Saturday, August 28, 2010

Coming Soon...

Consider it GoLiveInTheFire 2.0

Three Questions with Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart

To get a read on the Seattle Sounders, I exchanged three questions with Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart.  My questions are in bold and his answers are in regular font.
1.  Fire fans love new arrival Freddie Ljungberg. He has taken over as a captain on offense and the results have been very positive. Why did Seattle trade him at such a low cost?
He wasn't going to be playing anymore. There was a fissure between he, the coaching staff, and some players. How or why this developed will likely never be known, but he'd stopped playing for Seattle while he started to explore other options. Considering that no team in Europe offered any transfer fee (if they had Seattle would have taken it, as they need to buy down some DP salary cap hits) the fact that Freddie was dealt for only a conditional pick in one of the next two drafts shows that the market for the Swede was quite low.

Seattle likely wanted allocation dollars more than anything, but a former MLS Best XI player didn't net that in a fairly active transfer window. His value as a player has taken a hit, and with his contract up in just a few months it was even lower. I'm almost certain that he hates the league, and I don't expect him to be in Chicago next year.

2.  The Sounders, like the Fire, have 2 DPs. Has there been talk of signing a third DP?  Given realistic boundaries (availability, cost, chemistry, etc), who would you want them to sign?
The best use of that 3rd DP slot would be for Seattle to retain the services of Fredy Montero. His contract is also up shortly, and losing him on a Free would be painful. By signing him as the 3rd DP this off season Seattle would be retaining the uses of a very young highly prolific goal scorer. He's a symbol of what the team is at this point, and can actually be used in marketing as two year starter who can dominate the league for long stretches.

It would also continue the movement that Seattle is making towards bringing in young international talent in their pre-peak period. Alvaro Fernandez, Fredy Montero, Osvaldo Alonso, and Steve Zakuani are the start of this, but you can even look at the likely Centerback pairing next season of Patrick Ianni and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado who will also be outside of that peak period of 26-30. Since MLS isn't a top 10 league in the world, a team can be built around players that are climbing the ladder trying to improve their skills. Seattle is certain to continue in this direction.

3.  The Fire played a Wednesday/Saturday combo last week and seemed to suffer in their Saturday game because of it. How do you think the Sounders will play having played this Wednesday?  

Seattle has gotten a bit used to the Double in its breif history. Last year's US Open Cup winning run, plus this year's run to the Semi-Final and their activity in both the Prelims and Group Stage of the CONCACAF Champions League have meant that they have had more than a dozen competitive Doubles in less than two years. The Sounders are a deep team, and Sigi tends to rotate players into and out of the lineup with fair frequency due to injury, or just match up concerns.

This is most true at the second center mid (where Sturgis starts now, but has been played by Evans, Vagenas, Ianni, Seamon) and at the right midfield where I feel like nearly every player seems to play at some point. The Rave Green are also home for this stretch which should help a bit. We actually don't expect many starting lineup changes (just Zach Scott for Leo Gonzalez due to Red Card suspension), but I would expect to see earlier than typical substitutions, including maybe one at halftime again.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

MLS Roundup


Philadelphia 1 - Colorado 1
The Union were quite unlucky not to score more goals.  Le Toux and Mwanga created chance after chance with no luck until they connected in the 71st minute.  The halftime show for this game showed only Philadelphia highlights, I kid you not.  It looked like Philadelphia was going to be really unlucky when Jeff Larentowicz scored a goal off post corner kick madness in the 59th minute.  Justin Mapp came into the game as a sub... yeah we aren't mi$$ing anything.  This game helped because Colorado is up on us by 7 points and we have 3 games in hand.  Best to keep them close even if it means giving a point to Philly.

Los Angeles 1 - New York 0
Another day, another goalless game for Thierry Henry.  Edson Buddle scored in the 13th minute and that no doubt had the Fox Soccer Channel folks salivating for a goal war.  Instead the Red Bulls do not get any goals or any points and the Fire are just 10 points behind in the standings with 4 games in hand.  Three wins and a tie?  Yeah I think we can do that.  Catching LA Galaxy though?  They might as well be in another... well yeah, you get the point. 

Salt Lake 2 - Columbus 0 
Javier Morales provided all the firepower in this game with goals in the 11th and 60th minutes.  This was a borderline help as I don't think we can reach Columbus but keeping them down doesn't hurt.  If anything Real Salt Lake's success makes the wounds of last year's semi-final defeat feel better.  At the time I thought we had lost to a fluke team but hats off to them, they have the mark of a dynasty starting.

Seattle 0 - Chivas USA 0
Zach Thornton and Kasey Keller stifled both of their opposing offenses and fans left the Home Depot Center without a single goal.  This game is a big big help to the Fire because I fully expected Seattle to get yet another recent victory.  Seattle is ahead of us by 8 points but we have a whopping 5 games in hand.  Our match in Seattle on August 28th and the home match against them on September 25th are going to be key games in the playoff race.


New England 1 - Houston 0
Houston's season is really going to pieces so for them to get the odd win here would have been nice.  Illja Stolica scored in the 62nd minute to give Revs the victory.  Don't look now but the Revolution are tied with us with 21 points.  We have two games in hand but much of that advantage will be lost if the team can't beat New England this Wednesday at Toyota Park.  I'll have more on that matchup later.

Dallas 3 - D.C. 1
D.C. United continues to be an almost guaranteed three points for whoever they play this year.  Dallas was coasting after goals by David Ferreira (36th minute) and Eric Alexander (49th) until Dallas' own Jair Benitez made it interesting for D.C. in the 80th minute with an own goal.  Jeff Cunningham put out any D.C. hopes for points in the 93rd minute after he caught Dejan Jakovic snoozing.  Cunningham then continued to embarrass D.C. goaltender Bill Hamid to make it 3-1.  There is nothing spectacular about FC Dallas but they just refuse to lose.  We have 3 games in hand on them but a difference of 12 points.  I don't think they are a team we could realistically catch.

