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11 May 6:49 am

Sometimes in the stat world you need an assist. Sometimes in the MLS stat world, you quite appropriately may need a second assist.

This came for me Saturday night when Fire Analyst Kevin Egan tweeted to ask this question following a wild 5-4 win in New York:

Perhaps knowing I was too busy bowing at the altar of a boy wunderkid, Hot Time in Old Town founder Tweed Thornton did the quick research: 

Having finished the lamb sacrifice (kidding!), I woke up this morning to do some more research of my own. Kevin and Tweed were correct, not only did we see the first-ever Fire rookie/Homegrown score a hat trick Saturday night, we also saw the quickest four-goal barrage in the club's 17 season. Wow!

Here's a list of the ones that came (sort of) close:

Date Opponent/Score Minute Span Total Minutes Goal Scorers
5/10/2014 5-4 W at RBNY 49-64 15 Amarikwa 49, Shipp 53', 58', Nyarko 64'
7/4/2001 7-0 W at KC 72-88 16 Nowak 72', 81', Stoitchkov 83', 88'
7/1/1998 4-1 W at DAL 7-36 29 Kubik 7', Razov 16', Kosecki 20', Podbrozny 36'
5/13/2000 4-1 W vs. SJ 5-40 35 Kovalenko 5', Kubik 12', og 13', Razov 40'
4/3/2008 4-0 W vs. NE 4-39 35 Barrett 4', Frankowski 22', 39', Blanco 37'
5/23/1998 5-0 W vs. COL 21-57 36 Brown 21', Razov 51', Podbrozny 55', Kosecki 57'

 

10 May 10:48 pm

Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop

On the spirit of the team:

“It’s been good. I mean, you know, I think last week we had that same situation. We’re 5-2 up in this game and they nearly come back and tied it. We’re two-nil up at home and they come back and win it, [Real] Salt Lake last week. So, what I’d like to think is we’ve learned something from last week. We can only get as hairy as this, but [we’re] playing against a really good team. You can’t take away from that.”

On Harry Shipp:

“Great. Harry’s been playing really well. Each game he’s gotten better, and better, and better. I think just his passes with the one pass to Mike [Magee] when he just missed it, first half, to make it 2-1 I think, and they go down the other end and score. That pass, you know, he’s got that passing in as well as the finishing. I can’t say enough about Harry. He’s really working hard at his game, he looks like a real player, and I think he’s got a great chance at going all the way.”

On the importance of scoring the first goal:

“I always say, and I think there’s stats if you look at the stats, if you score first in our league it’s 83 percent, I think, you get a point or more. So, I think, you know, getting on the chart first is always a big thing. We’ve been a bit unlucky, to be honest. We’ve had two home games and we’ve had a penalty kick in the last minute of the game to win it and missed them both. So, we could’ve been on three wins, four wins, you know, maybe two wins, or whatever and we’re not stuck talking about it now. What I like about the group, you know, they’re really celebrating now because they deserve it, you know, we’ve deserved more that we’ve got. They have not dropped their heads, come to a really difficult place to play, and get a result, and score five goals, which is amazing really, in any game, not just coming to New York and doing it. I’m really proud of the guys the way they hung in there at the end, Sean [Johnson] made two great saves, and we preserved the win.”

Chicago Fire Forward Quincy Amarikwa

On the match:

“I think overall we showed a lot of fight. We came on the road, I think a lot of people, especially the analysts, didn’t think we could come out here and get the road win. I’m glad we were able to prove them wrong.”

On the second half:

“We came in at half time and knew we were sitting in too much. We were giving New York too much respect to play and we know we can score goals. That’s what we’ve done consistently this year. So, we said in the second half we’re just going to high press, what do we have to lose, and I think it really caught them off guard. We put away the number of goals we needed to get the win tonight.”

