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Oct 252013

mls 300x281 MLS Week 33 Preview


After 32 weeks of close games, major transfers, and the drama of all things Chivas USA there is still much to decide in the last week of the Major League Soccer season.  Although there is not one clear top team in MLS, there are plenty of quality MLS squads throughout the league which makes for a compelling two days of soccer this weekend.

So if you are at a match this weekend or watching one at home, here are a couple of storylines to follow:

#1 The Supporter’s Shield









Real Salt Lake







New York Red Bulls







Sporting Kansas City







Portland Timbers







Four teams are still in the running for the Supporters Shield, a trophy awarded at the end of each MLS Season to the team with the most points. The Supporters Shield is more than just a trophy, as it awards the team the top seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Should the Supporters Shield make the MLS Cup then they would also host the match. In MLS History, the team that won the Supporters Shield has gone on to win the MLS Cup 6 times (D.C. United- 1997 and 1999, the Kansas City Wizards- 2000, the Los Angeles Galaxy-2002 and 2011, and the Columbus Crew- 2008).

Real Salt Lake took the top spot Wednesday night after defeating Chivas USA 2-1. However, that was the last game of their season so they will have to play the waiting game.  The Red Bulls will face the Chicago Fire (Sunday 5pm UNi Mas) with the Fire still in contention for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Red Bulls Forward Tim Cahill has been on a tear recently, scoring three goals in his past three matches and leading the Red Bulls to an undefeated record in the past 7 matches (5-0-2).

Meanwhile, Sporting Kansas City will travel to PPL Park and face the Philadelphia Union (Saturday 3pm NBC Sports Network).  SKC  comes into the match in good form having drawn points in 6 of their last matches (5-1-1).Their last loss actually was against the Philadelphia Union 1-0 in September. Union Forward Conor Casey notched in the decisive goal in the 38th minute. They did win their opening game against the Union at PPL Park 3-1, but the young Union team has grown since then and could still make it into the playoffs. Will get back to that later.

Despite being behind the other teams by two points, Portland looks like they have the best chance to take the Supporters Shield. With the other two teams playing opponents who are still in the Eastern Conference playoff mix, neither New York nor Sporting Kansas City will have themselves an easy match. Portland, on the other hand, will be playing Chivas USA (Saturday 10:30 MLS Live) who will be without their starting goalkeeper Dan Kennedy and his magic ability to make sure Chivas never gets blown out.

Portland has also shown in the past few weeks that they are able to put teams away and earn points in “must-win”circumstances. In previous seasons, Portland has been known as the team with the awesome fanbase and cool mascot, but would break down at the end of the season. They could not win the difficult game, which is why they were unable to make the playoffs last season.  Coach Caleb Porter, Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, and Midfielder Will Johnson have changed the identity of this team and made them a very difficult squad to plan against. Their poise and confidence was evident in the pair of 1-0 victories that they earned against the Los Angeles Galaxy and the Seattle Sounders earlier in the month.

The 15 draws may be the deciding factor on whether or not the Timbers win the Supporters Shield. But they should get 3 easy points against Chivas, and if nothing else, gain the top spot in the Western Conference.

#2 Eastern Conference Chaos









Montreal Impact







Chicago Fire







New England Revolution







Houston Dynamo







Philadelphia Union








Although the bottleneck for the last few playoff spots in the Eastern Conference was lessened last week when the New England Revolution eliminated the Columbus 3-2, there are still 5 teams playing for three spots. In addition to the previously mentioned Chicago Fire and Philadelphia Union, the Houston Dynamo, Montreal Impact, and New England all still have a possibility of making the playoffs this weekend should results work in their favor.

The popular consensus seems to be that the Montreal Impact will defeat Toronto F.C. (Saturday 4pm Univision Deportes, MLS Live,) that the Houston Dynamo will defeat D.C. United (Sunday 1:30pm NBC Sports Network,) and that either the Chicago Fire or the New England Revolution will do enough to make it through.

Two things to keep in mind that is being lost in this narrative. One, Montreal has been terrible since July going 6-8-5. Toronto has already secured a draw in Montreal earlier this season and is coming off of two 1-0 losses against Philadelphia and Chicago where they showed they are still trying to win. Second, Houston needs one of the three teams above them to lose because they are so far behind in goals scored, which is the tie breaker should teams be level on points. For example, if both the New England Revolution and Dynamo win, then the Dynamo would need to make up a nine goal difference against D.C. United. D.C. United is terrible, but they are not bad (D.C. better not lost 9-0 because I am taking my nephew to his first game this weekend.) Houston has had great difficulty scoring this year when they need a goal, so they are really going to need Forward Will Bruin to step up and give them that push.

It should also be mentioned that the Crew may be very angry after the 3-2 result that was leveled against them last week by the Revolution. Referee Mark Geiger gave a rather interesting yellow card against the Crew which led to Revolution defender A.J. Soares goal in the 39th minute. I would suspect that the Crew would like to return the favor to New England from last week and knock them out of the playoff contention (4pm MLS Live.)

