Prime Your Fire Pump: Chicago at Sporting Club Kansas City
OTF Editor Scott Fenwick gets you ready for the long, hard road to a place some people call a city…
“You say this is Kansas, now show me your city!” Ah, what a refrain. Well folks, it’s time for some Wiz again. Last time our Fire men made the trip to the stadium formerly known as DopeStrong Sporting Park, the boys in powder blue put a whuppin’ on ’em that began the end of Chicago’s race to the top in 2012.
I was there, and it wasn’t pretty. In fact, the last thing I remember after the loss was waking up in a dark bus full of snoring, smelly Fire fans in the middle of nowheresville after I smoked something behind a urinal in a racing track parking lot. Yeah.
Anyway, that was then and this is now. Although I’m not sure if now is better than then. Whatever. Time stands still for no soccer fan, so westward ho it is!
The Past Week
Arne Friedrich is off to Germany for roughly two weeks to get treatment for his ailing hamstring. Apparently, the injury is not as serious last year’s hammy problem – one that kept the Fire’s back line leader out of match play for six weeks. Arne has worked with trusted therapist Thomas Fennewald in Germany for many years now and regards him as the best he’s ever seen. Fire writer Jeff Crandall noted that Fennewald has a number of notable clients, including boxing legend Muhammad Ali and tennis ace Serena Williams. Let’s hope Dr. Thom has plenty of magic spray at the ready.
Chicago manager Frank Klopas on Arne: “I think we’ll be targeting the New York game to hopefully bring him back if everything goes well and there are no setbacks.” That’s a big “if” gaffer. April 7th seems overly optimistic to me.
Defender Steven Kinney’s injured again and out this weekend. This time it’s a quad strain. According to Klopas’s timetable, Kinney could very well miss the next match against Chivas too. Look for Mike Videira or, wait for it…Wells Thompson at right back.
And speaking of injuries, el Capitan Logan “Wolverine” Pause is (of course) healing quickly. While he probably won’t see the pitch this Saturday, look for Pause to make his 2013 debut vs. Chivas USA at home on March 24th.
Okay, this is the part of the post where I start to ask questions about Chicago’s strength and conditioning program. Players are unfit and dropping like flies. What is Tony Jouaux up to? Does he have them on a wine and cheese diet, with leisurely strolls along the lakefront in between baguettes? Que se passe-t-il?
Moving away from the (lengthy) injury talk, as Frank Klopas noted a few weeks back, the club is looking to loan homegrown striker Kellen Gulley to a lower division club. In need of playing time to aid his development, young Kellen is off to Atlanta this week to train with the NASL’s Silverbacks. Best of luck, kid.
Ring of Fire member Chris Armas is now a member of the Long Island Soccer Hall of Fame. Fellow Long Islander and Chicago owner Andrew Hauptman sent Chris one hell of a nice letter that was read at his induction ceremony last weekend. Check it out here.
And speaking of Andrew, Comcast Sportsnet’s Len Ziehm covered the delicious (and informative) media dinner the Fire owner treated us to last week. I was too busy drinking wine and eating fine beef to bother hitting the record button. Apparently Len’s not such a glutton like me.
And speaking of being a glutton, I’ll (potentially) be one for punishment here. Some haters took one of Hauptman’s comments out of context after reading Len’s piece:
Andrew: “In the last few years I’ve taken a very active role in the direction of the club. It’s not been easy building the club from the ground up. There have been a host of challenges.”
Dear haters: the “ground up” comment has nothing to do with you or your fandom and supporter culture (which is appreciated and respected by the way). The comment was made in the context of a conversation about the fact that Chicago Fire Soccer Club was a financial wreck when Hauptman bought it. In fact, he could have used a “rescue” or a “digging-out-of-a-hole” idiom, either of which would have been appropriate. So no matter what you think of your club’s owner, be glad he’s brought it back into the black.
Greg Lalas features Chicago Fire in this week’s “Anatomy of a Goal” episode on mlssoccer.com. Seriously, don’t watch it unless you’re wearing a helmet. Like the play itself, banging your head against things is hazardous to your health. Simply infuriating.
MLS Extra Time Radio reported that Joel Lindpere’s girlfriend thinks he runs like an old man. She’s a perceptive gal, ain’t she? Lindpere will miss Chicago’s next home fixture against Chivas USA, as he’s been called up for national duty with the Sinisärgid (Blueshirts) from Estonia. Sorry, but with the way he’s looked on the pitch at center mid, I don’t think Lindpere’s absence will matter. In fact, against a speedy, attacking Chivas side, the Fire may be better off without him.
