Prime Your Fire Pump: Chicago at Philadelphia Union
OTF Editor Scott Fenwick brings you his and the opposition’s look at Chicago/Philadelphia redux…
What’s new in Fire Land? Well, aside from the upcoming game at Philly, local fare this week was the ongoing Robbie Rogers saga, Bakary Soumare dealings, U.S. Open Cup scheduling, international call-ups, fan vitriol towards ownership and management, summer transfer window rumors and speculation, etc. You know, the usual.
The latest craziness is Fire fans pining for Uruguayan hero and World Cup star Diego Forlán to come to Chicago after he mentioned he’d like to play in MLS, perhaps this season. Heh. Right. You’ll have more luck wishing for world peace.
The ‘U’ is a bit demoralized after Landycakes and the La-Las thrashed them on Wednesday night in Philly, but consider this:
Aside from DC United, is there any other team the brotherly-lovers would rather host for their club’s third game in last eight days? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.
Lineup-wise, expect this XI and formation from the Fire:
The only difference above from last weekend is the return of Jeff Larentowicz from suspension. Big Red’s re-insertion should help the Fire on set pieces, to Philly’s detriment (did you watch the LA game?).
Fan favorite, midfielder Daniel Paladini, should once again find himself the odd man out of the starting lineup. Moreover, he may not play at all after popping up on the med sheet with a bit of left calf inflammation.
As we all well know, Patrick Nyarko now finds himself up top with Chris Rolfe. All signs point to this forward pairing hitting the pitch at PPL Park on Saturday night.
If DP “striker” Sherjill MacDonald makes the trip east, manager Frank Klopas claims he’ll be on the bench. MacDonald was a late scratch last time around because he came down with a case of strep throat. If he can go though, expect to see the Dutchman subbed in later for a change of pace, as forward Maicon Santos is likely out with a shoulder injury.
The removal of Patrick Nyarko from the wing has been the subject of debate this week. Some think it’s a mistake, while others hail it as a deliberate, praiseworthy tactical move. It’s neither.
Despite Nyarko’s problems finishing in front of goal last Saturday, the Fire’s engine-man showed offensive prowess up top unlike we’d seen all season, so perhaps it makes sense to slot him at forward for the time being. After all, what Chicago lacks in defensive depth it makes up for in the midfield. Dilly Duka looked serviceable in Nyarko’s stead vs. the Union. Alex can play the wing too.
But here’s the rub: no matter what Frank Klopas says about the Nyarko move, his preferred point man MacDonald was ill, so we’ve got to take the gaffer’s claim that MacDonald wouldn’t have started last Saturday even if he’d been healthy with a big grain of salt. But, my question is: does it make sense to bench him anyway?
As OTF contributor Rob Thompson suggested earlier this week, why not slot Mackie in the #10 spot? He might not be able to find the net, but he can make plays and set others up fairly well. I’m intrigued. It’s worth a try.
The player who should be benched isn’t Sherjill MacDonald. Rather, it’s Chris Rolfe.
In the eyes of its fans and the organization, Chicago’s confounding little blonde soccer-playing elf can do no wrong. For example, it was Rolfe, not Patrick Nyarko, who was named Man of the Match last weekend. Absurd.
Everybody’s living in the past when it comes to Chris Rolfe.
Here’s the 2013 line on Rolfe, who’s started all nine games this season and played 782 minutes (second most on the squad): 25 shots, 5 shots on target, 1 goal, 0 assists, scoring chance % = 4.0. He currently ranks #232 on the MLS Castrol Index.
Numbers aside, Rolfe’s touch has been rock-hard, he gets lost on the pitch for stretches at a time, and looks visibly frustrated by his own ineptitude. Moreover, his inefficacy dates back to the latter part of 2012. Since Chris Rolfe netted a brace vs. Columbus late last September, he’s scored once and assisted twice in his last 15 games. It’s time for him to ride some pine and think about what he gets paid (well) to do.
Tactically, there’s no reason to expect the Fire to come out and play differently than they did last weekend. After all, they dominated the game despite its result. But Saturday’s a road game, and Frank Klopas loves to play conservatively in the first half when he’s away from home. I’m sure John Hackworth knows this and is likely prepared. On the flipside, the Union boss has seen Chicago press (to no effect), so there’ll be no riddle for the Union to solve.
Nicholas Younstein of The Union Dues with the view from under the bridge
See, Fire fans? It IS possible to score goals against the Union. Lots of them, in fact! Zac MacMath again showed his inconsistency over the past week by keeping a clean sheet against Chicago and subsequently shitting the bed Wednesday night versus LA Galaxy (4-1 to LA). MacMath benefits from the other team hitting him with their shots. The young ‘keeper should get some more help Saturday with Jeff Parke returning from injury.
Parke will replace Bakary Soumare and continue developing his partnership with Amobi Okugo. Okugo netted his second goal of the season against L.A., but has helped his team hold the opposition scoreless only twice in eleven games this season. Parke and Okugo will be flanked by Sheanon Williams on the right, and whoever has yet to be traded on the left. Okay, it’ll be Ray Gaddis, who may or may not be fully recovered from the severe beating he took from the Galaxy.
The midfield finally included Union’s Designated Player signing, Jose Kleberson. The Brazilian’s skill and poise on the ball SHOULD (as in should, but won’t) unseat Keon Daniel from a starting position in the central midfield.
Brian Carroll is the spork of group: great for utility but not much of a threat. Kleberson and Carroll will be flanked by the ever-running Danny Cruz and the non-traded Farfan, Michael – unless of course the Union think they can catch Chicago sleeping on a dead-ball restart again, in which case Sebastien Le Toux may be called upon to provide such a punking.
Philadelphia’s midfield play has been left wanting most of the season. Farfan is the lone player with the ability to break a defender down one v one. They also tend to play narrow, not utilizing the full width of the pitch. They’re most effective crosses come from the hands of right back Williams.
Jack McInerney introduced himself to the Fire faithful last weekend, so he doesn’t need me to do it. Conor Casey will be depended upon to provide the link between the midfield and attack, as well as hold possession. Antoine Hoppenot will likely see some time to bring his high-energy style to the lineup and take advantage of tired legs (and take dives, and complain about the non-call. Hey, I’m a Union fan, but I’m not blind). Le Toux may also see some time up top, depending on the circumstances of the match.
To sum up, the Union earned one of their two clean sheets against the Fire. Their other was against New England Revolution. In the second meeting with the Revs, Philly incurred their only shutout defeat of the season, 2-0. There’s no way Chicago doesn’t score in this one.
I’d like to say this will be a 2-2 draw, but I’m wary that the mid-week match has taken something out of Philly, thus they’ll only put up a single goal. Therefore, how about a 2-1 win for Chicago (and yes, I am aware this is the same score John Rossi predicted on this site last week).
Chicago Fire at Philadelphia Union
Saturday, May 18th at 6:30pm cst!
Live television broadcast on My50 in Chicago
La radio en espanol: 107.9 FM La Ley en Chicago.