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Feb 052013

We all knew the Columbus Crew weren’t even close to being done when the 2013 SuperDraft finished.

With only 75% of a full roster, the team had a few more moves to make heading into pre-season. Enter Glauber Berti, Augustin Viana, and Dominic Oduro. The first two came via Argentina while the third carried a pretty steep price. In exchange for Chicago’s once prolific striker, Columbus had to give up out of favor winger Dilly Duka as well as the rights to out of contract winger Robbie Rogers.

Now Duka had already worn out his welcome with Robert Warzycha. However, I cannot help but feel like throwing in the rights to Rogers was way too much. Surely someone else in MLS would have made a separate, improved deal for him? Now we’ll never know.

But Glauber fills an important hole as he expects to start alongside Chad Marshall in the center of defense. The Brazilian has said all the right things ever since his arrival and it’s hard not to get excited given his pedigree over in Europe. I was less impressed with Viana after watching an extensive highlight video, but he is capable of playing as a holding midfielder or left back which are two positions at which the Crew needed desperately depth.

Then there’s the arrival of Matias Sanchez. For me, this is the most exciting signing of the off-season. Sanchez was a member of the U-20 Argentina side that won the U-20 World Cup in 2007. He arrives from Estudiantes, one of the more prestigious clubs in Argentina. At the age of 25, he is in the prime of his career. He’d make one terrific addition.

If rookies Ryan Finley and Drew Beckie can continue to work hard, they’ll find themselves in the First 18 for plenty of matches. Oduro scored 12 goals just two seasons ago. He only scored six last season with Chicago, but six goals might as well be 1,000 for this team. He comes at a high cost, but he’s a proven commodity in MLS. And then there’s Jairo Arrieta’s recent goal scoring tear with his native Costa Rica. There are lots of pieces coming together in Columbus and it should make fans of the MASSIVE club very optimistic.

The team had a pretty successful trip to Bradenton, FL where they defeated DC United and Chicago before losing to New York. Next up is a trip to Orlando. Just like last season, the Crew have a lot of new faces who will need to come together in a hurry. While it remains to be seen if they can/will, I’m already very excited for the season opener against Chivas USA on March 2.



Crew v. Fire Preview

 Posted by on May 25, 2012 at 5:27 pm  Columbus Crew, MLS
May 252012

Friday, May 25, 2012
By: David Burgin

While preparing for Saturday’s home match against the Chicago Fire, The Columbus Crew are looking in the rear view mirror at the demoralized remains of the San Jose Earthquakes and the Seattle Sounders. Both West coast powers are surely, at the very least, nursing bruised egos after The Crew snatched a total of four points from two games in which the Black and Gold mustered only four shots on frame, yet scored three goals. 

The four points earned on the quick West coast trip were important, but Saturday’s game against the Fire has grown in importance due primarily to those hard earned four points. The first ever win in Seattle, and the tie against the high flying Earthquakes puts The Crew in position to jump into a tie for fifth place with Chicago in the Eastern Conference standings. A victory at Crew Stadium Saturday would not only level The Crew on points with their division rival, it would also create breathing room between the young and improving Crew and the trio of teams below them. Those three teams, New England, Houston and Montreal will not go away quietly this season; and so, a good three point result tomorrow sends a message to the teams looking up at The Crew in the standings that the Black and Gold, and their improbable four point West coast swing, was not a fluke.

Beating the Chicago Fire will not be easy. The windy city team has been just as hot as Columbus lately, if not hotter. With three wins, a tie and a loss in their last five, the Fire are beginning to reap the benefits of sticking with their long term vision for the club. The addition of two or three new players to a youthful core, which the Fire’s brass has stuck with for going on three years, has been the spark responsible for igniting the Fire’s recent climb in the standings. 

Dominic Oduro, Marco Papa, and Sebastian Grazzini are a handful for any back four to deal with. Patrick Nyarko, who has yet to find his groove this year, is another player The Crew will have to watch closely. As if those four weren’t enough, the Fire also have Chris Rolfe back in the fold. While Rolfe may not play Saturday, due to an ankle injury, he gives Chicago depth when healthy. 

For The Crew, Justin Meram has become very important. His goals against San Jose and Seattle showed the quality and diversity of his finishing prowess. The Black and Gold will need Meram to continue his potent finishing if they want to continue their run up the Eastern Conference standings. 

