OTF Roundtable: Chicago Fire Week Three
Roundtable Group Three’s back to mull over three weeks of Chicago Fire Soccer…
Perhaps it’s a bit early to make definitive judgments, but through three games, have Frank Yallop and company met, not met, or exceeded your expectations?
Three games in and the Fire’s roster has been anything but consistent. A combination of experience and youth has dotted the field, baring varied effiency, yet each successive match feels like Frank Yallop is closer to finding his answer. While a pecking order is established, it’s passable to let some draws fall through the cracks before the wins come. It’s only a matter of time until the club starts its midtable-meandering ways again by reeling in some wins.
Next week’s match against DC United should be a good gauge of the Fire’s quality. Unlike established sides Portland and New York, DCU (like Chicago) is reconsituted, and its dead attack should give the Men in Red a chance to learn how to reap the benefits of the high pressure system we’ve seen flashes of.
The home draw last Sunday didn’t feel as bad as it would have last year. After watching Quincy Amarikwa scrap through the entire game, Mike Magee bark out orders to the young wingers, and Soumare keep a surprisingly tight ship in the back, I feel optimistic. That said, a statement needs to be made at RFK for me to be comfortable with my optimism. Once the XI and 18 is settled, I expect good things from Yallop. I just hope the experimenting ends sooner than later.
With 3 games in the books, my expectations have been met and are trending in the direction of exceeding. While I may be easily tabbed as an eternal optimist, especially in the face of 2 points in 3 games, I have enjoyed the Fire’s positives and understand their negatives.
The largest, and obvious, positive has been Yallop’s acceptance of youth. Granting back-to-back starts to Benji Joya and Harrison Shipp has proven this staff is willing to play with its pieces for the greater good of the team. Coaches in every sport are hesitant to give significant playing time to rookies, knowing it’s their own meal ticket on the line. I applaud Yallop for taking the chance, and in the case of Shipp, he may have found a diamond.
For many prognosticators this season, their personal starting XI listed Juan Luis Anangonó up top. Frankly, of those who lacked faith the Designated Player would live up to form, few, noneltheless, argued with giving the big Ecuadorian an opportunity out of the gate. But, early on, Yallop proved he wasn’t patient with the player, replacing him in the 2nd half of the Chivas USA game. Wanting to give JLA another chance, perhaps, the striker’s substitute appearance against NYRB should come as no surprise. All that said, after two lackluster outings, my opinion of Yallop will take a considerable nose-dive should Anangonó see the field again.
So far, the effort from “The Men Formerly in Red” has been something this coaching staff can build upon. At this stage of the season, we as fans should feel cautiously optimistic about the direction this group is gravitating towards. Next step: See positive results on the score sheet.
Right now, Frank Yallop and the Men in Red are where I thought they’d be. Two hard-fought points in the last two games against some quality teams and a blip against Chivas USA have Chicago Fire in decent position with an easier schedule coming up.
Yallop has made his voice heard with a “you don’t perform, you sit the bench” attitude, and it’s pumping up the Fire’s young guns. This is what I had hoped for during the preseason and it’s nice to actually see it in action during the first three games.
Harrison Shipp and Benji Joya have been extremely fun to watch and their skill and explosiveness have been huge assets for Chicago. They’ve also given the Twitter world #HOLYSHIPP and #BANGBANGBENJI! I expected the two youngsters to make an impact, but not this early in the season. I’m glad I was wrong. The Fire could easily be 0-3 without them.
Any disappointments? Three words: JUAN LUIS ANANGONÓ! My fellow countryman was supposed to be a super striker following a full preseason with the team, but now has come on as a substitute with nothing to show for himself. It’s heartbreaking that the Fire’s Designated Players can’t produce, but hey that’s always been typical Chicago, right?
With the youngsters now taking control and the veterans actually having to up their respective games to remain on the pitch, Fire Nation is in for a real treat in 2014
I’m pleasantly surprised with how well the Fire has done in its first three matches. While the team is not high in points, it is scoring goals, led by precision free kicks from our local pride and joy, Harrison Shipp. I’m amazed by the quiet confidence Harry has demonstrated both on and off the pitch.
This week, Soccer by Ives, who last spring picked Mike Magee as player of the week (for his performance against the Fire), anointed Harry as “Rookie of the Week” for his assist on Big Red’s precision header. As a keeper, I have an appreciation for the guy who delivers the ball in, over the guy that heads it in from point-blank range. Moreover, Because I love soccer and respect a great player, I can get over the fact that he’s a Notre Dame grad.
Much has been said about playing our young players and that fact that the team has a “fire” in its belly. That’s a product of the new coaching staff, and I’m not surprised by what Coach Yallop and Brian Bliss have been doing. Ownership hired them to perfect the best team the Fire can produce — through trades to develop depth and smart draft picks with young players. I can’t think of a time the Fire showed so much promise. The World Cup’s impact on other MLS teams this season will help us immensely. Accordingly, the Fire will make the playoffs without us biting our nails.