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06 May 12:17 pm

If you're any type of soccer nerd, you may know the record for most lopsided defeat in a FIFA national team match match came on April 11, 2001 when an Australian side pushing to move outside of the Oceanic Football Confederation made a point by defeating tiny American Samoa 31-0.

Needless to say, the defeat brought large embarrassment to the tiny U.S. territory whose population is just a hair over 55,000.

Enter former D.C. United, Toronto FC and U.S. U-20 coach Thomas Rongen who threw connections with the U.S. Soccer Federation took the reigns for American Samoa during OFC qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The Dutchman worked wonders by leading the small nation to its first ever international win when they defeated Tonga 2-1 in their opening match of qualifying.

American Samoa tied their second match 1-1 vs. Cook Island and narrowly missed advancing out of the group, falling to Samoa 1-0 in the 89th minute of their final match.

While the side didn't advance, cameras followed Rongen throughout his short stint leading the team and made the movie "Next Goal Wins" which recently debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival.

This is where you come in... There will be a local screening of the film at the Regal Gardens 7-13 in Skokie on Wednesday, May 21 at 7:30pm. In order for it to happen, the theater needs RSVPs by the end of the day Wednesday.

Tickets are just $10.50 and can be purchased by clicking here.  

WATCH the trailer for the film below: 

06 May 8:54 am

The Chicago Fire were honored to have a very special guest take part in the club's First Kick at Saturday night's game vs. Real Salt Lake. 

Jack received a liver transplant from Lurie Children's Hospital when he was five months old. Now in Kindergarten, Jack is a healthy five-year-old who plays AYSO soccer with his team the Blue Bombers. 

Check out this video of Jack's experience from Saturday's match:

05 May 3:27 pm

With his goal in Saturday's match vs. Real Salt Lake, Fire forward Mike Magee continued to climb the club's goal scoring charts at an impressive clip.

The 22nd minute rebound on Harry Shipp's initial shot was Magee's 17th for the Fire in MLS play, tying him with footballing legend Hristo Stoitchkov at 10th on the club's all-time goal scoring list. But for his 63rd minute hit off the cross bar,  Magee nearly moved into a tie for 10th on the list with Brian McBride, Dominic Oduro and Chad Barrett.

Here's an infographic detailing where Magee stands, with the important stat being how quickly he's gotten there compared to those around him. 

As you can see from the chart below, nearly every goal Magee scores this year will move him further up the ladder, underlying that the club really hasn't had a long-term scoring threat since Ante Razov left the team after 2004. How high on the chart below do you think Magee can go by season's end? Tell us in the comments below.

Rank Player (Years) Goals Games Played
1 Ante Razov 76 155
2 Chris Rolfe 48 176
3 Josh Wolff 32 84
4 Marco Pappa 26 112
- Piotr Nowak 26 114
6 Dema Kovalenko 22 90
- Damani Ralph 22 51
8 Nate Jaqua 21 92
9 Jesse Marsch 19 200
10 Brian McBride 18 59
- Dominic Oduro 18 66
- Chad Barrett 18 82
13 Mike Magee 17 28
- Hristo Stoitchkov 17 51

 

05 May 11:55 am

Check out different angles and slow mo versions of Mike Magee & Juan Luis Anangono's first half goals from Saturday's match vs. Real Salt Lake: 

03 May 11:42 pm

Frank Yallop, Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer

On if the Fire were the better team tonight

“No, cause they weren’t. The first half was good, the second half we were totally out played. Very naïve from us. At some point you have to figure it out on the field. I can’t do much from where I am at except make changes in certain things, the lineup, and get other players in, but you got to stand up and be counted.”

On how frustrated he feels

“I feel terrible because I thought tactically we had it figured out. We did great in the first half, but the game is 90 minutes. You got to punish them with another goal, but I said at half time ‘they are going to come at you because they’re good.’ I don’t think we really wanted to win that game because we didn’t show it. If we wanted to, we would have put our head through the ball, and be good at that stuff. We had a total collapse in a game we should have won.”

