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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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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#cf97 – Hope, Passion and the Fire’s Three-Way Battle for ‘Keeper

I’m back, with another installment of my “Monday Musings” column on a Tuesday. Why am I back?  Or, why was I gone?  The answer to both questions is simple:  a loss of “passion” for my beloved Chicago Fire Soccer Club.  I’d been sitting on a draft of this piece, weighing whether my passion has been properly reignited.  Yesterday gave me the proper perspective to gauge that it is the proper time to hit “publish”.  Last season, after a series of tragic losses, I lost a bit of passion for the Club and the sport that I love.  It didn’t help that fans and the front office were in general disagreement about pretty much everything.  Fans protested, in a “Black Out” of sorts, with mixed results. It was a low point in my love for the Fire.  My sons also started to give up hope, tired of giving up points after watching 90 minutes of nervous, and at times rudderless soccer.    Against this backdrop, I couldn’t find anything positive to write about.  My “muse” was gone.   Continue reading

OTF Roundtable: Silent Sigh

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Chicago Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez and Head Coach Veljko Paunovic calling Brian Bliss to get his laptop password.

Frankly, all of Fire Nation was hoping we’d have more things to talk about by now, but no dice.

With the international transfer window now open and the MLS Superdraft combine beginning today Chicago continues to shed both salaries, personalities, and staff.

The number of players remaining on the Fire’s roster sits at 14, with the organization making no additions during either stage of the Re-Entry Draft in December and choosing not to cash in on any of MLS’s first, albeit aging, free agents.

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Maths Apology: Which 2015 Fire Players Earned Their Salaries?

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Chicago shed a lot of player contracts last week as new GM Nelson Rodriguez and new coach Veljko Paunovoic freed up as many dollars as possible for the upcoming MLS post season scramble.

As Phase One of the Re-Entry draft begins it’s worth taking a look at how the 2015 Fire performed in context to their MLS salaries.
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Sean Johnson Rescues a Point! Will It Matter?

johnson

(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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Bum Fights at the Blackjack Table: Chicago Plays Philly in Back-to-Back Shrug Off

Try Again. (via GoldStar.com)

Try, Try Again. (via GoldStar.com)

In case you haven’t successfully sifted through U.S. Open Cup game date information (info which Major League Soccer has little incentive to promote), the Chicago Fire are meeting fellow cellar dwelling Philadelphia Union in a semi-final match tomorrow, Wednesday 8/12. The two teams also meet again, in The Bum Fight Double, for an MLS league match this weekend.

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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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FIFA’s SEPP BLATTER RESIGNS AMID THE “DIASPORA LEGACY PROGRAMME”

Ah, SCHADENFREUDE! Sepp Blatter has just announced his resignation!

Between coaching two AYSO teams, playing weekday and Sunday League soccer, being devoted to following the Chicago Fire, and watching the occasional EPL or friendly match, there’s not a lot of free time. Each time that I found time to start to draft a summary of the eventual downfall of FIFA as we know it, something new emerged as “breaking news.” Today was no different. As I started to type this story, a live press conference was scheduled to take place at FIFA headquarters in no-longer-neutral Switzerland.
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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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Tactical Notes: Sporting Kansas City Have the Edge Over the Fire

Shaun Maloney Chicago Fire Benny Feilhaber sporting kansas city skc cf97

(via MLS)

Chicago Fire’s lack of finishing upfront puts a heavy burden on the backline. 

The Chicago Fire saw their modest three-game winning streak snapped on Sunday when they dropped a narrow 1:0 decision to Sporting Kansas City at Sporting Park. Substitute Paulo Nagamura scored the only goal of the match in the 75th minute.

The match was evenly contested, but it was the home side that showed just a bit more quality. Scoring chances for the Fire were plentiful. Finishing, however, was left wanting yet again. SKC’s backup goalkeeper Tim Melia did a solid job in place of Luis Marin, whom coach Peter Vermes benched following the previous week’s 4:4 goalfest in Houston. Melia proved his worth, registering three saves on the day to keep the Fire off the scoreboard.

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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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Maths Apology: Salary vs Performance Breakdown

Lovell Palmer Chicago Fire OTF

Why Lovel Palmer was one of the few Fire players offered new deals. (Photo via MLSSoccer.com)

The Fire are amidst a flurry of Nordic signings, and just weeks earlier Coach Frank Yallop and Technical Director Brian Bliss opted to pick up only six of a possible seventeen contract renewals.

Most fans tracking the Fire Front Office’s moves thus far assume that many of those athletes who were not offered a contract renewal may wind up back on the team with a renegotiated salary. (Of course, as Chris Rolfe learned, even a renegotiated contract doesn’t guarantee employment).

So… how good (or bad) were Fire players last year?  Did they measure up to their contracts? Who is worth keeping?

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