San Jose 1 - Kansas City 0 
Chris Wondolowski scored in the 35th minute for the Earthquakes and that is all she wrote.  A tie obviously would have been best but I would even take a KC win.  The Earthquakes just seem to be a more solid team and they are talking about adding a designated player.  Meanwhile KC confirmed this week that they are investing into Omar Bravo but not until the 2011 season.  Wizards now trail us by one point with three games down and the Quakes are up by 5 points on us with a 2 game disadvantage. 

Yes, we have games in hand on every team.  16 games played while every other team has at least 18 games played.  We'll start picking up on teams this Wednesday when we are the only match of the day. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Big Announcement

Big announcement coming for the blog.  Hopefully everything will be unveiled in the next couple of days.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sean Johnson Wins Save of the Week

Another week, another Sean Johnson Save of the Week!

I'm beginning to think the population advantage of Chicago might be coming into play here... but then again you have to be nominated first.  Congratulations to Sean Johnson, let's hope he can keep it up.

MLS Roundup


Philadelphia 1 - Salt Lake 1

I really hope some first timers to PPL Park didn't get lost or mistime going from the parking lot to the stadium.  If so, they likely missed the only goals of the game.  Danny Mwanga scored off of a brilliant pass from Sebastien La Toux in the 9th minute while Fabian Espindola probably got himself a goal of the week nomination just 7 minutes later.  Philadelphia has been like a bizzaro 2010 USMNT scoring early and giving up goals to lose or draw after their early success.  I think this game hurt because Real Salt Lake totally imploding is less likely than Philly going on a run and fighting us for playoff competition.

New York 1 - Toronto 0

Joel Lindpere was the one to find the back of the net but Thierry Henry really did all of the work drawing seemingly everyone in the Toronto metropolitan area on him and then using fancy footwork to make them all look like high school defenders.  A little touch pass to Seth Stammier and chip pass from Stammier to Lindpere - boom - New York scores the only goal of the game.  The best outcome for the Fire would have been a tie because these teams are so close.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Nery Castillo vs. Marco Pappa... in Tennis?!

Fire Facebook page:

"A new post-practice Fire tradition...SOCCER TENNIS: Nery vs. Marco!  Ever since Nery Castillo joined the club, he and Marco Pappa have played a post-practice soccer tennis match against each other...Check out a clip from today's match!"

Said clip 

You gotta love Nery getting along with his new teammates.  I'm pretty pumped to see that.  Can we get them an actual net though?  I mean that metal bench is a freak injury waiting to happen.  Great stuff though - kudos to the Front Office for sharing.

Patrick Nyarko - Should We Be Worried?

While Patrick Nyarko does not have the finishing touch to ever suggest he'll match his goal scoring rate at Virginia Tech (31 goals in three seasons), it has been a lot of fun to watch him grow as a playmaker with the Fire.  He has speed for sure but his best attribute is dribbling the ball past defenders and getting them to anticipate his next move j..u..s..t enough that hequicklycounters and leaves them behind.  He leads the team in assists (7) and when he is not on the field the team definitely misses his creative spark.  For these reasons, we should all be concerned about Patrick missing last Sunday's game against the New York Red Bulls.

Nyarko missed the July 17th and July 20th SuperLiga games with concussion symptoms.  He was able to play in the LA Galaxy game on August 1st and even set up Collins John's goal in the 5th minute (brilliant one touch on a pass from Baggio Husidic).  I was very excited about seeing Nyarko, Pappa, Ljungberg, John and Castillo team up against New York with McBride providing veteran savvy as a 60 minute sub or so.  Nyarko never even got to start as he was sidelined again with the same concussion symptoms.  For as much as I highlighted the absence of Collins John in the lineup yesterday, the Fire and Freddie Ljungberg suffered even more by not having the Ghanaian on the wing.  I took it as a cautionary note at the time but cue Bratislav Ristic.

Some of you have no clue what I'm talking about but Bratislav Ristic was on trial earlier this year and the Fire even added him to the team's roster for the SuperLiga.  There is nothing official about that at all - I mean we could have put down Pele, Bobby Charlton, Lionel Messi and Jozy Altidore if we wanted - but it shows the team was contemplating adding him into the mix of players available to call on.  Now Bratislav Ristic's website has him listed as a current member of the Chicago Fire, something it never did before even after SuperLiga.  Ristic was gone for a couple of weeks but has recently returned to practicing with the team.

Any contract signing of Ristic should set off alarm bells for Nyarko's health.  If you watch the highlight videos of Ristic he appears to be a speedy winger who has trouble getting the ball on net.  He even refuses to take shots in the box preferring to pass the ball to a teammate.  His game is like a carbon copy of Nyarko's without the top dribbling skill.  The only reason to get Ristic is if we need some depth on the wings and right now we have Marco Pappa, Patrick Nyarko as starters with Deris Umanzor and Mike Banner as backups.  If we can't even get Corben Bone into a couple of MLS games, I see no reason to sign Bratislav Ristic.  No offense Mr. Ristic but even if you play well your presence on this team should be viewed with a hint of doom for the future.  In the meantime, legit or illlegit signing, can you at least get the team name right?  We aren't even FC but S.C.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

MLS Roundup


Columbus 2 - Philadelphia 1
LeToux's extra time first half goal was sandwiched by Steven Lenhart headers in the 43rd and 50th minutes of play.  Columbus is running away with the Eastern Conference so we might as well thank them for giving us distance between a scrappy Philadelphia team... we know what Pitor Nowak can do with expansion teams.

Colorado 1 - San Jose 0
Anybody want Jon Busch over Sean Johnson?  The Rapids took three points all thanks to a Omar Cummings cross that Busch ended up placing across the line behind him in the 25th minute.  I say this game helps because San Jose was stringing together some success as of late while the Rapids are widely inconsistent.  Let the Rapids get ahead with 27 points and 18 games played while San Jose stays closer to us with 23 points and 17 games played.

Dallas 3 - Philadelphia 1
Does this really help the Fire with Philadelphia low in the standings?  Yes, yes it does.  Nowak, expansion team, rather have them dead in the water.  Alejandro Moreno made it 1-0 Philly early in the 9th minute but FC Dallas' David Ferreira equalized the game on a penalty kick in the 24th.  Late goals by Jeff Cunningham in the 75th and 81st minutes secured the three points.  


