"And all the world is football-shaped" -- Andy Partridge


It seems that everyone who writes about soccer is obligated to give their column some sort of clever little soccer term as a title. I think there's a law or something. At the very least, I wouldn't want to anger the gods of soccer tradtion before they even see what I have to say, so I give you some weekly, perhaps some bi-weekly, thoughts on the Chicago Fire, MLS, and points beyond.

April 12, 2014

Firing Away: Chicago Fire at Montreal Impact

Don't have the opportunity to do these much anymore, but as it happens, today works out.

  • [PREGAME] One of the biggest problems I had with the Fire last year was the lack of creativity in the center of the field. Alex shows signs, but not consistently. I am not a fan of Jeff Larentowicz, and would like to see Matt Watson displace him at some point, otherwise bringing him in was an odd decision.
  • [5'] Palmer with a pretty opportunistic effort from distance. Not sure how I feel about him yet, overall.
  • [8'] "Speaking of interesting, there's a player down." Best. Segue. Ever. #notreally
  • [10'] Man, Harry Shipp really drifts inside, doesn't he? Good job springing Nyarko, but Magee didn't really have much space to turn on it.
  • [13'] It's a small thing, but Lovel Palmer kept with the play after Sean Johnson made the save and gave up the rebound. Given the brain farts coming from the backline this season, that's progress, at least.
  • [14'] See, here's what I don't like about Larentowicz. There was no reason for him to come all the way back for that ball from Johnson. If he leaves it for somebody else, then there's one more option for a pass to move up through the midfield. Instead, he struggles to find a connection.
  • [21'] The best thing about the 2014 Chicago Fire so far this year is, without a doubt, Harry Shipp's corner kicks. Maybe because the Fire haven't been effective on corners in at least a decade, if at all.
  • [29'] Yeah, Nyarko doesn't have the weight to put behind that header and put it on frame. He makes DaMarcus Beasley look heavy.
  • [30'] On what planet was that a "quick restart," Dan?
  • [35'] Was originally worried about Magee receiving the ball so far back, but Nyarko was pushed up, and Palmer made a great run. Then Larentowicz missed what should have been an easy tap-in. Would Watson have missed that?
  • [37'] Speaking of missed chances, Patrick Nyarko still struggles to get power on a shot. How can he have been in Chicago this long and not gained 20 pounds just from the residual deep-dish pizza fumes in the air? It would help. Finally some momentum from Chicago, though. Wouldn't be surprised by a goal before halftime.
  • [42'] GOAL MONTREAL. Okay, so I didn't say from which team. Tough to hang that all on Hurtado's header, given how far upfield it was. The rest of the backline definitely relaxed, though, thinking the Fire had control of the ball. Baky could have stepped up harder, Cochrane could have pinched in, but they need to be more alert for either of those things to happen.
  • [45'+] Classic case of the ref not wanting to call the penalty, so he invents contact from the defender to call a corner kick, but the Fire lose possession, and Justin Mapp is upfield so fast, his hair is blown halfway back his head. No, wait, that's his natural hairline. I thought De Vaio was offside on the final pass, but that's mostly because he's usually offside.
  • [HALFTIME] Not seeing much of a coherent attacking style through the midfield. Alex and Harry Shipp don't seem to be getting enough touches to establish any sort of creative presence, but Magee, Nyarko and Lovel Palmer are creating up the right side a bit. Amerikwa has shown a few flashes, but also hasn't seen too much of the ball.
  • [HALFTIME] Ultimately, you have to finish your chances, otherwise you're susceptible to one mistake making a difference. The Fire had two or three, and one of them needs to find the back of the net.
  • [HALFTIME] Looking at the replay of the goal, I'm wondering if the Fire's default tendency to play through Larentowicz did them in. That's who Hurtado was trying to get the ball to on the clearance, and maybe he could have tried a bit harder to win it. Lots of ways to dissect that play, and none of them change the scoreline, so on to the second half.
  • [50'] Cochrane and Soumare need to get on the same page, and Baky has to track back to De Vaio instead of just sauntering into an empty space, defensively. Fortunately, he missed the shot, otherwise it could have been 2-0 right quick.
  • [53'] Hurtado with a great effort to keep the ball in the Montreal box, but Magee hurries his shot and the Impact get a foot in. So he probably needed to hurry it a bit more.
  • [54'] GOAL CHICAGO! This time it's Magee keeping the play alive after the first effort from the corner hits the post, and it's right into Quincy Amerikwa's path. Who, as the kids like to say, makes no mistake and buries it.
  • [57'] Love the bulldog moves in the box from Quincy, but finishes by flopping way too easily on minimal contact at best.
  • [62'] Greg Cochrane is pinching in towards the center a lot right now. That could come back to bite him.
  • [65'] You can almost hear Kevin Egan turning on Baky Soumare since the lazy play on the Philly goal last week. This time he doesn't pick up the Felipe run, forcing Hurtado to come over and cover late, but the shot goes wide.
  • [72'] I could see Watson for either Alex or Shipp around the 75th or 80th minute to shore up the central midfield. Joya could just be fresh legs on the wing.
  • [76'] Somebody tell Dan Kelly that nobody plays for the draw at home unless you're up against a complete juggernaut. Period. He keeps repeating things he's heard people say about soccer at random points of the game where he thinks there's a resemblance and there's not. At least if you understand anything about soccer. Which he doesn't.
  • [82'] Speaking of which, I know I say I'd do a much better job at the Fire play-by-play gig, but honestly, I'd be spending this entire game coming up with puns to use when mentioning Ouimette.
  • [83'] Yes, Kevin Egan, throwing your head at a bicycle kick is what you want to see from a defender. No, it is not something you describe as "charisma."
  • [85'] Wonderful header from Amerikwa to spring Magee, but wow, no magic on that final shot from the former MVP. And now to Kevin with some geometry.
  • [87'] Wrote this off as probably a draw a while ago, so now I'm just making fun of the announcing. Pretty sure Dan Kelly just crossed up "cagey" and "pacey" and called Quincy Amerikwa "casey."
  • [FULL TIME] Remember back in the 89th minute when Kevin Egan was so sure there was another goal in this game? Yeah, that was great. Let's see how much the team pushes the "unbeaten in five" message. Draws on the road are still generally fine, but that's predicated on taking care of business at home. Which the Fire haven't done yet.
February 11, 2013

