Preseason Dispatch: Chicago Fire (3) vs. Orlando City (0)
OTF editor Scott Fenwick got his first look at Chicago Fire’s 2014 edition this Tuesday evening…
Frank Yallop and company had a go at soon-to-be-MLSers Orlando City Lions on Tuesday night in beautiful Bradenton, F-L-A, where I heard there’s some nice…
Anyway, Slapshot fans will get the joke.
On to the soccer!
This one was mostly a night for the kids, reservists, and trialists, as projected starters rested up for another go at D.C. United early this morning. As such, Fire Nation was once again treated to a display of its squad’s youthful prowess.
Tweet it with me folks: #TheKidsAreAlright
As of kickoff last night, Chicago’s roster sat at 37, with 28 players under contract. Regarding the latter though, contracted players aren’t guaranteed to make the squad, which will eventually be numbered anywhere from 26 to 30.
More on that later.
As my esteemed colleague Daniel Casey pointed out in his review of the Fire’s 2-0 win over DCU last Saturday night, Frank Yallop has embedded a high-pressure, attacking 4-1-4-1 that is light years away from what we saw under Frank Klopas (thank you, Iesous). This tactic makes for exciting soccer wherein an interchangable, constantly switching front five presses the ball in its attack half and creates triangles all over the midfield and into the final third.
I like triangles.
Add a defensive midfield stopper parked in front of the back four, along with speedy fullbacks who push high up the flanks, and, at times, the back part of the formation almost morphs into a high, three-man back line. Once again, you see passing triangles form deeper in the defensive half.
No Route One here folks. This is possession-based, attacking soccer. This is Yallop-ball.
While a static image certainly doesn’t do them justice, here’s how the Fire lined up during the first 45 minutes on Tuesday night:
Orlando City did little to threaten Kyle Reynish, and could do little to blunt Chicago’s youthful attack. Harry Shipp opened the scoring and continued his stellar preseason play with a beautiful curler around the OCSC wall, bending a direct free kick just inside the post to put the Fire up 1-0.
Shipp is impressive. To echo many observers, he appears to be the real deal. The young man has great control and vision, and isn’t afraid to turn and shoot with his back to goal – no matter the distance. He gave the Lions fits.
The trialist from Tottenham Hotspur, Grant Ward, slotted in the center of the park alongside Shipp and strengthened his case for a roster spot. After his top-of-the-box blast missed just wide of the right-hand upper 90, Ward later showed he could push the byline, draw defenders deep, and create scoring chances by dishing the ball into unmarked space. Neither of those events resulted in goals, but Ward’s work was fine nonetheless.
Another trialist showed well around the 30-minute mark, as Daniel Jackson combined with Victor Pineda to make it 2-0 Fire. The previously unknown Jackson looked hungry and ready to fight for a job.
Of the first-half’s five attackers, Pineda looked the lesser man. He appeared a tad too slow on the ball and wound up on his backside too much. Pineda faces a crucial turning point in his career now, and must step up his game if he’s to fulfill his promise in Fire red.
The second-half saw a changeover in personnel with, again, a mix of signed and unsigned players. Logan Pause started the second half, but was relieved by Chris Ritter early on. Ritter later came off for an unknown reason, and Daniel Jackson re-entered.
Not much to say about a mostly uneventful second half. The Fire dialed back their press and were content to absorb more pressure from OCSC, which didn’t result in any dangerous scoring chances from either squad.
That said, there were some last-minute fireworks, as trialist Freddie Braun capped the victory with some nice hustle toward the end of regulation time. Braun played a deflected Brendan King cross off the post, but stuck with it to head his own rebound into the back of the net.
3-0 Fire made it 3 and 0 so far this preseason. Have a look at the highlights…
On the negative side though, Kellen Gulley’s play (or lack thereof) was quite poor up top. The Fire homegrown showed a lack of urgency off the ball, and I can’t recall ever seeing him on it as a result. It was as if he’d been watching Sherjill MacDonald highlight tapes.
Anyway, Gulley’s play got me thinking: Right now, who would I choose for my 28-man roster? I say 28 because I think the gaffer’s going to leave himself some wiggle room for the summer window.
Here’s a look at who’s in camp as of Wednesday morning.
Goalkeepers (3): Sean Johnson, Alec Kann, Kyle Reynish
Defenders (8): Austin Berry, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Patrick Ianni, Hunter Jumper, Steven Kinney, Lovel Palmer, Gonzalo Segares, Bakary Soumare
Midfielders (11): Yazid Atouba, Dilly Duka, Benji Joya, Brendan King, Jeff Larentowicz, Alex, Patrick Nyarko, Logan Pause, Victor Pineda, Chris Ritter, Harry Shipp
Forwards (6): Mike Magee, Quincy Amarikwa, Juan Luis Anangono, Giuseppe Gentile, Kellen Gulley, Chris Rolfe
Un-Signed Draft Picks (2)
Bryan Ciesiulka (midfielder), Marco Franco (defender)
Freddie Braun (midfielder), David Meves (goalkeeper), Parker Walsh (defender), Tim Ward (defender), Grant Ward (defender/midfielder), Andrae Campbell (defender), Daniel Jackson (forward)
As mentioned, Yallop’s got 37 players, with 28 signed. But here’s the rub: There are a few guys with contracts who should be shown their walking papers.
After assessing what I’ve read and seen so far, here’s my 28-man roster:
Goalkeepers (3): Sean Johnson, Alec Kann, Kyle Reynish
Defenders (8): Austin Berry, Marco Franco, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Patrick Ianni, Hunter Jumper, Lovel Palmer, Gonzalo Segares, Bakary Soumare
Midfielders (11): Yazid Atouba, Dilly Duka, Benji Joya, Jeff Larentowicz, Alex, Patrick Nyarko, Logan Pause, Victor Pineda, Chris Ritter, Harry Shipp, Grant Ward
Forwards (6): Mike Magee, Quincy Amarikwa, Juan Luis Anangono, Giuseppe Gentile, Daniel Jackson, Chris Rolfe
Signed players Kellen Gulley, Brendan King, and Steven Kinney are goners. Gulley clearly doesn’t want it, and King is, well, a ‘meh’ winger on a team full of wingers and other guys who can play wide if needed. Kinney is the odd man out, I’m afraid, because I’ve got to go with first-rounder Marco Franco instead.
Now, if Yallop goes with a 29-man roster, Kinney stays. If 30, how about Andrae Campbell – just for the sake of having two Jamaicans on the squad?
I like Jamaicans.
The Fire come home later today to prepare for the Tuscon phase of preseason, so cuts are imminent.
Who’s on your roster?
The Men in Red downed D.C. United 1-0 early Wednesday morning in Bradenton, marking their second victory in five days over Ben Olson and company. Check out the highlights below, including Benji Joya’s winner…
Scott Fenwick founded On The Fire in 2012 and is its Executive Editor. Scott co-hosts the On The Fire Soccer Radio Podcast, contributes to the Guardian’s (UK) MLS fan previews, The Cup.us, Pickles Magazine, and is America’s #1 Rapid supporter.