The Chicago Fire take on the Colorado Rapids in the team’s opening match of the 2014 Desert Diamond Cup Wednesday at 4:30pm CT on Chicago-Fire.com. Here are five things you should know heading into the match…
The Plan for Today
Head Coach Frank Yallop told Chicago-Fire.com on Tuesday his plan for spreading playing time out over the next 10 days here in Tucson.
“It’s a big workload for the players if the first team is going to play all four games. They’re not going to do that so we’re going to start with some of the guys that haven’t gotten a lot of minutes lately on Wednesday [vs. Colorado].”
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Yallop explained that he expects to give the first 11 two-and-a-half games during their stay here in Tucson, with their debut at the tournament coming on Saturday.
Seems likely we’ll get to see the same group of players that has scored all seven of the team’s goals Wednesday vs. the Rapids.
Injuries to Fire Players
Two Fire players will not suit up for the team due to injury this afternoon. They are midfielder Chris Ritter who has only jogged this week in Tucson as he recovers from a groin injury suffered in last Tuesday’s 3-0 win vs. Orlando City.
Less surprising is forward Orr Barouch, who continues his rehab from a broken foot suffered during his time at Bnei Yehuda.
On the Colorado Rapids
Though the Colorado Rapids are technically without a full-time head coach, the team is being led by long-time Rapids and U.S. international midfielder Pablo Mastroeni. After completing his 16-year MLS career with the LA Galaxy in 2013, Mastroeni returned to the Rapids as “Special Assistant” to Technical Director Paul Bravo.
The de-facto coach has done a good job so far, helping the Rapids to a 3-1-0 record this preseason. The team comes off their only loss, a somewhat controversial 2-1 defeat to Chivas USA on Sunday in Las Vegas.
Full Preseason Results: 2-1 L vs. Chivas USA (February 16), 2-0 W vs. UNLV (February 14), 3-0 W vs. Houston Baptist University (February 6), 3-2 W vs. Houston Dynamo (February 2).
Numbers Game – Joya and Reynish
Having previously worn the #8 during the team’s stay in Bradenton, newish Fire midfielder Benji Joya will officially be donning the #54 for the Fire beginning here in Tucson.
The same number he was assigned as a youth player with Club Santos Laguna in Mexico, it went on to hold special significance for Joya as he made his first team debut in the 54th minute of a match.
It goes without saying but he is the first #54 in Chicago Fire history.
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Meanwhile, backup goalkeeper Kyle Reynish has chosen to wear the #28 for the Men in Red. Previous #28s include Chris Jahr (2000), David Hayes (2001), Jared Montz (2006), Steven Kinney (2010-2012) and Shaun Francis (2013).
Larentowicz Talks Growing into Role with the Fire
Yallop and midfielder Jeff Larentowicz were the Fire’s representatives at the tournament’s opening press conference and Q&A session Tuesday night at the Desert Diamond Casino & Hotel.
Into year two with the Men in Red, I asked Larentowicz how he’s grown into his role with the club and how he feels the team has responded to Yallop and his new technical staff:
“It took some time to grow into playing for the Fire. Obviously there were years where I was on the Fire’s biggest rival so at first it was tough and I kind of had to earn my way. As the year went on and the team grew, I grew as well and Frank Klopas had me as the on-field captain last year which was important for me in my growth with the team.
“This year it’s a new challenge, a new coach but the team continues to grow. I think last year was a two-part year. The beginning was difficult, the end we came on strong. The mentality in the locker room is that we want to continue that and I’m sure that’s Frank’s idea as well – pick up where we left off, tweak a little bit and make sure it’s a full year this year.”