Prime Your Fire Pump: Chicago Fire at San Jose Earthquakes

Frank Yallop returns to San Jose tonight. (chicagotribune.com)

Frank Yallop returns to San Jose tonight. (chicagotribune.com)

OTF’s Jon Denham wonders if Frank Yallop thought he’d be sitting on three wins when he returned to San Jose…

I’m fairly certain Frank Yallop circled July 23rd on his imaginary calendar when he saw this year’s schedule. I would have. You would have, too.

As the leader of the Chicago side headed back to the place where he won two MLS Cups, he is looking for his fourth victory in his 19th regular season match. The Earthquakes are in the Western Conference cellar. Meanwhile, his current squad is staying afloat as we near August.

As is usually the case when someone in Yallop’s situation returns home, there will be a lot of smiles and handshakes. There will be Buck Shaw staff to exchange greetings with, possibly the same with a member of the medical staff, and some season ticket holders he will remember. Some nostalgia will creep in.

Then will come the warmups and eventually the opening whistle. Yallop will be on the visitor’s bench for these moments and focused on setting up the Fire to earn three points. These are, after all, a huge three points for his squad and he certainly knows it. In addition to the overhead applause after the final whistle from Yallop, I’d like to see him with a nice half smile as he exhales and walks towards the dressing room.

Whatever the motivation for the Men In Red and the manager, this match could end up being circled on Fire Nation’s calendar as well. A loss to a last place team could sink everyone’s spirits if the play on the field is boring and lacks quality scoring chances. A convincing and high scoring win could give the squad a boost into another gear after the All Star game(s) in Portland.

Romanian international Razvan Cocis may debut this weekend against Tottenham (chicago-fire.com)

If this team does in fact have “another gear”, I’m ready to see it. Yallop is ready to see it. Maybe Razvan Cocis can provide it in the coming weeks. Otherwise, we’ll float towards the end of the regular season, bow out of the U.S. Open Cup, and hope no one notices the lack of progression from March through October. We’ll just pull our collective sunglasses down over our eyes and float if that next level isn’t a reality.

 

How They Stand In The East

Things are bunching up around the red playoff line (chicago-fire.com)

Things are bunching up around the red playoff line (chicago-fire.com)

Games played: 18

Points: 20 (three behind a playoff spot)

Points Per Game: 1.11

There’s a real log jam from fourth through ninth right now in the East. The teams are separated by just five points as the All-Star break (ugh) and club friendlies continue this month and into August.

Sporting KC and DC United have distanced themselves while the plot thickens below them. The fact that the Fire sit as close to the red playoff line as they do with just three victories is both intriguing and frustrating. The Men In Red have proven there is more than one way to tie an opponent.

Tactics, Lineup, and Injuries

Frank Yallop will only be missing Patrick Nyarko and Benji Joya on Wednesday night as he returns back to Buck Shaw Stadium. Getting the playmakers on the field is a must against a team who has conceded just 19 goals so far. Yallop may go with this lineup:

A mostly healthy squad will try and earn three points against the worst in the West

A mostly healthy squad will try and earn three points against the worst in the West

I suspect we’ll see some full-fledged high pressure at Buck Shaw tonight. Coming off the short turnaround and playing midweek, Quincy and Magic Mike will have to be selective, but the Earthquakes back line will get their cages rattled.

This lineup appears to be one that could generate scoring chance from multiple fronts – set pieces like Larentowicz’s goal last week, high pressure, some Alex passing or maybe a Harry Shipp run towards the promised land. If Captain Jeff and Alex can recognize this and mix up their movements in the middle and Shipp and Ward can hold off until the final third to start “tucking in” to an already crowded space, things could open up.

My Bench: Reynish; Cochrane, Ianni; Watson, Duka, Ritter; Fondy

 

Prediction To Ponder In The Comments Section Below…

Chicago Fire (1), San Jose Earthquakes (1)

Yep. Another tie. Hopefully this one isn’t the result of some fluke play or poor judgment call by an official. Harry Shipp and the gum-smacking Goonie Steven Lenhart reach the score sheet for the second straight match. I’d love to see an 1-0 victory and a road shutout, but I’m not sure it is in the cards. Maybe Grant Ward can help Chicago with a late winner ahead of the Tottenham visit this weekend?

My 2014 Record: 6-10

 

OTF’s Jon Denham grew up about seven miles north of The Harlem End. He now lives in Dubuque, Iowa, and may be its only resident with the MLS Direct Kick package. Jon’s the goalkeepers’ coach at Loras College, your go-to guy for t-shirts and promotional products at Envision Sports Designs, and writes some other stuff at Inclusive Beechwood Aging. Follow Jon @Denham_Jon

Chicago Fire at San Jose Earthquakes
Wednesday, July 23rd at 9:30 pm cst
Television: NBC Sports Network
La radio en Español: La Ley 107.9 FM en Chicago

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Follow OTF Soccer on Twitter @OTFSoccer

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