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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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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Women in Soccer, Chicago Fire ‘Keeper Debate and “Puto”

National Women’s Day

Since today is International Women’s Day, I thought I’d use this edition of my semi-weekly Musing column to write about gender equality among soccer fans and players.  Did you know that FC Dallas has female capos?  I did not know this until I read this great piece in What a Howler written by Gaby Kirschner.  Gaby’s piece, linked below, identifies some of the following negative and positive points. Continue reading

Fire Slay Another Giant. Are There Enough Games Left?

ur7eDV5 - Imgur

(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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