Andy Gruenebaum. The name simply flows off the tongue. Okay, maybe not, but The Crew keeper has been flowing to virtually every shot headed his way in the last two weeks. Andy is another man who must continue his solid play. 

Two players for The Crew who don’t get enough credit are, Sebastian Miranda and Nemanja Vukovic. The two marking backs for The Crew have been quietly doing their jobs, while Columbus’ midfield has been trying to gel. The steady backs are truly invaluable to The Crew’s success; there is very little if any quality depth at their position. The sooner the midfield comes together as a unit, and takes some of the pressure off The Crew’s back four, the better.

The Fire are in town, and The Crew are starting to piece together their young and puzzling squad. A confident start to Saturday’s game should see the Black and Gold earn three more points; three points which will give Columbus everything to play for after a short early June break from MLS play. Game time is 7pm, and there is a concert immediately after the game. Let’s hope Flogging Molly is singing a Crew victory song, because, The Crew still have it all to do.




Quick Thoughts, Match #1: Impact 1-1 Fire

 Posted by on March 18, 2012 at 6:42 pm  Chicago Fire, MLS
Mar 182012

Match #1 Fire @ Montreal 1-1 (58,912 attendance)

Arnaud (Mon) 56′ (assist: Nyassi)
Oduro (Chi) 71′ (assist: Grazzini)

1) Tornaghi is the real deal.
+ Good command of the area, some outstanding saves.
- A few poor kicks gave away possession too easily, and he’s going down too quickly when surrounded by attackers. One day a ref won’t call the foul and he’ll learn the hard way.

2) I don’t like Pappa & Pause playing on their weak flank.
For a while, right-footed Logan Pause was playing on the left wing and left-footed Marco Pappa was playing on the right. This caused both players to cut in when in possession, narrowing the midfield even more. The only wide play was provided by fullbacks Segares and Gargan on the overlap. Now, I know the Fire forwards won’t be beating defenders in the air, but if Pause and Pappa were played on the right and left, respectively, this would open up more space around the box for Grazzini to work. As it was, the Fire looked to have too many players converging at the top of the box.

3) A “Plan B” is needed
The Fire need to develop a plan to counter a deep-sitting back line. When Oduro and Nyarko can’t utilize their speed to race past a defender, the Fire seem to run into trouble. Nyarko has the dribbling ability, but lacks the killer finish; Oduro has finally got the finishing down, but doesn’t have Nyarko’s dribbling skills. If the Fire could somehow find a way to fuse the two together into some kind of super-attacker (‘Nyaduro?’ ‘Oduko?’), then that would free up a spot on the front line for more of a target-man, someone to hold the ball up and allow the others to make incisive runs. Until that happens, the Fire will rely even more on Grazzini and his ‘magico.’

In the end, a point was a fair gain from the match.


Chicago Fire vs. FC Dallas Live Blog

 Posted by on October 12, 2011 at 3:49 pm  Uncategorized
Oct 122011

peep! peep! peep! Final Score: Dallas 2-1 Chicago

90′ Maicon Santos on for Villar. Yellow card for Mikulic for an inadvertent kick to the face on Santos.

86′ Warshaw on for Cruz. GOAL Fire! Barouch at the top of the box, dishes to Grazzini on the left, he jukes inside before curling a shot past Hartman to the far post.

82′ Things are getting a bit tetchy now. Yellow for Gibbs.

79′ Straight red for Pardo. Kicked straight through on Villar.

77′ One last roll of the dice for the Fire as Barouch and Mikulic come on for Segares and Gargan. Back 3 for the Fire.

74′ Things are opening up a bit more as Segares pushes forward from LB. Attacks are coming, just nothing of substance.

69′ 10,362 in attendance tonight. Section 8 still in full voice, which is always nice.

63′ Brek Shea on for Castillo. Just one question. Why? He played last night, they’re up 2-0…

60′ FK Chicago 22 yards out, just to the left of the “D”. Chavez and Pardo stand over it. Chavez takes and shoots well over.

58′ Cruz picks up a yellow card (in addition to the goal) for a foul on Grazzini. FK Fire 30+ yards out is eventually cleared.

57′ Sorry for the sporadic updating. Having trouble with my internet connection. Paladini comes on for Pause in the 56th.