I think the Fire- Red Bulls match is a lot closer than many people seem to believe. Bear in mind that the Red Bulls have never won a major title in their entire history, and have quite a dubious track record in big games. The Fire have really hit their stride since they lost 3-0 Columbus in September and are a much different team than when they lost to the Red Bulls earlier in the season. They are currently on a 3 game unbeaten where they have outscored their opponents 9-0.  Perhaps New York can turn around their previous misfortunes, secure a playoff spot, and doom the Fire. But that seems like a tall task for a team that has only recently shown that they can consistently pull out quality performances.

#3 The Race for the Golden Boot is On







Mike Magee CHI




Marco di Vaio MON




Camilo Sanvezzo VAN





In addition to having so many teams still alive for the Supporters Shield and for playoff spots, there is a real battle being waged for the top goal scorer in MLS. The three-horse race between Montreal Forward Marco di Vaio, Chicago Fire Forward Mike Magee, and Vancouver Whitecaps Forward Camilo Sanvezzo has produced some truly amazing goals this season. Although I am not the biggest fan of saying the top goal scorer should always be the Most Valuable Player (Ricketts and Clint Irwin would have a few words about that,) it is true that all three of these players have kept their teams in contention because they were able to make miracles for their team.

I think Magee is going to end up taking the award. It is important to note that if there is a tie then the tiebreaker will be given to the player who has the most assists. Di Vaio almost never passes the ball and I can see Toronto F.C. pushing their defense up to draw him offsides which will limit his scoring opportunities. The Impact have also had difficulties scoring recently, going without a goal in 3 of their past four matches.

So for me it comes down to Magee and Camilo. Both players have come up huge for their team this year, but with Magee playing against a Red Bulls team that have committed the fifth highest number of fouls in MLS (425) he should have more opportunities off of free kicks and penalties. Colorado has also only given up 15 goals on the road this season and will still be looking to climb up in the Western Conference playoff standings.


Sep 242013

I promise, no matter what I write in this post, I am NOT renouncing my Crew fandom.

In fact, I bought my first jersey since high school, as well as a nifty Homage shirt and paid for 2-day shipping in order to receive both before I see Columbus live and in person for just the second time all season this weekend.

In an effort to deflect criticism, I’m going to point the finger of blame at MLS. I’m thrilled the Crew are battling for their playoff lives in Dallas this weekend. I haven’t been this excited for a match in quite some time. But the fact that the Crew are still in the thick of things with the fourth worst record in the league tells you all you need to know about what an “accomplishment” making the playoffs has become. Brian Bliss could potentially wind up getting the head coaching job on a full time basis if he keeps this run going a bit longer. “Playoffs” is a buzzword though and there’s nothing us Americans love more than a good buzzword.

This is not to say that Bliss doesn’t deserve the job. By all accounts team morale has significantly improved since Robert Warzycha was fired and the results on the field speak for themselves. But these can’t be the kinds of factors that the front office looks at when the off-season rolls around. This is arguably the biggest off-season for the team since the team won its first and only MLS Cup in 2008. There will be many big decisions made, including who should lead this team. Just because the players are happier and the team is chasing a playoff spot, does not mean Bliss is the best candidate out there for this team.

Actually, he may be the best for coach for THIS team, but whether or not THIS team is still around come December remains to be seen. This roster could be completely overhauled depending on the moves the front office makes. New players may be brought in who don’t respond as well to Bliss and thus there may be a need for a new coach. A new coach will likely (or at least SHOULD) be selected before roster moves are made. This wild playoff run and the sudden momentum it has brought cannot be factored in to these critical moves that will be made during the off-season.

It’s not just Columbus in this situation either. Poor Chicago (sorry, I’m not one for “heated rivalries” at this point in my life”) has an inept, disinterested coach and owner, but they’re still in the playoff hunt and should they qualify it may mean another year of Frank Klopas for them. Bob Kraft will be able to justify his “absentee ownership” if they manage to claim a playoff spot. Philadelphia fans will have to put up with more penny pinching if they can sneak into that last spot.

The playoffs are used as a means of measuring success for individual organizations, but in reality they simply highlight just how mediocre most of those organizations really are. Columbus is not exempt from this. Even if they sneak in and make a run to the MLS Cup final, I’d still rather see Bliss return to his technical director role and bring in Guillermo Barros Schelotto as head coach. I’d rather see Mark McCullers depart and new executive (preferably not Dave Greeley) put in charge of the front office going forward.

Still, it is fun to see the Crew playing for SOMETHING after the ups and downs of this season. A month or so ago I thought they’d have nothing to play for; that they were stuck in mediocrity. They still are, but a playoff run like this masks that mediocrity very well. Such runs are great for us fans in the short term, but they cannot be used to influence the decisions that new owner Anthony Precourt will make this winter.


