Monthly Archives: April 2011

Support OSA World Juggle-a-thon for World Malaria Day!

Every Chicago Fire supporters knows who Mike Banner is, but most will be unaware of the fact that every 45 seconds a child dies from Malaria. Today, the Fire’s very own Mike Banner will be participating in the OSA World Juggle-a-thon to benefit Nothing But Nuts. The event takes place at 6pm CT tonight and soccer players, fans and coaches everywhere are juggling to get better and to save lives. The OSA World Juggle-a-thon is put on by OnlineSoccerAcademy.com for Nothing But Nets.  Nothing But Nets is an MLS partner charity and for every $10 raised they provide a life saving bed net to a person in need in Africa. You too can help!

How do I participate?

1.  Download a pledge sheet on the “OSA World Juggle-a-thon” page of OnlineSoccerAcademy.com (link too http://www.OnlineSoccerAcademy.com)

2.  College pledges or flat donations prior to juggling.  The minimum suggested amount to raise is $30.  Do that, you save 3 lives and you get a shirt!

3.  Juggle for your juggling record by yourself or with friends at 6pm your time!  After follow directions on pledge sheet and mail in your funds raised!

OSA World Juggle-a-thon Highlights so far:

28 pro players on board including Jay Demerit and Carli Lloyd from the US National Team

Multiple pro freestylers participating including 16 year old phenom Indi Cowie (she was on Good Morning America and New York Times recently)

One freestyler is going for Guinness World Record of most sole juggles during OSA World Juggle-a-thon

Multiple youth soccer clubs and pro supporters groups are participating and hosting OSA World Juggle-a-thon parties

CASL in North Carolina is hosting a two field OSA World Juggle-a-thon party – they have over 10,000 youth soccer players

For more information, questions or comments please visit OnlineSoccerAcademy.com (link to http://www.OnlineSoccerAcademy.com) or contact their founder Jared Montz at Jared@JMSoccer10.com.

After spending several years living in Kenya, I can’t begin to tell you the importance of protecting children from malaria. What better way to support a great cause than by juggling a soccer ball? Come on, go and rep the Fire at tonight’s event, you know you want to!

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Chicago Fire vs. Houston Dynamo: Five things to watch for

Three straight defeats and suspect defending has seen the Chicago Fire slip to eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings, a position few thought they would be in at this stage of the season following such a positive start. The Fire will hope to regain its winning form on Saturday night at Toyota Park when they play host to the Houston Dynamo. The Dynamo are undefeated in their last four matches and travel to Chicago in hopes of piling more misery on the Fire, as well as avoiding a repeat of last year’s corresponding fixture.

The Fire earned the points in this fixture last season, winning 2-0 courtesy of goals from Baggio Husidic and Logan Pause. But with the Dynamo undefeated in four games and the Fire unable to pick up a point in their last three matches, it is anyone’s guess what result Saturday will bring. Here are my top five things to watch for:

1) Defensive Changes – With 11 goals conceded this season, the Fire have yet to keep a clean sheet and have proven to be extremely vulnerable in defense. In fact, only D.C. United has conceded more goals this season (12). The Fire’s defense was put to the sword again last weekend by a weakened Los Angeles Galaxy side and ultimately paid the price for two defensive mistakes. Carlos de los Cobos will be desperate to see his side cut out the mistakes and will most likely shake things up in defense to boost Chicago’s chances of snapping this losing streak. With Cory Gibbs to undergo a late fitness test following the injury he suffered last weekend, Yamith Cuesta is likely to slot in at center-back while Dasan Robinson could step in for Jalil Anibaba at right back. Regardless of who starts in defense for the Fire, an improvement in communication and concentration is necessary if the men in red are to halt the Dynamo.

2) Defense Out, Creativity In – Fire fans have become frustrated after witnessing three straight stuttering performances and there have been a lot of calls for a more dynamic, creative attacking threat in the starting line-up. Mike Videira and Logan Pause have been de los Cobos’ first choice central midfield pairing, but Saturday’s match could see Baggio Husidic or Daniel Paladini earn their first starts of the season alongside captain Logan Pause. Videira is a talented player, but his major strengths are displayed on the defensive side of things. It would be a wise choice for the Fire to deploy Husidic or Paladini in the center of the park in place of Videira. Not only will provide more attacking options, but It will also improve the Fire’s link up play between the forwards and midfield.

3) Playmaker – While the Fire have lacked creativity in the final third, Houston have thrived with the creativity of midfielder Brad Davis. The veteran playmaker recorded 12 assists in each of the two last seasons for the Dynamo and has already tallied three assists this year. Davis was voted as Houston’s MVP last season and he’s one of the reasons the Dynamo find themselves in third place in the Eastern Conference. The Fire will need to keep him under wraps on Saturday. Looking at you Logan Pause…

4) Haunt Your Old Club – On March 23rd, just days before the start of the new season, the Fire announced they had traded Calen Carr to the Houston Dynamo for Dominic Oduro. Unfortunately for Carr, he is still recovering from a concussion and will miss out on the chance to play against his former teammates. Oduro, on the other hand, has every chance of playing against his old club and will look to have a similar impact as he did on Sunday if he does get the nod. Released by Houston because of his inability to finish, Oduro silenced some of the doubters against the Galaxy with a superb finish after coming on as a substitute. Although he may not start against the Dynamo, he will most likely see action at some point and a goal against his old club would go some way to silencing his doubters back in Houston… as well as ensuring the Fire get back to winning ways.

