Dan Kelly Blog

Heavy lifting begins against LA

Today should be the start of a telling stretch for the
Chicago Fire Soccer Club. Coming off two disappointing road losses, this club
must stop giving away matches in the final minutes. With just 11 matches
remaining, they must regroup and fight for their playoff lives.    

Logan Pause summed up the result in Seattle perfectly as
“gut wrenching”, but perhaps the recent road adversity and the urgency of the
playoff race will motivate the Men in Red. Dropped results against Kansas City,
Colorado, and Seattle have been difficult to recover from – just from those
three games, the club has left five points on the field. 

As first assistant coach Mike Matkovitch reminded me this
week at training, “With those missed points, we would be sitting at 29, looking
pretty good right now.” Now the heavy lifting begins with Los Angeles Galaxy in
town this afternoon at Toyota Park.

Chicago will be without Deris Umanzor and Marco Pappa who
are away on national team duty with El Salvador and Guatamala respectively.
Freddie Ljungberg will also be out due to yellow card accumulation, as he
suffered his fifth caution last week in the Seattle match. 

The good news, Wilman Conde returns from yellow card suspension
after his absence was noticeable in the 2-1 loss at Seattle.  CJ Brown played one of his stronger
matches in the Emerald City, but having the mainstay Conde back in the mix will
help settle things down.  This club
has experienced a lot of changes recently, so it’s a nice advantage for the
coaching staff that one of your fiercest competitors and best defenders in MLS will
be back for Chicago. 

 It was also
nice to see the veteran John Thorrington back, and immediately paying dividends
with his penalty kick strike last week in Seattle.  He expressed his graciousness to the coaching staff, for
showing confidence in him and letting find his way.  Even JT seemed a little surprised at how good he felt
considering he has been frustrated by injury for the last five months -- there
didn’t seem to be much rust on the fiery midfielder.  

Goalkeeper Sean Johnson should have plenty of good vibes
with the Galaxy visiting.  He made
his MLS debut against LA back on August 1 and the humble 20-year-old first
flashed his brilliant athletic skill just two minutes into the match, stopping
league-leading scorer Edson Buddle from close range.  The Fire would go on to score three goals in the first
eighteen minutes, and hang on for a thrilling 3-2 victory. 

Sean says that he is getting more comfortable each match, as
the routine sets in, and this will be the first opponent that he is seeing twice
in his young career. On the flip side, the Galaxy have now seen the big kid
from Georgia once, so they have a better scouting report as well.

For LA Galaxy, it’s been a tail of two seasons. The start
was amazing, but they have come back to earth recently.  Last week losing  2-0 in Carson to the  resurgent Kansas City Wizards.  Coach Bruce Arena felt that his club
was outplayed in the scrappy affair versus the Wizards.  So expect a more inspired effort from
his Galaxy. 

Stopping Edson Buddle and Landon Donovan will be a nice
challenge, Buddle leads the league with 13 goals, and Donavan is tops in the
assistant department with 11.  Although
both have cooled recently, playing a part in their club’s inconsistent play.  Poor starts have plagued the Galaxy recently,
allowing a lot of goals early, and that was the problem against Chicago just
over a month ago.

Their seems to be an urgency among the Fire players and
coaching staff after two road losses. 
Its now or never if you want to make playoffs -- any other cliche will
also fit, because time and matches are precious with just eleven left.  Soccer wise, this group has not been
playing that badly, other than an uninspired first half against Houston.  They are moving the ball much better,
with more patience, and as a group. If they can finish more frequently and hold
on to matches, we will be watching playoffs again at Toyota Park. 

The chase will be exciting, it continues today.