Jul 242013

chicago fire 300x169 Know Your MLS Teams: Chicago Fire


You’re going home in a Cook County Ambulance!

Founded: 1997 (Started Play in 1998)

Pedigree: 1998 MLS Cup Champions, 2003 MLS Eastern Conference Regular Season Champions, 1998 MLS Western Conference Champions, and 4-time U.S. Open Cup Champions (1998, 2000, 2003, and 2006.)

Supporters: Section 8 (this is actually an association of the various Supporters Groups,) the Arsonists, Husaria, Fire Ultras 98, Partisans , the Red Scare, Sector Latino, the Western Front, Ultras Red Side, and the Whiskey Brothers Aught Five  

Current Record this Season: 7-9-3 (Currently in Seventh Place)

Coach: Frank Klopas

Top Returning Players: GK Sean Johnson, DEF Janil Anibaba, DEF Austin Berry, MID Alex, FWD Patrick Nyarko, and FWD Chris Rolfe.

Key Additions: DEF Bakary Soumare (Philadelphia Union,) MID Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado Rapids,) MID Dilly Duka (Columbus Crew,) FWD Maicon Santos (D.C. United,) and FWD Mike Magee (Los Angeles Galaxy.)

Key Departures: DEF Cory Gibbs (Retired,) DEF Dan Gargan (San Jose Earthquakes,) DEF Arne Friederich (Retired,) MID Pavel Pardo (Retired,) and FWD Dominic Oduro (Columbus Crew.)

Key Players to Watch: Dilly Duka


The Chicago Fire enter into the All-Star break a completely changed team from their opening game of the Major League Soccer season. At the beginning of the season, this Chicago team looked flat. Having lost three players due to retirement, and one of their top forwards in Dominic Oduro in a trade with Columbus Crew. They just could not score. In ten of their first eleven games, the Chicago Fire only scored five goals. This was a team that was going to nowhere. And then they traded for Mike Magee.

Now I do not want to disparage Robbie Rogers or anything that he is going through. The courage that he has shown to come out and be one of the first professional athletes who are openly gay is remarkable. Once he gets off the soccer rust, he will be a very good player for the Los Angeles Galaxy. That being said: the clear winners of the Robbie Rogers-Mike Magee trade are the Chicago Fire. In his seven matches with the Fire, Magee has scored five goals and the club has only lost two games. With the six that he scored with Los Angeles Galaxy, he is currently tied for second in the league in goals with Marco di Vaio. He is very good on second chance shots, and just never seems to stop on any play. Before the Magee trade the Fire seemed flat. It seems like someone has finally lit the match with this team.

The reason why he is such a great playmaker, and why he has been such a great addition to this Fire staff is that he exudes confidence both on and off of the pitch. He seemed to be lacking it in his early years with Los Angeles. But at the end of last year that things started turning around for him. You can also always tell a good striker from a bad striker by their ability to score in clutch situations. In 15 playoff appearances in his MLS career, Magee has 8 goals. The second goal that he scored against D.C. United on the June the 1st was one of the best goals that I have seen all season.

The trade for Magee would only have worked if it galvanized the entire team, and so far it seems to have done so. At the beginning of the season, their other two forwards Chris Rolfe and Patrick Nyarko have returned to their natural positions on the wing, rather than in the center. Both players are excellent distributors and good second options but not the true center forward that the Fire needed. That is ok. Both Rolfe and Nyarko have shown in the past that they are excellent pieces to quality squads. I really like the work of Nyarko, in particular who has shown that he is able to break multiple defenders and either make his own shot or send it in to Magee from the left wing.

Rolfe is probably one of the most unheralded players in Major League Soccer. He does not score many goals as a forward, but he is very good with the last pass, and is able to toss crosses to the streaking attacker on the other side of the field. But he is probably best as a 65th minute super-sub now. “The problem is that Chris Rolfe came back from Denmark a different player,” says Scott Fenwick, Founder of the website On the Fire “He had a nice run in the second half last year, but fell off badly as the Fire backed into the playoffs. This year, he’s disappeared during games for long stretches at a time. Quality MLS defenders have figured out how to shut Rolfe down.”

In addition to the trade of Magee, the other major improvement that the Fire made this past offseason was to completely remake their Midfield. With the additions of Dilly Duka, the Fire have added some much needed youth to what was an aging line. Duka, who was traded for Oduro last offseason has shown that he is one of the best young midfielders in all of MLS. In the match against the Colorado Rapids, Duka won that match for the Fire because of his pace and the runs he was able to make off of the ball. “What’s most encouraging about him [Duka] is his ability to play with his head up in and around the box. He’s had a lot of success pushing the byline, beating his man, and then making perpendicular cuts into the box, where he’s getting good shots on target and service to attacking teammates,” said Fenwick. He still needs to improve on his shooting a little bit. He only has two goals out of his fourteen shots on goal. That being said, he is only in his third full season and his goal really should not be to shoot but to open the field up for his forwards.

