No Fire? No problem.....

The Fire aren't playing this weekend but there is still plenty of MLS action taking place that can or will affect the Fire's playoff position.  The Eastern Conference stretch run is shaping up to be an entertaining one with only thirteen points separating spots 1 through 7 in the table.  The statistical favorites to claim the 5 available playoff spots are currently occupying those positions.  Sporting Kansas City, Houston, New York, DC United, and Chicago seem to be in position to claim post-season berths barring minor collapses and incredible finishes by either Columbus and/or Montreal.

Here's a look at the weekend action affecting Chicago:

DC at Montreal, Sat. 3pm

DC will have Dudar and Boskovic back from suspension but this will be their third match in 6 days.  Montreal is in a "must win" situation in every match from here on out.  Not only does every Eastern Conference contender hold at least two games in hand on the Impact but Jesse Marsch's club has already racked up 13 defeats this season.  Montreal has won their last 5 home matches and sport a 9-3-2 this season when hosting.  United is 3-7-1 on the road.  The Fire couldn't take advantage of a weak DC back line in Washington but they have struggled mightily one the road.  That's not a good match-up for a Montreal team that has outscored visiting teams by 10 goals this season.  Look for the Impact to win this one, keeping their faint playoff hopes alive.

Columbus at New England, Sat. 6:30pm

The Revolution are done and Columbus seems to have found something in Federico Higuain and Christian Arrieta.  The Crew are the most likely team to sneak into the top 5 as they currently hold two games in hand on Chicago and one on DC.  Revs are 5-4-3 at home and Crew are 3-5-4 on the road.  Higuain seems to be an impact player that some have compared to Guillermo Barros Schelotto and he's already contributed 1 goal and 2 assists in his first 2 appearances.  Can the Revolution do the Fire another favor by beating Columbus?  I doubt it.

Toronto FC at Houston, Sat. 7:30pm

The Dynamo are 8-0-3 playing at home this season and they're riding a streak of 20 consecutive games without a home loss going back to last season.  TFC is improved under Paul Mariner but this looks to be a no-brainer for the Dynamo.  Toronto is 2-8-2 on the road.  Don't expect any help here.  Houston does have a CCL match against Olimpia in Honduras on Thursday before facing the Fire on September 2.

New York at Sporting Kansas City, Sun. 8:00pm

ESPN2 will carry this one.  The top 2 teams in the East facing off with first place on the line.  The Red Bulls are 4-7-2 on the road and the former Wizards boast a solid 7-2-3 record at Livestrong Sporting Park.  As far as rooting interests go, it's probably best to hope for a draw in this one keeping both clubs relatively close to the idle Fire.

Combined with the start of the new Euro season there's still plenty of football to keep everyone occupied despite the lack of red-shirts with Quaker logos on the pitch.  MLS Live, MatchDay, and Direct Kick are getting a workout for me in the next few days.

 

Filed under: 2012 Regular Season

Tags: Chicago Fire, MLS

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  • Thierry Henry is out of the Sunday night match against SKC due to the birth of his son. He did not train with NY today.

  • The first match finishes as expected. Montreal 3 DC 0

  • And the next match also goes as expected....Columbus beats New England 4-3. Higuain and Arrieta scored two goals apiece. Higuain is going to make them very dangerous.

  • TFC does everyone a favor and gets a 1-1 draw in Houston. The Dynamo are only 1 point ahead of the Fire but Chicago has 1 game in hand.

  • Columbus looked very dangerous on offense. Note to the Fire: no fouls in the defensive third. Higuain will bury them. The Crew makes me much more nervous than Montreal - not only because of the offensive threat, but because of the Impact's games in hand. That said, Columbus also leaked 3 goals. With that kind of defense, there will be a lot of pressure on Arrieta and Higuain et al to keep up the production.

    September will be a very interesting month.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    all the fire have to do is get their own higuain, and then no more worries... ;)

  • Former Fire midfielder update.....

    Sebastian Grazzini started, played 69 minutes, and set up a goal in Atletico Rafaela's 1-1 draw with Quilmes.

    Rafael Robayo got his first start since returning to Millonarios and scored a long distance highlight goal in the 14th minute. Millos defeated Once Caldas 2-1.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    figures robayo would make more of an impact back in colombia in 1 game than he did the entire half season while playing in chicago. redonks.

    this has been beaten to death, but grazzini was a very significant loss...though thankfully the organization was able to bring back rolfe and get fernandez into the fold. lessens the pain some...

  • In reply to Drew:

    Adding Grazzini to the mix of current players would have definitely posed some big challenges for opposing defenses. He would have added some things that Rolfe and Fernandez don't provide.

    That was a loss but I'm more focused on the lack of a true impact striker...which is what most have always tthought they needed. MacDonald seems to be a nice role player who fits in with what they do but he's not going to be a guy that strikes fear in the heart of opposition. Btw, Fernando Cavenaghi scored twice in his debut for Villareal last week.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    i wholeheartedly agree re the "true impact striker", as i think i've made clear over the past couple of seasons. i'll wait with baited breathe for this offseason to see which mediocre int'l forward with 1 goal for every 6 games played that they bring in.

  • In reply to Drew:

    ps...re cavenaghi, to be fair, seems tough to give the fire a hard time since he ended up with villareal in la liga. it's hard for mls/fire to compete with that.

  • In reply to Drew:

    Are you talking about competing with "Keane money"? That's what it will take to land a striker of that caliber.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    fair enough. still seems like a long shot to me that the fire would outbid villareal, but i guess that's the reality of getting anyone that's as close to a sure thing as they could find.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Don't forget Robayo picked up a yellow card in the 75th minute. I saw the 1st half of Atletico Rafaela and Quilmes game. Grazzini look like his old self in that game and the Fire definitely misses him. Yesterday, Federico Puppo came in as a sub in the 23rd minute for Defensor Sporting and picked up a yellow card with his team finished in 2-2 tie against Nacional.

  • Fire get a good result tonight. New York 1 Sporting KC 1

  • The Fire got good results all weekend - the SKC - NYRB tie, Houston tied, and DC lost to Montreal. Montreal might be a concern, but the entire division holds games in hand on them - they have 1.39 points per game, compared to Columbus's 1.5.

    On that note, the Columbus - NE actually result did not go our way, and I'm very worried about the Crew. The Fire showed incredible backbone last season in the stretch run, and has done well to continue converting wins out of potential ties, but anything can happen at this point.

  • Seeing the names Grazzini and Robayo just remind me how inept whoever we have scouting South American players is. Grazzini was the only one who panned out ...somewhat. The Fire were like 1 for 5 with their signings, while Columbus looks like they hit 2 home runs with their two recent signings.

  • In reply to MikeRUZE:

    chaves was ok. i can't recall his salary, but if it was reasonable he would have been a good player off the bench at forward.

    puerari did ok too while he was here, but they let him go pretty quickly, so i'm sure they didn't feel he'd be a long term answer.

    puppo was terrible.

    robayo was poor.

    grazzini was quite good. not excellent, but he did his job very well and didn't seem to get paid what he deserved, so he was a good signing for the value.

    overall, you are right, the signings have been pretty crappy. but they've been mostly risky signings up front, when you look at these players stats and histories, it's not like they are coming in as saviors. which is partly the problem, the team hasn't been signing players who are nearly guaranteed to be successful as they are mostly signing players on the cheap (or occasionally overpaying for their services, a la puppo).

  • Hi Guillermo, what do you think about adding Guillermo Franco as a striker. Definitely not as a DP, but maybe a contract similar to Pardo or Friedrich? I know he had a bad season at Pachuca, but he did ok in Argentina before that.

  • In reply to jestrada13:

    I think Franco has seen his better days. I'd pass.

  • For Chelsea fans who would love to see Drogba or Anelka come to town......

    http://t.co/6j4JoJsw

  • Juan Toja has been selected by the Revolution via allocation.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Oh good! I was worried that the Revolution weren't going to have enough midfielders to finish out the season.

    To quote Barney Gumble from "The Simpsons": "...after this case, and the other case, there's only ONE case left!"

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    so do they plan on going with a 2-6-2 formation?

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    In reply to penapirata:

    Nah, lately NE has been going with a 5-5-0 formation.

  • So far MackDonald is not the striker we were all hoping for.
    He says the right things like he is not satisfied with his performance
    and must do better. "We all agree that he must do better."
    The Big Question Will He Do Better and Score on a Consistant
    Basis?? Highly Doubtful in My humble Opinion.

  • In reply to Juergen:

    MacDonald's actually better than expected and he is a guy who can help. He gives Klopas options in style of attack and he looks like he already has a repoire with Rolfe. He's probably not going to be a huge difference maker but he is a piece that can be utilized in the system given his skill with hold up play.

    They're good enough to compete in the East with this squad but a big time striker could have made them a front runner. I think they'll make these last two months fun to watch regardless.

    The striker question will have to be picked up again in the offseason.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    I am die hart Fire Fan as are most on this site.
    The Striker Question as been an issue for over two years now!!
    Even Brian McBride proved not to be the answer.
    So it is an Old Issue that has not been fixed.
    Nothing against MackDonald just don't think he is
    the DP we were all hoping for, and expected much better
    during the transfer window than what we got in comparison
    to other teams like Columbus as an example.

  • I'm willing to give MacDonald more time to see what he does when he gets his fitness and integrates with the team more. The optimist in me doesn't think we've seen the best of him yet.

    That said, I think he's overvalued and we paid too much - he's coming from the 2nd division in Belgium after all, from a string of clubs - but he's Dutch, so it's easier for buyers to open their wallets just a liiiiiitle bit more.

    That doesn't mean we don't need a marquee striker - just that Sherjill could work out to be a decent player for us still, in my opinion.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    I agree with that....fair assessment.

  • GR -- In all the discussions about foreign players, I can't think of any major player that MLS has poached from the Mexican Primera -- other than Blanco of course. Is their salary structure too high or am I just not keeping up on MLS rosters??? What about trying to get some of those US born players back into MLS?

  • In reply to shortpasses:

    The Mexican clubs can and do pay their top players a pretty good wage. KC did bring in Omar Bravo last year, but he wasn't exactly riding top form when he got here. I think we'll start to see a little more crossover in the next few years as the perceived gap between the two leagues closes a bit and MLS clubs figure out that every DP doesn't have to be from Europe.

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    In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    I watch enough futbol from Mexico to know the people there do not believe MLS is an equal to the Primera at all. Weather the players feel the same? I don't know, but you also have to pay Blanco numbers if you want somebody like that in the twilight of their careers no less. People who don't follow Primera football just do not know how immense of a signing that was in the minds of players and people who follow Primera at the time. Today Europe know that they can poach from MLS, they can't do that in Mexico.

  • In reply to waam:

    Pay being the key word there.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    No it's not. The perception of inferior quality in MLS is just as big an obstacle to landing players as money. We would have had to pay way more than Villareal if we wanted Cavenaghi.

    Personally, I'm more worried about hanging onto our existing squad than throwing $5m at a striker. Guys like Berry, Johnson and Friedrich are liable to draw European interest and Pappa is going to leave a big hole.

  • In reply to iron81:

    Villareal is currently in the second division and Cavenaghi could have been had for the right price. Money will always be the first consideration when drawing players. Perception isn't stopping Keane, Cahill, Henry, and any other expensive players from coming over. It's a factor, but it's secondary to the big green one.

  • In reply to iron81:

    Friedrich will go regardless... not that I want to see it, but it's the reality. If Berry continues at his current pace, he'll go in a 3-4 years but not before that. Look at Omar Gonzales in LA - hot young striker, now in his 4th year with the Galaxy, and as hot a CB prospect as the US has. Chad Marshall anyone? Destined to head overseas we were told 3 years ago. Defender of the year in 2008 (over Baky and Jimmy Conrad) and had a trial with the German 2nd Division that year - still in Columbus.

    Johnson has the advantage of being a keeper, and American keepers have a good record overseas (with some exceptions - when is Guzano going to get some PT somewhere, anywhere?). He'll go sooner than Berry if he keeps it up.