The Shape of Things To Come, 2013 Edition

Been meaning to say something about the offseason moves from the Fire, but time catches up and now they've already played what looks like their opening day starting lineup, a full three weeks before opening day.

The only real "news" in the lineup from Saturday's match against San Jose is Logan Pause at right back, which isn't really that surprising given the trade for Jeff Larentowicz. And with Dilly Duka and Patrick Nyarko, the Fire have two real wingers for the first time in a long time. Joel Lindpere and Larentowicz in the middle will likely have a lot more range from box to box than Pause and Pavel Pardo last year.

So now the hope for Fire fans is that nobody gets injured, because that much time for your starters to get acclimated before the beginning of the season is fantastic news for Frank Klopas' team. The only thing that could make this better is if they dump Dan Kelly for play-by-play.

August 22, 2012

Firing Away: Chicago Fire at DC United

Let's see if I remember how to do this.

  • [PREGAME] I'll go back and check after the match, but I'm pretty sure Dan Kelly introduced himself as Dave Kelly at the top of the broadcast. Yes. He got his own name wrong
  • [1'] Ah, there's the Evan Whitfield I know and love. Try to get under DC's skin right away as a strategy.
  • [5'] Jalil Anibaba has been getting forward on the right side quite a bit lately, and my hope is that he's getting a better sense of what to do with the ball. Offside notwithstanding, not a bad cross in for MacDonald.
  • [6'] I didn't think Pajoy got the touch there. Looked like Berry nudged it towards his keeper. Evan's got it on the replay.
  • [9'] Spacing in the midfield is looking a little weird. Nyarko does a good job to compensate from the weak side and gets fouled for his efforts.
  • [12'] Midfield shape is still bugging me. Paladini and Pardo are sitting really deep, so you saw that clearing header from Segares just drop in a big patch of green, where DC was able to run on to it before Chris Rolfe was able to get back to it. It's also why Nyarko has been lunging across the field to get to balls, which is what got him that knock.
  • [17'] I think we're definitely seeing a different dynamic without Fernandez out there. Rolfe is having a tough time connecting with anyone in possession. Nyarko and Pappa need to do a better job of finding space.
  • [19'] GOAL DC UNITED. Chicago's defense just assumed that was a shot and didn't bother playing it all the way through. Segares didn't think DeRosario was a threat, and Berry didn't pick him up, either. Not at all sure what Johnson was thinking. Might need to check his peripheral vision when he gets back to Chicago.
  • [24'] Evan's getting feisty tonight. If you're gonna foul a guy, make it count!
  • [26'] Finally some combination play between Rolfe and MacDonald, but Sherjill was a bit too altruistic--it looked like he had room to turn on the ball and shoot instead of trying to float a pass to the back post.
  • [29'] Wow, that was lucky. Pajoy looked way offside to me, but we didn't get a replay. Fortunately his touch let him down. Possibly because he thought he was offside.
  • [31'] Good service from Pardo on the corner, but the Fire need to be more aggressive to the ball to get in front of the defenders and try to glance a header towards goal.
  • [34'] Pretty sure the Pappa-Nyarko left-right swap has now been the go-to Fire tactic in the first half for at least four different Chicago coaches.
  • [39'] Sorry Dan, but Chris Rolfe shouldn't be MacDonald's favorite target. The goal should.
  • [45'] GOAL CHICAGO! Look at the post-up from Sherjill MacDonald. That's what made the difference on that play. Great composure from both Pappa with the pass and Paladini with the finish.
  • [45'+] GOAL DC UNITED. Easy come, easy go. Nyarko's challenge was fine, but then Segares was on the wrong side to cover, which allowed Najar to get the cross off. Anibaba just wasn't set. Wasn't in a good position--didn't have his feet set to get a good jump at the ball and missed.
  • [HALFTIME] Well, the goal was pretty. Other than that, way too much standing around. Players are getting bunched up in the back and at the edge of the attacking third. Heck, you could argue that this is why Anibaba's clearance deflected off of Pardo and fell to DC on the first goal.