I also really like the trade that the Fire made in the offseason  for Jeff Larentowicz.  Larentowicz seems to have regained some of the form that made him a U.S. National Team fixture. He is a strong midfielder, who is able to pull a lot of high balls down, and is very effective with his first touch after a chest trap. He also likes to take the long shot from outside of the box, and has been pretty effective with it.

The only real problem that I see with this team is their defense. I have never been the biggest fan of Bakary Soumare. He always seems to have trouble with his clearances, and sometimes get lost coming back from a run on offense. Janil Anibaba definitely seems to have improved over last year’s implosion against Will Bruin and the Houston Dynamo. He is a quality asset on set pieces as he is very good on headers. However, in Sunday’s match against the Vancouver Whitecaps he was beaten very easily on some simple possessions.

The one player on defense who I think has the most upside is Austin Berry. The 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year, Berry seems to be the most comfortable taking on their opponent’s top striking option. He also has some skills on offense as well. I am a sucker for scissor kicks, so naturally I want to make sure people see Mr. Berry’s goal against the Colorado Rapids. Beyond Berry, Soumare, and Anibaba though the cupboard is bare. This team sorely misses the veteran presence of Arne Friederich and would be wise to trade for an additional 1-2 defenders to supplement their starters.

Though the Fire defense has shown some creaks, there are no creaks with Goalkeeper Sean Johnson. Having seen many of MLS young goalkeepers (Hamid, Hall, McMath, etc.) I have to say that Johnson is the most polished out of all of them. Part of the reason why this team is in the place that they are is because Johnson kept them in it. Even when they were struggling for goals, the Fire were in games because Johnson was able to make some spectacular saves.

There is no greater example of his work this season than the save that he made against the Montreal Impact in Week 9. Not many goalkeepers can make a save like that. It requires excellent positioning, vision, and some confidence in your surroundings to not only make the save, but make sure that you are not exposing yourself to an opponent on your blind side.

Despite Sunday’s loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Chicago Fire have turned a wasted season into one that has infinite possibilities. During the past few matches the club has finally started functioning as a proper unit. Although they are in eighth place and eight points behind the Houston Dynamo, this is a club on the rise having won four of their past seven matches.

In my conversation with Scott Fenwick he pointed out to me a pretty damning statistic: the Fire are 1-7-3 against teams that would be in the playoffs should they start today. With upcoming matches against the Houston Dynamo, Philadelphia Union, the Montreal Impact, and a semifinal match against D.C. United in the U.S. Open Cup the Chicago Fire will have every opportunity to prove that they are still a playoff team and able to win trophies this season.

Beer of Choice: Old Style Beer

While I usually use this space to give a beer of a local micro-brewery in the area that produces a quality brew that is not in a can, for the Chicago Fire there is only true beer. Old Style Lager is just a simple lager that has been brewed since 1902 and is a staple of Chicago culture. There are three truths that I have learned about Chicagoans, from their native son and my good friend Rob Goeke. One, that they are some of the most loyal sports fans in the United States. Two, they have a bizarre taste in pizza (Thin crust>Deep Dish.) And three, a love for Old Style Lager.

I have seen the complex array emotions that Chicagoans have gone through in my friendship with this guy. They wear their team’s colors as if it is a badge of pride, eat insanely hot pizza because the weather is so damn cold, and drink a beer that never wavers. With a team that has supporters unions who only speak in Polish, who grit out victories, and never out of any match, Chicago Fire style is Old Style.

In the words of my friend, the aforementioned Mr. Goeke: “The Cubs are partially symbolic of the Gatsby-esque north shore suburbs. The Fire’s stadium is built in a location to maximize interest in Chicago’s Mexican community. What’s one thing that could unite them? Cheap, serviceable beer. Bebe una cerveza frio, Chicago!”

Author’s Note: As I was finishing this article, I heard the terrible news that actor and legendary Chicagoan Dennis Farina had passed away. In honor of one of Chicago’s own, and of the great Old Style beer, please enjoy this amazing Old Style commercial with Farina from the 1980’s.

Also, a big thanks to Scott Fenwick and the website On the Fire for his help on this article!

The Great White North

 Posted by on April 26, 2013 at 9:55 pm  Chicago Fire, MLS, Montreal Impact
Apr 262013

The Chicago Fire (2-4-1) take on the Montreal Impact (4-1-1) tomorrow at Stade Saputo in Montreal.  Both teams are coming off home games to Columbus.

Chicago are headed, for the first time this year to the Great White North to take on Montreal and are looking for a second win in a row.  The question is now if Chicago can play consistently moving forward in the season.  Assistant Coach Mike Matkovich brings this point to light, “Now the key is moving to Montreal, the consistency, can we put it together game in and game out and can you play like that on the road?”

