LIVE from Toyota Park: Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union

Toyota Park: Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union (3-24-12)

CHICAGO FIRE Starting XI: Tornaghi; Gargan, Anibaba, Gibbs, Segares; Pause (C), Pardo, Pappa; Grazzini; Nyarko, Oduro

PHILADELPHIA UNION Starting XI: MacMath, Albright, Farfan, Valdes, Lopez, Gomez, Daniel, Tores, Carroll, Mwanga, Pajoy

Check back here at half-time for first half analysis and more. Follow @ChicagoFireBlog on Twitter for live updates at Toyota Park before, during and after the match. 

First half analysis: 

It’s been a story of the counter attack during this first half. Dominic Oduro put the Fire ahead 1-0 in the 28th minute after pure magic from the heavily criticized Marco Pappa. The Guatemalan nutmegged a defender, skipped past another, and whipped in a beautiful cross that Oduro met to power a header past MacGrath. A sublime goal for the first goal at Toyota Park this season.

From then on Chicago dominated play and gave Philadelphia the run around with its dangerous counter attacking play. The Fire looked particularly dangerous on the counter in the 31st minute with Grazzini bursting through the middle with Oduro and Nyarko on the wings. His through ball waas just ahead of Oduro and Albright intercepted for a corner. Minutes later the same trio was again on the counter but Nyarko couldn’t spot Grazzini sprinting down the left. Yet another counter in the 40th minute nearly led to the Fire doubling their lead as only a goal line clearance by Albright prevented Oduro from making it 2-0 after skipping around an onrushing MacGrath.

Overall, the Fire have dominated play and look solid in defense as well. Tornaghi has had just one save to make off the corner and the Fire have had the freedom of attacking at will during this first half. The Fire could so easily be ahead by more than 1-0,  but the second half promises plenty more attacking play and, hopefully, a few more goals.

Second half analysis:

Despite dominating almost the entire match, no one was breathing easy until the final whistle. Time and time again the Fire should’ve doubled their lead but poor finishing and execution in the final third ensured it was a nervy final few minutes. Paolo Tornaghi earned the Fire fans their free Aldi milk with several top saves in the second half, further enhancing his growing reputation in these parts. By the time 90+ minutes was up, the Fire were grateful for the first three points of the season but well aware they should have put the game to bed as early as the first half.

Pappa was very impressive tonight. Apart from a few wayward passes early in the first half, he has combined well with the rest of the Fire attack and has given several Union defenders a run around at times. After assisting the opening goal, the midfielder was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet himself in the 66th minute after thumping a shot off the right post. Following a dismal performance last weekend, Pappa looks to have found his form. Now can he keep it though?

Sebastian Grazzini also impressed in midfield with a dominating performance. The Argentinean pulled the strings for the Fire throughout the night and was always at the center of the Fire’s counter attacks. Captain Logan Pause also put in a workmanlike shift in the middle of the park and was heavily involved on both ends of the pitch, even scuffling out a 3 vs. 1 Philadelphia counter attack midway through the second half.

Elsewhere, Oduro put in an absolutely tremendous shift at center forward. A goal was the least of what he deserved having run the Union defense inside out throughout the match.  A second goal should’ve been in the bag in the 89th minute after being sent through on goal, but MacGrath guessed correctly to save the Ghanaian’s low shot.

So with so many positive performances tonight, who gets Man of the Match? My vote has to go to Marco Pappa. He was a nightmare for Philadelphia down the right wing and his play down the right before crossing for Oduro was worthy of a dozen replays. In the end, a great overall performance which will hopefully carry through to the next several matches for the Fire.

Section 8's remarkable tifo displayed before the match.

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Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union match preview

Following its season opening 1-1 draw against the Montreal Impact last weekend, the Chicago Fire are set for opening night at Toyota Park on Saturday night (7:30 kick-off) when they take on the Philadelphia Union. The Men in Red are in search of its first win of the season against a Philadelphia side also in search of its first points of the new campaign. The Union fell to Portland during First Kick and then saw its home opener spoiled by Colorado last weekend, leaving them in seventh place in the Eastern Conference table and one of six teams in the East yet to record a win. Meanwhile, the Fire are in third after just one match played.