On the importance of getting the first win of the season:

“I think it’s a pretty big relief, you know, we’ve kept the morale high this entire time. We’ve known we’re capable of winning. I mean a lot of games came down, I think there’s two games that came down to PK’s that we just weren’t lucky on. It was nice to have a little bit of luck go our way today and I just think it’s what’s more to come. We know we can win and we just proved it tonight and we’re going to continue on with the rest of the season.”

Chicago Fire Midfielder Harry Shipp

On the match:

“Yeah I’m honestly just happy to get the first win for this team. I think over the past four or five games, or so, we’ve had some heartbreaking ties and losses giving up late goals, especially last week. So, I think just hanging on for the win, I think New York’s a good team, they were going to get back in the game, you kind of knew that, but just kind of some last ditch defending helped us in the last 10 minutes or so. I’m just happy, if I score three goals and we don’t win the game it doesn’t really matter. So, that’s what’s important.” 

On his game:

“Yeah I think especially in the second half. I think I was finding spaces in the first half and played a ball to Mike [Magee], scored one goal, but I think we kind of knew going into half time, I think we knew we could exploit those spaces even more underneath, me coming inside off the left and so I think we really started pressing higher in the second half, trying to win the ball off their back four, which is how I got my second goal, or third goal was taking it off of them. So yeah, I think the first, especially 30 minutes of the second half were really good.”

On play of the team:

“Yeah it was surprisingly upbeat. You know, I think we played well for those first 70 minutes or so and then I think we collapsed down the stretch, but we know if we could take those 70 minutes and turn it into 90 minutes we have a chance to win every game and I think we’ve been playing well the prior three, four games before that and that was just a lapse of 20 minutes, like I said. But yeah, I think everyone was hungry in training, everyone was feisty trying to get after it, trying to get a spot in the [starting] 11, and I think, you know, it showed this game.”

08 May 5:35 pm

As I did much of last year, I was excited to be invited back to Soccer House, headquarters of the U.S. Soccer Federation, for Thursday’s third round Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup draw.

I was joined on Prairie Street by Indy Eleven President Peter Wilt, who was there to witness his club’s first Open Cup coin flip.

If you read some of my Open Cup draw articles last year, you might have seen a very complicated process which involved bigger groupings of geographical possibilities, numbering pieces of paper and drawing from envelopes before any coins were flipped.

None of that was the case on Thursday as Competition Secretary Paul Marstaller was able to fit all potential third round matchups in to "logical geographic pairings" so only coin flips needed to take place.

For the Open Cup nerds out there, this may disappoint you and if you'd rather go no further, I suggest you just read U.S. Soccer's official release on the potential third round pairings. If you would still like to know some of the interesting intricacies of the day's happenings, keep reading: 

  • Five lower-league professional sides did not apply to host third round matches: USL PRO's Harrisburg City Islanders, Orange County Blues, Arizona United SC, Oklahoma City Energy FC and NASL's Atlanta Silverbacks.
  • As they did last year, USL PRO's Dayton Dutch Lions did apply to host but their field does not meet U.S. Soccer's competition requirements (a common theme here). Their second round opponent, North Chicago side Schwaben AC also applied to host but their venue does not meet requirements as well. 
  • Why would both clubs apply to host if they didn't meet requirements? While it's unlikely it would happen, supposing the opponent that pair was matched up with also didn't meet field or venue requirements or didn't apply to host, U.S. Soccer could then award hosting rights to either club. In the case of Dayton/Schwaben, because Indy Eleven applied to host and their home venue meets requirements, a coin flip did not occur for this matchup. 
  • Another interesting example of this was on the last flip of the round in the matchup of Cal FC / LA Galaxy II and PSA Elite / San Diego Flash. Of the four teams, only LA Galaxy II's venue met requirements, while both PSA Elite and San Diego Flash applied to host although neither team's field met requirements. So in the case that Cal FC won, the winner of the PSA Elite / San Diego Flash match would host a third round match up by default.
  • With USL PRO's Charleston Battery having the only suitable host venue in their potential match up (they play the PDL's Panama City Pirates in Round 2), they automatically were rewarded hosting rights should they advance to a third round matchup against the winner of Jacksonville United FC / Orlando City U23s. Jacksonville United did apply to host but their home venue was deemed not to fit stadium requirements. However, should Charleston lose and Jacksonville win, the NPSL side would host Panama City in the third round. Should both Panama City and Orlando City win, because neither applied for hosting rights, U.S. Soccer would quickly quoroum with both clubs to figured out a host for a third round match. 
     