On if the team broke down from Real Salt Lake’s pressure

“They’re a good side. They could have scored a couple first half [goals].The whole game is in ebbs and flows, we had some chances, took them, they had a couple, and Sean made two great saves. We’ve played eight games, we’ve not won yet. We got to go to a tough place next game, and we got to get a result.”

On keeping morale high without getting wins

“We will find out next week. We’ve not had that happen to us collapsing like that in the second half. Take nothing away from them but we should see that game out, 2-1, even 2-2, but not 3-2. I got to figure out who is going to be punching and fighting the whole season, the whole 90 minutes.”

On if there will be some changes for next week

“It’s a bit early for that, but I would think so.”

On if there was too much respect for Real Salt Lake

“They play a certain style of game. It’s a possession game. We just kept going backwards and not stepping into people. We tended to drop and have low pressure, but that doesn’t mean no pressure. You still got to try to win the ball back and then break. I don’t want to be that deep, but we ended up that deep. You got to see that game through. We’ve got to be man enough to see that game through, and we didn’t.”

On positives from that performance

“We scored two goals. I guess that’s a positive. When you lose it’s sickening. It’s very difficult to take. First half, Sean made some good saves and we played pretty well. Then a crazy 15-20 minute spell, we give the game to them, which is really disappointing.”

Jeff Larentowicz, Chicago Fire midfielder and captain

On what changed from the first half to the second half:

“We stopped doing things in the second half that we did well in the first – we conceded ground, allowed them to play in our end, didn’t connect passes once we had it, and if you do that against a good team they are going to beat you.”

On how RSL was able to do that:

“They crowd the ball, they get a lot of numbers, and they’re good at finding ways to keep possession.  They make you work defensively, so once you get it you’re tired and they wear you down.  I don’t think it was a conscious thing where we said ‘alright let’s hunker down,’ we just have to defend and defend properly.”

On how to move forward:

“This is a mental test for us.  All the positives we’ve been putting on things, we can’t do it any longer.  It’s been weeks and tonight it’s a loss, it’s not a game where can say we played a complete game and didn’t get the points, we didn’t.  We have to look at the mistakes we made and move on. Like I said, it’s a mental challenge; we can’t go in the negative direction.  The guys have to keep a positive attitude, guys have to honestly assess what they are doing personally to a man, go home and figure out how they are going to work harder and push themselves to have a positive attitude and push on. At this point it’s difficult – you can go one of two directions and we have to push forward and have to expect that we can learn from our mistakes and move on.”

Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire goalkeeper

On the result:

“I think it’s obvious that it doesn’t feel great, after we were up 2-0 and losing at home.  I can’t really describe the emotions right now; it’s a difficult one to swallow at home, being up.  We can’t make excuses for it though.  We were not good enough.”

On the shift in the game:

“We have to search for answers.  I don’t know what happened, we were up 2-0 on cruise control, the game was in our hands and they scored one, they scored two, get the momentum and before you know it they won the game.”

On what’s next for the team:

“This was definitely a test for us.  We’ve got to look at ourselves, there’s no one for us to blame.  We’ve got to look at ourselves in the locker room and come up with a solution.  We keep digging a hole for ourselves, there’s no reason at this point in the season we should be where we are - we should be close to the top of the table.  We’ve had games in hand; off the top of my head we’ve had four games now that I feel like we should have gotten a win.  Scratch the ties, we’ve taken a step back now with the loss.  We’ve got to get back to training.  We can’t get down; we can’t let something like this affect the mood of the team.  We have to keep chugging along; we have a handful of games left, so we have to dig in.”

On the difficulty of staying positive during the winless streak:

“This is our job, professionally, game in and game out we have to have the same attitude and find a way to win games, plain and simple.  We’ve been through everything tactically, physically and mentally I think now we have to find what it takes to win these games.”

On the coach’s reaction to the loss:

“Obviously we’re not happy with ourselves and the coaching staff is obviously disappointed with the result – there’s really not much more to say.  There’s disappointment all the way around.”