The struggles finding consistency at the back are likely to make a reappearance with Wells Thompson, who in my opinion has done well at the right back position, will be serving his suspension for his tackle in last week’s game against the Columbus Crew.

With Arne Fredrich still out, the question arises, who will be playing at right back for the Men in Red?  There seem to be two logical possibilities in Logan Pause and Mike Videira.  Taking Pause out of the midfield however may be a tactical mistake that Chicago would be best to avoid as he has been a strong point in the Chicago midfield in the last two games.  If it’s up to me, Videira gets the start especially after he looked good in the position in Kansas City.

Montreal are sitting third in the Eastern conference with two games in hand to Sporting KC and one game in hand to the Houston Dynamo, the two teams above them.  When asked about coming off of the home win to Columbus Coach Matkovich was already looking forward, “Montreal is off to a great start so you have to give them some credit where they’re at right now.  We went out there last year and got a point out of it… it’s going to be a difficult game they have some good players, they are very dynamic… Hopefully we can get up there and get some points out of it that will be the key at the end of the day.”

Chicago are hoping for a point, Montreal look to continue their dominance in the conference.  It will be a tight game, and I predict a 1-1 score line.  See if I’m right and catch the match on NBC Sports.

Apr 142013

Chicago fell 2-1 to the Dynamo today in Houston where the Dynamo still have not lost.  This game marked the pinnacle of a 35 game unbeaten streak at home for Houston, and the setting of an MLS record.

Chicago looked to build on the momentum of their first victory of the season last week. “It was awesome t getting the first win of the year,” Chicago midfielder Wells Thompson said before the game, “It was a huge lift of spirits and I know it is cliché to say, but I think it was a character win for us.  We go down 1-0 early, we miss a PK, but we have the character to continue to fight.”  Houston hoped to capitalize off their set pieces as they have done so well in the past.

With Arne not on this week’s roster, Wells Thompson started again at right back with Anibaba in the center back position.  The debate still rages in my mind as to who will hold the right back position after Arne’s return.  Thompson has played fantastic for the fire dropping back and filling in in the absence of several players on the back line, but Anibaba’s experience in the position makes him the right choice for me.

From the start the game was back and forth.  The ball moving quickly end to end, with several opportunities presenting themselves for both teams early.

Chicago had a great opportunity with a free kick just outside the area early in the game. Paladini lined up to take the kick but put the shot the ball over the wall over the net and into the stands. Chicago responded well shortly thereafter as well defending strongly against several ever dangerous Dynamo Corners.

Houston had an excellent opportunity to put the ball in the back of the net in the 12th minute Davies sent a blast toward the Chicago goal and Sean Johnson rose to the task moving left to right in the net with a diving save.

The Dynamo’s Giles Barnes had two serious chances to head home the game’s first goal but failed to finish on both crosses played into him, sending both headers just over the bar. On the third chance for Houston, on a cross put gracefully into Will Bruin, the Dynamo would make no mistake.  Bruin angled the header down past Chicago goaltender Sean Johnson.  The Dynamo are well known for they brilliance on set pieces but all three of these chances came from open play as the Chicago midfield, that played so well in their last game, struggled to slow down the play along the wings.

Chicago wouldn’t stay down long though.  Channeling Rory Delap, Chicago sent a long throw into the box.  Taking advantage of a Dynamo defense that seemed to be standing still, Chris Rolfe slammed home the tying goal in the 29th minute for the Fire.

The beginning of the second half brought no changes to the lineups. In the 56th minute Nyarko, back from his hamstring injury, came on for the yellow carded midfielder Dan Paladini.  Shortly thereafter, Maicon Santos came on for MacDonald, who failed, once again in this game, to deliver that spark Chicago are looking to him for.

Houston Hoped to come away with the lead in the 63rd minute when a perfect ball was slotted thought to Andrew Driver.  Alone in on the keeper, Driver took his shot, a low ball headed to the back of the net;  Johnson had to come up big for Chicago to hold the game level.  Although Houston managed to hold the play, for the most part, in the second half, other than this chance, they did not look all that dangerous, only getting a few minor chances that Johnson was able to handle easily.

Chicago looked again to take the lead in the 70th minute with one of their second half subs.  Maicon Santos had an excellent chance when a cross was put into the danger area but it got caught up in his feet and he was unable to direct the shot on target.  Chris Rolfe followed the play in but his finishing shot was cleared blocked behind the net by the Dynamo defense.

Houston took a late lead in the 81st minute when Captain Brad Davis took a shot that had eyes from 35 yards out.  It seemed to fool the Fire defense and goaltender and looped its way into the back of the net.

Chicago just two minutes later nearly equalized when a corner kick was headed hard off the crossbar, but it seems that the soccer gods want Houston to keep this home streak alive.

Chicago had one last chance in extra time on a free kick granted by the referee.  The put the ball in from the left right onto the head of the Houston dynamo defender and on the counter attack Houston nearly added insult to injury with a ball smashed just over the bar in the 92nd minute.