  • USL PRO's Wilmington Hammerheads applied to host but their field was also deemed unsuitable. Paired with NPSL's Chattanooga FC in the second round, should Wilmington win, they would host by default as Atlanta Silverbacks did not apply to do so. 
  • Because of some of these differing scenarios, coin flips did not occur as matchups defaulted to a suitable host team. 

Complete Third Round U.S. Open Cup Grid (as I saw it today).

BOLD: Applied to host; Venue meets requirements
ITALICS: Applied to host, Field width doesn't meet requirements
BOLD ITALICS: Applied to host; Venue doesn't meet requirements
N/A - Matchups where coin flips did not occur because of hosting defaults

HEADS FLIP TAILS FLIP
Greater Binghamton Thunder (NPSL)/Reading United (PDL)   W. Mass. Pioneers (PDL)/Rochester Rhinos (USLP) X
Brooklyn Italians (NPSL)/Jersey Express (PDL)   New York Cosmos (NASL) X
NY Greek Americans (USASA)/Ocean City Nor'easters (PDL) X Richmond Kickers (USLP)/RVA FC (NPSL)  
Harrisburg City Islanders (USLP)/Lehigh Valley Utd. (NPSL) X Icon FC (USASA)/Baltimore Bohemians (PDL)  
NY Red Bulls U-23 (NPSL)/Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USLP) X RWB Adria (USASA)/Michigan Bucks (PDL)  
Carolina Dynamo (PDL)/Charlotte Eagles (USLP)   Carolina Railhawks (NASL) X
Wilmington Hammerheads (USLP)/Chattanooga FC (NPSL) N/A Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL)  
Jacksonville United (NPSL)/Orlando City U23s (PDL)   Panama City Pirates (PDL)/Charleston Battery (USLP) N/A
Ocala Stampede (PDL)/Orlando City (USLP) x Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL)  
Red Force (USASA)/Laredo Heat (PDL)   Fort Lauderdale Strikers (NASL) X
Dayton Dutch Lions (USLP)/Schwaben AC (USASA)   Indy Eleven (NASL) N/A
NTX Rayados (USASA)/Austin Aztex (PDL)   San Antonio Scorpions (NASL) N/A
Real Colorado Foxes (PDL)/Des Moines Menace (USASA) X Minnesota United SC (NASL)  
Oklahoma City Energy (USLP)/Tulsa Athletics (NPSL)   Arizona United SC (USLP)/Portland Timbers U23 (PDL) X
Orange County Blues (USLP)/Fresno Fuego (PDL)   Sacramento Republic (USLP)/Ventura County Fusion (PDL) X
Cal FC (USASA)/LA Galaxy II (USL Pro) N/A PSA Elite (USASA)/San Diego Flash (NPSL)  

Thank you again to U.S. Soccer for allowing me to play witness to the draw once again. Chicago-Fire.com plans to bring coverage of the fourth round draw procedure when it occurs next week. 

08 May 11:15 am

Last Saturday’s injury time loss to RSL prolonged the Fire’s misery for another week as the team continues to search for their first win on the season.  It doesn’t get any easier this weekend, when the Men in Red travel to Red Bull Arena to face New York on Saturday evening (5:30pm CT on My50/TWCSC). The Red Bulls have yet to really hit the ground running the season and will be looking to repeat the drubbing of the Fire in the last regular season game of 2013.