Toronto FC 2 - Chivas USA 0
While standard for Fire fans to rue the fact Chad Barrett scored (32nd minute), Toronto's Nana Attakora scored even earlier in the first half.  Chivas USA went into the second half 2-0 and came out with just one goal from Giancarlo Maldonado and zero points over all.  Clearly we do not need the team just ahead of us in the Eastern Conference to win although you could argue that Chivas USA is close to being put away from playoff competition.

New England 1 - D.C. 0
D.C. United is out for the count while this game puts the Revs just three points behind us.  It is nice that we have a game in hand on NE but the August 18th home game against the Revs is quietly becoming a huge match.  They just won't go away....

Kansas City 1 - Salt Lake 1
The Wizards taking a point from a RSL squad that is battling for first in the West?  Really don't need them staying in this race and really don't like seeing them take a point while we got 0 at home against RSL.  Kei Kamara and Robbie Findley provided the goals, both coming in the first half.

Seattle 2 - Houston 0
The Dynamo have been lifeless while Seattle is on a huge upswing.  Fredy Montero came away with a goal and an assist while DP Alvaro Fernandez scored yet again.  These teams are going in opposite directions, I was much more worried about Houston at the beginning of the year than Seattle.  The Sounders' four straight victories are something for everyone in the league to look at.  Can we put a target on their backs yet?


Monday, August 9, 2010

Collins John Saga Opens Some Questions

In Carlos de los Cobos' post-game press conference it was pretty standard commentary until someone asked him about the decision to start Brian McBride over Collins John (10th minute of the audio link):

"Even though Collins John scored in the last match, I don't think he play good.  My role as coach is to demand that the players give 100%.... When Collins doesn't give 100% in practice, he don't play.  I need 11 players in a very good fitness level."

Puzzled fans started to kick around these quotes from Collins John's twitter account today:

"@ stadium cant believe we gonna practice outside 2day !! In this RAIN
"Day 3 i hope practice is a bit more relax 2day!
Practice last 2 days is WAY 2 HARD!

Game #16 Summary

If this game was a Shakespeare play title, it would obviously be Much Ado About Nothing.  For all of the hype of 5 DPs and big names, only Freddie Ljungberg played a full 90 minutes and the Fire tied the Red Bulls 0-0 to split the points.

The real star of the game turned out to be Sean Johnson.  If you still think that Andrew Dykstra should start another game this year, you must believe that he is going to be traded to another team.  Johnson not only made spectacular saves but he also had 100% positional awareness to stay off the shots that were going to slide past the goalpost.  Juan Pablo Angel headers were denied by brilliant stops in the 19th and 91st minutes and Johnson tipping a rocket from Tim Ream in the 90th minute might be the MLS Save of the Week.  The old saying "it's better to be lucky than good" played out for the Fire when Macoumba Khandji couldn't get any kind of touch on a cross pass from Dane Richards right at the beginning of the 46th minute.  I was shocked nothing happened there.  The stars were so aligned for Johnson that his slipping right before Angel's 91st shot was probably fortunate because if he gets a full hand on the ball, you have to think it goes right to the foot of Red Bull forward Salou Ibrahim for a stoppage time tap in.  Instead Johnson's deflection even got backspin and the ball harmlessly dribbled out of bounds.

On the offensive end, Carlos de los Cobos rolled out a 4-4-1-1 lineup.  The Fire announced Brian McBride as playing in the top forward spot but in practice it was more of a 4-4-2-0 with McBride staying back on the left or right side.  Brian, we love what you have done for your country and this team but you simply are not a starting forward in the MLS anymore.  Freddie Ljungberg made great runs and dribbles with the ball in the first 15 minutes only to be taking on the entire defense by himself.  He seemed to stop attacking once he realized that he wasn't playing with the Brian McBride that he remembered from Fulham.  The only real threat that McBride and Ljungberg combined for came midway through the first half when McBride caught his marker sleeping and had the entire field in front of him.  If almost anyone else on the team had the space McBride received, they would have just taken the ball to the goal.  Brian had to spot up about 30 feet from the goal because he was already being caught up with.  He did provide a world-class curved pass but Freddie couldn't handle a bad hop and a very promising opportunity turned into a goal kick for New York.

Marco Pappa provided a very so-so game, Mike Banner gave his usually hustle with little result and Baggio Husidic gave us his patented high soccer IQ with the pace of 2010 Brian McBride.  Logan Pause on the other hand gave his best performance of the season.  Whenever a Red Bull was attacking, Pause was hustling back to get in the way.  Without a crucial sliding block in the box in the last minutes of the game, Red Bulls take all three points.  I have been underwhelmed by Logan this year but I think all he needed was an outlet right in front of him in Freddie Ljungberg.  Too many times I would curse at Logan for passing back to the defense or turning the ball over on the sides to Pappa or Nyarko.  I think he just needed a strong midfield presence like Freddie to feed the ball to everytime.  I look forward to them connecting more and more.

In case we had any doubts about Gonzalo Segares getting his LB job back, Krzysztof Krol answered them for us.  What Department of Homeland Security officer do we need to be extra nice to so that we can ensure Segares' paperwork goes through and he starts our next game?  Krol was exposed many times and was the reason Richards had that great opportunity that Khandji screwed up.  Wilman Conde seems back to being the Conde we have known and loved.  C.J. Brown might need a rest or two.  The fact that C.J. has lost a step meant that he couldn't play up on Juan Pablo Angel and we almost paid dearly for that in the 84th minute when Angel whipped in a shot just over the crossbar.  Dasan Robinson provided adequate defense; nothing special but nothing egregious either.

For subs, Nery Castillo's entry for McBride in the 56th minute was greeted with fireworks.  I thought that was a bit much.  Has any sub ever had fireworks?  I guess it's okay because he failed to provide any fireworks of his own.  Nery looked very fast but he was called offside multiple times.  He did lead a charge that ended up with four Fire players in the box at one time.  Can anyone recall a time when we had four Fire players in the box at the same time on a play that didn't involve the ball going down the wings first?  The 59th minute substitution of Steve Kinney for Dasan Robinson seemed to have little impact of the game.  The 90th minute substitution of Deris Umanzor for Marco Pappa seemed to be nothing but a clock stall.

