The Fire’s lack of production from the forward position isn’t at panic level yet but Frank Yallop told reporters during his weekly conference call this morning that the technical staff is very aware of the issues so far this season. “We’re looking at it and we’re not blind to it,” said Yallop. For the immediate future, the club will go with what they’ve got as MLS’ Primary Transfer Window nears a close on May 12 but someone needs to grab a hold of the position before July.
“It’s a tough one. You go through spells where you just can’t seem to create anything with real conviction in the final third. I think we’ve done it a little bit at home better but still we’ve missed a lot of chances in the games we’ve had. It’s something we’re looking at constantly. We’re looking at, is it the runs, is it the technique, is it the belief in the players that are up there? We’re just trying to figure it all out. A lot of it is down to the players themselves, and it’s not a blame game at all, but you just want them to say I’m going to be the one that’s going to take the chances and bury the chances when it comes along. I can’t fault any of the guys that we’ve had up there for their effort. They’re getting in to good spots and trying to do the right things. It’s just that last touch and that last bit of promise to finish off plays.”
That lack of touch kept the Fire from picking up at least a point in Kansas City this past weekend and will be a focal point on the coming week with David Accam set to miss the match due to a red card suspension. “We’ve created 4 to 5 good chances in most of the games we’ve had but we haven’t had the goal production from chances created. We’re working on it. The guys are focused and one good thing is we’re creating and we’re not getting outplayed. It’s disappointing not to get something out of this match, especially in the second half where we at least rolled our sleeves up, moved the ball better, got some good situations with one or two good chances. They took one of them with a great header and a great ball, great finish and they win the game on that,” said Yallop.
The loss of Accam coupled with the absence of quality in the final third from Guly do Prado and Quincy Amarikwa may thrust Kennedy Igboananike into a longer look in a starting spot this coming Saturday against Real Salt Lake. The Fire’s third Designated Player has been on the bench mainly due to lackluster finishing in training but Yallop has maintained that he is still in the picture for playing time. “We’ve used either Guly or Quincy up with Shaun, but with David not being available for the weekend it might change things a little bit. We’ll see what we’re going to do. With Kennedy and all the guys, once they get a chance they’ll be ready to go. I thought he looked lively when he came on, as with Quincy, and Guly started well. It’s just the scoring situation that’s the hard part for all three of the guys at the moment. They’ve all had chances so it’s not like they don’t have a shot on goal,” he said.
The Fire are still looking at what options may be available during the July window despite publically backing the current trio but there is still some time remaining before those decisions need to be made. “It’s something we’re looking at now,” said Yallop. “We need a central striker, whoever it is, to get off the mark and get going. If it’s still like this (in the July window) then obviously we’ll look to do something. I’m expecting these guys to get off the mark and get going and put this behind them. It’s only seven games in and it’s not like they’ve all played seven matches. Kennedy hasn’t played very much. Guly’s only had two starts. Quincy’s had five games but had his chances early and still looks good in creating a few problems. We’ll look at it but at this point I’m expecting these guys to get it done and get us off the mark in the central forward position.”
More on Magee
A possible solution to the problem could be the eventual return of Mike Magee. Although he isn’t a classic center forward, he does have the ability to find the net and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. How his game fits in with the current line up and formation is something that will be decided in training. “Mike proved when he moved from Chicago to LA that he can score goals,” said Yallop. “We’ve got two guys coming back that are like two new signings for us. We kind of didn’t have either guy last year and now half of this year is going to be gone and they’re coming back. Mike’s a guy that’s going to come into the fold. We have him and he’s under contract so we can’t wait to get him. I’m hoping he comes back to full strength and full health. He looks good right now in his running and all the stuff he’s doing with our fitness coach. I’m hoping he comes back fine all summer because he is a good player. You don’t win MVP in this league easily. He’s done that with his goal scoring and even got six last year for us. I think with the team we have, we’re creating chances from all over and it doesn’t always need to be that robust “9”. We’ll see where Mike fits in and see how he’s doing. We can change the system a little bit because it’s proven we can. With Harry, Shaun, and Mike they’re all good players that can drift and play different spots. We’ll figure out how he gets on when he gets back and then go from there. It’s exciting to get him especially back and Patrick in a wider position for us once they get healthy.”
The red card shown to Accam in the 89th minute may have been a bit harsh in the eyes of some observers but there’s no denying that he did raise his hand too high while attempting to fend off pushes and grabs from Jalil Anibaba. The motion above the defenders shoulders makes the red card almost impossible to challenge, so the Fire will decline to issue an appeal with the MLS Disciplinary Committee.
“We’d like to but we’re not going to,” said Yallop. “By the letter of the law, he puts his arm back and does touch him so it’s a tough one and we only get a certain amount of appeals. I just don’t think we’re going to win this one. We as a club decided to not do it. We’d love to try to do it but at his point we’re going to accept the one game ban and then move on. As little as it looked on camera and standing right next to it, you can’t do that and you can’t lift your arm at any point and the referee has every right to do what he wants to do.”
The Fire are now 0-3 on the road with noticeable differences in energy and style of play particularly at the beginning of games. The loss in Kansas City was no exception. “I just think we started slowly and I was surprised. Watching the game over and thinking about the chances that we did create, it was an even game. We didn’t pass the ball well at all in the first half. That’s not like us. I don’t think it’s anything that Kansas did or tactically we had wrong. We tried to get Shaun in that little pocket or down the side when the fullbacks get high. I thought he did a great job and set up Guly well once, got down there a couple of times but we just didn’t quite execute in the final third. We’ve just got to figure out our play away from home being goal dangerous and being clinical because we had chances. Guly had a good look. Quincy had a good look. Guly had two. Eric Gehrig (on a header) had a pretty good chance,” said Yallop.
“It’s kind of a game where we should have got a tie out of it but we’re not quite there. We didn’t execute when we should have and that was the story of the game,” he continued. That difference in play from home to road will likely lead to some change in preparation for the next road game at New York City FC on May 16. “We’re going to talk next week about maybe just changing something we do in training or maybe the days off to try and get us into a mode of a good start in an away game. We’ll look at things.”
Sporting’s defense looked vulnerable for a good part of the match on Sunday but the Fire failed to break through despite several chances and clean looks at goal. Yallop addressed the attack at half time but nothing came of the opportunities. “I said we’re probably going to get a break away in this game because of the high line and the way they push. We worked on it all week about them pressing up and can we counter attack with speed using David and Kennedy, Quincy, and Guly. On another day maybe we get slipped in and we’re off to the races but our timing was off. We had a three on three at one point and we didn’t get any shot out of it, which is disappointing. It’s stuff that we work on all week. We work a lot on the counter attack, but we didn’t quite execute the game plan.”
- Yallop is currently in Vancouver visiting with his father who was ill and now doing well. He will return to Chicago for training on Thursday.
- The Fire’s annual Art of Futbol event takes place tomorrow night at Prairie Production Studio (1314 West Randolph St., Chicago). Proceeds benefit the Chicago Fire Foundation. Tickets are available at 2015artoffutbol.eventbrite.com.