Here are some tactical observations to look out for on Saturday evening.

A potential shakeup in the back? A return for Segares likely but other changes possible

Frank Yallop didn’t have positive things to say about his team’s defending for the last 20+ minutes against RSL as and I expect him to make one or more changes to the back four for Saturday’s game. With Gonzalo Segares making the 18 last Saturday, one potential switch is at left back in place of Greg Cochrane.

Cochrane’s attacking ability has been a highlight during his stint in the starting eleven but he was caught out defensively on more than one occasion during the last 20 minutes against RSL. From a purely tactical perspective, the return of Segares would boost the Fire’s aerial defending prowess, especially against threats such as Tim Cahill.

A few weeks ago, Frank Yallop spoke about the need to get Patrick Ianni game time with both Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Bakary Soumare in the team’s reserve game vs. Charlotte, in the case he may need to be utilized in a future match.

 Some of the mental mistakes made by Soumare last season have crept back into his play of late and this could result in Ianni getting a run Saturday vs. Red Bull. a

New York have scored the most goals in the East this season and the Fire cannot afford to make any more mental mistakes especially against a team boasting the Conference’s top goal scorer in Bradley Wright-Phillips and Thierry Henry, the Fire’s arch nemesis  over the past few seasons.

What to do up front? – Will Amarikwa or Anangono partner Magee up front?

In a game where it was imperative that he put in a solid performance, Juan Luis Anangono gave a good shift against RSL last week, picking up a goal and linking well at times with Mike Magee. His competition for a starting spot on Saturday evening is the returning top goal scorer Quincy Amarikwa who missed the match due to red card suspension.

Tactically, there are arguments to be made for both players to get the nod. Amarikwa’s constant high pressure on the opposition’s backline would be welcome against a New York team who continue to be weak defensively in the wide areas.

Quincy is also the more ideal player to have in 1v1 situations, especially if the Fire can get him against one of the Red Bull center backs. In the middle, Jamison Olave has lost a step of pace from his days in Salt Lake and his partner Armando has yet to settle fully into MLS.

Anangono’s size is an important factor to consider, both in the attack, and defensively where he would be useful for set pieces. It is also important for the Fire to start being smarter in possession, especially holding the ball up in the attack.

Anangono has been a mixed bag in this regard so far this season but if he is given his second start in a row, I expect to see an emphasis on this tactic on Saturday night.

Monitoring Lloyd Sam – Stepping out and pressuring the Red Bull winger

Just looking at Lloyd Sam’s four assists this season gives you a good indication into the threat the Englishman poses. From his wide right position, Sam’s crossing is extremely accurate. Not only does he put himself into good wide positions, his ability to still put in a cross while under pressure from a defender makes him even more dangerous. Another problem with the Fire’s late game collapse last week was the lack of urgency by the team’s outside midfielders and defenders to close down the RSL wide players resulting in free crosses.

In Saturday’s game, the Fire must not allow Sam to get similar amounts of space granted to RSL. Stifling Sam will also cut the supply to Wright-Phillips and Henry.

Prediction: If I predict we will win, the team will end up with a tie so I’m going with a 2-2 tie with goals from Quincy Amarikwa and Benji Joya.

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

WATCH: The Centerback

08 May 8:33 am

The first round of the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup kicked off across the country with seven matches (and a forfeit) Wednesday night.

Of note, three games went to extra time with two of those going to penalty kicks. One of the matches decided in a shootout was that of local side RWB Adria downing NPSL darlings Detroit City FC 3-1 on penalties after playing to a dramatic 2-2 draw.

Hot Time in Old Town's Sean Spence live tweeted the match from Livonia Stevenson High School in suburban Detroit where Adria took an early lead through Vlad Baciu in the 20th minute. Fueled by the always raucous DCFC partisans, the home side took a 2-1 lead with second half goals from Tyler Arnone and former Colorado Rapids defender Kevin Taylor in the 71st and 77th minutes respectively.