01 May 3:26 pm

Dan Haiek and Matt Doyle talk all things Harry Shipp and break down his rookie season.

01 May 9:09 am

It's Throwback Thursday on the Social Media which lines up for an interesting moment in Fire History that occured this week in 2001.

Coming up on the end of his career, legendary U.S. international Eric Wynalda was acquired by the Fire in a trade with New England that sent John Wolyniec and a 2002 SuperDraft pick to the Revolution on May 3 of that year. 

At the time, Wynalda was the all-time leading goal scorer for the U.S. Men's National Team (34 goals) but injuries and national team commitments had kept him from really making an impact for his previous MLS clubs in San Jose, Miami and New England.

Bolstering a Fire attack which already featured the likes of Ante Razov, Hristo Stoitchkov, Piotr Nowak and DaMarcus Beasley, Wynalda joined the team a month into the campaign and took just two days to score his first goal for the club in a 2-0 win over Tampa Bay on May 5. That goal was the first of 10 he scored in less than a full season with the Fire (the first time he'd done it since the inaugural MLS campaign in 1996). He also added two more in the Open Cup and a single marker in the MLS Cup playoffs.

That would be his only season with the Fire and curtain call in MLS but his double-digit goal campaign makes him one of just seven Chicago Fire players to achieve the feat. (Can you name the others? Answer below the photo...)

Though he played only one season for the Fire, Wynalda went into the National Soccer Hall of Fame as a Fire player in 2004, joining former U.S. teammates Paul Caligiuri and Mike Windischmann as well as Women's National Team legend Michelle Akers in that year's induction class.  

ANSWER: All-Time Chicago Fire double digit goal scorers: Ante Razov (1998-2000, 2002-2003), Damani Ralph (2003-2004), Eric Wynalda (2001), Josh Wolff (1999), Dema Kovalenko (2000), Dominic Oduro (2011), Mike Magee (2013)

01 May 8:47 am

After yet another draw against the Revs last time out, the Fire head into May without a win. The first of four grueling matches this month is against Real Salt Lake at Toyota Park on Saturday evening (7:30pm CT on My50/TWCSC). Both teams enter this game with sour tastes in their mouths after the way their last matches ended and I expect it to be a frantic first 20 minutes or so. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective.

Replacing Quincy – how will coach Yallop adjust to the loss of the team’s top scorer?

Perhaps the most important outcome of the match against New England last time out was the red card and one game suspension for Qunicy Amarikwa, the team’s top goal scorer and most consistent attacking threat this season. Replacing Amarikwa is no easy task, especially because his partnership with Mike Magee was just starting to bloom, but the Fire coaching staff does have plenty of options.

The most obvious and like for like switch would be for Juan Luis Anangono and act as the target striker with Magee playing behind him. Anangono has come off the bench on a consistent basis this season and will be looking to avenge his injury time penalty miss against New England.

A more likely scenario however would be for either Victor Pineda or Benji Joya to start in place of Amarikwa. Both players are comfortable playing in the forward roles and Joya especially would relish a chance to start in his more natural position instead of a wide one where he began the season.

Playing with either Joya or Pineda up front would also allow the Fire to continue to play a target-less striker formation, something that has worked to date this season. That being said, Frank Yallop could also decide to start Joya or Pineda in one of the wide positions in an attempt to combat RSL’s midfield diamond, as I will explain below.

Don’t be too distracted by the obvious – Plata and Saborio are the clear danger men but Luke Mulholland makes RSL tick

Many will argue RSL’s unbeaten start to the season is down to players like Joao Plata, Alvaro Saborio or Javier Morales making the difference but the player who has had possibility the biggest impact this season is Englishman Luke Mulholland.

Mulholland plays on the outside of RSL’s compact midfield diamond, with Ned Grabavoy operating on the other side. In attack, Mulholland can provide balls into the area from a wide position but he also excels at making late runs into the box where he often finds space due to defenders concentrating on RSL’s more known attacking threats.

