Fire 1 Timbers 1 - recap and ratings

Frank Yallop made some dramatic changes to the line up that dropped the season opening game 3-2 last weekend and the team responded with a hard fought 1-1 draw in Portland. The changes which included Matt Watson aiding Jeff Larentowicz in central midfield, Benji Joya and Harrison Shipp on the wings, and Alex in a more advanced role behind Quincy Amarikwa appeared to take the home team by surprise as the Fire were the aggressor for the first thirty minutes of the match. Portland eventually gained control as the first half ended and dominated the second forty-five however. The Fire were probably fortunate in clinging to a 1-1 draw but the effort and ability to earn a result on the road against one of the better sides in MLS does bode well for the team's youngsters who were given an opportunity to play in a meaningful game.

The Timbers were a heartbeat away from adding another two or three goals with golden opportunities that were either thwarted by the Fire defense or simply missed. As the Fire clung to a one goal lead Portland pushed numbers forward but couldn't equalize until the 79th minute when Gaston Fernandez tapped in a rebound from a shot that was initially saved by Sean Johnson.

The Fire did have some chances early in the first half before Quincy Amarikwa drew a penalty on Norberto Paparatto in the 19th minute. Jeff Larentowicz buried the ensuing penalty kick but there weren't many opportunities to extend the lead after that. The revamped and younger Fire squad showed some resolve to hold on and pick up the result but it should be noted that allowing 65% possession and 21 shot attempts by your opponent isn't usually a recipe for success.

Yallop and the youngsters won this round with smart tactical maneuvers and youthful enthusiasm driven by the hunger to get on the pitch. Those factors allowed the Fire to get the jump on Portland and set them on their back foot early. It worked in so far as they hung on and earned the result. They'll need something more than that to continue improvement but now they've got something to build on.

Player ratings

GK Sean Johnson (6) - Six saves in a decent day's work but a communication gaffe with Soumare in the 71st landed him in no man's land. Luckily for Johnson and the Fire, Will Johnson's shot at a completely empty net rolled harmlessly to the post and over the end line. He did come up big against Will Johnson just before the half expired and again to deny Fernandez in the 66th leading to a crazy sequence that saw Portland attackers have two additional attempts blocked by Fire defenders.

D Gonzalo Segares (6) - After a tough outing against Chivas USA, Segares was much better in this match. Both fullbacks stepped up nicely on several occasions to deny Portland attacks in dangerous areas.

D Bakary Soumare (6) - Recovered with his starting spot likely on the line after last weekend's howler. Strong game with a handful of well timed tackles denying good opportunities. Nearly got to a Shipp service in second half stoppage time but Ricketts managed to tip the ball away at the last second.

D Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (6) - With the Fire in full "defend" mode for most of the last thirty minutes the centerbacks needed to play big and they did. Hurtado blocked a second shot by Nagbe in the 66th that would have given Portland another score.

D Lovel Palmer (6) - The full backs weren't involved much offensively but like his teammates on the back line, Palmer was there when he had to be. He was subbed off in the 67th minute after the initial block of Nagbe's shot attempt on goal.

M Jeff Larentowicz (5) - This would have been a tick higher if not for the missed chance to clear away the ball leading to the game tying score. Other than that instance, Larentowicz was much better than he was against Chivas USA and did well to limit Valeri and the center of the Portland attack for the first 30-40 minutes of the game. Stepped up and scored on the penalty kick to give the Fire the unexpected lead.

M Matt Watson (6) - His insertion into the line up to aid Larentowicz defensively was one of the key tactical wins of this match for Yallop. A strong debut for the Fire has probably earned him a look at additional playing time. A strong shot from 30 yards out in the 54th was one of the Fire's few scoring chances in the second half.

M Benji Joya (5) - Wasn't spectacular in this first start for the Fire but he was effective enough although he doesn't seem quite comfortable playing on the outside. A decent match but he's better suited in the middle.

M Harry Shipp (5) - Like Joya he seemed a little out of place on the wings but his set piece and dead ball service was exceptional. The Fire didn't score from corners or free kicks but just about every delivery was placed in a dangerous area giving teammates an opportunity to get to the ball.

M Alex (6) - Very active and dangerous through the opening moments of the match. A well taken turn and shoot in the 22nd minute forced Ricketts into a fingertip save and set the tone for the attack. Silent in the second half however as Portland controlled the remainder of the game.

F Quincy Amarikwa (7) - Set the tone along with Alex in forcing Portland to defend early. His maximum effort, runs into space, and availability for playing in combination changed the look of the entire offense in opposition to what the Fire was able to do against Chivas early last week. Forced Paparatto into contact and drew a penalty that would earn a most needed point. Was largely absent in the second half before being subbed out in the 83rd apparently suffering from cramps.

M Patrick Nyarko (4) - Two yellow cards and a dismissal after 22 minutes on the pitch. Not much to say here other than Nyarko is off to a rough start in 2014.

D Patrick Ianni (5) - Came in for Palmer in the 67th and appeared to lose his mark in Fernandez for the tying goal.

F Juan Luis Anangono (5) - Entered the match in the 83rd for Amarikwa and did manage to earn two corner kicks for the Fire.

Next up

The home opener against the New York Red Bulls who tied Colorado at home 1-1.

Filed under: 2014 Regular Season

Tags: Chicago Fire


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  • Newest episode of the Fire Confidential Podcast is up discussing the Timbers game, Mike Magee's situation, and CF97 rumors....

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    After watching that match I wish we would have kept Jalil and Austin, never bought the new defenders and just spent the next season (or two) developing the young talent we have.

    There's an adage from my motorcycling days that goes " you can teach a fast rider how to stop crashing but you can't teach a slow rider to go fast."

    JLA isn't going to come out of any shell, he's not going to produce at this point. The handful of mistakes the rookies were making will go away as they get more playing time and experience, but their movement and soccer smarts showed.

    And now I'm not just worried about Chris, but Nyanko had the worst outing I've ever seen from him. Hopefully he can bounce back right away. Baky played much smarter too, but he still scares the crap out of me.

  • I wouldn't have rated Soumare as high as a 6 since I think he bears most/if not all of the responsibility for that communication gaffe with Johnson.

    Pleasantly surprised some young guns got a shot to play and pleased they held their own in the first half. Hopefully they got a shot of confidence, hopefully they'll be even better when Magee returns, and hopefully competition for a few spots will motivate some of our veterans to try a little harder.

    In short, a point against Portland without Magee in lineup full of fresh faces...yeah, I'll take that.

  • Solid first half, but just hanging on in the second, much room for improvement.
    With Watson why do they need Pause in a playing role.
    With his salary and Rolfe's and JLA, they could pick up a significant
    impact player in the summer. Nyarko hasn't played well after his injury last year, hopes he can regain his previous form otherwise trade him or cut him. At least Yallop isn't afraid of making changes,
    but still the team has to improve their level of play to be competitive.

  • I agree with above. I'll give Soumare some good props for showing great improvement.

    And it is nice to see Frank not be afraid to make a change to the lineup. For what it's worth, the 0-2 Impact played the same lineup with the exception of Nyassi who was hurt.

    All the national guys--like Ives--were predicting a smashing by Portland. Luck was definitely on their side, but picking up a point on the road against last year's Western Conference champs is a good result.

    They showed some pluck; but the bench play is especially worrisome. More injuries and tired legs later in the year could bite them.

  • I agree with most of the ratings, save these:

    Soumare - 7 - I think he and Amarikwa were men of the match material. Soumare had an outstanding game.

    Nyarko - 3 - He came on and had a terrible 20 min. or so and put his team even more on their heals. Almost single handedly lost the match via 2 quick yellows, with no positive play to speak of.

    I know we are all down on Nyarko right now, but it's waaaaayyyyy too early to start talking about cutting him. I mean, c'mon, he's always had limits to his game, but has often been the best Fire player on any given game day. So let's slow our roll and give him a chance to pull it together.

  • In reply to Drew:

    "We are all down on Nyarko right now."

    Let's not generalize. Some of us have thought that Nyarko was a blackhole on the Fire's teamsheet for at least a year running. Maybe Klopas wants him back. I'd take Mapp any day over Nyarko.

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    Mapp over Nyarko?

    I am doubled over in pain at the thought of this. ;)

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    Nyarko was our 3rd best player last year. Only behind Magee and Johnson. He is so dangerous on the field. He takes on defenders and gets in good positions. Him and Alex are the only players on our team that look to take defenders on 1 v 1. Nyarko had a rough start but any trade involving him we would lose out on.

  • Haha, I know you've been down on Nyarko for awhile. That's certainly your prerogative, I don't agree. I hearby dub you "nyarko's nemesis".

  • In reply to Drew:

    Ha, fair enough. Now that Wells Thompson is gone, I have to have a Fire player I like the least. Honestly I'm not sure it's even Nyarko. I really dislike Soumare as well, but so do quite a few others. The thing with Nyarko is, for a reason I personally don't understand, many fans seem to think he has some redeeming quality beyond getting fouled, losing the ball, or a run to the end line that results in a cross to no one in particular. I know I have hate goggles on a bit here, but he hasn't exactly proven me wrong yet this season.

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    So funny, he does have some of those problems at times for sure. But I see him as a player who has technical abilities, can win 1v1 match-ups, causes havoc for opposing defenses and coaching staffs, creates a boat load of chances (not his fault he's played with countless crap strikers), is fast and hustles back and plays D. He's not perfect, but this is also MLS and there aren't many who are.

  • In reply to Drew:

    I will say his willingness to play D, and do so effectively, has always been a plus in my mind, but then he went and did unspeakable things to Portland. He must really hate hipsters.

    Also, I think his notable technical skills have regressed of late (last couple seasons), and for a player everyone was hoping would finally have a breakout season, that's extremely worrying.

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    Soumare is _much_ more deserving of your hate than Nyarko. Soumare really has zero talent, he's just a big guy with long legs. No soccer brain whatsoever. Nyarko is an excellent attacker. No one on the team is better at taking on and beating defenders 1-on-1 (though Duka was pretty good at this last year). I attribute much of the "cross to no one" problem to the fact that we have always had terrible forwards (until Magee came last year.)

  • In reply to manyou07:

    While Soumare has returned a (much) lesser player than before he went to Europe, only a Fire fan ostrich could have their head shoved this far into the Ghanian sand.

    Soumare - MLS best 11, MLS All-star, played in a top European league: Zero talent.

    Nyarko - Joint fifth on MLS assists twice (2 times!) which means he's right up there with illustrious names like Jamie Smith, Michael Stephens and Ryan Johnson: World class.

    No, the problem with Nyarko is that he is entirely one dimensional and he can't adapt his game. He was only that effective those seasons because the Fire played counter attacking style and he was the speedy outlet who could just punt the ball to Oduro on the counter, or pass it to Grazzini for some Argentinian cocaine fueled* magic. No one on the team is better at taking on and beating defenders 1-on-1...and then failing to do anything constructive from it, losing the ball and subsequently playing "solid D". Nyarko truly lives up to the "Hauptman presents: the Chicago Fire" timeless values of tradition, honor, passion, extreme disappointment and lowered expectations. Or is it only the last two?


  • In reply to TomazPP:

    Points well taken but Soumare is from Mali, not Ghana, so don't lump them together based on nationality*.

    * "While Soumare has returned a (much) lesser player than before he went to Europe, only a Fire fan ostrich could have their head shoved this far into the Ghanian sand."

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Clarification: the sand is from Ghana because the ostrich loves Nyarko.

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    Nyarko can be our most exciting player that we have on our team. He is also not very likely to be the reason that we lose a game. He takes on defenders and tries to make things happen. He might not be the best player in the league but he is an above average player in this league.

    Soumare is possibly the most frustrating player on our team. He is usually at fault for mistakes in the back. He is excellent at clearing the ball out when there is nobody around him and there is a simple 10 yard pass he could make. He is usually caught out of position multiple times per game. He is also a red card waiting to happen. He should have been sent off for his diving tackle from behind this weekend.

    If given the choice between Nyarko or Soumare, I would take Nyarko every single time.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    I agree with every statement you just made about Soumare, I really do. He's been a complete muppet almost every game he's played since he came back to the Fire. I just disagreed (with manyou07) that he has zero talent. And that makes the fact he's been this frustratingly bad even worse. He had talent and now he's a bumbling fool.

    Given the choice between Nyarko and Soumare, I'd get rid of them both. But again that's just me.

  • I dont understand everyone's love for Soumare. We have 2 CB's that compete against each other on who can kick the ball the highest and the farthest. It is so frustrating. Jhon and Baky are the same player and that will hurt us as the season moves along. I distinctly remember Baky "clearing" the ball in our attacking half that easily went 50 feet in the air and landed out of bounds for a goal kick. He could have easily been sent off for his tackle that got him a yellow. I hope Ianni is good enough because he will be playing a lot this summer because of suspensions for our 2 glorious CB's.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    I saw Soumaré make some good plays - a nice slide on the right side of the box, on Urruti or Velari I think, and this was one of those games where his size and lunging ability really pay off as he plucks or pokes passes out of the air. But I didn't see his performance as Team of the Week... it was more a relief to see him improve so much over last week. That said, as Rubberbandman points out, he had his usual number of clearances lumped hopelessly forward or out of bounds.

    As for Nyarko... ugh. I agree that 2013 wasn't as good a year for him as 2012, but I'm hoping that his current form and uncharacteristic red carding are anomalies. It might be good for him to sit a game or two. Looks like the young legs are ready to take some more time on the pitch.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Soumare had a much better week 2. Nice bounce back from week 1. I don't know that he was statistically the best defender on Sunday, but he played mostly solid.

    A point in Portland is a good result.

  • In reply to Jeff Krause:

    If you had dangled a point in Portland in front of me before the game I would have grabbed it without asking questions. But the fast start raised expectations that the red to Nyarko and the goal pretty much dashed... Plus I was hoping to get the Jeld-Wen, er, whatever-it's-called-now, monkey off the Fire's back.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Agreed, although I felt going in that 3 pts was overly hopeful. A point there is great, even if they've still yet to get a win in...forever on turf. Their good start was mostly derailed by the red card though, so like has been disseminated already, I'll be much more hopeful with a full squad that includes Magee.

    I think the one thing that this weekend proved was the over-reliance on JLA, Duka, and to a lesser degree, Nyarko. I still think Nyarko is a key component of this offense, but there isn't nearly as steep a drop off with our current depth as there's been in years past.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    He also made the SBI Best XI.

  • Not only was Patrick's red card awful, he totally fell asleep ball watching on the goal (the first shot deflected by Sean). That goal does not happen if he is in the right place. The biggest improvement from week 1 to week 2 for me was Segares. While Baky made big plays, he is still a numbskull. Segares played intelligently and played physically tough. I don't recall him being out of position and chasing the game from behind.

  • For those wondering about the Magee/Yallop bust rumors we talked about it in the latest podcast. The injury to Magee is legit, further - there was no "bust up" in the locker room before the Chivas or Portland games leading to Magee's benching.

    The rumors regarding Leo "Lolo" Miranda are also just that. There is nothing to them.

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