The Fire won’t have long to savor Saturday night’s victory over the Seattle Sounders. A big “home and home” set of games with Eastern Conference rival Columbus lies ahead. The Fire will host on Wednesday night and then travel to Ohio for a rematch on Sunday afternoon.
A full complement of players won’t be available yet with Shaun Maloney and Jeff Larentowicz both still definitely out but there is some progress being made on Maloney’s end. Frank Yallop told reporters during his weekly conference call that the Scottish playmaker has started to work on the side with the ball although he has not participated in full training. David Accam has resumed full training but is still not one-hundred percent and will be re-evaluated on Tuesday morning. Yallop said that he is hopeful that Accam will be available on Wednesday night.
“Hamstrings are a funny one,” said Yallop referring to Accam’s injury. “They tend to go away quickly sometimes or they linger. This is one that has really lingered, it’s been five weeks I think. It was a grade one strain. David is the one that has the pain and the restrictions on what he wants to do. David is the type of player that’s very explosive and he plays one way and that’s full out. If he’s still feeling anything, I’m sure he’s a little nervous to stretch it out.”
Mike Magee and Patrick Nyarko both left the Seattle match with a little more than sixty minutes played. Magee took a knee to the back and Nyarko appeared to have an ankle issue but both players are expected to be available to start against the Crew. “Both guys are available to play,” said Yallop. “I think that sixty minutes was smart from everybody’s end, the players and us. We got through the game and we won it, which is always important. I’ll make sure that we don’t put them under any extra pressure to have to play ninety minutes, but they’re quality players that have helped us. We had a good regen day today and some of the guys practiced that didn’t play. I’ll think about this afternoon and in the morning and decide on what the team is going to be. They’re up for selection that’s for sure.”
Both Magee and Nyarko have bounced back from long term injuries to step right in and start contributing but Yallop doesn’t want to push them to the point of risking another issue while working towards full fitness. “We’ve got to make sure we don’t send both of those guys back to the treatment table. It is a vigorous, hard, tough sport. It’s a lot of running and it takes a lot out of your body. It takes a while to recover from a ninety minute match. Both playing sixty helps and they’ll both have a couple of days rest here and won’t do very much and then I’ll set the team for Wednesday.”
Guly do Prado picked up a leg injury on Saturday night and his availability is not yet known for the first Crew game.
The Fire were able to get by a less than full strength Seattle side without Accam, Maloney, Larentowicz, and Joevin Jones but Yallop said he still sees the team as one that is still capable of playing the exciting brand of soccer he envisioned when putting it together this past winter. “We’ve got some real dangerous attacking style players that haven’t played in the last three or four week so it’s been a little frustrating. We created enough chances in this (Seattle) game to score more than one goal. Seattle had their moments but we missed some good chances. Getting to those spots is part of it but obviously the real tough part is finishing the play off,” said Yallop. “I see the team as a team that the fans want to come watch and I think that once we get everyone on the field it will be that.”
The full squad ran over to the sideline to celebrate Jason Johnson’s game winner against the Sounders, encircling Yallop and Johnson. It was an action that was seen by some as a sign of support and unity after the last few weeks of speculation surrounding Yallop’s job security. “I guess words can’t really describe when a player runs over to you. It was nice. Jason is a great kid and I want the best for him,” said Yallop. “I think the club, and the team, and all of us have been through real tough times the last few weeks, not only with results, but with injuries and just everything on top of not great results. It was fantastic to get a great win and scoring late is always great because it doesn’t give the team any time to readjust. It was very nice. It’s always nice for a player to do that but the whole team celebrated, it wasn’t just me and it wasn’t just the staff. Everyone felt the same emotion from that goal. Relief that we got a win and now we’ve got to build on that.”
Adailton will miss the next match due to yellow card accumulation and newly acquired Ty Harden may not be ready as he recovers from an injury of his own. The Fire will probably look to a pair of young players to fill in next to Eric Gehrig. “I would expect Chris Ritter or Matt Polster to play in that spot. I’ll think about it this afternoon. I’ll watch some video and some tape on Columbus again,” said Yallop. “. Chris has a good chance of stepping in at some point. Either in the back or in the midfield.”