5) Safe Hands – Following Sean Johnson’s performance against Portland earlier this month, de los Cobos has handed veteran goalkeeper Jon Conway a place in the starting lineup in place of Johnson. The defeat to the Galaxy saw Conway concede twice, but in fairness he could hardly be blamed for either goal. Conway will face a tough test against a physical Houston side and it will be interesting to see if he can prove that he deserves his starting berth.

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Chicago Fire vs. LA Galaxy Post Match Analysis

After a torrid road trip in the Pacific Northwest that resulted in back-to-back losses, the Fire returned to Toyota Park on Sunday in hopes of rediscovering their form against a weakened Los Angeles Galaxy side. David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Juninho were all absent from Bruce Arena’s squad but the Galaxy still managed to overcome a lackluster Fire team to win 2-1 and hand the Fire its third straight defeat. Chad Barrett opened the scoring for the Galaxy in the 42nd minute, beating the offside trap to fire past Jon Conway, who was brought in for Sean Johnson following his disappointing performance against Portland in midweek.

Omar Gonzalez doubled the Galaxy’s lead in the 72nd with a header before substitute Dominic Oduro pulled one back for the men in red with one minute of normal time remaining. A late flurry of corners nearly saw the Fire grab an equalizer, but in the end it would be three more points dropped and more questions being asked about this refurbished Fire team.

Talking Points:

Missed Opportunities – Even before former Fire striker Chad Barrett opened the scoring, Chicago could have and certainly should have been in front. Gaston Puerari, who has been guilty of missing several good one-on-one goal scoring opportunities this season, looked set to put the Fire ahead in the 18th minute after Diego Chaves had flicked the ball into open space. But with only Donovan Ricketts to beat, the Uruguayan chipped the ball just beyond the far post. Gonzalo Segares then followed that up with a narrow miss of his own later in the half. When Barrett’s goal did arrive, the Fire could only blame themselves for being down. After all, looking at the picture below you simply have to wonder how Gaston didn’t score and how different the result could have been had this effort gone in the back of the net.

Gaston Puerari misses a golden opportunity for the Fire in the first half

Offside Trap Gone Bust – When Barrett controlled Miguel Lopez’ and fired past Conway for the opener, I immediately looked towards the linesman for the offside flag. From my view behind the goal in Section 8 and judging by how much space Barrett was in, I found it hard to believe that he was not offside, but upon the replay it was painfully obvious that Jalil Anibaba had kept Barrett onside by failing to step up with the rest of the backline. Josip Mikulic had stopped following Barrett’s run to catch him offside but even he and Cory Gibbs failed to come anywhere close to catching him offside meaning the Galaxy forward was left in acres of space. The picture shows just where the Fire defense and Barrett were when the cross is about to be made.

Chad Barrett finds himself in acres of space to give the Galaxy the lead.

Lack of creativity – Apart from Marco Pappa and Patrick Nyarko, the Fire severely missed a creative spark in the midfield. The introduction of Oduro gave some life to the Fire, but midfield was a case of a lack of possession and ineffective efforts to put pressure on the Galaxy’s defense. Logan Pause is a tremendous player, but his gift lies more within the defensive realm of the game. After all, he did enjoy a stint at right back earlier in his Fire career. As for Mike Videira, he is a hard working player and a combative force in the center of midfield, but he isn’t the type of midfielder capable of providing that necessary creative spark.

Work Ethic – Despite three defeats on the bounce now, the bright side is the Fire haven’t been lacking in effort. Take it for what it is, but even when the Fire were down 3-0 to Portland they kept pushing and were able to pull two goals back. A similar case unfolded again on Sunday as the Fire found themselves down 2-0 but continued to labor and managed to cut the deficit in half. Unfortunately it would end up being too little too late, but you have to at least applaud the effort and look at this team as a hungry and determined group of guys. Things may not be clicking yet for the Fire, but I’d be even more concerned if the effort wasn’t there. Thankfully that’s not the case.

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Portland Timbers vs. Chicago Fire Match Report

In the sort of fixture that will raise the profile of the MLS, the Portland Timbers took full advantage of a rapturous home support to earn its first win of the season with a 2-0 win against a lackluster Chicago Fire. Amidst the media spotlight and a noisy and ecstatic JELD-WEN stadium, the Fire had hoped to spoil the party and bounce back from its defeat to Seattle last weekend. The Timbers, clearly desperate to earn their first league win of the season in its first MLS home match in history, were intent on sticking to their own agenda, however.