Defensively, Mulholland provides cover for his full back and does not get caught up the field often in transition. The Englishmen has chipped in with two goals and one assist in four starts this season and acts as the youthful spark in a midfield containing veterans such as Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales.

Mulholland is also very versatile, with he and Grabavoy able to operate comfortably on either side of the diamond. To combat this, I could see the Fire drafting Matt Watson or Logan Pause in to pack the midfield, especially against RSL’s narrow formation. Watson or Pause could play alongside anchor Jeff Larentowicz or a bit higher up, perhaps alongside Harry Shipp or Alex in a 4-1-4-1 formation.

In last week’s match against Vancouver, RSL overran the Whitecaps midfield for much of the first half. Putting an extra body in the middle on Saturday night would ensure the same thing doesn’t happen to the Men in Red.

Exposing RSL on the flanks – proving an attacking threat from both wings

Since the return of Patrick Nyarko to the starting eleven, the Ghanaian has been a one-man wrecking crew down the right hand side for the Fire. Nyarko has also combined well with right back Lovel Palmer in attack – something we saw work in the Fire’s favor against New England two weeks ago.

Due to RSL’s narrow formation, they can be exploited on the wings, where the full backs are sometimes left isolated. Nyarko and Palmer should thrive against this type of formation but for the Fire to take full advantage, the team needs to also have a consistent attacking threat from the left.

As mentioned in previous previews, left back Greg Cochrane has excelled in the absence of Gonzalo Segares and is always looking to get forward to support the attack.

In recent matches, Harry Shipp has drifted inside from his wide left position to great effect but against RSL, whoever occupies the wide left position must try to take advantage of their narrow midfield by attacking from wide. With the center of the park sure to be busy, if the Fire focus their attack in the wide areas, it could result in the team picking up its first win of the season.

Prediction: It was a long time coming, but the Fire finally pick up three points – 2-1 Fire with goals from Mike Magee and Patrick Nyarko.

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

WATCH: Kevin and Jeff preview Saturday's game vs. RSL

30 April 3:10 pm

Michael Cox is a writer and the man behind Zonal Marking, the tactics nerd utopia of soccer content. For years, ZM’s straight-to-the-point style has illuminated the tactical sub-matter of important matches and identified the trends dictating soccer set-ups around the world.

We went back and forth on the 4-1-4-1 formation, national trends, and MLS’s best tactical role model.

Ben Schuman-Stoler: The Fire have experimented this year with a 4-1-4-1 formation, which has morphed in certain times into the more familiar 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 4-5-1, and 4-2-3-1 set ups. Can you say a little bit about the 4-1-4-1 in general? What are its weaknesses and strengths? Are there any teams in recent memory you can recall employing it consistently?

Michael Cox: The 4-1-4-1 isn't particularly fashionable, but part of this is because managers will always call it a 4-3-3 - a 4-3-3 is basically a 4-1-4-1 when it's without the ball. But 4-3-3 sounds much more exciting, so you'll rarely get a 4-1-4-1 hailed as a brilliant system.

The major problem is the fact the lone striker can become isolated, although the opportunity to get midfield runners forward means this shouldn't be too much of a problem if he can drop deep, link play and hold up the ball. That said, the importance of the midfield runners getting forward means the holding player has a huge responsibility without the ball, and can often become overrun at defensive transitions, particularly if the opposition get two players either side of him - he doesn't have the comfort of a partner.

BSS: Is there also anything different a back four (in particular the outside backs) have to keep in mind in a 4-1-4-1 compared to a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1?

MC: I think the major difference is that the full-backs have to be able to track the opposition’s winger inside. If you're in a 4-2-3-1 and you're dealing with an opposition 4-2-3-1, your two holding midfielders can deal with (a) the opposition number ten and (b) a David Silva-like character drifting inside. With the 4-1-4-1 he'll become overloaded, so your full-backs have more responsibility to move inside and stop him.

BSS: What are your thoughts regarding national-specific or league-specific tactics? Do they ever develop naturally and therefore uniquely for that country/league? Could the ideas developing in the MLS affect the U.S. National Team, and ever add to their chances of international success? In what way has MLS changed or not changed your understanding or appreciation of American soccer and tactics therein?