Chicago will look to regroup as they head back to Toyota Park for a night game next Saturday against the Columbus Crew.  The points up for grabs in that game will be vital for the Fire.  They were not able to capitalize on the momentum they carried into this game;  Look for them to come out fast and hard and take away a tough win next week.


 Posted by on April 7, 2013 at 10:38 pm  Chicago Fire, Global Football Today, MLS, New York Red Bulls
Apr 072013

Early in this fixture it looked as if Chicago might lose again.  After going down 1-0 early though, Chicago battled back to a 3-1 win, taking three points away for a good New York Team.  With the win, the Fire are granted a massive confidence boost with lots of football still left to play in the season. With this win a collective sigh of relief may be taken by the Chicago faithful, players and coaches.

Chicago went down early but they had a chance to come even in the 24th minute. Veteran Chris Rolfe sent his potentially equalizing penalty kick wide to the left side and relief was definitely not the subtext of the sighs at Toyota Park.  After the game Chicago mid fielder Dan Paladini spoke aloud, what most Chicago fans were probably thinking when the ball came off of Rolfe’s foot. “When he missed that, it seemed like ‘that’s kind of our season right now.”

Chicago were lucky enough to equalize late in the first half and take some momentum into the locker room.  This goal came off the foot of Paladini, my man of the season so far for Chicago, he described the goal, “I made the run, but he hit a perfect ball and the wind caught it.  I knew I was going to get there before the goalie. So… home field advantage.”

Paladini was named man of the match after this week’s game, and rightfully so as he was involved in all three of Chicago’s goals.  Coach Klopas agreed saying, “Danny’s got quality and when we’ve called him to step in, he’s done it.”

Chicago had a bit of a scare in the 69th minute when New York’s Thierry Henry sent a wonder blast heavy off the woodwork.  This, however, seemed to be his only major chance as Chicago were able to keep him out of  dangerous areas for the rest of the game.

Chicago substitute Maicon Santos wasted no time when only 20 minutes after taking the field, he took the lead for Chicago.  In the 83rd minute, he put Chicago on top with a beautiful piece of footwork followed by a devilish piece of finishing sliding in the game winning goal.  He also tucked home a goal off a set piece 5 minutes later to secure the three points for Chicago.

“It feels nice, not just for me but the whole team,” Santos said, “It feels nice to get three points at home and do that for the win. The two goals are a bonus for me. The team winning is the most important.”

A win like this can often get a team delusional, celebrating and thinking that everything is fixed.  Coach Klopas won’t let hat happen.

“It was great and important, but we have to be even keel. When things weren’t going our way, we never changed. There was a lot of panic by a lot of people, but we won our game and its fantastic. Now it gives us the energy to work even harder.”

The team looks to the return of it still missing players.  They hope to see the likes of Nyarko, Degares, Duka and Friedrich back as they head to Houston To take on the Dynamo this coming Sunday, April 14th.

Apr 062013

The Chicago Fire look to claw their way up off the bottom of the table when they take on the seventh place New York Red Bulls tomorrow April 6th  at Toyota Park.

They Men in Red had the week off last week to rest up their injured players and try to figure out what has been going wrong so far this season.  The time off has truly come as a gift to the Fire as they will see the return of many key players.  Logan Pause will be back on the pitch for Chicago.  “I’ve strung along, for about a week now, some really good days with my health.  Hopefully I’m on the other side of it.  I think I’ll be available, ready to go on Sunday,” he told the Fire a few days ago. This game may also mark the return of defensive leader Arne Friedrich.   He recently returned from Germany where he was receiving treatment from a therapist who he has been working with for over 10 years.  When asked about the treatment on the training pitch Arne said, “We have very good therapists here with the Fire but this guy knows my body best, he did a great job, my body feels great and I don’t have any pain so far.”

Along with the many returning players, Chicago will look to draw on past success against New York at home as the Red Bulls have never won a game at Toyota Park.  Assistant Coach Mike Matkovich says, “There are certain teams you feel like you’ve got a way with” referring to Sporting KC, “and I feel like New York is another one of these teams that we do well against.”

Chicago has been lackluster defensively in the last several games and the Red Bulls are a dynamic team playing forward.  Chicago will have to play tight defensively and rely on the space that will open up in the New York defense in order to posture for goals on the counter attack.  When asked about taking on football legend Thierry Henry, Chicago Midfielder Logan Pause said, “His resume speaks for itself. He’s a guy that you really have to keep your eye on at all times, he doesn’t need many chances to score.”  He went on to say that Chicago needs to work hard to eliminate his touches and confine him to less dangerous parts of the field.

New York are coming off of their first win of the season and look to carry that momentum into Toyota Park and take their first win away from there.  Hopefully Chicago can lean on its returning leaders and put up a strong showing in this game.

