2-1 in the second leg of the Liga MX Clasura quarterfinals on Saturday at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.
Heading into the match, America already held a 1-0 aggregate lead after Raul Jimenez struck in the 28th minute of the first leg on Wednesday.
Pumas pulled the series level by virtue of Robin Ramirez' classy one-time volley past Moises Munoz in the 21st minute.
Club America would re-take the lead as Ecuadorian international Christian Benitez finished from close range following a redirected shot in the 56th minute.
With the hosts already looking like they'd advance, Benitez put the final nail in the coffin deep into second half stoppage time, beating Pumas 'keeper Miguel Palacios inside the post to clinch a 3-1 aggregate victory.
With the win, Club America moves on to the Liga MX Clasura semifinals and will vist Montrerrey in Wednesday's first leg before welcoming los Rayados to the Azteca for leg two Saturday night.
The Chicago Fire face Club America in an international friendly on Saturday, July 10 at Toyota Park.
Select shots from the Fire's match vs. the Union
Credit: Brian Kersey Chicago Fire
The Fire head into Saturday afternoon’s game against the Union (12:30pm CT on NBC Sports Network) on the back of a much-needed bye week after the tough loss in Montreal the week prior.
Philly tied 2-2 against lowly Seattle last time out and are set to be missing a few defenders due to injury and suspension. Both teams play each other twice over the next seven days. Here are some things to look for from a tactical perspective.
Philly’s makeshift back line – Fire must take advantage - part 1
The Union come into this game missing starting right back Sheanon Williams and it appears former Fire player Bakary Soumare will get the start at center back for the first time all season.
WATCH: Match Preview
This major reshuffle combined with the Fire being the home team should mean Frank Klopas’ side will be set up to attack Philly whenever possible. Williams is a loss on the right, not only for his defensive play but also his long throw ability which can be used as an offensive threat.
Filling in for Williams should be usual left back Raymon Gaddis. Gaddis looked particularly uncomfortable against New England in the Union’s last away match in April, with the youngster getting caught out by balls in behind on a few occasions.
He was also exposed when put under pressure. The Revs wingers had luck getting the ball in the box from Gaddis’ side and with this in mind, I expect to see Joel Lindpere and Gonzalo Segares getting forward and attacking Gaddis whenever possible.
Philly’s makeshift back line – Fire must take advantage - part 2
Ironically, last season’s match against the Union saw Bakary Soumare play his first and only game of the 2012 season for the Union. In that match, the Fire looked to get in 1v1 situations with the rusty defender and it paid off, with MacDonald beating Soumare before crossing for a Chris Rolfe tap in goal. This weekend’s game plan should be no different with Soumare not playing in a match since the game last August.
The Men in Red will also look to force Soumare out of the middle to cover on the outside, something no centerback likes to do. Presumed starting wingers Patrick Nyarko and Joel Lindpere will be relishing 1v1 opportunities with the big defender.
Another area to test Soumare will be in the air. New England was able to win the ball in the aerial battle on numerous crosses into the Philly box, partially because of the hesitancy of goalkeeper Zac MacMath to come and challenge them.
A new center back pairing combined with a sometimes hesitant goalkeeper can lead to defensive errors and one such error could be decisive on Saturday afternoon.
WATCH: Athletico Coaching Corner
Stopping the Philly attack - be ready for different combinations
When one looks at the Philly attack this season, it is easy to get distracted by the exploits of 20-year-old Jack McInerney who has notched six goals already for the Union this season.
He picked up April’s Player of the Month award and is playing the best soccer of his young career. Beyond McInerney, the Union have three excellent strikers who bring different playing styles to the table.
Veteran Conor Casey has played up front with McInerney in recent matches and has combined well with the man 11 years his junior. Both strikers are very fluid, dropping deep, moving out to the wing or playing in the advanced striker role and switching at a moment's notice.
It is much easier to prepare for what you presume to be the starting strikers will be. The challenge in Saturday's game will be the adjustments the coaching staff make if and when the Union decide to bring on some attacking substitutions.
Antoine Hoppenot and Sebastian Le Toux have started from the bench in recent matches but both have a tendency to make a big impact once brought on. Le Toux is very good with the ball at his feet and he can easily play in the second striker role, allowing McInerney to permanently move higher up the pitch.