The match started in a high tempo with both sides looking to get forward as often as possible. The first chance of the match fell to former Manchester United reserve Kenny Cooper, who after getting past Cory Gibbs on the byline, saw his cross tipped to safety by Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson. The resulting corner saw Johnson called into action again as the young ‘keeper made a brilliant outstretched save to deny a powerful drive from Steve Purdy.

And as if the action could not get any more pulsating, Cooper scored on the following corner with a header to send JELD-WEN stadium into raptures. Fortunately for the Fire, the ball was adjudged to have gone out of play during the outswinging corner kick, much to the dismay of the home side.

The Fire nearly capitalized on their good fortune in the 15th minute, Chaves nearly headed the Fire into the lead with a header off a corner kick but was unable to make solid contact and Nyarko couldn’t connect on the far post.

The match threatened to boil over a minute later as Segares tripped Cooper in the Chicago half, causing an ensuing melee after Cooper reacted angrily towards Segares. The Fire left back saw yellow for the foul, which replays proved to be nothing vicious. Not too long later referee Ricardo Salazar was being surrounded by Fire players who claimed Anibaba had been stamped on. With only eighteen minutes played, it was already becoming a feisty affair.

But as the match progressed, both teams started to settle, particularly the Fire, who sought to take control of the midfield. Logan Pause was instrumental for the Fire’s play, spraying the ball across the pitch and looking for the dangerous Pappa on the left wing as much as possible. Good work by the Guatemalan on the left wing saw the Fire awarded a free-kick just outside the box in the 25th minute.

The Fire looked to be on the front foot, but a defensive clearance would lead to a killer blow in when Kalif Alhassan found Perlaza’s run with an acute ball down the left wing, leaving the Timbers forward with a clear sight of goal. The Fire defense did well to track back, but a clever cut back by Perlaza left the goal gaping and he finished past Johnson to give the home side the lead. There was no chance of another goal being disallowed, as the Chicago defense was simply caught out by a good break from the Timbers.

The goal galvanized Portland, who took control of the match and attempted to get forward as often as possible. Their attacks paid dividends as a foul on the right side by Gibbs, which earned the defender a booking, resulted in another Timbers set-piece. The subsequent free-kick was half cleared by Pappa, but it would only fall as far as Rodney Wallace, who lashed a volley first time through a crowd of players and past a flat footed Johnson and into the back of the net. The Fire could do little do reduce the deficit before a disappointing first half drew to a close.

Carlos de los Cobos sent on Dominic Oduro and Marco Maric for Gaston Puerari and Mike Videira in hopes of inspiring a second half comeback. Just two minutes after the break though, things would go from bad to worse as any hopes of a win, let alone a draw, were washed away thanks to an unfortunate error in the back. Johnson misplayed a low cross and Perlaza was on hand to capitalize and punish the 21-year-old. Anything that was said in the locker room during half was certainly rendered useless after the forward’s second goal of the game.

The match threatened to become embarrassing for the visitors as Portland dominated and created several more good scoring opportunities, the Alhassan clipping the crossbar before Perlaza was unable to direct his effort on target after being played in on the left side.

Oduro nearly pulled one back for the Chicago after getting behind the Timbers’ defense only to be denied by a good save by Gleeson, his first real call of action. The Timbers continued to control proceedings, passing at will around the Fire penalty box and taking advantage of the physical prowess of Cooper, whose hold up play and footwork caused problems for the Fire all night.

Johnson’s nightmare was nearly complete in the 65th minute. A low cross from the right was once again miscontrolled by Johnson, bouncing into the path of Cooper who somehow failed to make connection a proper connection on the ball. As Johnson was still breathing a big sigh of relief, the Fire managed to pull one back on the other end of the pitch. A short pass from substitute Barouch to Pappa was somehow poked into the Timbers goal by defender Eric Brunner.

Mal Zizzo then ran the length of the pitch in a Portland counter attack, only to lay the ball off for an offside Cooper. Back on the other end of the pitch, Chaves, after turning his defender, had the chance to punish the homes side but his volley could only find the side netting.

Shortly after, an unlikely comeback was suddenly back on the cards thanks to an absolutely brilliant piece of magic by Pappa with nine minutes remaining. Oduro fed the ball to the midfielder, who then maneuvered in the box and curled an absolute pearler into the right upperhand corner of the goal. But while Fire fans began to wonder what could be, a giant goalmouth scramble saw the Timbers grab their fourth of the night.

The goal was deemed to have been turned in by Futty Danso. Regardless of who it went off last, it all but ended the Fire’s hopes of a comeback. The goal was brought into question by large protests by Fire players, who claimed Cooper used his arm in the lead up to the goal. Replays proved the Fire had reason to complain but there would be no changing the referee’s decision.

A big occasion for Portland and they should be applauded for living up to the hype. Meanwhile, the Fire will live to regret a very poor first half, particularly in defense, but can take heart from bringing life to a match that looked all but over.

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Chicago Fire vs. Portland Timbers: Predicted Starting XI

4-3-3

 

Johnson

 

Anibaba      Robinson      Gibbs       Segares

 

Videira      Pause       Pappa

 

Nyarko      Chaves      Puerari



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