The Fire finally had all of their first choice starters back and available on Sunday afternoon and that coupled with a tactical shift resulted in a win against one of the best teams in MLS at the moment. During his weekly conference call, Frank Yallop explained that what worked against Dallas may not be what he deploys for every match. Shaun Maloney shifted outside with David Accam more advanced in order to play the counter attack.
“It was more for Dallas because they’re a side that likes to manipulate the ball on the edge of our box and we wanted to counter attack them and try to catch them, which we did. Leading it, having David in that role was good. I think it frees him up to explode into those areas and do well. I think Shaun did a great job defensively behind him on that left side just to support David. I think it was just in this game, we may play David in that spot again, if we feel a team is going to be pushing and we can catch them on a counter. We’re trying to do the same things we’ve done from the start. We’re trying to possess the ball in their end and trying to create chances from that,” said Yallop.
Having options with talented players that can adapt gives Yallop an opportunity to explore attacking teams in different manners based on the individual opponent. “Whatever the game plan suits we can do that. If not, we’ve shown when our team is on the field that we can keep the ball too,” he said.
“I think the big thing is that you saw a team last night that wasn’t fighting against what we’re trying to do. It’s team game, it’s not an individual game. If we ask Shaun to do a little more extra work doing this and that, he is fine with it. Does he want to play a different position and be a bit more attacking, if you like? Maybe, but in the end I think hard work, endeavor, and fight won that game last night. And, tactically like we did, worked. We talked about it with the coaching staff and I felt we had our game plan correct. They’re a good team. They’ve won five in a row and they beat Portland 4-1 in their last game. They’re a good side and we beat them 2-0.”
Accam’s early score set the tone and allowed the Fire some breathing room for a change. “Once you score, you feel confident although you’ve got a long, long way to go in the game. It settles you down. It allows you a little bit of space to kind of soak some pressure up if you need to. You don’t have to keep pushing the game and I felt we did a nice job of balancing that. We rested ourselves giving Dallas possession on the half way line and that was kind of okay for us. We got a ton of chances to take breaks on a hot, hot afternoon.”
“I thought we did a nice job of managing the game. I think tactically we got it right but it’s only one game. You’ve got to score when you get your chances. You can talk about tactics and all that stuff all you want, but you’ve got to execute.”
The Fire didn't have the same energy at home against the Revolution that they did in facing Dallas and Yallop feels that the added rest from game to game had a lot to do with it. The team had a break of more than seven days to recover and prepare. "I think it helped us all to be honest," he said. "We looked fresh from the start. We soaked up pressure when I felt that we weren’t really under that much (dangerous) pressure, only (giving up) possession at the half way line. They can have it there. They had a little spell towards the end of the half where they started to possess around our box a little more...so we moved the line up higher. I thought we did a good job and everyone had a spring in their step because we didn’t play for eight days. It was good. I thought we were sharp. I thought we saw the game out and we could have had a couple more goals late."
Yallop acknowledged the importance of the August 12 match in Philadelphia but didn't want to start looking too far ahead just yet with a game against the Timbers this Friday. "Not looking past Portland because it’s an important game for us in the league. We’ve just had a great one at home, three points, now we need to try and go to Portland and get a win there if we can or get something out of that game. You can’t get ahead of yourself. Obviously it’s a massive game next Wednesday for us as a club. We want to win that game and we’ll do every effort to do that but we can’t look past the Friday game, which is our next very important match and then take that one on." he said.
"I’ll be watching Philly. They’re a good side. We just jumped above them in the league, which looks better than it did before the weekend. Every team in the league, as we know is capable of beating the other team. Philly is no different. We’re no different. Seattle is no different. You can go on and on but we’ve got to be ready to play Friday and we’ve got to be ready to go Wednesday and the following Sunday and so and so forth. I felt good about that we got through this game (healthy). Lovel’s got a bit of a sprained knee but I think he’ll be okay. We looked dangerous at times, we could play a little bit better but the difference makers were on the field."
Balance between USOC and MLS play
Yallop doesn't sound like he's conceding anything in regular season play just yet and feels that the upcoming schedule may be crowded but it is manageable. “What I like about the schedule is that we play Friday night, Wednesday, Sunday so it’s a big spread between the games," he said. "It’s better than Saturday or Sunday with a Wednesday, Saturday sort of schedule. We’ll be rested and ready to go in all three of those games. Confidence-wise it doesn’t change. Three points Friday, a final to get to Wednesday, and another three points on Sunday. That’s what we’re looking at. We’re just trying to do that. That’s the only focus we have is getting points in those two leagues games and trying to get to a final in another game. Not an easy week but it could be a good week if it all works out."
Yallop said that Lovel Palmer left the Dallas match with a knee injury but he's optimistic for a quick recovery. “I think he’s a little bit sore. We’ll know more probably tomorrow. He just kind of extended it a little bit. I don’t think it’s as bad as we first thought. We’re hoping he’ll be okay for the weekend.”
The defender acquired in exchange for Quincy Amarikwa has yet to play for the Fire but Ty Harden is close to being available. “He’s available to be joining the 18 on the weekend. He’s trained well and looked good so we’ll see how he looks for the weekend,” said Yallop.
Jeff Larentowicz showed no ill effects from his neck injury after 90 minutes on Sunday night.
One player who won't be available on Friday night is Mike Magee. The forward is still recovering from his latest setback, a knee injury which has kept him out of action for the last two weeks. "Mike’s been injured basically for two years, if you like," lamented Yallop. "Last year he was struggling with the hip and the knee and he had the surgery and that put him back and now he’s still off the field. It’s not easy. That was the reason we had to make reinforcements in certain areas and bring in Gilberto. It’s proven correct because Mike’s not healthy. It’s a shame because he’s a good player and he just wants to get back on the field but when you have these major surgeries it’s not a quick fix. It’s a big, long haul back. He did well to get back on the field but obviously he wasn’t at his best and then he took the knock on the knee, and it put him back again. We’re just trying to work with him just to get him match fit and then hopefully he’ll be available for us."
The Fire are still hoping that their newest acquisition will be ready for the game on Friday. That will depend on how quickly his visa paperwork is completed. "We just had some news that he should be getting his passport back tomorrow (Tuesday). We’re hoping that he’ll be able to travel and meet us in Portland," said Yallop before adding that it wasn't a sure thing just yet.
The Fire have Target Allocation Money and General Allocation Money to use before the transfer window closes on August 6. Should the club fail to get another deal done, they'll still be able to use those funds somewhere down the line but they're still looking for help now.
Yallop has mentioned bringing in reinforcements at centerback in the past few weeks but he wasn't identifying a position for the main player he's pursuing now. "We’re working on something as we speak," he said." I’m not going to say the position in case it doesn’t go through. We’re working on something and hopefully it will get announced in the next couple of days or it won’t. We’re hoping it gets done and we’re just waiting on that right now."
One player that it won't be is recently waived Orlando City centerback Sean St. Ledger. Yallop said that he is not on the team's radar at the moment.