The back line played well enough to merit minimal changes although another quick turnaround for the Sunday game may determine some choices. “It’s never easy. I thought those four did a real nice job of keeping Seattle down to just a few chances. Once you’ve come through a game and you’ve got a result it’s always difficult to break up.”
“I think the guys that played on the weekend did a fantastic job. Not only the eleven that started but the three guys off the bench did a wonderful job to continue the momentum,” said Yallop. He was also happy with Gehrig’s run at centerback, citing a late game block after a failed clearance as one of the things the player is capable of contributing. “I think he’s done very well there. I played Eric at centerback in the preseason so I know he’s capable of playing in that position. I think the best part of Eric’s game is his last ditch challenging and tackling. Putting his body on the line is his best attribute and I think at centerback he gets more of a chance to do that.”
Another big contributor on Saturday night was midfielder Michael Stephens, who has missed time due to injury and the play of Polster and Razvan Cocis centrally. “Mike has been working really hard in practice and just not been (selected). For whatever reason, I’ve not picked him but Mike has been a great pro and he came on and made a difference. He’s got a great chance of continuing that coming up on Wednesday and moving forward. He took his chance and did very well on the goal and looked good when he played,” said Yallop.
Transfer window talk
The summer window is open and MLS clubs now have additional funds for pursuing players in the form of Targeted Allocation Money. The Los Angeles Galaxy appear to be using those dollars to bring in Mexican attacker Giovani Dos Santos. The Fire are looking at different options for utilizing the infusion of league dollars.
“We’re in talks with a couple of players at the moment. We can use, we save it. We’ve got quite a bit of time to think about how we’re going to do it. We’ll use it wisely. We don’t want to go out and blow it for the sake of blowing it. We’ve got make sure that the club is set up and not just going for the moment. We want to win right now and we’re trying our best to get good results, but we’ve got to make sure we’re building and making correct decisions all the way through because once we have our full unit on the team, I think adding a couple of players to that we could be up there with the top teams in the league,” said Yallop. “It’s only a couple more players to add and you’ve got some funds available to add players in the offseason in January for next season and moving forward. It’s something we feel will benefit everybody at the club, and the fans, and the team. The most important thing is how we’re going to play. We’re not afraid to use it but we want to make sure it’s not a quick fix or a panic situation. We feel pretty comfortable. We’re talking to two players right now and we’ll see how talks go.”
Published reports have listed strikers Lukasz Gilkiewicz and Noel Hunt as players the team has talked to about coming to Chicago but Yallop shot down the notion that either are one of the two players he was referring to. “I know one player but I haven’t spoken to any direct link with those guys,” said Yallop of the reports.
Another player that isn’t likely to land in Chicago is Javier Hernandez. While a rumored deal to Sevilla apparently fell through last week, it seems MLS and Orlando City in particular are back in the conversation for Chicharito. The Fire have apparently not entered the race for him.
“He’s a very, very good player so we’re always interested in those guys. It’s got to be the right fit and the right thing that you want to do. There’s always interest but I haven’t spoken directly to the agent. I think he’s choosing to fish around, I guess. I’ve had no direct contact,” said Yallop.
The Fire will have more room to add another international if they can strike a deal. Razvan Cocis received his US Green Card and no longer counts towards one of the eight available international roster spots. The Fire now have six internationals on the roster.
T&T Gold Cup
Joevin Jones and Trinidad & Tobago have advanced in the Gold Cup competition so the Fire may have a little longer to wait for their starting left back. T&T coach Stephen Hart served as an assistant for Yallop while at the helm of the Canadian National team. “We wish them all the best. We want them to do well. Do we want JJ back as quick as we can? For sure. We got through this (Seattle) game with a win and hopefully we can do the same in this game and keep it rolling and get our guys back and away we go.”