Overall the Fire are lucky to take away one point from this match.  If Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez are in tip top shape, the Fire easily lose this game 2-0 or more.  The Red Bulls offense stalled when Henry was taken out around the half, stalled again when Marquez was taken out in the 61st minute, and only picked up when we started playing another 4-6-0 formation.  If good things come to those who wait, I guess that works for us while we sit for ten days until the New England Revolution come to town on August 18th.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Game #16 Thread

The best MLS game ever?  Let's empty the can and drink their milkshake.

Game #16 Preview

The last time the New York Red Bulls met the Chicago Fire it was the opening match, March 27.  The Fire were coming off a MLS Cup semi-final appearance and the Red Bulls were the worst team in the league in 2009.  New York came away with a 1-0 victory in the MLS debut of the gorgeous Red Bull Arena.  Both teams looked like they had kinks to unravel; if they were websites they would read 'under construction'. 

Flash forward four months and the teams are still under construction, but the size of the projects have been considerably upgraded.  NYRB have added Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez while our Fire have added Nery Castillo and Freddie Ljungberg.  Fueled by the DPs, this game will feature many MLS & Fire firsts:
  1. First MLS game with 5 DPs
  2. First time a MLS team rolls out 4 players with EPL experience
  3. First MLS game for Nery Castillo and Rafael Marquez
  4. First Freddie Ljungberg Fire home game
  5. First time teammates from a European Champions League Final team square off
  6. First time teammates from a UEFA Final team square off
  7. First time teammates from a EPL Champions team square off
  8. First time teammates from a FA Cup Champions team square off
  9. First time... start coming up with your own in regards to Ljungberg and Henry...
  10. Most international caps in a game before?  This one is tougher to gauge but I'd put good money on it
It is easy to get blinded by the stars of the game but both of these teams are in questionable spots in the standings.  Beating us 1-0 was the game that launched NYRB to a 5-1-0 dream start but since then they only have 3 wins, 5 loses, and 3 ties to show for their efforts.  We all know the Fire have a worse 5-5-5 record but a win tonight would put the Fire behind the second place Red Bulls by just 4 points with 2 games in hand.  As important as this game is for the history of the league, it is a vital game for the Fire's playoff hopes.  It's going to be a lot of fun to see a mini All-Star game but I hope for three points over DP starts.    

And We're Back...

When AT&T claims to cover 97% of all Americans, Carroll County, Ohio is not included in the mix. I lost two posts yesterday because of "No Service" on my phone. I'll have a game preview and a Segares post up before the game still.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Breaking: Fire trade Tim Ward

Tim Ward is now a San Jose Smurf.  It just seems weird to call him or any one person an Earthquake right?

So Freddie Ljungberg and Tim Ward are both worth conditional draft picks?  Frank Klopas you magnificent bastard!

UPDATE 1: The Fire Facebook Page says to check out at 1:30 PM CST to see which fan favorite is going to be coming back.  Beasley? Segares?

UPDATE 2: It is indeed Gonzalo Segares!  Great move - I liked Kinney's potential but if we have the money to bring back Sega, again Frank Klopas is a magnificent bastard.  Starting XI of John, Castillo, Nyarko, Ljungberg, Pappa, Pause, Krol, Conde, Brown, Segares, and Johnson with the likes of McBride, Husidic, Kinney, and Watson-Siriboe, and Umanzor as subs is a team that can contend for the MLS Cup.  Just imagine if Thorrington ever came back....

Transfer Market Secrets... as of Right Now

I'll have more to say about Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski's Soccernomics later on but I wanted to take a moment to address their list of transfer market secrets:

  1. A new manager wastes money on transfers; don't let him.
  2. Use the wisdom of crowds.
  3. Stars of recent World Cups or European championships are overvalued; ignore them.
  4. Certain nationalities are overvalued.
  5. Older players are overvauled.
  6. Center forwards are overrvalued; goalkeepers are undervalued.
  7. Gentlemen prefer blonds; identify and abandon "sight-based prejudices".
  8. The best time to buy a player is when he is in his early twenties.
  9. Sell any player when another club offers more than he is worth.
  10. Replace your best players even before you sell them.
  11. Buy players with personal problems, and then help them deal with their problems.
  12. Help your players relocate.
These are simple ideas if you think about them.  Kuper and Szymanski provide anecdotes and data to back up their list too.  Every shrewd soccer manager in the book is compared to Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics who is credited with cracking the secrets of baseball's free agency and trade market.  Indeed Beane put together an incredible team record of 825-632 between 1998-2006 (.566 winning percentage) while spending much less than the competition.   

The entire time that I was reading their comparisons of Billy Beane, I was waiting for the hammer to drop but it never came.  They pumped success but failed to mention that Beane's A's went 226-259 between 2007-2009.  Even if the book was all wrapped up in 2009, they still could have at least addressed Beane's 151-172 record between 2007-2008.  What happened was once his secrets were published in Moneyball in 2003 and other teams saw how successful you could be with his tips, smart teams immediately copied his basic principles and Beane was no longer able to take advantage of the market inefficiencies he exploited in the early 2000's.  It took all of four years for baseball to quite likely overvalue young players while undervaluing older players. 

35+ year old guys like Johnny Damon and Vladimir Guerrero could only get one year of guaranteed money while the Indians have to be kicking themselves for signing current DL darlings Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore to long-term contracts when both players were entering their primes.  The overall philosophy of sign young guys to low contracts and avoid signing older players to big money works out in many cases (young guys/low money: Evan Longoria, old guy/lots of money: Jeff Suppan) but there is no guarantee.  And sign guys with personal problems and help them deal with them?  Paging any team that has tried to work with Milton Bradley.

