Prime Your Fire Pump: Chicago at Philadelphia Union

Anibaba: Yeah. We feel you, kid. (photo: Getty Images)

Anibaba: Yeah. We feel you. (photo: Getty Images)

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.

Moving on…

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:

fire 11 at philly

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).

Nicholas Youngstein is a contributing writer at The Union Dues. Follow Philly’s #1 independent soccer voice @TheUnionDues

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.



6 thoughts on “Prime Your Fire Pump: Chicago at Philadelphia Union

  1. Gotta say I was waiting for someone to finally suggest that Chris Rolfe take a seat. Since I have not followed the Fire before this year I assumed Mr. Rolfe had proven his worth in previous seasons. But I have to be honest and confess that I have seen little to impress me. Mr. Rolfe in tandem with “the Recliner” (I love that moniker) are as inept an offensive threat as I have ever encountered. I assumed most Fire fans are seeing him through the prism of past glories. I admit that he is gutsy. But speaking from the perspective of a “new fan”, Rolfe is totally overrated. And if Mac is affectionately known as the recliner then Rolfe is “the footstool”.

    If it’s time to redecorate I say replace the recliner and footstool in one fell swoop. They must be replaced if for no other reason than they demoralize the club and because the paying customers want, and need, to see that someone upstairs is determined to shake things up.

    But I’m afraid shaking things up offensively won’t fix this sad state of affairs. I’m old school so I look at things from a slightly different perspective than some of the more modern, and more knowledgeable, Fire experts. I subscribe to the old adage: defense wins championships.

    To salvage this season Kid Klopas needs to concentrate on defense. I’ve never seen the missing German defensive ace Arne Friedrich play, but the consequence of losing a defensive stalwart are obvious to me. It may seem counter intuitive to many but the remedy to this season is a defensive solution.

    The Kid gets paid to coach … so hopefully he has the ability to move the right horses back to bolster the defense. Once that is taken care (if he succeeds) he can start to tackle the offensive woes to a degree. Although a good defense is the foundation of a good offense I’m afraid this club will have to import some talent up front to truly remedy this sad situation.

    I hope the Kid is up to it otherwise the season is doomed – that much is obvious.

  2. Some valid points here coach Bob. Without going through the number one rule of team building that you build up from the back first, let’s just talk about the offensive woes for the moment. Rolfe is now 30 and seems to lost a step and probably his internal competitive edge to prove himself a winner. The latter is just an assumption, but the former is just a fact of biology. Although Rolfe is the second scoring leader in Fire history ( due to his tenure with the team) he might want to consider when he should leave the game. For a player that relied more on his quickness for his edge, seems he has lost that attribute (see: Michael Owen). Now for Mackie, if you watch any tape from Anderlect or from the Dutch national team you will never see him in the the number #9 role. In his youth, he was better employed as a winger. Now that time and age has caught up to him it might be time to place him in a role where he can use a different set of his skills. If you know Ajax Club form Amsterdam, then you would understand how I feel that we should not give up on Mackie, Ajax is the origianl youth academy before Barcelona made it fashionable. Mackie went through this academy and this tells me it’s not a matter of skill for this man but a matter of motivation and management. Although, he can be a head case, he was the spark that got the Fire into the playoffs last season. However, when Mackie came over the Fire were in a much better point position due to Grazzini that just left the team to play back in his homeland of Argentina. I suggest if that the Fire try to employ him in CAM position, but I would be concerned that he does not have the legs to do about 5 miles of running a game.

  3. Well, after watching Philly shut out the Fire for a second week in a row I think it is obvious that this team is in big trouble. I agree with your assessment of Mackie but at this point it is painfully obvious that we have a “head problem” here. Perhaps they can use him in a #10 slot, maybe not, but it might be worth a shot.

    The Recliner may have/had the set of skills to excel but I just don’t see it. I want to see it, I’ve tried to see it, and I came into this first season expecting to see it …. but I don’t. Instead I see a player with an “attitude” or “motivational” problem. I could be completely wrong about this but that is how it looks to me.

    It seems Kid Klopas is running out of options and the season appears to be going down the drain quickly.

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