Hoppenot scored four goals off the bench last season and has come off the bench in all but one game this season. If Le Toux does come on, dropping presumed center-mid starter Daniel Paladini a bit deeper to reduce the space Le Toux has to operate in is an option.
In-game adjustments are not often talked about but can often be the difference between three points and one.
Prediction: 2-1 Fire with goals from Nyarko and Lindpere
Instead of talking to him in 140 characters, why not join him live for a Google+ Hangout Friday afternoon?
Daniel will begin taking your questions at 12:15pm CT but you can begin asking him questions for the chance to win
- 2 FREE Premier tickets to Saturday's match vs. Philadelphia Union
- 2 FREE tickets to next Thursday's Art of Futbol event
- A team-signed Chicago Fire ball.
The Toyota Park Turf Field has been put to good use this week as the club's full-funded Academy program began tryouts for the 2013/14 Academy season.
The Chicago Tribune was put together a video documenting some of the tryout process with Academy Director Larry Sunderland, Staff Coach Charlie Trout and Director of Soccer & Team Development Paul Cadwell.
The soccer world was stopped in its tracks Wednesday as legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson announced this season would be his last.
“I actually heard this morning before training. I had a moment. Then I had a moment to think. It’s just sad. I know it’s the right time but sometimes as the speculation has kept on going you start to think it’s never going to happen. You think he’s going to be there until he dies.
“I guess he’s made his decision it’s just a tough one because he’s simply irreplaceable. He’s given the club so much and as he said he left the club in the best possible state.
"I’m curious to see who the next manager is going to be. I’m sure whoever it is he’ll take after Sir Alex. He can’t be him but he can follow the tradition and apply his philosophies to keep the club at a top-level.
“I’d absolutely be alright with the next guy being David Moyes. That guy’s demeanor and his success with Everton with a smaller budget make me feel he’d be successful at United. I think he’s a player’s coach, every player he’s had plays hard for him.
“To go to a bigger club like Manchester United, he’ll have a lot more flexibility and I think he’d be really successful. I’d vouch for him and I hope the United faithful would be behind him.”
“It’s a sad day. I woke up and checked my Twitter – that’s how I found out. You knew at some point it had to come to an end.
"It’s pretty sad but at the same time it’s great to celebrate what he’s achieved. I grew up a United fan and he’s the only manager I’ve known there.
“Sir Alex is such an iconic figure around Old Trafford and in the English game and he’ll forever be the greatest manager there. It’ll be pretty weird to see someone else sitting where he was – I don’t know if they’ll be chewing gum or not but it’ll be sad to see someone else step in.”
After a scoreless 120 minutes, the Fire’s Team for the World alliance partner Internacional (Brazil) needed a shoot-out to edge Juventude 4-3 on Sunday, May 5 to clinch the Rio Grande do Sul state championship.
Inter played the same starting 11 for the third straight match in the final as former Brazilian international and national team coach Dunga clinched his first title with the club.
As the winner of the first stage, the Piratini Cup, another tourney title in the Farroupilha Cup meant that they clinched the State championship. In the standard format the two winners face each other.
Internacional now moves on to open up the national Campeanato Brasileiro Saturday, May 25 against Vitoria.
The top four finishers from that competitoin qualify for the Copa Libertadores, the top club competition in South America.
Congratulations to Sport Club Internacional from the Chicago Fire!
UPDATE! The Chicago City Council voted unanimously to pass the the below resolution Tuesday morning.
The Chicago Fire today took part in hearings regarding a historic resolution regarding LGBT athletes to be introduced for passage by the Chicago City Council on Wednesday.
The Fire were represented at Tuesday’s hearings by Senior Director of Communications Dan Lobring who brought to light the club’s support for Robbie Rogers, participation with Equality Illinois in the 2012 Chicago LGBT Pride Parade and Section 8 Chicago’s “Our Diversity, Our Strength” tifo displayed prior to a game against the Houston Dynamo on April 15, 2012.
Sponsored in tandem by Alderman Joe Moore, the City Council’s Human Rights Committee and The Last Closet, should Wednesday’s resolution pass, Chicago would become the second city after San Francisco to declare its backing for LGBT athletes.
The end goal of the resolution is to ultimately get commissioners of all major North American sports leagues to state publicly their support for LGBT athletes, invite them to come out and pledge to make them safe and accepted.
For more information on Wednesday's resolution, please click here.