53′ Goal Dallas. Villar fires in a corner from the right, a botched clearance and the ball bounces to Cruz. His overhead kick leaves Johnson flat-footed. 2-0 Dallas.

And we’re off! The second half begins!

Half time stats: Dallas 8 shots (Jackson 3), Chicago 1 (Nyarko). Johnson with 3 saves, Hartman 0. 4 yellow cards handed out: Segares (18′), Loyd (29′), Gargan (39′), Jackson (43′).

HALF Chicago 0-1 Dallas.

43 Jackson picks up a cynical Yellow for tripping Grazzini in the center circle.

41′ It’s been coming. Simple goal from Dallas. A long throw in down the field found Jackson absolutely flying down the field and splitting the Fire center backs , slotting home far post. 1-0 Dallas

39′ Gargan picks up a Yellow after knocking down Castillo as he flew upfield.

35′ Stopped on the line by Gargan! A Dallas move from the left culminated in a diving header by Jackson which Johnson couldn’t stop. He took enough sting off it for Gargan to stop the ball on the line and clear. Another huge letoff by the Fire.

30′ Zach Loyd picks up a yellow for taking down Nyarko as the Fire tried to break.

24′ Jacobson plays a ball over the top to Jackson who flys into the box and stabs a perfect shot on goal. Johnson stops it dead with one hand. GREAT save.

18′ Segares picks up a yellow for absolutely hacking down Jackson.

13′ Dallas not playing like a team on a 4 match losing streak. They’re positively buzzing around the ball, looking for the angled thru ball at every opportunity.

8′ Chicago’s first meaningful attacks are launched by Gargan long-throws from deep on the right. Dallas clear with ease.

3′ Jackson pushes a ball out to Chavez, deep on the right i nthe attack. Chavez swings it right back in to an unmarked Jackson who pushes his shot just wide of Johnson’s far post.

1′ Fire in all Red, kick off from L to R. Dallas in blue & white hoops.

OK! 1 hour and 35 minutes later, I’m here!

Dallas: Hartman; Loyd, Ihemelu, John, Benitez; Castillo, Cruz, Jacobson, Villar; Chavez, Jackson
Chicago: Johnson; Gargan, Anibaba, Gibbs, Segares; Pause, Pardo, Grazzini, Nyarko; Chaves, Oduro

The Fire need to win their remaining three games, and get some help, to have any chance at postseason play. Dallas are looking to break a four-match winless streak and consolidate the top Wild Card spot as they head toward the playoffs. (A win by Dallas and they’d be in.)
Marco Pappa and Brek Shea will be sitting out due to the international schedule, and the word on the street is that Dominic Oduro has been ill and might be a game time decision. Sebastian Grazzini should be back for the Fire after being limited to a five minute cameo in the US Open Cup Final.

How will the Fire fare without the two players who have, combined, scored half of their goals this season? Check back here starting at 7pm Central time for the liveblog.

Road Trip: Chivas USA Head To Chicago

 Posted by on September 16, 2011 at 7:28 pm  Uncategorized
Sep 162011

 Road Trip: Chivas USA Head To Chicago

With the race for a playoff berth coming down to the final matches of the season, both Chivas USA and the Chicago Fire are desperate for three points as the two sides battle it out on Saturday at Toyota Park.

Chivas will be trying to snap a three-game losing streak that has left the Rojiblancos five points back of a playoff spot, while Chicago is nine points behind, but will be searching for a third win in four matches.

Chivas USA will be without defender Heath Pearce who is still sidelined with a hamstring injury. David Junior Lopes is serving his suspenion after his sending off for a tackle on Chris Pontius in last weekend’s match agaisnt D.C. United. With the absence of Pearce and Junior Lopes Chivas coach Robin Fraser must figure out which player will pair up with Michael Umaña in the center of defense. Zarek Valentin and Mike Lahoud should be fit for tomorrow’s match, but would Fraser actually put either of them as a centre-back? I doubt it. Andrew Boyens would be my choice to partner Umaña.

This should be an open match as both teams will be searching for all three points. What worries me is can the reshuffled Chivas defense stop Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro. When these two played in July at the Home Depot Center Nyarko and Oduro gave Chivas’ defense lots of trouble with their strength and pace. I’m hoping the boys redeem themselves after last weekend’s beating, they certainly need something to dig themselves out of this rut.