MC: This is an interesting question. I think it's generally top-down, to be honest - the national side gets success and influences lots of the domestic sides. The best example is Chile - Bielsa went there before the last World Cup, brought in 3-3-1-3 and heavy pressing, and that trickled down to the domestic sides, particularly Universidad de Chile. Now they all play that way, Chile have an identity, and Uni's old coach Sampoali is now the Chile manager, picking lots of his old players for the national side while simultaneously continuing with the Bielsa approach. I gather something similar has happened in Ghana with 4-2-3-1 and counter-attacking play. Really, I think the best way for the USA to arrive at something similar is for Jurgen Klinsmann to come up with something interesting, which then trickles down. It would be tough for him to accommodate MLS-specific tactics on the world stage against more 'advanced' European approaches.

BSS: I'm curious about the ways in which tactical ideas travel across countries. Recently Manchester City's American project nabbed Jason Kreis from Salt Lake City. He's currently doing 6 months at the Etihad to learn and bring their ideas to the States. What do you think MLS's opportunity is with regards to "market research"? How are tactical ideas developed on their own in certain leagues vs. affected by worldwide trends or coaching lineage?

MC: Hmm, that's such a tough question, you could probably write a whole book about it, to be honest. I think the main thing to consider here is that ideas now travel faster than ever before because of the internet etc, and also because coaches and players travel to different countries more than ever before. The globalization of football in the past 15 years or so means theoretically, there should be less boundaries in this respect.

To me it seems logical for an MLS club to look to the Premier League. American soccer seems quite physical and in a certain sense quite basic tactically, and of the major European leagues the Premier League is probably quite a good fit.

29 April 8:41 am

Now into it's second season, the MLS and USL PRO partnership is going well with 11 MLS sides currently affiliated with lower league teams, allowing younger players or those at the ends of MLS benches the ability to gain more playing time in meaningful matches at the USL level.

From the Fire end, we've seen the other side of the USL PRO partnership this past week, as the club's Reserve side played two matches against the Rochester Rhinos and Charlotte Eagles with the games counting in both the MLS Reserve Standings as well as the USL PRO table. With MLS mandating that all clubs either need to have an affiliation or  begin a separate team in the USL PRO division by 2015, the Fire and seven other MLS sides will surely have this in the forefront this year.

A look at the current MLS/USL PRO affiliations:

USL PRO Club MLS Club
Arizona United SC -
Charleston Battery Vancouver Whitecaps
Charlotte Eagles -
Dayton Dutch Lions Columbus Crew
Harrisburg City Islanders Philadelphia Union
LA Galaxy II LA Galaxy
Oklahoma City Energy Sporting KC
Orange County Blues -
Orlando City SC Sporting KC**
Pittsburgh Riverhounds Houston Dynamo
Richmond Kickers D.C. United
Rochester Rhinos New England Revolution
Sacramento Republic Portland Timbers & San Jose Earthquakes
Wilmington Hammerheads Toronto FC

**Sporting KC will have main affiliation with Oklahoma City beginning next season when Orlando City joins MLS

Last month Fire Technical Director Brian Bliss spoke to reporters about the headway the club has made on finding a USL PRO affiliate and specifically mentioned that the club held talks with the owners of Arizona United SC as well as a group in Milwaukee looking to launch a new USL PRO club in the near future and other possible cities in the Midwest.

The Colorado Switchbacks and Tulsa Roughnecks, two other clubs that could fit that "Midwest" mold, are already set to begin play in USL PRO next season while the USL Premier Development League's Michigan Bucks are also making noise about a move up to the professional level.

But what other Midwest cities could make sense for a Chicago Fire affiliation? Where does a soccer hotbed like St. Louis fall in all of this? What about Grand Rapids, Cleveland, Cincinnati or even Des Moines, Iowa?

Where would you most like to see a Fire USL PRO affiliation heading into the 2015 season? Tell us below: