Mike Magee played sixty minutes on Saturday night during a short term loan spell at Saint Louis FC. He's returned to Chicago and trained with the team during Monday morning's practice session. Frank Yallop told reporters during his weekly conference call that Magee was feeling a little stiff and sore but it was nothing unusual. The hip and knee showed no signs of injury recurrence and Magee was doing well. Yallop added that the veteran forward was "doing fine" and had "no issues". The staff will continue to work with him and see how he progresses this week before making a decision on the next step.
While in Saint Louis, Magee played at left mid but that’s not any indication of where the Fire might play him when he’s available. “We thought it was a good spot for him. They don’t have that sort of high forward that they like, so Mike just slotted in either side and underneath. It was nothing to do where he’s going to play for us, it was more about getting in a comfortable position so he could move the ball, get his sixty minutes, and try to get a result for Saint Louis,” said Yallop.
Magee may not be ready for Wednesday night but Yallop did hint that he may mix in some players that haven't seen as many minutes over the last few weeks. “We’ve got a good squad, so we’ll be using guys. We have to. I hate to use the words using them, they’re players that want to play. Right now the team that played against Montreal did a nice job. The subs did a great job off the bench" he said.
With two games coming up against Eastern Conference opponents, the Fire want to keep the momentum of the win against Montreal going but don't want to fatigue the regulars. “I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page as a squad and as a group. We had a good video session this morning reviewing the game. We played very well for the majority of the game and that was good. Everyone was involved. Guys that haven’t been playing can’t wait to get on the field and the guys that are playing right now don’t want to give up the spot either," said Yallop.
Razvan Cocis has started the last three games in central midfield although Michael Stephens has returned from injury and is available. Cocis is sure to start at least one of the games this week and Yallop is happy with his play and partnership with Matt Polster. “I just think his performances have been good. He comes into the New York game and scores, and it’s not just the scoring, I thought he played pretty well with Matt. I kept it the same for our game in Columbus, and he did a good job again. We come back and got ourselves in that game and his general play was good. I thought Saturday was probably Razvan’s best game for us as a club. We’ve got a game on Wednesday and a game on Saturday so I’m not afraid to play guys in there. You’ve got (Michael) Stephens, you’ve got (Matt) Watson, and Chris Ritter as guys who want to come in and play. I’ll figure out the line-up. I’ve got a good idea of what I’m going to do to keep it a little fresh with an eye on not being too depleted for a tough game on Wednesday," said Yallop.
Polster continues to impress
Rookie Matt Polster has become a fixture in the first eleven and his play has caught the eye of many across the league. Yallop praised what he has been able to contribute so far. "First of all, when we saw him, we liked him. He had a good combine. We got him in the draft, which I was so happy about because I thought he’d be gone. He was the only one we really wanted to take I that pick. We get him and then you start working with him and we realized quickly that there was a good player on our hands. Credit to him, he’s really settled in, listened to himself and the coaching staff, and we give him every confidence to be a very good player. Whoever he plays with or whoever he’s around, it doesn’t really for Matt, he’s just doing that job very, very well. He’s settled in and his confidence is growing. I thinks he’s got a chance to go a really long way. He’s a really good kid, and I want him to do well," he said.
Offense picking up
The Fire have scored two goals in each of the last three games and continue to create chances that would indicate that they are capable of even more. What's been the driving force in the change?
“It just comes with confidence. It takes a while sometimes for everybody to click. It’s not just the guys that have come in as new players. It’s guys like Harry Shipp getting used to those guys also," said Yallop. He also pointed to the improved defensive effort and the shut out on Saturday night as an aid to the offensive production. “That helps you with your finishing. It gives you confidence when you know your guys back there are going to hold down the fort. Even if you miss a chance, you’re going to get another chance and be confident that you’re going to score on that one."
The Fire will have a chance to make up some distance against the Eastern Conference on Wednesday night. DC United sits atop the table and this should be a good test of where the team stands right now. “It’s obviously a hard game. For us, we want to win on the road. We haven’t done this year or for a long time. That’s our focus. Going out there and trying to get a win. They’re a good side. I know Benny (Olsen) well, he’s a good coach. They’re one of those gritty teams that just seem to, even if they’re not playing particularly well, they get results. That’s always a sign of a good team. It’s going to be tough but we’ve done okay this year against everybody so we’re not afraid to go in there and play our game. Hopefully it’s enough to get something out of the match," said Yallop.
DC is at the top of the East with 25 points while the Fire sit in sixth place with 14. Chicago has played three less games however. Should the Fire win all three of those, they're on pace with the leaders. “I keep a close eye on the table and games played and all that stuff. I wish it was that easy. Just win the next three and you’re just three points behind. We’ve got to make sure we don’t lose to teams that are above us for sure, because that makes a bigger gap. We’ve played okay, but my big thing is we’ve got to get on some sort of run pretty soon where we start to catch up. Those games in hand are important. Conference games are important, obviously. I think (Jose) Mourinho said it best when he said, judge when everyone has played the same amount of games. Then you can figure out where you’re at, because it’s true. If we lose three in a row, we’re in no better spot and those games are gone but if we win three in a row, we’re right up the table. I look at it closely. Montreal was a big game for us, we had to win that game and we did. We won handsomely and did a good job but know we focus on the next one. If we can get a result, hopefully a win, it really does help our placing on the table and keeps us plugging away," he said of the games in hand.
After the match on Saturday night, Yallop said that he wanted to be cautious with David Accam since he was experiencing an hamstring issue. He replaced the Ghanaian international in the 66th minute with that in mind. Accam did train on Monday morning and appears to be ready for DC if called upon. “He trained today and he looked good," said Yallop. "That was my worry coming out of this game with some issues. I think bringing him out helped. I think the game was sort of ours to have. It wasn’t a close game in that front so I felt it was comfortable to bring him out at that point. I thought it was the right move and that may help him be available for Wednesday. We had a good chat this morning and he’s ready to go. I ‘ll decide what happens and go from there."
One thing Yallop has little control over is a potential international call-up from Ghana head coach Avram Grant for games coming up in June. “We’ve heard nothing from Ghana officially. I guess that’s a no, unless they decide to send him," he said. Grant called Accam in on short notice in April and Yallop wasn't very fond of the late call then. Another last minute request surely won't go over well. "We’ve heard nothing. I assume he’s not leaving," said Yallop.
The Fire's Head Coach and Director of Soccer also took time to praise the work of Joevin Jones and Accam on the flanks. "What a partnership down the left side," said Yallop. "Both are, not unstoppable at times, but they pretty much are. When they’re on they’re very, very good. I don’t want to break that up, but we’ll see. I want to make sure that David is at his best and not holding anything. He had a bit of a hamstring and his ankle has been bothering. I’ll make decision but he could be okay for Wednesday."
Centerback Anton Ferdinand, the brother of the recently retired Rio Ferdinand, is currently training with the team. Yallop said it's nothing more than the moment. “He’s just training with us. He’s good friends with Marc Bircham, our assistant coach. He just got back from full fitness with Reading and they’re stopped for the summer. He’s out here, it’s two-fold, coming over and have a look at the league but just training with us at the moment. It’s not a trial or something we’re looking at signing right now, but you never know. He’s under contract at Reading for another season."
Jon Busch has started the last two games ahead of Sean Johnson and Yallop said that he's keeping the choice in goal on Wednesday night under wraps for now. “It’s a secret," he said with a laugh. “I’ve had a good chat with both guys. It’s up to me what I want to do (with the line-up) and you’ll know, probably sixty minutes before kick-off what I’m going to do. I’ve got two good goalkeepers. I have no worries playing either guy. Jon’s done very well. I’m pleased for him. He played very well last week in Columbus. He didn’t have a ton to do at home, which is great, but I’ll decide what’s going to go on Wednesday and Saturday. Both are very capable and ready to go."
Yallop said that he's aware of Johnson's aspirations to play in Europe, but he's not basing decisions on anything but on-field performance. “I’m not here to be a sort of charity guy. I’ve got to win matches. I’m not going to put the team in any negative start to it. I’ve said it before, if it’s Sean or another player, sometimes coming out of the side helps. I did it with Harry Shipp last season. I think he came back really, really strong at the end of the season and now he’s better for it. Sean’s not really had a break for four years to be honest. We talked about this. Sometimes you just need some time to kind of get yourself away from the pressures of standing in front of the team. It’s tough. Every day in practice, and every video. I took him out and said, look, just take a break. I think he’s enjoyed training and he’s cleared his mind and he’s getting over his little niggles. He’ll be fine. Sean’s a good goalkeeper and a good kid. I want him to do well. It doesn’t stick in my mind, going - I’ve got to make sure it’s the right decision for just Sean. It’s got to be the right decision for Chicago Fire. So far, it’s worked out well. Sean’s done great and Jon’s a capable and very, very good goalkeeper. I’ve had him for years. I’m very pleased with what has gone on so far with the decisions I’ve made on that front. They’re working well together and they’re buddies as well. I’ve been pleased with Jon and Sean’s reactions to everything," he said.
- Kennedy Igboananike has been named to the MLS Team of the Week.
- Chris Rolfe could miss Wednesday's game pending review of a kicking incident against Philadelphia's Vincent Nogueira. The MLS Disciplinary Committee could hand out a suspension and/or fine.
- The Fire Foundation Brews and Bites event coming up on June 13 features a beer tasting with a twist of soccer. Tickets are available via the info below.