Overall Soccernomics does have a good list of what to avoid and what not to avoid but I would have labeled the list "Current Trends to Avoid" instead of "Secrets of the Transfer Market".  The real list?
  1. Exploit market inefficiencies and leave your competition in the dust.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Real Football

Video Clip

Great to see a handegg used like this.  Props to the player - that has to be difficult.

MLS Roundup


Toronto FC advance in CONCACAF Champions League on aggregate 3-2 over Honduras club CD Montagua.  It was a seesaw match that had ex-Fire Chad Barrett playing hero with ten minutes left in the game. 

Seattle Sounders advance in CONCACAF Champions League on aggregate 2-1 over El Salvador club Metapan.  New designated player Alvaro Fernandez provided the aggregate advancer in the 74th minute.  I have a feeling this guy is going to be a big f'ing deal in Sounders history. 


New England Revolution knocked out Puebla 5-3 on PKs and go into the final of SuperLiga. 

LA Galaxy are totally and utterly embarrassed in a 2-1 win over Puerto Rico in the CONCACAF Champions League.  You could see the shame fall on their faces as they realized they weren't going to overcome the 4-1 loss in the first leg.  Well, not really, but shame SHOULD have been on their faces.  They fall to Pureto Rico 5-3 on the aggregate. 

The Revs will face the winner of tonight's Houston Dynamo vs. Morelia in the SuperLiga final.

Toronto FC falls into Group A with Real Salt Lake, Cruz Azul, and Arabe Unido.  The CBus Crew are in Group B with Municipal, Santos Laguna and Joe Public/Brujas and rounding out Group C will be Seattle Sounders, Monterrey, Marathon and Saprissa.

I would love to root for the MLS teams to fail but let's be realistic.  MLS success in international tournaments helps the Chicago Fire.  It's not fun watching other teams raise trophies but it should inspire our front office to try harder to win these things.  I want to see the Fire win the CONCACAF Champions League and I want to see them win SuperLiga at some point too.  Being in SuperLiga means that we weren't good enough for the Champions League, sure, but if there are games to be played, we should be playing them to win.  Some Fire faithful could never say these things but Go Sounders, Go Crew, Go Toronto FC, Go Revs, and Go Dynamo.  Okay, now I do feel rather unclean inside.  Time to detox.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Stuff the Ballot: Sean Johnson

Sean Johnson's stellar save of Alan Gordon's guided missile of a header preserved the Fire's three points in LA.  He is officially up for MLS Save of the Week.  Vote early, vote often.

In case you forgot how awesome it was....

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

If you didn't know much about Freddie Ljungberg before he joined the Fire, well just enjoy this photo.  I think Frank and Carlos are ashamed of his outfit.  I know I am.

Fire's Place in Chicago Sports

I was at the Cubs game last night and a fan seated behind me said "You are looking at the worst team in Chicago right here".  I was just about to turn around and say, "You clearly haven't seen the Chicago Fire this season", but in that split second I thought about the past two weeks... and I said nothing.  Part of me wanted an excuse to bring up the Fire but I have to hand it to the players and the Front Office, things are looking good.  That and the Cubs just really suck this year.

From 1-6, where would you rank the Chicago teams right now?  I think the Blackhawks are the toughest team to gauge. 

1. Bulls
2. White Sox
3. Blackhawks
4. Fire
5. Bears
6. Cubs

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Stuff the Ballot

This is Chicago and we vote early and we vote often.

Let's put Nery Castillo over the top and give Steven Goff some clicks in the meantime.  He is one of the few beat writers out there that get to write as often as he does.

Rafael Marquez Signs with Red Bulls

Are the Red Bulls always going to have the worst kept secrets in signing designated players?  First Thierry Henry was coming to Red Bulls for months at a time (I swear Ives had three or four threads spread out that had "Thierry Henry to Red Bulls" headlines) and now Rafael Marquez is signing with New York after weeks of rumor confirmations.  Perhaps it is part of a marketing strategy but it really takes the new out of news when we hear something on a constant basis.  I guess if it is NYC and there is a press release - it is all new again. 

What is brand new about the signing of Rafael Marquez is the MLS now has a designated player that is a defender as well as a team with three designated players.  Let others debate the rise and fall of the MLS because some teams have no DPs while one has 3, I am delighted that big money will be spent on defensive players in the league.  MLS teams regularly get embarrassed in the CONCACAF Champions League because teams often put more resources and long term planning in offense.  Defenses in the MLS are left without strong captains to hold the back line together or one solid player is constantly surrounded by new parts (I am working on an article of all the different defenders C.J. Brown has lined up with over the years... let's just say it is quite long).  Rookies collapse, vets try to do too much, goals are scored, teams like Joe Public win, rumors of Raul to MLS explode, everyone gets excited and that fact that we lose important games to teams in tiny leagues is swept under the rug.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Week 19 Standings


02 Aug 2010 GP W D L PTS
Los Angeles Galaxy 19 12 4 3 40
Columbus Crew 18 10 4 4 34
Real Salt Lake 18 10 4 4 34
Dallas 17 6 9 2 27
New York RB 17 8 3 6 27
Seattle Sounders 19 7 4 8 25
Colorado Rapids 17 6 6 5 24
San Jose Earthquakes 16 6 5 5 23
Toronto 17 6 5 6 23
Chicago Fire 15 5 5 5 20
Houston Dynamo 18 5 5 8 20
Kansas City Wizards 17 5 4 8 19
Chivas USA 17 5 3 9 18
New England Revolution 16 4 3 9 15
Philadelphia Union 15 4 3 8 15
DC United 18 3 3 12 12

Thank you to Big Soccer for providing the easiest place to find the MLS full table.  Since the top four teams in each conference do not automatically make the playoffs, it is nice to see the full Chicago Fire playoff picture.  The three points drastically changed our fortune and I think we will only need 25 more points to make the playoffs.  I think the new version of the Chicago Fire is easily 5 points better over a 15 game spread but time will tell.  A win against New York would put us 4 points behind them with two games in hand.