Perkins’ Miraculous Save Preserves Timbers First Road Win

 Posted by on July 17, 2011 at 5:14 am  Uncategorized
Jul 172011
Portland Timbers goalie Troy Perkins came up with seven huge saves, including a hockey goalie kick save in stoppage time to lead his team to 1-0 victory and their first road win in MLS play.
With the victory, the expansion side Timbers completed a season sweep of the Chicago Fire and ended a 7-game winless streak.
The Timbers lone goal took place in the 25th minute after a foul in the box was called on Fire left back Gonzalo Segares. At first glance the call looked pretty soft as Timbers forward Jorge Perlaza seemed to go down pretty easy on contact with Segares. However, replay showed Segares’ left hand pushing on Perlaza’s back and forcing him to the ground.
Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury converted on the penalty attempt with a swift low shot to the left corner. Fire goalie Sean Johnson guessed right but his dive came up empty.
The Fire had ample opportunities to equalize but Troy Perkins came up with crucial saves time and time again. Perkins did have help from the crossbar on two Fire scoring opportunities. Once on a corner kick in the 44th minute when Fire center back Corey Gibbs’ header glanced off the crossbar.
The second time occurred in the 68th minute off a Marco Pappa free kick that second-half substitute Orr Barouch blasted off the crossbar. Barouch will lose some sleep tonight, because he had a wide open goal waiting for him.
Even after losing center back Yamith Cuesta to a red card in the 77th minute after received his second yellow of the match, Chicago still was able to generate pressure in the final third. Forward Dominic Oduro used his speed and craftiness to earn fouls and free kicks for his team in good spots.
However, the Fire couldn’t take advantage and when they did fire off a good shot, Perkins was there to make the save.
More notes from today’s game:
* Timbers center back Kevin Goldthwaite, who started in place of the suspended Eric Brunner, left the game in the 11th minute with a serious knee injury. He was replaced by David Horst.
* This was the second game in a row where Coach Spencer used a 4-1-4-1 formation. Despite a sloppy start and a very crowded midfield at times, the Timbers were able to generate some decent offense at times during the game. Designated Player Diego Chara seemed much more of an active part of the offense in this game and helped in generating some opportunities.
* The Timbers took an interesting approach when dealing with the Fire’s speedy forward, Dominic Oduro. Instead of letting Oduro kill them with his speed and quickness with the ball, the Timbers defenders were often fouling Oduro on purpose, even though it sometimes gave the Fire dangerous opportunities in the final third. Sort of like a Hack-A-Shaq approach for MLS…
* The Timbers snapped a 229 minute away goal drought. They hadn’t scored in an away game since Futty Danso scored in the 65th minute against the Seattle Sounders on May 14.
* Timbers right back Jeremy Hall will be suspended for their next game due to yellow card accumulation.
This week’s games:

* The Timbers will play host to English Premier League side West Bromwich Albion this coming Wednesday, July 20th, at 8 p.m. PDT.
* On Saturday, the Timbers will look to start a streak of their own by taking on the Columbus Crew at Crew Stadium next Saturday, July 23rd at 5 p.m. PDT.

Preview: Timbers take on the Fire in the Windy City

 Posted by on July 15, 2011 at 10:33 pm  Uncategorized
Jul 152011

The Portland Timbers are looking to put an end to a seven-game winless streak when they travel to Toyota Park this Saturday, July 16th to face the Chicago Fire.

Even with three consecutive losses and no wins since May 21st (1-0 against the Columbus Crew), the Timbers still have time to reverse their fortunes and get back into the hunt for a playoff spot.
Unfortunately, that may be easier said than done right now as the Timbers aren’t just struggling to generate offense (Ranked #12 in goals scored and dead last in shots on goals), but defensive lapses have plagued them as well during the streak.
What to look for against the Fire:
* There will be another shuffle in the defensive back four as centerback Eric Brunner will be out due to a suspension after last week’s red card tackle in the box against Seattle’s Lamar Naegle. Spencer is likely to start Kevin Goldthwaite in his place.

* It will be crucial for the Timbers to play mistake-free defense as they take on one of the speediest attackers in MLS in Dominic Oduro. Oduro and teammate, Marco Pappa, will be licking their chops and get revenge for the loss at Jeld-Wen earlier this season. The Fire will be missing forward Diego Chaves. He’s out due to suspension.