My Prediction

NY 3 – 2 Chicago (The third goal coming late for New York)

This prediction makes me sad.  Because I think Chicago will hold control of this game for the most part but won’t be able to tally their first win on the season, even with the return of some key players.

Mar 242013

The Chicago Fire are keeping the bottom of the Eastern Conference Table warm after a tough home loss this afternoon to Chivas USA, 4-1.

The wind whipped strong though Toyota Park as the fans filed in to watch this weekends match between the Chicago Fire (0-2-1) and Chivas USA (1-1-1).  Chicago hope they can find the back of the net for the first time this season in a game where the home advantage may be a factor.   Chivas have played all of their games so far this year in LA and with the wind chill hitting 24 degrees at kickoff. Chicago need to take the wind and the cold and turn them in their favor.

On the field Chicago brought out a 4-2-3-1 formation featuring newcomer Wells Thompson at right back and goaltender Paolo Tornaghi.  Chivas put forward an aggressive 3-4-3 formation which has been standard for them under El Chelis.

Chicago had a chance to strike early when in the second minute, Sherjill MacDonald made an excellent overlapping run down the left.  The pass was threaded through by Alex and MacDonald struck the ball but the shot flew straight at goal keeper Dan Kennedy, who easily made the save.

The fire didn’t go back on their heels, and in the fifth minute they had a chance on a set piece.  Hoping to take advantage of Chivas’ short back line, Midfielder Dan Paladini sent in a beautiful in-swinging cross.  Chicago had a chance to capitalize but the play was stopped short by an excellent clearance by the Chivas defense.

Again, in the tenth minute Paladini sent in a looping ball from a set piece on the left side.  The ball was headed goalward but was forced wide by a great reaction save by Dan Kennedy.

Wells Thompson was called upon in the game several times, and grew into his position as the game progressed.  Chivas frontman Juan Agudelo tended to favor the left side of the pitch challenging Thompson who is new to the right back position.

Chris Rolff had a chance to end Chicago’s scoring lapse with a ripe opportunity when a pass threaded the defense in the 39th minute providing him with a wide open break away chance on the Chivas goaltender.  Kennedy had other plans and timed his run out to the ball well, sliding to deny the Chicago veteran.

Dan Paladini has had another strong showing throughout this game.  He created chances on offense and worked hard on defense, playing the midfield position how it’s meant to be played.  His persistence almost paid off in the 50th minute when he had a ball slotted through the back line by Alex onto his perfectly timed run.  He took an extra step at the goaltender and let the ball go toward the bottom left corner, glancing off the outside of the post the ball wound behind for a goal kick.

Chivas found the Score board in the 57th minute with a lovely strike from Chivas midfielder Edgar Mejia.   After a corner kick Chicago was unable to find all of the opposing men on the field.  The ball caromed from one Chivas player to another until popping out onto the waiting foot of Mejia who sent a rocket ball with eyes into the top corner of the net.

In the 65th minute Chicago carried the play up the right side of the field.  The ball was sent into forward Sherjill MacDonald who corralled the ball and with a clever piece of footwork pushed the ball past three defenders to Patrick Nyarko.  Nyarko took a touch and slyly slid the ball under Dan Kennedy.  Finally, drought over, and all the fans in Toyota Park breathed a sigh of relief as The Men in Red put home their first goal of the season.  Chicago Fire’s Section 8 Fan area, not willing to settle for a tie, immediately began the chant, “One more Fire, one more.”

There would be one more, at least one, unfortunately it would not come from Chicago in fact Chivas would begin its assault shortly after Chicago equalized.  In the 74th Minute from a set piece on the left, the ball was crossed in and Chicago’s goaltender came out to play the ball but misjudged the distance.  He tried to recover and back into the right position but found himself in no-mans-land.  Chivas’ Joaquin Velázquez was wide open on the back post to finish it off with a well-placed header.

Chicago were reeling and just two minutes later Juan Agudelo would make it a two goal game.  Chivas would retrieve the ball after play started again and a chip pass from 45 yards out on the left side was floated in on the wind. The Chivas forward made no mistake about it, curling the ball past the Chicago goaltender into the bottom right corner of the net.

In the last twenty minutes Chicago pushed players forward looking to get pressure in the offensive third.  It worked but Dan Kennedy stood tall stopping a barrage of Chicago Fire strikes, including a header from Jeff Laretowicz that was The Fire’s best chance after their goal.

And there is nothing like adding insult to injury and that is just what happened in the 89th Minute when Jalil Anibaba sent the ball into his own goal.

When the final whistle went it was a welcome relief to the floundering Chicago Fire, who walked away dropping 3 more points on the season.

So the goal drought is over, but Chicago have yet to win a game and with only one point so far this season, there is a long road ahead of them if they want to get back into contention. Chicago now have two weeks off to go over the tapes and contemplate how they can muster their first win in the match April 7th at home against the New York Red Bulls.


