Match Preview: Chicago vs. Kansas City
Toyota Park, May 12
So far May has been kind to the Fire, undefeated with four points over two games. But things are getting progressively more difficult. The defeat of Chivas in LA came at the last seconds and this last Wednesday’s draw against Real Salt Lake though steady was uninspiring. Chicago’s midweek match was a midfield grind which in a way revealed the true character of the Fire. MLS is midfield-centric league, and Chicago toes the line.
On Wednesday, we saw Marco Pappa put in a third straight excellent performance. Part of this is due to the growing understanding between Pappa and playmaker Seba Grazzini, but part of this is also due to the fact that Pappa has embraced playing the left wing role. Manager Frank Klopas has said that Chicago “are not a team that is going to rely too much on service,” so I suppose I’m going to have to resign myself to the fact that Pappa and Patrick Nyarko will never be played as out-and-out wingers. Yet it can’t be ignored that when Pappa and Nyarko provide service, the Chicago attack lights up. Continue reading
Image source: Yahoo sports
As frustrating as it may be to do so, take a minute and think back to the 58th minute of Sunday night’s defeat to the Colorado Rapids. Newly acquired Rapids midfielder Martin Rivero hits a long ball towards the Fire’s left-hand corner for Brian Mullan to chase. Clearly tired and lacking the pace needed to catch Mullan, Gonzalo Segares lags several yards behind and cannot prevent the Colorado veteran from reaching the ball, looking up and examining his options, and finding Omar Cummings unmarked in the center of the box with acres of space. 1-0 to the home side.
My problem with this goal doesn’t even lie with Segares, apart from his lack of effort to stop the cross, but the main culprits for this goal are the Fire’s center-backs: Cory Gibbs and Jalil Anibaba. The pair have built a formidable defensive partnership together, but they simply weren’t at their best on Sunday. The image below portrays just how much space they left for Cummings, a type of sin when committed in one’s own penalty box.
Omar Cummings finds himself in acres of space for Colorado's opening goal against the Fire on Sunday.
But is defense really the main problem for the Chicago Fire and the main area for Frank Klopas to address before Houston’s visit to Toyota Park on April 15th? I’m not convinced. Continue reading
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
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
On June 30th – after week 17 of the MLS season – I published the mid-term report card for the Chicago Fire. It’s amazing how much has changed since then both in terms of player and team performances. After starting the second half of the season off with four draws and three defeats, the Fire picked up 22 points from a possible 30 in the last ten matches of the season to miss out on a playoff spot by a mere four points. The Fire improved drastically across all areas of the pitch during the final stages of the season, although there were still those who fell out favor in the first team.
Here is the final report card for each Chicago Fire player for the 2011 season. Feel free to let me know if you agree or disagree with certain grades in the comment’s section. Continue reading