Game #15 Summary

You almost forget how fun these Fire games can be from time to time!  My expectations for the LA Galaxy game were quite low but I was on cloud nine just five minutes into the match.  Carlos de los Cobos visited his pre-season formation of 4-1-4-1 and it played out to perfection.  In the 4th minute, Collins John and Baggio Husidic completed beautiful passes to set up Marco Pappa  who calmly slid the ball home into the net.  Just one minute later, Patrick Nyarko started a breakaway with a one touch pass to Collins John.  The Galaxy defense was simply outpaced and it became sprinting attacker vs. goaltender.  John lost the ball for a split second and was suddenly boxed in by two defenders with no options to pass - and then he struck the ball in perhaps the only foot of space Galaxy goalie Donovan Ricketts left open.  I have not been a fan of Collins John this season but sign me up for the bandwagon.  His speed seems to be at full form, he was aggressive in fighting for space and his non touch on a pass from Patrick Nyarko allowed Marco Pappa to send in a shot where Mike Banner scored on the rebound in the 18th minute.  Some questionable PK calls in the 37th and 81st minutes allowed Landon Donovan to make the score 3-2 but the Fire held on to win the game.

Sean Johnson started the game and has to have won the starting job.  His reactions to the first PK were terrible but he almost got a hand on the second one.  This is probably MLS Save of the Week.  He did a very good job in directing traffic and getting the ball to the right players.  I know LA is on a slide but to hold them to no goals in the run of play at the Home Depot Center wins me over.

While still enjoyable given the lead and the debut of Freddie Ljungberg, the rest of the game had a bitter taste.  We once again hunkered down with a lead (4-6-0 formation while up 2-0 against Philly anyone?).  We did not push back on the Galaxy especially after Demo Kovalenko's terribly obvious and egregious red card studs up yellow card on Krzysztof Krol.  Someone of the team should have upped the ante and shown this team won't be pushed around.  We allowed a studs up tackle in SuperLiga without much retaliation either.  If you play soft and let teams push you around, you will only encourage that behavior.  MLS referees are closer to Rugby Union than English Premiership.  So next game, more fighting and more offense, not too much to ask, right?

Overall you can't complain.  The Fire dialed up a great performance in Los Angeles and left town with 3 points.  5-5-5 is an unreal area code on TV shows and it is just as unreal to think that 5-5-5 is the Fire's record after everything this team has been through.  Let this be the beginning of a new Fire team and the road to a MLS Cup.  It is the only hardware chance we have.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Game #15 Thread - @ LA Galaxy

Starting XI:

Johnson; Robinson, Brown (c), Conde, Krol; Pause; Nyarko, Husidic, Banner, Pappa; John

Quick Thoughts 

  • Sean Johnson gets the start and the goaltender controversy continues
  • CDLC uses his favorite 4-1-4-1 formation.  That can't be the formation we go with for the rest of the season though, can it?
  • Husidic and Banner over Ljungberg?  Who gets subbed out for Freddie first?  I don't care if Freddie has practiced all but once.

MLS Round-up

Games That Helped the Fire:

Philadelphia 1 - New England 1
  • Philly Union and NE Revs tie each other to stay below the Fire despite having played more games.
Colorado 1 - Dallas 1
  • Colorado and Dallas tread water.  If the Fire won 2 and drew 1 of their 3 games in hand, we would be tied with Colorado.
Houston 2 - New York 2
  • Is it an upset when New York drops points anymore?  After starting 5-0-0 they are now 3-3-6.  I am glad Houston kept the Red Bulls within reach on the table.  It is unfair to think that the Fire are going to turn it around with their new players while things will stay the same for Red Bulls despite their additions but I don't see them running away from us.  Let's hope that the Fire know when to raise the red when the Bulls come to town next week.  
Kansas City 1 - Toronto 0
  • Only four points separate these two now but I view Toronto as a much bigger threat than Kansas City.  4-1 beatdowns earlier in the season will do that but having Toronto only six points away with three games in hand makes me feel good. 
Seattle 1 - San Jose 0

  • At first glance it might seem like the Sounders are starting to get away but we have five games in hand on them and only trail by 8 points.  I think the teams are equal on talent level and San Jose has three games to gain two points in order to match Seattle.  Controlling our destiny is also a factor here with two games against the Sounders and only one vs. the Earthquakes left on the schedule.
Games That Didn't Help the Fire

Salt Lake 3 - D.C. 0
  • Borderline outcome as Salt Lake will probably make the playoffs regardless.  It could be good that DC falls farther and farther behind but I'm not worried about them catching the Fire.
Chivas USA 3 - Columbus 1
  • You never want to see Columbus win anything but Chivas USA looked good and we don't need them messing around with playoff contention.  Columbus is a lock for 1st place barring catastrophe and Chivas USA doesn't need any confidence building.

Note to the Marketing Department

I just got back from exchanging tickets for the Red Bulls game next Sunday for tickets for the September 4th game against Galaxy.  This move was prompted by the team's wonderful decision to block the August 8th Red Bulls game from the season ticket holder exchange program when Thierry Henry jumped on board.  I am out of town next weekend so when I saw another fan complaining about the new policy (Red Bulls = one of the few games his family could make it to), I reached out for a swap. 

These are just some of the problems fans had with the change in plans:
  • An E-mail announcing this policy and hyping Henry was sent out the morning after the Fire lost 5-1 at home to Monarcas Morelia.  Many fans were angry to see the team promoting another team's star while it seemed as if the Fire weren't going to get any help themselves.
  • Season ticket holders were further enraged because an option was being taken away.
  • Many questioned blocking the August 8th game with Henry but not the September 4th game with Landon Donovan.  I think too that Donovan is bigger draw for more people than Henry after the World Cup.
In conversations I've had with some of the Fire FO, I know they really want to get the EPL snobs (my words not theirs) into the stadium.  I am guessing limiting the season ticket holder exchange program for a game that will feature a former EPL star folds into that strategy.  It is not all smooth sailing because I've seen promos for the Red Bulls game for $10 tickets if you enter the code of 'Nery'.  If next Sunday doesn't sell out, the FO is really going to have egg on its face.    