Mar 232013

The Chicago Fire, still winless, play host to Chivas USA tomorrow at Toyota Park at 4:00 PM CT.  Both teams are coming off Draws and look to add points to their respective team’s tallies.  Chicago hope to replicate last year’s result in this, the only meeting between the Fire and Chivas this year.

The game will likely showcase yet another player on the right side for the Chicago Fire.  With injury still plaguing them, their back line will likely have holes once again.  Goalkeeper Sean Johnson and midfielder Joel Lindpere will also be out as they are on international duty for USA and Estonia respectively.

Chicago Injury Report:


Arne Friedrich Right Hamstring Tightness
Michael Videira– Concussion
Victor Pineda - Meniscus Repair


Steven Kinney– Right Quad Strain
Dilly Duka – Left Hamstring Tightness

With so many out and others questionable, it will be interesting to see what line up is put on the pitch by Coach Klopas.

The Fire will certainly be looking to their role players to put forward a strong game.  Previously in the week the Fire were unsure of the status of Logan Pause.  The start of fifth string defender Wells Thompson seemed imminent.  “I’m getting there,” Pause said after Wednesday’s training session. “I’m definitely still inching along, but I’m definitely at a point where I feel like I’m helping the team.”  In the last few days news came out that he is most likely set to go for this Sunday’s game.

The Fire need to find the finishing touch.  In their last three games their counter attack has been decent but the finishing has been nonexistent.  Chicago are still looking for their first goal of the season.  It is hard to say exactly where the scoring trouble is coming from but it is a fact that they have only produced 22 shots so far this season.  Chicago is a long ball and counter attack team but even with that being said, 22 shots is only two more than Sporting KC were able to muster in the game against Chicago last week.

Chicago have a week off following this game and, sitting at the bottom of the table, really cannot afford to drop any more points in this crucial home game.

The Fire’s ability to capitalize on the chances they create will most likely determine the outcome of this game. Coach José Luis Sánchez Solá has gone on record saying that he would rather lose 5-4 than win 1-0 playing conservatively.  I think we will see a much more desperate Chicago team, and with them likely seeing a lot more opportunities, I predict a 2-0 victory in this game.

Chivas USA are coming into the game off of a strong, shorthanded, come-from-behind draw against the defending Champion LA Galaxy in the SuperClasico.

Chicago (0-2-1) vs Chivas  (1-1-1)

Kick off will be at 4:00PM CT and will be broadcast on My50 Chicago.

Mar 162013

sean johnson 300x169 The Fire Steal a Point, But Fail to Find the Score Board

The Chicago Fire are still winless after a draw against Sporting KC in SKC’s home opener.  Chicago pulled a point out of Midwest rivals despite poor finishing, passing, and ball control.  Sporting’s lack of a finishing touch in this game is the only reason that Chicago came out with any points at all.

Struggles putting the ball in the back of the net have plagued the Fire so far this season.  Chicago is three games in and they are still looking for their first goal.  In this game, they spent most of their time in their own defensive third looking for a way to get the ball back.  Sporting held possession for over three quarters of the game and the timid Chicago midfield and defense did little to close down sporting when they had possession.

Even though Chicago has been shut out in their last two games, the resilience shown in this game by the back line, despite injury trouble, is a positive sign for the Men in Red, and certainly something to build upon.

Sporting slung 20 balls toward the net in the game, but only 3 hit the frame, and all of those were fired straight at Sean Johnson.  Even the shots that made their way through heavy traffic in front of the net were easily turned away by the Chicago goaltender.

Chicago was able to put some pressure onto the opposition working on the counter attack.  The midfield and defense were able to slow down the play enough to make a few fast breaks possible.   The Fire thought they might steal three points with a late goal from Dan Paladini in the 89th minute.  His first touch off the through ball from Rolfe was just a bit too heavy, and Sporting KC goaltender, Jimmy Nielsen, was able to come out and make a lovely diving leg save to keep the clean sheet.

The Fire play next at Toyota Park, against Chivas USA on March 24th at 4:00pm CT.  Chicago anticipates the return of Logan Pause and Steven Kinney to the squad from injury for this game.  Chivas will be taking on the defending champion LA Galaxy tomorrow in the much anticipated rivalry match at The Home Depot Center.


Final Score

Chicago Fire 0 – 0 Sporting KC


Crucial Stats 

Attempts at Goal

Chicago – 7

Sporting KC – 20

Attempts on Target

Chicago Fire – 1

Sporting KC – 3

Passes/Passing Percentage

Chicago Fire – 220/59%

Sporting KC – 609/82%


Chicago Fire – 27.1%

Sporting KC – 72.9%

Into the Book

Chicago 41’ – Dan Paladini

KC 47’ – Seth Sinovic

Chicago 77’ – Gonzalo Segares

Chicago 84’ – Maicon Santos

Chicago 91’ – Chris Rolfe

KC 93’ – Oriol Rosell