Young forward Colin Rolfe, released from preseason camp a few weeks ago, is back with Fire. Opponents are trembling.
According to Razorgator, a California ticket broker, Chicago Fire has the cheapest secondary market tickets of all nineteen MLS clubs. I gotta say, this is disconcerting for a few reasons. First, for season ticket holders like me (and many of you), this perhaps means we haven’t made a good investment (takes a whole lotta love I guess). Second, if Razorgator’s numbers are correct, why are there so many empty seats in Toyota Park? Check out the infographic below:
According to a “nationwide survey” cited in the Seattle Times, Chicago ranks 10th out of 15 in club love for U.S. MLS franchises It seems the Fire rank near or in the bottom half of a lot of MLS metrics these days. But hey, we’re #1 in cheap second-hand tickets! Tell your friends.
Brazilian striker transfer rumors…they’re bound to happen when your team has zero goals and your DP’s taken a liking to McDonald’s.
According to Benemann, Cassiano “is a young player, had few opportunities in the first team, so the club decided to loan him to another team.” The Brazilian journalist thinks this (rumored) deal would be a good one for the Fire. “I’m sure he [would] do a good job and [score] lots of goals for Chicago.” Fire Nation isn’t as convinced, nor will it be thrilled to get another striker who under-performed at a big club. Sound familiar?
Down the Kansas City Byline with Mike Kuhn
What Chicago can expect from Kansas City is as much a guess to Fire fans as it is to Kansas City fans right now. In SKC’s first two games this season it’s been a bit of Jekyll and Hyde. Against both Philadelphia and Toronto, Sporting came out lazy and not ready to play. That caused KC to fall behind early in those games. Both times though, as the minutes ticked up, they seemed to find themselves. After going down 1-0 at Philadelphia, Sporting found the back of the net three times to get the win. Against Toronto though it didn’t work out so well, as they were only able to get a single goal after going down 2-0.
A change you could see from Kansas City heading into the game this weekend is the entrance of CJ Sapong into the starting lineup ahead of Bobby Convey. Not that Convey has done poorly, but Sapong has entered the game the last two weeks, changed the attack, and given KC a different dynamic. With Convey and Graham Zusi in, Claudio Bieler seems to be left on a bit of an island. But when Sapong’s on the pitch, he’s combined quite well with Bieler. CJ’s presence on the field has given Bieler more space to work up top because of the tight marking Sapong demands.
Sparky’s Sizzling Questions
Is Chicago / Kansas City a “real” rivalry?
For some it is, for some it isn’t. Will the rivalry continue to grow? Bet that it will. It’s promoters make sense to me. It’s detractors amuse me. Regarding the latter, what we have is a hardcore, old school group of Fire fans who refuse to recognize the budding rivalry between the two clubs. Fine. Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion. Funny thing is though, these folks love to hate – a lot. So I ask them, why not spew some of your limitless vitriol westward? Isn’t it boundless? I should know.
Whose midfield is still “gelling” more?
Seriously, if I hear or read the two words “midfield” and “gelling” in the same sentence after this weekend, I’m going to cut myself. On a side note, some will be happy to oblige my threat and send me tweets to goad me into doing it, so perhaps this will be my second-to-last blog ever. You’re welcome. But who will edit OTF?
Anyway, here’s the answer to the soccer question: it doesn’t matter. What does matter however is talent. And in this department, Sporting wins. Expect KC’s midfield to look better, even if they’re still “gelling.”
Will Frank Klopas change his tactics?
Should he? Probably. Will he? Probably not. Given the state of the Fire, it seems to me that a return to last season’s 4-2-3-1 (with a few changes in the starting XI) would give Chicago its best chance of getting a result against KC’s 4-3-3. But the gaffer’s a stubborn one. He’s also shown a penchant for not having a plan B. As such, expect Klopas to trot out a flat 4-4-2 and get out-coached by Peter Vermes.
- Chicago waits for counterattacking opportunities, but their lack of speed proves to be their Achilles heel.
- In a repeat performance of their last match in Kansas, the Fire go down 2-0 and remain the only goalless, pointless squad in MLS.
- Kansas fans rejoice on “rivalry” weekend, get more satisfaction at urinals, and gorge themselves on free sub sandwiches.
- Javier Leon hits the speed dial to Brazil.
- The bags under Frank Klopas’s eyes grow deeper.