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Game Preview: LA Galaxy

I hate to use so many extreme adjectives in the young history of this blog but the game against LA Galaxy today might be one the most unpredictable games in the history of the MLS.  Galaxy are at the top of the table and have dominated most of their games this year but a 1-1-1 in their last three MLS matches that include a loss that to the weak New England Revolution have put the inevitable Supporters' Shield on hold.  Throw in a CONCACAF Champions League 4-1 loss to the Puerto Rico Islanders despite starting Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle and you have a team on full crisis mode.  Will Donovan and Buddle start after playing this past Tuesday against the Islanders and getting minutes in the Thursday MLS All-Star game?  Don't forget the fact that the LA Galaxy enjoy a six point lead in the MLS standings and could still beat the Islanders with a three goal win this Wednesday.

On the Fire side of the coin, there's no telling how they will play either.  For almost every game this year Carlos de los Cobos has featured a 4-5-1 offense.  They even played 4-5-1 against Pumas despite the fact that CDLC announced the team would switch to a 4-4-2 offense with Nery Castillo on the team.  I figured with the team eliminated from SuperLiga's next round, we would get some practice with the new 4-4-2 formation.  Castillo is out but new acquisition Freddie Ljungberg is in.  Ljungberg couldn't possibly start after one practice with the team could he?  If we are fighting for points here, will CDLC turn to the familiar 4-5-1?  Let's not forget the goaltender controversy either.  I think Sean Johnson is going to be in goal tomorrow but it is all up in the air.  I hope with the long break the Fire can take a risk on the 4-4-2 and start this lineup:


Maybe Corben Bone will start in Ljungberg's place but I can't see anyone else playing the attacking mid right now.  I think our lack of chemistry will play against us and a draw would be lucky.  If I'm the coach, I start playing how I want us to play the rest of the year and use a game against the best MLS team as somewhat of a wash.

Point & Counterpoint: The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse


The MLS has never seen a team with as much international experience as the new 2010 Chicago Fire.  Brian McBride, Nery Castillo, Collins John and Freddie Ljungberg have a combined 506 English Premiership appearances, 108 English Premiership goals, 194 international caps, and 51 international goals.  Combine them with the 'squires' of Marco Pappa and Patrick Nyarko, and the Fire offense has gone from lifeless to doom inducing in just ten days.  Defenses will have no idea what formation the Fire are going to play with.  They will have no clue as to which player to focus on.  Design a defensive strategy around the big EPL four and MLS All-Star and team leading goal scorer Marco Pappa will make you pay.  You thought Patrick Nyarko could dribble his way through defenses before, just wait until he isn't being double or tripled covered.  How do you even rank the scoring threats now?  Is Marco Pappa still No. 1?  Is Brian McBride a No. 4 or No. 5 scoring threat on the team?  What other MLS team has ever had this kind of quality and quantity?  It is the end of the world for the competition.  The Four Horseman of the ApocaEPLse have arrived.  Welcome to hell back lines of the MLS.


The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse have arrived but the one who will be judged and face the wrath of the soccer gods is the Chicago Fire.  The MLS has never seen a team with as many egos as the new 2010 Chicago Fire.  Freddie Ljungberg is a diva who will have his own fans signing "You're going home in a Cook County Ambulance" by the second game.  Nery Castillo and Collins John placed a bet four years ago to see who could waste their talent in the most spectacular way.  I'm not sure which one is winning.  The only comparison to the four horesman that Brian McBride belongs in is that of death.  He is listed at 38 but he is playing like he is 83.  Opposing defenses will not know what formation Chicago is going to use but neither will the Fire.  Good luck getting all of these players on the same page.  I know when the defense is struggling and the team has a goaltender crisis, it is always best to bring in huge egos that are injured or out of shape.  The four or five midfielders who got this team to at least the edges of playoff contention are really going to appreciate battling for the remaining CDM spot and figuring out ways to get Carlos de los Cobos to implement a 3-5-2 just so they can increase their odds at playing time.  Grab some popcorn people and enjoy the show as the apocalypse hits the Chicago Fire's 2010 playoff hopes.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Second DP

From the Chicago Fire Facebook page: 

"Get ready Fire fans - we're going to announce a second DP on shortly...don't miss out on the big announcement! Who do you think it might be?"

Do you think it will be another player in the 'picker' style or an established player for marketing glitz?  Somewhere in between?  Maybe I was wrong about Andrew opening up the wallet wide after all.

UPDATE 1: The Fire just announced that we have acquired Freddie Ljungberg's talents from the Seattle Sounders.  Quick thoughts -

  • The price cannot have been that high since the Ljungberg/Seattle marriage was one in the separation stage.
  • Nyarko and Pappa on the wings have been some of the few bright spots this season.  Ljungberg has a large preference to play on the wing so formation watching will be interesting
  • The price must have been too tempting to pass up given the above and Ljunberg's lack of performance/health in Seattle to boot.
  • The Fire could put out a lineup with Nyarko, Castillo, Pappa, McBride, John, and Ljunberg all on the same field.  That's a metric ton of firepower right there.  I'm not sure where everyone would play (4-3-3?) but the entertainment value of the Fire for August 8th is going to blow any other game this year out of the water.

UPDATE 2: The Fire traded a draft pick in 2011 or 2012 to the Sounders.

"Freddie Ljunberg, an MLS Best XI selection and two-time All-Star midfielder for the Seattle Sounders FC, has been traded to the Chicago Fire today in exchange for a conditional selection in the 2011 or 2012 SuperDraft."

Given what Ljunberg could bring to the team, I like what has been done here.  Draft picks are very hit or miss and Ljunberg has the potential to turn the Fire into top offense in the league.  It would take everyone getting on track very quickly but few teams even have that potential.  Two weeks ago it looked the Fire were competing for the worst offense in the league.

American Pickers

The History Channel has come out of a funk recently where all they had were shows on 2012 end of the world conspiracies and alternative history ideas.  Chasing Mummies is a fascinating look at the work of Zahi Hawass and shows like Pawn Stars and American Pickers have a unique way of tying in American history to modern day life.  In American Pickers, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fitz go to random properties and offer to buy 'junk' that is just lying around their lots.  Whether it is in an attic, garage or some shed, Mike and Frank will see some value in something and attempt to give a lost item a second chance.