  • [HALFTIME] In the attack, there's maybe a bit too much of trying to let the game come to them, and it's not happening. All season, I've felt like it's just a matter of throwing guys on the field and letting them figure it out, and that hasn't worked too well. There needs to be a bit more of a coherent plan to the attack, and that means someone has to take charge and demand the ball. Rolfe was able to be that guy on Saturday, but he's been bottled up pretty effectively so far. So guys need to get wide to make it harder to collapse on him when he does get the ball. Or get Fernandez in there so the defense has somebody else to worry about, because they don't seem to fear Pappa or Nyarko so far.
  • [48'] Once again, the Fire don't seem to be following the play all the way through, and almost got in trouble on a second effort again. Berry looked like he was the only guy back when the service came in.
  • [52'] GOAL DC UNITED. Where the hell was Segares on that play? Rolfe isn't going to win defensive headers at the back post, ever. Bad enough that Sega's lazy jaunt back is what led to the corner kick in the first place. I miss pre-Cyprus Gonzalo.
  • [54'] Pappa off the post. Better.
  • [57'] MacDonald gets into space, but the two guys running with him--Pappa and Rolfe, I think--aren't moving into space to give him somewhere to go with it. DeRo then tries to embarrass another Fire goalkeeper from behind midfield.
  • [59'] DC United is doing a good job of getting lots of bodies forward quickly. All the space at the top of the Fire's defensive third might be helping them accomplish that.
  • [62'] On the other end, DC also getting bodies behind the ball defensively. So, DC just faster than Chicago all over the field.
  • [64'] Lazy, lazy, lazy. The ball gets wide and the Fire's defense immediately powers down, thinking the threat is over. Pontius almost makes them pay as nobody picks him up.
  • [66'] MacDonald posts up again, and it almost works again. And Even is completely on the money about the narrowness of the Fire's offense.
  • [72'] Najar is having a great match, no question.
  • [74'] Apparently Najar is getting a bit of a halo effect from his strong play, as the referee assumes Nyarko put the header over the bar. He didn't.
  • [75'] GOAL CHICAGO! Wow, nobody picked up Segares at the far post, and a great service from Pardo. I think I saw Sega take wind measurements and then figure out the angle with a protractor. He had a ton of time to hit that one exactly right, and he did.
  • [77'] The classic "you got him" play from the Chicago defense almost gifts DeRosario another goal.
  • [83'] Friedrich with the big tackle on Pontius and the Fire are back the other way. Nyarko's cross has a bit too much zip on it, and Chris Rolfe tries to go "bullet time" on it before realizing he's not a character in The Matrix
  • [84'] For fuck's sake, SECOND BALLS. The Fire make one defensive play, and everybody relaxes. Every damn time. Fernandez can't see Oduro in front of him, but then Rolfe with a rocket that Hamid just tips wide. Great strike.
  • [87'] Alex almost pays immediate dividends. Feels like there's another goal in this one, but I have no idea which side will get it at this point. Could go either way.
  • [90'] GOAL DC UNITED. That's clearly one way it could have gone. Defender in the way, weird backspin, but if Johnson gets a hand to it, he's got to do better. This whole "getting a hand to it but the ball goes in anyway" hopefully doesn't become the young keeper's calling card.
  • [FULL TIME] Evan got it right. The Fire just got beaten all over the field. Not sure if it's the midweek game on the road, buying into their own hype after a run of good results, or what, but they just weren't working hard enough. Not concentrating on defense, not moving well off the ball on offense.
  • [FULL TIME] All that said, you're still trying to work two new players into the system, and fill the void left by Logan Pause's injury. So there will be missteps during this period of mini-transition. Hopefully they don't become habit-forming, particularly the way the defense gave up on so many plays before those plays finished running their course.
  • [FULL TIME] Went back and checked, and yes, Dan Kelly did get his name right. The inflection was just a little weird. But you believed it was entirely possible that he didn't.


03/26/2012: A Few Thoughts On The Home Opener
03/17/2012: Firing Away: Chicago Fire at Montreal Impact
06/12/2011: An Unmarked Man, A Bad Plan, A Canal...Panama
04/03/2011: Hell Has Just Frozen Over
03/20/2011: Opening Day Jitters
03/07/2011: Bob Bradley's Five Favorite Words
02/28/2011: A Big If, MLS Edition
02/25/2011: The Vanishing Middle Class
01/23/2011: A Chile Reception
12/26/2010: Breaking the Logjam

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