    Pappa? He's been due to depart for years now himself. I'm surprised we've kept him here this long. Though his play over the past two seasons hasn't been as strong as it was when he was playing alongside Blanco.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Sorry, I meant hot young defender in talking about Omar Gonzalez... duh...

  • We can always compare to what other teams have done in the acquisition category, but it's also important to remember that a player has to fit w/ the club and system they're in. Columbus has apparently done well with Higuain, but that doesn't mean he'd do well everywhere.

    Regarding MacDonald, he is who we thought he is. He's a solid attacking option, not a high goal scorer, but gets good opportunities at goal and takes them. He plays well with his back to goal, which was something missing for a while. It's also something they tried with Nazarit, to no avail. It's easy to say he was overvalued, but really that's all relative. If he comes in and continues to make a positive impact in the club, but doesn't score tons of goals, is he overvalued? I'd say no, if the results are there team-wise. We should probably shelf the target striker talk regarding him though, since we all knew he wasn't going to be the target striker scoring machine the club needs. Definitely an issue needing addressed in the offseason, to the point that I wouldn't be surprised if a few of our strikers are shown the door in January.

  • In reply to Jeff Krause:

    Higuain was a guy that I believe was on their radar but in the crazy world of MLS acquisition rules, Columbus was the first to file a claim on him....or something like that.

  • In reply to Jeff Krause:

    I hear what you're saying about Sherjill's strengths, but let's not forget Frankie's Famous Last Words, from the MacDonald signing press release:

    “Sherjill is a GOAL SCORER who can hold the ball up, attack with pace and is very technically sound,” said Fire head coach Frank Klopas. (Capitalization mine)

    Not "Sherjill sets guys up well," or "Sherjill makes everyone else around him look better."

    Remember he's also a player who's been at more clubs than a travelling salesman has been at hotels...

    I'm still not sure that there's as much value to be found in Belgium, where the scouts are thick on the ground, than elsewhere.

    The problem he's going to have is the DP tag hanging over his head. That's a part of the value equation, too. As a striker, he's going to be judged on his production, meaning goals and assists. That's a part of the value equation. And most fans are clamoring for a marquee offensive player after a string of letdowns - a Designated Player who lives up to the title in a city that has seen the exploits of Michael Jordan, Walter Payton, Earnie Banks, and, sure, Karl-Heinz Granitza. That's a part of the value equation. It's all relative, and it can all be factored in. And until he consistently shows his quality on the field, a lot of Fire fans are going to consider him overvalued based on where he we got him and the tantalizing alternatives that did not materialize with the "Robbie Keane-like money" that was dangled in front of them (ha!).

    He seems to have a good attitude, and it seems like he's adapting to the situation (to your point that a player has to be in the right situation to shine). So now it's up to him to show his real value to fans of the Fire and MLS. If he sticks around long enough.

  • Logan Pause resumed running yesterday and was back in training today.

    Wow. Dude has some fortitude.

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    BigMac may not score a lot, but he shows the ability and vision to do things you do not normally see from a big MLS forward. Thats good enough for me for now. The player that had the biggest upside on paper was Collins John, but man, if he would have only worked harder on fitness and other issues, that would have been a hit. He has only himself to blame.

  • In reply to waam:

    I have to think the Collins John story would've ended differently (or would still be happening) if Klopas were coaching at the time instead of Mr. "this is the soccer."

  • The Fire will have to spend money to get a decent striker, at least in the $2.5 mil+ range. If the Fire made a decent offer who knows if they could have signed Cavenaghi.
    Villareal although recently demoted was one of the most successful
    smaller clubs in La Liga. With the exception of Barca and Madrid
    they were competitive with the rest of the league until last year.
    Villareal's pitch is not much bigger than Toyota Park and there are more than a handul of teams in La Liga that play in MLS sized stadiums. (20 to 25 thousand range.) Who knows what he might have done with a decent offer.

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    Villareal also has the distinction of playing in Spain. You give MLS clubs access to UEFA's Champion's League, and this league will get a whole lot more attention. Obviously thats not going to happen and could possibly be one of the reasons MLS and clubs from other parts of the world will never get the attention clubs in Europe do.

    It may be a small club, but it is plenty well known.

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