Preparation, Offseason Aren’t Helping Fire

Despite many moves in the offseason, Chicago hasn't really grown
by Kiran Balan   |   Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ladder 97 – column on Chicago Fire & the Chicagoland area soccer scene.

Despite a season of new acquisitions and high hopes to begin the new MLS season, the Chicago Fire just couldn't get things going in the opener.

With teams in the Eastern Conference having an equally tough start to the season, the Fire currently sit in fifth place. When looking at the starting lineup and formation, the one question undoubtedly on every Fire fans’ mind was why isn’t the Fire’s MVP, Mike Magee, not in the starting lineup?

Manager Frank Yallop revealed that Magee is still recovering from a hamstring and that it was acting up again in the days leading up to the season opener. It was a risk not worth taking – the MLS season is a marathon, and it is important that the Fire have one of their best players in for the long haul.

The Fire started the game very tentatively and invited Chivas USA to have the lion’s share of possession in the second half. The first half produced some fine saves from Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson, but for the most part the first 45 minute match showed a very dry and lackluster performance from the men in red. Which was uncharacteristic, considering their good form during this year’s preseason training and lead up matches.

If the first half was boring, the second half brought massive sparks to the match, and brought out a lot of beautiful soccer, but also exposed the Fire’s tiredness and fatigue as the match wore on. Chivas USA went up 1-0 through contentious penalty decision, and a minute later they were up 2-0 after scoring off a near post cross. Both goals showed a complete breakdown in the midfield and defense.

A lack of fitness was evident and key substitutions were needed to reenergize the Fire. Subs, Benji Joya and Quincy Amarikwa scored 6 minutes apart with very well taken goals. Joya was on hand to bury a shot from close range, after Alex’s shot was saved by Dan Kennedy. Joya’s debut goal shows he is fighting for a starting spot, and that he is instinctually a poacher in front of goal. Quincy Amarikwa scored what could be MLS’ Goal of the Week, with a wicked shot into the corner of the net. The whole tempo of the match changed when both players entered the match, and they could form a strong partnership when the time comes.

Unfortunately, the good play from the offense was not replicated by the defense, and Chivas USA capitalized on the Fire’s defensive struggles. Bobby Burling outmanned Bakary Soumare and headed from 6 yards out to net the winner for Chivas USA.

After the match, Yallop said that the Fire had “no excuses” for their opening day loss.

“There’s no excuses for us,” he said. “We have to make sure that we’re ready to play and dig deep when we need to. We should have gotten at least a tie out of the game."

The Fire will definitely have to dig deep as they travel to take on the Portland Timbers at Providence Park.

NEXT UP: March 16 – Chicago Fire vs. Portland Timbers, Providence Park, Portland, Ore. 3 p.m. EST, MLS Live.

Kiran BALAN

Nationality:
USA
College:
Illinois State University
Club Domestic:
Chicago Fire
Club Foreign:
Chelsea
Columnist for his hometown MLS team, Chicago Fire. When he’s not flying down the left wing for ISU FC or in a pick-up game, he can be seen watching the beautiful game. A die-hard Chelsea and USMNT fan, he is keen to growing his soccer knowledge.
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