There’s a good chance of that changing this weekend. Despite being outplayed for much of last weekend’s draw, the Fire appear to have the advantage against the Union following its early struggles on the pitch this season and should be able to walk away from Saturday’s match with three points in the bag.

Here’s three things to watch for against the Union: Continue reading

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Who will be the main man this year for the Chicago Fire? One player is poised to step up.

Who will be the Fire's go-to-guy this season? | (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

There can be little denying that soccer is as much of a team sport as any, but often times a single player can help define a season for a club. If you look back to 2000, Mamadou Diallo was that factor for the Tampa Bay Mutiny as the Senegalese striker notched an outstanding 26 goals for the now defunct franchise. We’ve also seen it with Landon Donovan in 2008, who scored 20 goals in 25 games in a season that somehow still resulted in the LA Galaxy still missing out on the MLS playoffs. Jeff Cunningham provided a similar story for FC Dallas in 2009 by scoring for fun but still seeing his side miss out on the postseason.

In similar fashion, Houston Dynamo reject Dominic Oduro was absolutely stellar for the Chicago Fire last season in his debut season for the men in red. The Ghanaian scored 12 goals as he and the rest of the team fell agonizingly short of a playoff spot. Regardless, his team MVP honors and impressive play throughout the season were a huge reason for the team’s success both in the US Open Cup and in the latter stages of the MLS season.

So who will step up and make their mark this year for the Fire? Continue reading

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Chicago Fire 1-1 Montreal Impact: Five things we learned from Olympic Stadium

Pavel Pardo attempts a free-kick in injury time. | Image source: MountRoyalSoccer.com

Playing in yet another Major League Soccer expansion side’s home opener, the Fire came from a goal down on Saturday afternoon to snatch a point against the Montreal Impact in front of a record 58, 912 crowd. Despite earning just a point, the visitors can leave Montreal content with a draw. Impact captain made history in the 56th minute by scoring the club’s first home goal, heading in Sanna Nyassi’s cross to send the home crowd into raptures. Continuing where he left off last season, however, Dominic Oduro spoiled the party for Montreal by grabbing a valuable equalizer in the 75th minute.

Montreal defender Josh Gardner nearly stole the headlines with one of the last kicks of the match, but his 35-yard effort in the 95th minute cannoned off Fire goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi’s left post in the 95th minute. In the end, a point will be viewed as a good result having been outplayed for many parts of this match.

 Here’s what we learned from Saturday’s draw: Continue reading

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Destination Kenya

Image Source: StarAfrica.com | Kenya's national team

With just over two weeks remaining until the 2012 Major League Soccer season kicks off for the Chicago Fire, a sense of unyielding anticipation has steadily crept up over the past few weeks. The Fire are close to completing the Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston, South Carolina, and before long, preseason will be behind us and MLS First Kick will have finally arrived.

For the majority of Fire supporters longing to see their team in action again after five long months, having a bye in the first week of the league schedule will have come as a disappointment, but for one particular supporter – myself – that bye is a massive relief. Continue reading

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Leap year 2012: A perfect day for Chicago Fire and US Soccer fans

If you’re a Chicago Fire supporter and a fan of US soccer, then Wednesday, February 29th was nothing short of the perfect day.

An action-filled day began early Wednesday morning as numerous international friendlies were already underway by 10pm CT. One of those friendlies involved Fire striker Orr Barouch, who received the nod in the starting lineup for Israel against Ukraine. Barouch opened the scoring in the 17th minute, splitting two defenders to get on the end of a precise pass and fire a one-touch effort into the net. Israel would go on to win 4-0. Watch Barouch’s goal and highlights of the match below. Continue reading

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Federico Puppo opens his goalscoring account as the Fire down Columbus 1-0

Image source: zimbio.com

After doing the double over the Columbus Crew last season, a repeat of that feat could be on the cards again in 2012. A depleted Chicago Fire squad topped a relatively full strength Columbus side 1-0 on Wednesday courtesy of an 80th minute goal from Federico Puppo, his first goal for the club.

The Fire were without six players against the Crew – many of whom were on international duty – but the men in red still managed to survive a subpar first half performance to end a three-match losing streak. Puppo threatened at times in the first interval, but it was Continue reading

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