Big matches make big players. And there may be no bigger stage for a Chicago Fire player this season than the US Open Cup Final to step up and make themselves a hero. Frank Klopas wrote his name into Chicago Fire folklore in 1998 with his extra-time match winning goal in the Fire’s inaugural season (and now has the chance to bring more glory to his name and the club as a coach) while Damani Ralph capped off a memorable season in 2003 with the only goal of the game in the final against the MetroStars. Now, eight years on from that final, and five years after Chicago’s most recent cup triumph, the stage is set for another Fire player to step up and help the team achieve its ultimate goal this season. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Patrick Nyarko
August 18th, 2011. Toyota Park, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Another match, another opportunity for three points. Or is it? The Chicago Fire have grown accustomed to earning a solitary point this season, particularly at home where they have drawn seven out of its ten matches at Toyota Park and have yet to record a home win since a 3-2 win over Sporting Kansas City on March 26th – a match that now feels like ages ago.
Coming off a 2-2 draw against the New York Red Bulls, the Fire are still seated at the root of the Eastern Conference table with 20 points from 23 games played. A loss on Thursday night against DC United would certainly be viewed as nothing short of a disaster. After all, the Fire’s chances of making a late and improbable run for a playoff berth are already slim and failing to pick up maximum points against a conference foe would certainly help extinguish the club’s ailing playoff hopes. But after an improved performance last weekend, a win could be on the cards tonight.
Chicago (2-7-14): L-L-T-L-T
DC United (7-6-9): T-L-W-T-W
Five things to watch for:
1) Link up play – Last weekend’s match against the Red Bulls saw the men in red demonstrate significant improvement in the attacking third, particularly involving the link up play between Marco Pappa, Patrick Nyarko, and goalscorers Dominic Oduro and Sebastian Grazzini. The Fire will need more of that if they are to overcome a DC team in high spirits following their 4-0 win over Vancouver. It will be interesting to see if the aforementioned players can build on their individual and team performances from last Saturday. One can only hope.
2) Why so much space? – It was clearly evident in Thierry Henry’s eighth minute opener last weekend, as it was at the beginning of the month against Philadelphia. The Fire’s defense has had a knack for leaving opposition attackers with acres of space outside the penalty box. And just as Henry and Paunovic did, teams will punish you for that. Gershon Koffie also scored from similar range in the 4-2 defeat in Vancouver, but that was more down to poor goalkeeping from Sean Johnson than anything else. One thing is certain, however, and that is the need for the Fire’s defense to close down opposition outside the box.
3) Home woes – No one will need reminding from me how long it’s been since the Chicago Fire won a home league match. Unfortunately, it’s been a lot longer since the last time the Fire defeated DC United at home. The most recent home win against DC United arrived on September 17th, 2006, resulting in a 1-0 win for the Fire. So what does it take to break that streak against Thursday’s visitors? And more importantly, what do the Fire need to do in order to simply pick up three points at home? Focus will be vital. The Fire have dropped too many points this season by allowing a lapse of concentration to yield in a second half goal. The defense, as well as the rest of the team, will need to be on their toes for the entire 90 minutes.
4) De Rosario – The Fire have already come up against De-Ro in July while he played for New York prior to his big trade. Despite not getting on the scoresheet that day, De Rosario caused the Fire’s defense plenty of problems and is the type of player capable of scoring a goal out of nothing. He’s got nine goals to his name already this season and is the fifth highest scorer in the MLS. The Fire would be wise to keep an eye on him on Thursday night.
5) Samba magic – A goal and a brilliant Samba dance under his belt from last weekend, Sebastian Grazzini will hope to build on a fine performance against New York and continue his impressive start to his Fire career. His off the ball movement and passing have stuck out the most for me so far, and we’ll need to see that from him on Thursday night for a chance to earn all three points. It will be interesting to see who Frank Klopas pairs with Grazzini, but regardless of who else makes up the Fire’s midfield, Grazzini could play a big role in determining the result and maybe, just maybe, ensuring Chicago notches a second home win.
Follow @ChicagoFireBlog on Twitter for more up-to-date news, including live updates and analysis from Toyota Park tonight.
Another match and another rival. That seems to be the case lately for the Chicago Fire, who picked up five points from a possible nine during a three match road trip that included matches against rivals Columbus and New England. The Fire finally return to Toyota Park on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. and will welcome back former Fire captain and current Real Salt Lake assistant coach C.J. Brown and his new team. Both sides are coming off 1-1 draws as Real Salt Lake picked up a point at home against D.C. United and the Fire earned a point on the road in New England. RSL currently sits in 4th place in the Western Conference with 22 points from 13 matches, while the Chicago Fire have moved up to sixth in the East 15 points from 15 matches. RSL won both meetings last year by a 1-0 scoreline, but the Fire will be hoping to avenge those losses and pick up its third win of the season.
Real Salt Lake: L-W-L-D-D
Five things to watch for:
Danger man – With four goals in nine starts this season, Fabian Espindola is RSL’s leading scorer and earns a spot in my list of five things to watch for on Wednesday. The Argentinean is also RSL’s most threatening offensive player with 22 shots on goal this season, only five short of what he managed the entire season last year. The Fire defense will have their work cut out for them when it comes to containing Espindola and will certainly need to keep an eye on him throughout the match if they want to get a win.