* Don’t expect to see Kenny Cooper in the starting lineup anytime soon. He’s currently rumored to be on the trading block. It will likely be Jorge Perlaza, who had a nice game against the Sounders last week, playing alone up top. Look for Spencer to stick with his tactical change from last week (4-1-3-1-1) by keeping Haitian international James Marcelin in the lineup at defensive midfielder.

* You can’t fault goalkeeper Troy Perkins for the Timbers’ recent struggles. Perkins has resurrected his career in Portland and, if anything, has been making some outstanding saves to keep the Timbers in the game. Last week, Perkins attained MLS Goal of the Week honors due to his quick reflexes in the box.

My prediction:

I’m not sure predicting a tie is going out on a limb but nonetheless, I see the Timbers playing some inspired soccer on the road this weekend and fighting the Fire for a draw. Look for Troy Perkins to continue his stellar play in goal and a set piece goal thanks to 1st-time MLS All-Star Jack Jewsbury.

Johnson Stars as Fire Fail to Generate Offense…Again

 Posted by on June 23, 2011 at 1:29 pm  Uncategorized
Jun 232011

firefield Johnson Stars as Fire Fail to Generate Offense...Again
Bridgeview IL – Goalkeeper Sean Johnson starred again for the Fire as Real Salt Lake came to town and left with a point. Johnson made 2 saves, including a point blank denial of Collen Warner, on the way to his fourth shutout in the last five games.

The Fire made two changes to their lineup going in to Wednesday’s game. Orr Barouch stepped in at forward for his first start of the year, replacing the suspended Cristian Nazarit. And captain Logan Pause was unable to shake off his injuries (hamstring strain/concussion) and was replaced by Daniel Paladini, who would anchor the Fire midfield. RSL were also somewhat short on attacking options, with Jean Alexandre also suspended.
Salt Lake’s attacking options would be further eroded early in the match, when forward Fabian Espindola was taken down by Cory Gibbs near the center circle in the third minute. Gibbs would earn a yellow card for the challenge, and Espindola would be unable to continue.
Diego Chaves looked like he was trying to take the team on his shoulders early, forcing himself into space and taking a few speculative shots, when passing to his teammates may have been the better option. Chicago had trouble getting any spells of extended possession, continually running into dead-ends as they focused on attacking to the right, trying to break speedy winger Dominc Oduro free.
RSL capitalized on the absence of Logan Pause in the middle, with Kyle Beckerman dominating box-to-box for much of the first half. For a stretch, it seemed like he’d gather possession at the edge of his box, pass and move and suddenly he’d pop up at the edge of the Chicago box, trying to make the decisive pass.
One such spell gave RSL their best chance of the match. Defender Robbie Russell sent in a cross from the right, and, when Fire defender Yamith Cuesta slipped trying to slow down to get in the way of the ball, all of a sudden Collen Warner found himself with the ball and only Johnson to beat. Luckily, his shot was blasted straight at Johnson whose instincts took over as he tipped the ball over the bar.
Late in the first half (and into the second), Chicago finally stopped trying to force everything to Oduro on the right, and instead found some success with Patrick Nyarko and Gonzalo Segares combining on the left. Nyarko had maybe Chicago’s best attempt of the night when he got free on the line and had his near post attempt smothered by Nick Rimando (62′). A small bit of controversy soon followed in the 64th minute, with Orr Barouch going down in the box, the referee first appeared to signal for a penalty, but then showed Barouch a yellow card for simulation.
Marco Pappa, fresh off his stint with Guatemala at the Gold Cup, added some much needed energy and creativity with his introduction in the 70th. He brought two smart saves from Rimando with his shots in the 71st and 78th minutes. Luis Gil rolled a shot just wide of the Fire goal in the 80th and Segares’ shot in the 82nd took a deflection and landed just on top of the goal (fooling many Fire fans, including those who set off the fireworks after a goal is scored). These would be the last notable attacks of the match.
Chicago is now 1-0-4 under interim coach Frank Klopas. They have drawn their last five home matches(an MLS record), and have earned ten draws overall this season (most in MLS). The New York Red Bulls come to town on Sunday.