After a lengthy MLS break, the Fire return to action on Wednesday evening against Toronto FC side missing a few key players due to World Cup duty (7:00pm CT on My50). This game starts a brutal month of July, with eight games in 29 days. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective.
What to do up front? Does Juan Luis Anangono deserve a start after Open Cup heroics?
The Fire certainly wouldn’t be in the quarter finals of the U.S. Open Cup if it wasn’t for Juan Luis Anangono coming off the bench and turning the game around last week. The Ecuadorian’s two goals are hopefully a sign of many more to come for the rest of the season and leave Frank Yallop with a very tough decision as to who his starting strikers will be. I can honestly see Yallop starting with any combination of the three so let’s take a look at the positives and negatives of each:
Juan Luis Anangono and Quincy Amarikwa
The classic big guy/little guy pair has been used at times this season for the Fire, especially at the start of the season when Mike Magee was struggling with injuries. Toronto have two very strong, and at times, overly physical center backs in Doneil Henry and Steven Caldwell so the size and presence of Anangono would make sense against this pair.
Amarikwa is always looking to get on the end of through balls or flick-ons and Anangono can certainly provide these when he is on his game. Anangono also provides a strong threat in the air and has used this to great effect so far this season. If the Fire want to play the high pressure tactic however, Anangono is not best suited for this tactic.
Juan Luis Anangono and Mike Magee
A lesser seen partnership this year, mostly down to the consistent strong play of Qunicy Amarikwa. A worry with this pairing is the potential for Anangono to become isolated up front as Magee inevitably drops deep in an attempt to influence the play. With this in mind, I doubt we will see many instances where Magee is looking to get behind the defense waiting for a through ball from Anangono.
In recent months, the Fire have played less direct and kept the ball on the ground, with players like Harry Shipp and co. attempting to play through teams and not over them. Again, Anangono may not be the best player to have on the field from the start if Yallop decides to go this way.
Mike Magee and Quincy Amarikwa
The most used partnership so far this season.
With these two in the lineup, the Fire become a lot more fluid, with both able to drop deep or wide while also being able to play further up the field if necessary. The Fire have been at their best this season when Harry Shipp, Magee and Amarikwa have been on the field at the same time, mainly due to the fact that it if difficult for teams to stop this trio from creating chances, especially when Shipp moves into the middle.
This pairing also provides more of a threat on the counter attack and also can really hurt Toronto if their outside backs get caught up the field (something I will discuss next). Though this is the most obvious and arguably strongest pairing, it also allows Frank Yallop to completely change tactics if he brings on Ananagono later in the match.
Monitoring a threat from the right – a testing night ahead for the probable return of Gonzalo Segares
In Toronto’s last match against New York, they started recent acquisition and former Fire player Dominic Oduro at right midfield with Mark Bloom playing behind him. Both players had very strong attacking performances and caused the Red Bull a lot of problems with their pace.
Oduro especially is a threat, more so when he comes inside. The Ghanaian’s pace often provides him with that extra yard of space to put a cross in. This worked to perfection against New York, where he curled a brilliant low cross around the Red Bull defenders for Defoe to finish expertly.
Bloom is also very adept at supporting Oduro in the attack and playing off him. With Gonzalo Segares coming back from a long injury layoff, I expect Ryan Nelson to target the Fire’s left hand side if he plays.
Toronto have numerous attacking weapons but if the Fire can slow down the supply line Defoe and Moore get from Oduro and Bloom, it will only help the Men in Red’s chances.
Prediction: The Fire start off the month with a big three points – 2-1 Fire with goals from Magee and Alex off the bench.