Frank Yallop didn't identify which player he was referring to when he said he was trying to avoid another "Jermaine Jones" situation while waiting for a decision on whether or not said player was going to accept an offer to play in Chicago but it's not hard to figure out who that might be. Chelsea forward Didier Drogba is still a possibility but at this point the Fire are still in a wait and see holding pattern. “There’s no new news on that," said Yallop when asked about Drogba specifically. "That’s about it. There’s nothing new. Nothing has changed and there’s nothing to talk about."
There may be nothing to discuss at the moment but the Fire will need to move on at some point if a decision isn't made relatively soon. The team needs all the help it can get if they are to make a run at salvaging something from the regular season and games in hand will soon be lost.
“We’re hoping. The problem is that it’s very tough to put deadlines on players. It sometimes might scare them a bit," said Yallop of any potential time frame for getting a deal done in this window. "It’s ongoing. You’re trying to work with the agent and if you have the (other) club it’s usually two agents are involved. (You have to) tread carefully. We’re trying to get an answer as soon as we can because we don’t want a Jermaine Jones (situation) dragging on and dragging on and then he’s gone. We want to get a decision because as I sit here now, one of those players that we’re interested in could sign somewhere else because time is ticking. That’s always the hard part. We’re going after somebody, a couple of players and we’re waiting and waiting and in the meantime someone else has signed up and your number one, two, three or your three and four are gone so that’s always tough. We’re trying. We want to make a quick decision if we can, but nothing seems to go according to plan in the windows for us right now but we’re trying hard. We’re trying to get someone."
Last week Yallop said that he two players in mind as reinforcements and today he identified where those individuals will line up. “The two positions where I think we could have help in is center forward and center back. Just for numbers and guys being injured and stuff like that. Those two spots we’re looking at but as of right now we’re still talking. It’s obviously frustrating that we can’t get a quicker answer with certain players (or agents) that we’re talking to," he said.
The team will have some help soon with the returns of Shaun Maloney and Jeff Larentowicz. Maloney returned to full training on Tuesday morning and could be available for the US Open Cup match against Orlando City on Wednesday night. Larentowicz's return is not far behind. David Accam and Patrick Nyarko have helped but results have yet to manifest during regular season play although Yallop wasn't conceding a playoff spot just yet. “We’re not out of the league yet. I thought the performance in Columbus was admirable," said Yallop. The Fire outshot the home team despite playing a man down for most of the second half.
“We’ve got to get on a run obviously and win a lot of games at the end here. Just having David back made us a better team. Shaun should be available for Wednesday. David is available for Wednesday. Jeff probably not, but may be close for the weekend. We’re starting to get the guys back in the fold. Hopefully we can get it all together and get on a bit of a run. It’s not been according to plan with what’s going on this season but injury is a part of it and not quite getting the job done is a part of it. I believe we’re going to win every game we’re going to play and that’s what we can do," he said.
Larentowicz trained on the side with fitness coach Adrian Lamb and his injury situation isn't as dire as it could have been. "He could be okay for the weekend. He’s not going to be fit because he’s not done anything for three weeks but sit in his living room watching tv. You have to keep it pretty stable and not do anything on the (bulging) disc. It doesn’t help fitness but Jeff is a fit kid that wants to play and I’m sure he’ll be pushing to be available if not this Saturday, for sure the following one he’ll be available for us."
One player who won't be available on Wednesday night is Mike Magee. He did not make the trip to Columbus this weekend after picking up a knock in last Wednesday's contest against the Crew. “Mike didn’t train again today, he’s still sore. He got a kick on his knee in the last game. We’re still feeling it and it’s sore so he didn’t travel. I saw him this morning and he’s still feeling a bit sore so he didn’t train this morning. Chances for this Wednesday are probably not great for Mike, but for the weekend hopefully."
Joevin Jones is also back in Chicago and will resume training with the team on Tuesday. He should be available for the US Open Cup match as well.
More on Accam/Nyarko
Both David Accam and Patrick Nyarko were subbed out of the Columbus game late and replaced by Guly do Prado and Kennedy Igboananike. The Fire weren't as dynamic without those two players on the field but Yallop said the move wasn't made to signify a concession in the match.
"We did okay in a tough situation. We picked ourselves up from the last game against Columbus in which we got totally outplayed and outthought and outran and all those things. I thought we frustrated them and we had some really good chances to score. (It was) an even game until the third goal goes in. I thought Patrick and David did very well considering where they’ve been physically in the last while. It would have been nice to have kept them on the field but you have to protect players from themselves. If you don’t and then they get injured then everyone looks at me and (asks) why did you keep them on the field. That’s why I took them both off," explained Yallop.