Baciu bagged a dramatic brace in the dying moments of regulation to send the match to extra time where both teams saw two players sent off and neither could find a goal in the 30 extra minutes. Adria played the spoiler connecting with three of their penalties to see out Detroit City FC and set up a return date to Detroit next week where they'll face perennial U.S. Open Cup spoilers Michigan Bucks next Wednesday, May 14.

Adria will be joined in the second round by another local Chicago side, Schwaben AC, who host USL PRO's Dayton Dutch Lions in Arlington Heights next Wednesday at 4pm CT. 

These games should be of interest for Fire fans as the regional groupings make sense for a potential fourth round match up (where MLS teams enter the tournament).

Other Notes:

  • The tournament saw it's first forfeit in a decade as USASA side Corinthians were forced to withdraw from their match against the San Diego Flash due to not being able to obtain international clearance for their players in time to play the match. TheCup.US has more information on this intriguing story
  • Kudos to U.S. Soccer for upping their coverage of the tournament this year by introducing a "Game of the Round" which streamed on the Federation's official site Wednesday night. The chosen match saw the USL Premier Development League's Western Mass Pioneers down USASA side GPS Massachusetts 4-1 to advance to the second round. Catch the archive of the match here.
  • With the first round done and second round matches set, U.S. Soccer will conduct the tournament's third round draw at Soccer House in Chicago this afternoon. Chicago-Fire.com will once again be a witness at the festivities and have a full account of how the matchups happened later Thusday. 

For more information on the 2014 U.S. Open Cup, please visit USsoccer.com and the tournament's unofficial site TheCup.us.

07 May 1:39 pm

Buy early, buy often...

One of the club's big initiatives during the 2014 season has been the Pub to Pitch bus program. As the season continues gathering pace, the club has experienced a rise in demand for bus tickets. As a result, all supporters are encouraged to purchase their bus tickets at least three days in advance of each matchday in order to guarantee a seat on the round trip bus to Fire games. 

“The goal of the Pub to Pitch program is to help sell out the stadium every game in order to provide an advantage for our boys on the field,” said Fire Senior Vice President Mike Ernst. “Given our stadium location, we want to offer our supporters a convenient option for transportation to and from the match.

“Because we sold so many tickets so early, we were really happy to be able to run a second bus for The Atlantic and The Globe Pub route last Saturday. I think it is a harbinger of things to come regarding growth of the program, so be sure to reserve your seat early to guarantee a spot on the bus.”

We want to see multiple buses running from each of our partner bars in the city every matchday. In short, if you're planning on coming out to the next home game on Sunday, May 18 vs. Sporting KC, buy your ticket now and encourage your friends to do so as well. 

As an extra bonus, those that buy a Pub to Pitch ticket for next Sunday by 11:59pm CT tonight will be entered to win a limited edition Pub to Pitch scarf! See below:

To view a full schedule of departure times and to purchase your tickets, visit www.pubtopitch.com.

07 May 9:00 am

Off the beaten Fire path today is the historic news that Helena Costa, a successful female coach who has guided the likes of the Iranian and Qatari women's national teams has been given the management reigns of French Ligue 2 side Clermont Foot for next season.

With the news, the Portuguese manager becomes the highest-profile female manager of a men's team in European football history. 

Clermont Foot's official statement on the appointment said, "It should help the club enter a new era."

Costa has also served in scouting roles for Portuguese and Scottish giants Benfica and Celtic respectively as well as managing lower league Portuguese sides Cheleirense and Odivelas. 

Clermont Foot sit 14th in the Ligue 2 table with two matches to play. They'll secure their place in the league for next season with a draw in one of their final two games home vs. Troyes (May 9) and away to Tours (May 15).

What do you think of the news? How long do you think it'll be before a female manager is considered for a job in Major League Soccer? As of today, who would be your top candidate?

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: