Unbeaten Run Reaches an Incredible 9 Matches

2017-06-24 CHI v ORL

(Photo courtesy chicago-fire.com)

It was a night of visceral dominance on Saturday at Toyota Park by a Chicago Fire side that came out hungry and did not stop until visiting Orlando City SC had been beaten to a pulp. No Fire player was more dominant than winger David Accam, who scored three times, to go along with an assist in a 4:0 rout. The Fire have reached the halfway point of the season with 34 points, trailing Eastern Conference leaders Toronto FC, who are on 35 points.

Orlando dealt with significant problems coming into this match. Leading scorer Cyle Larin was sidelined by the league following a DUI situation and the Lions had made the long trek from Seattle after their match on Wednesday. Although all teams have to deal with these  scheduling nightmares, their impact is unmistakable; teams  who cross two or more time zones after having played a midweek game almost always struggle in that second game. That Orlando played both games away in a span of four days only made things worse for a team that had amassed just five points in their previous seven away matches.

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Fire Hang On For Massive Road Win

2017-06-20 NE v CHI

(Photo courtesy chicago-fire.com)

There are times in a soccer match when scoring a goal can destroy the motivation for an opponent to mount a comeback. The New England Revolution were that team on Saturday shortly after Luis Solignac put the visiting Fire 2:0 up in the 61st minute. It was the kind of authoritative strike that resulted in the Revs looking like they were ready to pack it in. Good thing for them that they didn’t succumb completely, because Matt Lampson’s failure to punch a ball clear led to Antonio Delamea’s response nine minutes later, and a game that was surely in the bag became competitive once again. The Fire managed to close out for a 2:1 win, but there were more than a few heart palpitations along the way.

New England created enough opportunities to get something out of this game, but the shockingly poor quality of their finishing right in front of goal was their undoing. Despite outshooting the Fire by a gaudy 24-8 margin, the shots on target were far more even (5-4 in favor of New England). They might easily have scored four, with a bit of luck. Instead, they spent the 90 minutes chasing the game, because of what the Fire did to build that two-goal lead.

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Nine-Man Orlando Keep Fire in Check

2017-06-04 ORL v CHI

(Photo courtesy chicago-fire.com)

The Chicago Fire had a superb opportunity to grab three very valuable away points on Sunday night, but failed to find a way to break down a closely packed Orlando City defense and had to settle for a share of the spoils after a 0:0 draw. The home side went down to ten men when Rafael Ramos was sent off in the 26th minute after a clash with Brandon Vincent. Things only got worse for Orlando in the 66th minute, when Antonio Nocerino cleated Matt Polster in the thigh, and was sent to an early shower. The Fire had no answers, however, as Orlando very effectively circled the wagons. The draw allowed the Fire to maintain their hold on second place in the East, with 25 points from 14 matches.

In addition to being a good test against a team who had amassed 19 points from their first eight matches at home, the Fire could also get a look at how their team would perform without Dax McCarty, who had been called in to the US National Team last week. McCarty and Bastian Schweinsteiger are the players who have fueled the Fire’s resurgent form this season. Coach Veljko Paunovic inserted new right back Polster back to his old position at holding midfielder to replace McCarty. The other new right back, Drew Conner, got the call to start for the first time in four games. Paunovic’s other option at holding midfield would have been Juninho, but he was away from the team for family reasons.

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Reality Bites Fire the Hard Way

2017-04-21 TFC v CHI

(Photo courtesy Associated Press)

The good feelings from the Chicago Fire’s three-game unbeaten streak faded quickly in the aftermath of their 3:1 defeat to Toronto FC on Friday at BMO Field. The home side had displayed rather indifferent form at BMO so far this season, so they definitely came out ready to play on Friday. The Fire won the possession battle 55% to 45%, but it felt as though they spent much of the contest in chase mode. The Fire now have eleven points from their seven matches and find themselves entrenched in a crowded Eastern Conference table.

The Fire were also on the wrong side of some poor refereeing from veteran arbiter Silviu Petrescu, who missed a shove by Jozy Altidore on goalkeeper Jorge Bava in the run-up to Toronto’s first goal. Then, in the second half, a Justin Morrow handball was adjudged to have occurred outside the penalty area, but the replay showed that Morrow was entirely inside the box when he handled the ball. In MLS, the margins between many teams are very thin. With points on the road so hard to come by, such fundamental errors can be game-changers.

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Nikolic, Schweinsteiger Lead Evisceration of Revs

2017-04-15 CHI v NE image

(Photo courtesy chicago-fire.com)

The Chicago Fire extended their unbeaten run to three matches on the heels of a dominant 3:0 victory over the New England Revolution at Toyota Park on Saturday. The Fire treated the Revs the way a dog treats a fire hydrant, and made them like it. Nemanja Nikolic scored twice to complement Bastian Schweinsteiger’s opener, as the Fire climbed to third place in the MLS Eastern Conference.

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Fire Get the Job Done in Home Opener vs RSL

The Chicago Fire won’t win awards for stylish soccer after their first two matches of the 2017 campaign, but there are plenty of indications that they are on the right path. Their 2:0 win on Saturday over Real Salt Lake at Toyota Park was built on pragmatism, hard work, and taking advantage of opportunity.

On the day, RSL won just about every statistical battle, generating more shots, generating more corner kicks, and coming out on top in the possession battle. All of their possession amounted to precious little, as only one of their twelve shots was on target. Their mostly toothless attack was missing that final decisivetouch and it makes one wonder whether they jettisoned Javier Morales too soon.

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David Accam Chicago Fire scores goal against Columbus Crew in March 2017

Fire and Crew Share the Points in Opening Game Tug-of-War

Both the Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew come into 2017 looking to turn a page and forget about their respective dismal 2016 campaigns. They squared off on Saturday at MAPFRE Stadium in the season opener on a chilly afternoon and battled to a 1:1 draw. Based on the soccer on display it’s unlikely that either side learned much about whether 2017 will bring more joy than 2016 did, but both teams have a lot of work ahead if they want to be competitive. The Crew controlled play in the first half, while the Fire were the better team in the second. Given the sparse number of shots that found the target the 1:1 result can be considered a fair one.

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Nowhere to Go But Up

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(courtesy Sean King on Fire Confidential)

MLS designated the final round of matches in the 2015 regular season as Decision Day. Some playoff spots were still up for grabs and Sunday’s results finally resolved postseason matchups. For the New York Red Bulls, Decision Day was a two-pronged battle: they would face the Chicago Fire on the field, and they were vying for the Supporters Shield with Western Conference leaders FC Dallas. The Fire, already locked in as the very bottom team in MLS, could only spoil the party for the Red Bulls.

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Resilient Fire Defeat Red Bulls… So You’re Telling Me There’s a Chance

Chicago Fire Soccer Celebrates Win over New York Red Bull August 2015

Good times. (via Soccer By Ives)

There was a point, eons ago, when OTF covered on-field soccer events in addition to domestic soccer culture. …This is one of those posts.

Witnessed on the field last night was the kind of grit, resiliency, and determination that Fire Supporters had been hoping to see the whole season but rarely had. Even if the game had ended in a draw (which Eric Gherig made sure did not happen) the experience was pure pleasure.

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Sean Johnson Rescues a Point! Will It Matter?

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(courtesy mlssoccer.com)

Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson pulled a rabbit out if his hat several times last Sunday to keep the Fire competitive in a match in which the Philadelphia Union easily could have buried them. The teams traded goals and leads back and forth, but the affair was not settled until Kennedy Igboananike drove him his second goal of the match deep into second-half stoppage time to salvage a 3:3 draw.
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Fire Attack Out of Ideas, Out of Cup

The story that played out at PPL Park on Wednesday night was depressingly similar to the story that has been on display all season for the Chicago Fire. The Fire offense was missing a beginning, middle and end, so it was only a matter of time before the Philadelphia Union, no less feeble in attack than the Fire, would find the goal that would propel them to their second US Open Cup Final in as many years. Sebastian Le Toux did the honors in the 74th minute, but the game was lost long before then.
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Fire Slay Another Giant. Are There Enough Games Left?

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(photo courtesy chicago-fire.com)

The Chicago Fire’s 2:0 blanking of FC Dallas on Sunday was truly a breath of fresh air. For once, the Fire’s backline looked like a disciplined, coordinated group, unlike the amateurish vagabonds that allowed two very sloppy goals to New England on July 25. Whether this turnabout was due to the return of Jeff Larentowicz, the benching of Adailton, the return of Matt Polster to his rightful place in midfield, or some combination of the three is great fodder for discussion. Regardless of how the Fire did it, they got the job done, and these three points are crucial in determining whether a playoff spot is even feasible. With 13 matches left and 39 points on offer, the Fire really need to take the positives from this performance and make sure that they are part of the game plan every week.

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Fire Defense Leads to Latest Letdown

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Photo courtesy chicago-fire.com

Much of the pre-game hype leading up to the Fire’s tilt with the New England Revolution last Saturday centered on Drogba Watch, as fans waited to see whether an aging striker still has enough magic left to provide some hope for a season that was quickly sinking into oblivion. Discussion regarding Didier Drogba’s effectiveness was the perfect fodder for debate while having a pre-game beer. That discussion, unfortunately, missed the point about what ails this Fire team far more acutely than adding more firepower up top, and that is the atrocious level of defending. Amateurish mistakes were on full display at Toyota Park on Saturday, as the Fire and Revs shared the spoils in a 2:2 draw.

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Fire Have That Sinking Feeling

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(photo courtesy chicago-fire.com)

The Chicago Fire, floundering in last place in MLS’s Eastern Conference, have passed the midpoint of the regular season and basically face must-win situations in almost every match. It really should be too early to think about results in those terms in July, but the hole that the Fire have dug for themselves has become awfully deep, leaving very little margin for error.

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Inward and Upward: Chicago Fire Quash their Seattle Jinx in a Season Saver

cf97 chicago fire seattle sounders celebrate goal celebration

Jason Johnson rewards Frank Yallop with effort, a goal, and a big hug. (photo via Chicago-Fire.com)

“Winning Cures All Ills” may be a cliche, but it’s never seemed more applicable than this weekend at Toyota Park. Despite Section 8’s “bannergate,” Head Coach Frank Yallop’s job security, “#HauptmanOut,” injury troubles, transfer window scrutiny, and Bridgeview finances, all anyone would take away from Saturday was the spark provided by a rejuvenated Mike Magee, Patrick Nyarko, and Michael Stephens and the clutch finishing of Jason Johnson that delivered the Chicago Fire their first victory over the Seattle Sounders ever. E-V-E-R.
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Fire Give Gift of 3 Points to MLS Newcomers

(vis MLS)

(vis MLS)

It’s always a neighborly thing to do to greet your newest neighbors with a plate of baked goods or to offer a cold beverage on a hot day. Last Saturday, the Fire went beyond the call of duty of being good neighbors when they tossed away three points to expansionist Orlando City. Fire centerback Adailton was credited with two own goals, and this proved decisive in a 3:2 Orlando win. A Fire victory would have catapulted them to as high as fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Instead, they sit in ninth place and have to wonder what they must change to put away a beaten opponent.

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Fire Put Crushing Blow on Montreal Impact

(via MLS)

(via MLS)

The Chicago Fire put on a display of powerful attacking capability en route to a 3:0 demolition of the Montreal Impact on Saturday. The soggy, miserable conditions at Toyota Park seemed to have a bigger effect on Montreal than on the home side. The Impact looked ready to pack it in by halftime.
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Hard-Working Fire Earn Their Point Against Rival Columbus

Clear the way, here comes a striker. (Via Chicago-Fire.com)

Get out of the way, here comes a striker. (Via Chicago-Fire.com)

In a reversal of the endgame of their last match, the Chicago Fire pulled out an equalizer deep into stoppage time and grabbed a vital point at Columbus. Substitute Jason Johnson headed home Eric Gehrig’s cross with almost the last touch of the match and the Fire nabbed a 2:2 draw. Columbus had taken a commanding 2:0 lead, thanks to a pair of goals from ace sniper Kei Kamara. The Crew failed to put this one to bed, unsuccessfully bunkering their team for the final quarter hour.
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Chicago Fire are World Beaters… For a Half

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Emotional Faces! (via MLS)

The Chicago Fire uncorked their attacking power when they took on New York City FC on Friday at Yankee Stadium and were 2:0 up before a half hour had elapsed. But fundamental defensive errors at the most crucial moments proved costly, as NYC conjured goals in stoppage time of both halves and salvaged a point that they had no business winning. For their part, the Fire had an opponent reeling and lacked the knockout punch to bag their first road victory of the season…

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Toothless Fire Desperate for Goals

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(via Chicago Fire website)

The absence of David Accam and a clinical finisher made apparent in their 2-1 loss.

Real Salt Lake demonstrated remarkable efficiency in front of goal on Saturday at Toyota Park and sent the Chicago Fire to a disappointing 2:1 defeat. The up-and-down Fire started the season with three consecutive defeats, bounced back to win three in a row, and have now dropped their last two. The biggest story continues to be the moribund finishing.

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Monday Musings, Episode III – Revenge of the Greek

Here is my third installment of “Monday Musings.”  As always, it’s a mix of insight, analysis and fluff.

Part I – Fired Up Friday

First off, after some notable snipping on Twitter among Fire fans, it’s a relief to see everyone happy after the Fire got its third victory of the season on a cold and blustery Friday night.  While not quite a sell out in terms actual attendance, the crowd was very loud, and truly into this match.  It has been a long time since we’ve had this type of atmosphere at Toyota Park.  Section 8 was very active and there was even stereo effect between Section 8 and Sector Latino during goal kicks.  You all know the irksome chant.  Someone did their best to translate it when Montreal’s Evan Bush was subjected to this “friendly greeting.”

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Dispatch: Chicago Fire (1) – San Jose Earthquakes (2)

3/4 Thumbs Up

Coach Frank Yallop gives the Fire’s 2-1 loss 75% of a thumbs up. (Via Chicago-Fire.com)

James Vlahakis’ review of the Fire’s 2-1 loss to San Jose is an exercise in restrained rage.

This was a match that will stick out in the memories of the Fire faithful. My grim review is not what I wanted to do on my spring break vacation, but as a fan of the game and the Fire in particular, I’m going to be blunt and honest in my assesment. I’m not drinking Kool-Aid on this trip, that’s for sure…

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Dispatch: Chicago Fire (0) at Los Angeles Galaxy (2)

Robbie Keane welcomes Primetime MLS viewers to the 2015 season.

Robbie Keane welcomes primetime MLS television viewers to the 2015 season.

It’s too early to say anything overly positive or overly critical, so OTF’s Brian Howe Battle does both.

“Yallop was once asked if he might be tempted to roll out a 4-3-3 and he replied, wryly, ‘You can call it whatever you like, but you already know what it will be.'” -San Jose Earthquakes writer Nerdy Gales in an 11/1/13 OTF Guest Blog

You could call the beginning of this season whatever you would like, but part of your psyche already knows what it will be.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

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