Prime Your Fire Pump: Chicago Fire at Toronto FC #2
OTF’s Jon Denham gets you ready for Saturday’s action north of the border, while The Yorkies return with an Earnshaw scouting report…
The wheels keep spinning for the Chicago Fire. Sometimes they spin quickly and sometimes they spin slowly. Nevertheless, they spin below the playoff line with little hope of progress as some players pack up their lockers and go elsewhere, while others move in to their Bridgeview bungalow.
Robert Earnshaw, Matthew Fondy, Razvan Cocis, and Sanna Nyassi. These are the current solutions to the Chicago Fire problems. For better or worse, the squad is now trying to reinvnent itself on the field as they try to crawl into a playoff position.
This reinvention doesn’t include Jermaine Jones. It hurts my head to try and keep up with the Major League Soccer roster rules, allocation order (and I use that term loosely, because I think Garber does, too) and contract negotiation process. It just shouldn’t be this hard.
Part of me wants Jones to walk into the locker room, snag the arm band off of Jeff Larentowicz’s arm, and give a stirring “Follow me!” speech. Another part of me is completely indifferent. The new manager Hauptman & Company hired has led the team to exactly four wins in over five months on the job. Everyone understands draws are a part of the game. They are not, however, a badge of honor. I don’t see how Jones fixes these things in the short term on the field.
So to Toronto we go. Play every newcomer if you’d like. Fondy isn’t a starter at this level in my opinion, but that’s fine. Put the rest of them out there on Saturday. Nyassi and Cocis can start. Earnshaw could (or should) come off the bench.
Don’t get off the team bus willing to concede possession. Play. Don’t JUST rely on the counter attack. Show some willingness to move the ball forward creatively. Create scoring chances. And then win, lose, or draw, don’t give me excuses about team chemistry because of the roster changes during the post game interviews. Be honest with yourselves. Be honest with the fan base.
How They Stand In The East
Games played: 25
Points: 23 (three behind a playoff spot)
Points Per Game: 1.09
Somehow in this league, a 4-win team is in the hunt for a playoff spot as we get closer to Labor Day. That’s amazing, really. The Dynamo, also on 25 points, have a -17 goal differential. Below, the Impact sit at -18. The Fire, they’re at -6.
Columbus, New York, Philadelphia, and New England are all home this weekend.
Tactics, Lineup, and Injuries
I want Grant Ward out there for 90 minutes. I’d prefer not to see Bakary Soumare out there, but he probably has to be. Quincy scored the game-winner over a month ago against New England, but hasn’t scored in the six games since. Coming off the bench, as he did against Montreal, is best. Get Alex closer to the goal. Let Harry Shipp play in the middle if that’s where he’s going to end up anyway. Patrick Nyarko (remember him?) remains unavailable.
Are guys out of position in my version of the lineup against Toronto? Maybe. But something must change. At halftime, take off whoever is the least effective player on the field. Do it. Do it regardless of the score line. Tell every player not in the starting XI to be ready. Let the squad know that you’re raising the bar, Yallop. Don’t wait. Do it.
My Bench: Reynish; Cochrane, Ianni (or Soumare); Watson, Joya; Amarikwa, Earnshaw
Prediction To Ponder In The Comments Section Below…
Chicago Fire (1), Toronto FC (2)
The roster continues to change. Half of the team’s four wins have come on the road. Half of the four wins came over New York Red Bulls. I don’t see the Fire finding a second goal in this one. They’ll have an equalizer to make it 1-1, but the hosts possession wears down the Fire for a late game-winner.
Honestly, the Fire could lose this game 4-0 or they could keep it interesting. Keep your eyes on the screen for all 90 minutes, if you are able.
My 2014 Record: 6-11
The Yorkies check in from Toronto with a Robert Earnshaw prediction, talk Leiweke…
Just when we thought it was safe to almost, kind of, sort of gloat. The big news on this side of the five ponds this weekend won’t be the usually raucous TFC vs. Fire battle but rather the imminent departure of our corporate CEO and “fixer” Tim Leiweke. It was announced officially that the man who brought us the likes of Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley is leaving by next summer at the latest, making images of 2007-2013 dance through our heads.
Forgive us for being selfish but it took a long time up here to even reach this year’s semi-respectable level and the thought of a new “non-soccer” CEO taking over the parent company (MLSE) has many of us in a cold sweat. However, it is the current TFC we are here to talk about and while The Reds may have indeed found semi-respectability they have also shown recently that they are not quite ready for prime time.
While home victories against clubs lower in the table have been fairy regular, recent fixtures away to the likes of Sporting KC and D.C. United have shown TFC as an unfinished product. A pretty shallow depth-pool defensively has necessitated some very young and raw casts along the backline. Up front the returning Jermain Defoe has been the catalyst all season for offensive output but “the other” DP, Gilberto, has finally found his form and is turning into a reliable and industrious second option. In short, the TFC you face on Saturday has the skill and the ability to be 3rd in the East but has yet to find the consistency or depth to be considered an elite MLS side. Before we leave you to your pre-match bratwurst deep dish (we love us a good stereotype) we’ve seen a few self-loathing comments up here from Illinois that Chicago Fire are turning into “the new TFC.” Please don’t be so down on yourselves. Firstly, Montreal are the new TFC (Le burn!) and even if they weren’t around, you’re still not even close to our former sad-sack selves.
Unless you have another three seasons like your current one; then hire Preki from Sacramento; then fire him; then pay Lothar Matthaus a million dollars to “fix” your club; then hire Edgar Davids to install a football philosophy; then fire him; then hire Paul Mariner (yes he’s available)…don’t even. That being said…Robert Earnshaw?
We’ll give you our short scouting report on your new ex-TFC striker. A classy guy but his best days were long before he even showed up in Toronto – and that was a year-and-a-half ago. While he tore it up in March and tore it up in October, he was pretty much invisible for the six months in between. Of course, as is the case with all ex-TFC’ers in this league – expect him to score three against us on Saturday.
Enjoy this always rough-and-tumble fixture Chicago. We really should be considered more fierce rivals than we are. Our two clubs are probably a lot closer than they appear in the table…on and off the pitch.
Tony Walsh – VP of Lowering Expectations – The Yorkies
OTF’s Jon Denham grew up about seven miles north of The Harlem End. He now lives in Dubuque, Iowa, and may be its only resident with the MLS Direct Kick package. Jon’s the goalkeepers’ coach at Loras College, your go-to guy for t-shirts and promotional products at Envision Sports Designs, and writes some other stuff at Inclusive Beechwood Aging. Follow Jon @Denham_Jon