Don’t be shy – In the aftermath of their 1-1 draw with D.C. United, RSL could be forgiven for feeling hard done by the referee for awarding Charlie Davies with a late penalty for what was a clear dive. But anyone who watched the match will know that it was D.C. United who should have been feeling frustrated with just a point at the final whistle. Ben Olsen’s side dominated most of the game and certainly created the better chances. Chris Pontius even hit the crossbar twice with shots from the edge of the area, which seemed to be a big weakness for RSL. Central defenders Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers were too slow to close down D.C.’s midfield around the edge of the box and they nearly paid the price. The Fire could benefit from that type of defending on Wednesday, as several players for Chicago are capable of hitting the back of the net from outside the box. I can already see Paladini, Oduro and Nyarko lining up to hit one.
Ghanaian connection – With Nyarko returning from injury and Marco Pappa on duty for Guatemala in the Gold Cup, Nyarko and the in-form Oduro have occupied both of the wings in the last few matches. As a result, the Fire have reaped the benefits and enjoyed success on both wings, with Nyarko most recently teeing up Oduro for his first half goal against the Revolution last weekend. The main question now is whether Frank Klopas continues with both Ghanaians on the wing or if he gives Pappa an immediate return to the starting eleven. Regardless of what combination Klopas opts for, the Fire are in good shape on the wings. Look for Oduro and Nyarko to start on Wednesday and for Pappa to make a late second half appearance off the bench.
Due some luck – I’m going to go out on a limb and going to say that Orr Barouch will score on Wednesday night. Incredibly, the Israeli forward has amassed 13 appearances this season but is still yet to earn a start. I don’t see that changing against RSL, but I do think we’ll see a change in fortune in front of goal for Barouch. After all, he’s been extremely unlucky lately. He hit the crossbar late on against Sporting Kansas City and Columbus and was only denied a winner on Saturday against the Revolution by a goal line clearance. I think it’s safe to say a goal is on the way! With Gaston Puerari being transferred last week and Christian Nazarith suspended for the Fire’s next two matches, the Fire could use a goal from Barouch.
Honoring a legend – The Chicago Fire have announced they will honor C.J. Brown at the end of the match. After retiring at the end of last season, Brown took up an assistant coaching role with RSL and will make his first visit to Toyota Park in different colors than the red and white he proudly wore for 12 seasons. In fact, Chicago Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas even played with C.J. for several seasons in a Fire uniform. You can expect a tremendous reception for C.J. when he steps out on the field on Wednesday night and when he is deservedly honored after the match.
Following a momentous win in Columbus last weekend, the Chicago Fire continue their stretch away from Toyota Park with a trip to rivals New England Revolution on Saturday (kick-off at 6:30 p.m.) in hopes of maintaining that winning feeling. Christian Nazarit ended the Fire’s 11 match winless streak with a goal from close range in the 90th minute of the Fire’s 1-0 win over the Crew to give the men in red their first league win since March 26th. New England could now find themselves in a similar situation, having lost their last four matches and slipping to 7th place in the Eastern Conference, level on points with Chicago.
New England: W-L-L-L-L
Five things to watch for:
- Gold Cup regrets? – Having rejected Grenada’s invitation to represent his country in the Gold Cup, Sharie Joseph opted to stay back with the Revolution and help the club move up the standings. The result has not been what he and the Revs would have hoped for, however. Four defeats on the trot has seen New England slide down the standings, with Joseph particularly struggling the past couple of matches. That said, Joseph remains the leading scorer for the Revs with four goals and has proven himself capable of being a match winner in the past, meaning the Fire should still be cautious of what he brings to the table.
- Tightening the ship – After shipping goals from almost everywhere on the pitch in the early stages of the season, the Fire have finally come to grips at the back. Yamith Cuesta and Cory Gibbs have established a burgeoning partnership at the heart of defense, while Gonzalo Segares has continued his fine form at left back. Both Bratislav Ristic and Jalil Anibaba have deputized at right back and have helped contribute to three consecutive clean sheets for the Fire. Sean Johnson also looks to his best, causing us to wonder why he was ever kept out of the side for so long by Carlos de los Cobos. A clean sheet on Saturday will equal the club’s record of four straight clean sheets. Can the Fire maintain their defensive form and keep New England out?
- Runaway top scorer – The Fire couldn’t really ask for a better opportunity to equal its record of consecutive clean sheets. The Revolution have scored just three goals in the last seven matches and looked out of sorts in front of goal during their 0-0 draw with Toronto FC on Wednesday night. In fact, only Joseph has managed to score more than one goal for the Revs this season. Seven players are tied in second with one goal apiece and the club’s total haul of 11 goals scored this season is a league low.
- Attacking options – With Gaston Puerari being transferred to Club Atlas on Wednesday and Marco Pappa still on Gold Cup duty with Guatemala, the Fire’s attacking options will be slightly limited. Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro will most likely start on the wings while Nazarit could partner Diego Chaves up front. If this is the case, we could see Orr Barrouch make yet another substitute appearance if the Fire need more attacking talent on the field as the match progresses. Barrouch has made 12 appearances this season, all of which have been off the bench.
- And then there was one little Uruguayan– Puerari’s departure means a greater burden will be placed on Chaves to deliver the goods (despite Puerari not contributing much in terms of goals). Nazarit will need to contribute as well, but he’s still young and finding his feet in the MLS. Chaves started the season in terrific form but hasn’t scored since his opener in the 1-1 home draw with Houston on April 23rd. The Fire will certainly be hoping for a few more goals out of him. Saturday wouldn’t be too bad of a time to score one.
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.