Dan Kelly Blog

Fire announcer looks to New England

The Chicago Fire hope to keep their momentum moving in the
right direction after posting positive results in their last two matches,
following a 3-2 win over Los Angeles Galaxy (August 1) and a 0-0 draw with Red
Bull New York (August 8). 

The good news: there is room for improvement.  The reinforcements have been provided
to coach Carlos and his staff.  Now
the real challenge begins.  The
talent and personal are assembled but now this group has to pick up points, in
their quest for the MLS playoffs. 
The big issue, will be how quickly this group comes together as a team,
on and off the pitch. 

This Wednesday will hopefully be a nice parting gift for
Fire fans.  After the New England
match, the Fire travel to Houston and Seattle, and don’t return to Toyota Park
until a September 4 rematch with the Galaxy.   The Revolution will be a nice test going into that
match.

Head coach Steve Nicol has the Revs playing their best
soccer of the season.  Unbeaten in
their last eight matches overall, outscoring the opposition 9-2. The Revolution
have done it with defense, while scoring has been a challenge – hitting the
back of the net just twice during the run of play over their last eight MLS
matches. The club will look to their new Serbian connection up top, with Marco
Perovic and Ilya Stolica to begin providing the offensive spark. 

Last Saturday night, Nicol’s men picked up their lone strike
from Stolica in the club’s 1-0 win over Houston.  Keeper Matt Reis kept things tidy with his third shutout,
making his sixth start between the sticks since his surgery.  Pat Phelan has been playing solidly,
and Shalrie Joseph looks a lot better then when these clubs last played back on
June 27
th in New England.  

If the Chicago Fire take a peek at the Eastern Conference
standings, they’ll have no lack of motivation heading into Wednesday night’s
clash.  Tied with New England at 21
points apiece, the Fire have played two less matches – the club has played at
least two less matches than every other MLS team so far this season and now is
the time to make their move.   Some are saying that 40 points is the silent goal for
clubs fighting to gain entry into the MLS Playoffs. So they need to pick up the pace a bit for the
final fourteen.

With the acquisition of Castillo, Ljungberg, and the
reacquisition of Gonzalo Segares, this club has a deeper and more diverse
attack.   As they round into
form,  the competition to get on
the pitch, will be fierce.  I fully
expect to see noticeably improved performances from the guys who have already
been here for awhile.  Nothing like
the crack of competition to  get
the legs moving, and motivate the group.

Its going to be crucial for the Fire to keep their patience
and stick to the plan.  This club
has had trouble scoring at times, now they have more firepower.  Be patient and take what the match
gives you.  Expect the ball to be
kept on the floor more, and when things don’t work out, don’t automatically
launch it downfield.  Cherishing
possession of the ball, is a message that seems to be sinking in. 

Finally,  the
Fire need to payback their 
21-year-old goalkeeper Sean Johnson.  He has been brilliant in his first two MLS starts, especially
versus New York, picking up his second consecutive NAPA Save of the Week
honor.  His reflexes are amazing, a
few stops  were difficult to
decipher, until viewing about four or five times on replay.  So now lets give the kid some more
help.  Chicago was outshot 16-2 in
the second half against New York.  This match quietly has more pressure for the Liburn, GA
product.  The first two games, he
wasn’t expected to win but this a home game with more expectations then the
first two.   It’s a match they
are expected to win and he has been busy his first two starts.  Now he may battle the mental challenge
of maybe not touching the ball for awhile.   It will be
another superb test for the young keeper, and the new and improved Chicago
Fire.