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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OTF Roundtable: The Signal, The Noise, and The German

Making predictions is hard. And it becomes even harder when the information you are working with is, well… noisy. In Nate Silver’s book, “The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – But Some Don’t,” he connects our ineptability to make accurate predictions (humans, not Fire fans) as an evolutionary problem identifying the truth from nonsense.

In a line that feels very Chicago Fire-y, Silver says, “Some stone-age strengths have become information-age weaknesses.” Let’s replace “stone-age,” with “MLS 1.0,” pause for a moment, and then move on.

It’s been a really noisy four weeks: An opening draw against a Columbus team that might be awful, a shrug-then-bunker opening day against half an RSL side, then a dizzying loss to Atlanta that gave us about eight minutes of actual soccer to work with.  Bad soccer.

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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

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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Fire Clinch MLS Basement

(via Washington Post)

(Courtesy Washington Post)

While presiding over one of the worst teams in the history of Major League Baseball, manager Casey Stengel asked, “Can’t anybody here play this game?” It would have been an apt to question to ask of the Chicago Fire’s performance on Sunday versus DC United. DC controlled the match from the outset and then pounded home three goals in rapid succession in the second half to complete the packaging on a 4:0 laugher. The result assures that the Fire will finish 2015 as the worst team in Major League Soccer.

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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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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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Goalless Fire Remain 0-For-Cascadia

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(courtesy mlssoccer.com)

The Fire have never won a match in the Pacific Northwest since Seattle, Portland and Vancouver joined MLS and that trend continued last Friday at Providence Park, as the Timbers squeezed out a 1:0 victory. That result, combined with Philadelphia’s scoreless draw with Orlando City on Saturday, dropped the Fire back into the cellar of the Eastern Conference.
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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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Chicago Fire’s Got Didier Drogba’s Rights, and They’re F***ing Golden

Word on the interwebs is that the Chicago Fire, who own Chelsea striker Didier Drogba’s MLS “Discovery Rights,” are now in discussion with the Montreal Impact, who are interested in actually signing the player.

Some may call it extortion, I’m calling it a brilliant coup by the Fire front office who are upping Drogba’s value, and then judo-flipping that value into a better negotiation leverage to ship him off to Quebec.

In other words…

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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

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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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OTF’s Wide World of Soccer – Week 23

Welcome to the latest attempt at a regular column here at OTF Soccer.  This one is called the OTF’s Wide World of Soccer, which aims to capture the three of the principles of OTF Soccer in one column:  Analysis, Insight, and Fluff.

The not so beautiful part of the

The not so beautiful part of the “Beautiful Game”

So, what exactly is “OTF’s Wide World of Soccer”?  It is my armchair analysis of all of the soccer games I watch in a given week; usually that is quite a few games.

With as much complaining about the business of soccer on social media these days, I wanted to get back to the basics of watching soccer and celebrating the beautiful game, even when it is not so beautiful…

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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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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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The First Fan: Reflections on 10 Years Without Peter Wilt

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Ten years ago last week, news broke that the first President and General Manager of the Chicago Fire was leaving the club. Despite Peter Wilt’s departure from Major League Soccer, his influence in the North American game remains.  

In an age of “Circle the Wagon” franchise mentality, Wilt is a champion of fan culture, corporate accessibility, and organizational transparency.  Among other accomplishments, Wilt has plied his trade as CEO of the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars, established the Milwaukee Wave soccer club, and is currently President of NASL’s Indy Eleven.

Some of OTF’s favorite soccer personalities were kind enough to answer the prompt:

“What are your reflections on Peter Wilt ten years after he left the MLS?”

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@Jvlaha’s Monday Musings, Episode 1

There’s a new editor in charge of “On The Fire”, and with that, I’ve decided to step up and write a new column. Without further ado, here is the first episode of “Vlaha’s Monday Musings”.  Today’s piece comes in four parts…

Part One, “The Empire Strikes Back”, #Schedulegate

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First stop on today’s installment is #Schedulegate. Fire fans are justifiably upset about recent schedule changes which apparently were going to happen whether or not the Front Office was going to go along with them.

Although I can’t say that the Fire was a team firing on all cylinders during the team’s 3-2 Ping-Pong victory against Toronto, the team looked vastly improved over recent games. As a result of this win, the Fire could have strutted into our scheduled games Foxborough Massachusetts (this Wednesday) and Montreal (this weekend) with a bit of a “we can do this” swagger…

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Saints’ March: Stl FC Has Early Fan & Personnel Support

Saint Louis FC huddles up (via slc.fc)

Saint Louis FC huddles up. (via saintlouisfc.com)

As they face an early season challenge, OTF correspondent Matt Bird thinks Saint Louis FC has the personnel and the fan base to be a USL force.  Sydney Leroux agrees.

It’s been an odd few weeks of ups and downs here in St Louis. We received Patrick Doody from the Fire in time to travel to play the Tulsa Roughnecks in Tulsa on the 21st March. We also signed MLS Saint Louis native Brandon Barklage. This was quite the coup and was totally unexpected.

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Excitement of 2015 Opening Day Celebration Spoiled by Chicago Fire Match

(via chicago)

Quincy punches the clock again in the Fire opener (via Chicago-Fire.com)

OTFsoccer’s James Vlahakis opts for introspection over analysis in the Fire’s 0-1 home open heart-breaker.

It was a beautiful day for soccer at Toyota Park. Or maybe I should say it was a beautiful day to watch soccer at Toyota Park.

Expectations were high the Section 8 tailgate that was hosted by the Chicago Chapter of the American Outlaws. I could barely focus on Friday as I thought about returning to Toyota Park.

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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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