"Both are available to start Wednesday. It wasn’t throwing this game away. I tried to change it to make a difference, but having said all that I wanted to make sure that we didn’t get those guys reinjured and we didn’t. The plan didn’t quite work with getting at least a tie out of the game but part of it was keeping David and Patrick away from trouble. Late in the game with ten men they’re going to do a lot of running and chasing and David’s hamstring got tight after the shot he has so it was time to get him off. Obviously we’re desperate, but we can’t get David injured again. Patrick ran out of gas and would have got maybe reinjured if we left him on (when he) couldn’t continue."
Lovel Palmer did not travel to Columbus and instead, Yallop chose rookie Kingsley Bryce as back-up for Matt Polster at right back. The reason for his exclusion was for fitness reasons according to Yallop. “He had a bit of a fitness issue so we kept him back to work on a few things. He’s working back to full fitness yet," he said. "I had a good chat with Lovel and we both agreed that he needs to just get the fitness levels up and he’s been working very hard at that in the last couple of days. He should be ready and good to go in the next little bit." Palmer will be available for the USOC match.
The decision to play Polster in yet another spot was a tactical one. “I just felt athletically that he could handle the guys out wide because we got kind of taken to the cleaners in the game before that. I thought tactically actually in the game we got a lot of things right compared to the game that we played at home. Just watching that in practice, he can handle it. I thought he did a good job to be honest."
Referee Chris Penso has become notorious among Fire supporters and this match didn't do anything to help his reputation. Yallop wasn't happy with the way the match was called either. The fastest penalty given in league history was the first of numerous questionable calls in the game. A review of the call hasn't changed Yallop's opinion of it.
“Do I think any differently? Absolutely not," said Yallop about getting another look at the penalty infraction. He was also not happy with the yellow cards shown to Jason Johnson. "Watching it live and watching it again are the same thing. Kind of bemused. I can’t believe that Jason got red carded to be honest. (There were) disallowed goals and I still can’t figure out what for. Maybe the one was tight-ish on the offside call but advantage is supposed to be the attacker. The penalty kick, Sean obviously doesn’t attempt to foul the guy. He just runs out and stands still and puts his arms up. He makes contact and the ball is out of play as he lands. Is it great defending by us? No. Is it a penalty kick? No. When it rains it pours a little bit. We got back into the game. We had a great chance with Patrick in front of the goal with the goalkeeper to beat and didn’t score. I thought the red card changes a lot but we outshot them in that period with ten men. It is what it is. We couldn’t finish our chances and we couldn’t stop Kei Kamara again in the air which is disappointing. We looked at the DVD and we worked on it but he gets a free header again. He’s good but we’ve got to put a body on him. You’re in an uphill battle when you to get to ten men at 2-1 down away from home. I’ll say one thing, I thought our guys kept going. We had chances, Guly scored with another phantom call."
Teams can appeal a straight red card but cannot appeal yellow cards. Jason Johnson will miss the New England game on Saturday as result but Yallop still thought the Fire were deserving of a call despite some embellishment. “If it was in the middle of the field was it a foul? Yes. It’s a penalty kick. He made a bit of a meal of it, he did but still he got fouled. It wasn’t (that) he’s not touched and then he went over (which would have been simulation). He got hit and got pushed in the chest. He made a meal of it but he got fouled. If you look at the reaction of Tyson Wahl, he knows it’s a penalty kick."
The Fire dropped a match in agonizing fashion to Orlando City on June 6 and Yallop is hoping to use that 3-2 loss as something of a motivating factor in this match. “It’s a game that I felt we should have got more out of. They scored a late winner and a late equalizer. We had a great chance at 2-1 to bury the game and then Larin scores a world-class strike and then all of a sudden we’re on the back foot. I thought we played well enough to win that match but it’s gone now and it’s down the line. This is an important game for us. It’s a big, big tournament that we want to win so we’re going all out. It’s not a line up that’s going to be one to get guys ninety minutes. This is to win the match. I know the tradition we have here at this club and we want to continue that and have a good result on Wednesday to get through to the next round. We’ll deal with the weekend after that," he said.
With the playoffs slipping away, the Fire's best bet at success this season probably lies in the US Open Cup. "It’s a massive game for us. I want us to win it badly and so do the players. We know how important it is to everybody involved at the club," said Yallop. "In the other two rounds we found a way to win. Hopefully it’s our tournament. We’re desperate to do well."
- Harry Shipp has been named to the MLS Homegrown All Star roster. The MLS Homegrown squad, coached by Landon Donovan will face Club America’s U20 team on July 28 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Colorado.