I'm not aware of any camera crews following the Fire but we have our own version of American Pikers right here in Chicago: Fire Owner Andrew Hauptman and Technical Director Frank Klopas.  Andrew has given Frank a budget very similar to what Mike would give Frank on the History Channel show and our Frank is scrapping by on whatever he can find.  While New York Red Bulls and LA Galaxy seemed poised to bring in big names like Thierry Henry, Rafael Marquez, and Ronaldinho, our club does not have those kind of resources to tap into it (our club is also not named after an energy drink either so perhaps New York still has the short end of stick).

At the beginning of the year we brought in Collins 'Mr. Twenty' John.  English Premiership team Fulham purchased John from the Dutch club Twente and went on to see him score twenty goals at the age of twenty between the years of 2005-2006 or as I like to say twenty-05 and twenty-06.  John lost his starting job at Fulham and proceeded to bounce from England's second division, back to the Netherlands and finally to Belgium before signing with the Fire.  John has been a bit of a dud because he only has one goal and has not even taken the field for that many games because of a mysterious stomach issue.  As I've watched his season unfold on and off the pitch, he just seems to have bad luck and no clue yet on how to turn it around.

If it weren't for Collins John, I would probably be really excited for Frank's latest rummage find of Mexican international Nery Castillo.  Many say there is really no comparison between John and Nery but Castillo had great club success with his first team, Greek squad Olympiacos, and then bounced around with three different clubs in three years with no very little success.  That... is... just... what... John... did.  The glass is half full personality will point out that Castillo attracted the attention of top clubs like Manchester City even in his dry spell and off field issues of his parents passing away while also personally getting a divorce took a toll on his on field performance.  He is still a talent that many Mexican fans wanted to see on the World Cup squad despite the fact that Castillo was not even in top shape.

I will say that his YouTube videos make him look otherworldly at times.  Everyone has sharp goal highlights (ahem, Collins John, ahem) but he has speed and dribbling that could rip some MLS defenses to shreds if that form is recaptured.  That is an important note too because on American Pickers they always have to clean up their latest find and work to get it back into shape.  Nery will need some time to shake the rust off before becoming that one centerpiece in the room that makes everything around it look better.  Maybe Frank is really onto something here and Collins John and Nery Castillo are like matching pieces found at different locations.  The Fire place that is Toyota Park could certainly use some new decorations on the mantle.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Chicago Fire Mid-Season Report Cards

Chicago Fire Mid-Season Report Cards
A+          Marco Pappa
Leading the team in goals (6) and second in assists (4), he has played almost every minute of every game this year.  That includes the games in the SuperLiga, US Open Cup, Sister Cities Cup, and the AC Milan friendly.  I do worry about fatigue later in the season but he is young and there is no reason to think he won’t be nominated for Goal of the Week a couple of more times this year.  He’s simply Head of the Class.
A-           Sean Johnson & Steve Kinney
It should tell you a great deal about the season when the only other players getting As are backups.  Sean Johnson has yet to put up a single minute in the MLS but has looked good when given time.  He and starting goaltender Andrew Dykstra have equal talent but Johnson seems to have better command of the backline.  I would not be surprised to see Johnson take over the starting job.  The same goes for Steve Kinney at RB.  Kinney has been solid in his performances while starter Tim Ward has been terribly inconsistent.  These two could be a big part of the Fire’s future.
B+           Brian McBride & Patrick Nyarko
Brian McBride has lost a step this season…. okay, several steps.  He still is second in goals scored and is tied for second in team assists.  I look for him to have a big second half as the team switches away from the 4-5-1 that got to be very predictable and newcomer Nery Castillo opens some more space for him in the 4-4-2.  Patrick Nyarko should also benefit from Castillo’s arrival because teams figured out that he cannot shoot the ball.  After climbing to the team lead in assists, Nyarko has been neutralized in his last couple of games as teams would defend against the pass only.  Nyarko had less routes to maneuver the ball into the box and the Fire's multiple game goal drought began.
B             Krzystof Krol & Baggio Husidic
For now both of these players are solid Bs but I expect Krol to go higher and Husidic to go lower.  Krol has done a great job at moving up field and crossing the ball into the box.  You couldn’t ask for much more offense from your LB but at times he has not been a pillar on defense.  Husidic is third on the team in goals scored.  However he has mainly benefitted from being in the right place at the right time.  It is better to be lucky than good but being lucky does not always guarantee a spot in the lineup.  Husidic’s playing time looks to decrease as the team switches to a 4-4-2 lineup and a starting midfield spot is removed.
B-            C.J. Brown & Corben Bone
C.J. Brown might be the reason Andrew Dykstra loses his starting job.  Dykstra hasn’t helped himself as much as he could but it doesn’t look like C.J. wants to do Dykstra any favors.  They appear combative with each other and Brown falls back at times when he should trust Dykstra and get in the face of attackers.  You could pass blame on to management for making Dykstra the starter right before the season but a vet like Brown should embrace the situation and not try put so much on his shoulders.  Corben Bone gets put into this grade because he has looked more than capable in the midfield at times (downright dangerous in the game against Pumas) but other times he has been too much hustle not enough quality touch.  I think Bone is gaining confidence with every start and will have a great second half.
C+           Wilman Conde & Kwame Watson-Siriboe
Put Conde in the costing Dykstra his job camp.  He has not been solid in his place this year and coach Carlos de los Cobos has even tried putting him in at defensive midfielder.  He looked terrible in the All-Star game and really needs to regain his form for the Fire to go anywhere.  He is a fierce competitor and I think he was trying to get things done on offense himself when the team wasn’t scoring any goals.  You don’t want your CB doing that so hopefully the team will start putting some balls in the back of the net and Conde will settle in.  Watson-Siriboe is doing all right for his rookie season.  He’ll play less as the season goes on but Carlos de los Cobos might want to rest Brown or Conde at CB… or just light a fire under their feet.
C             Mike Banner, Peter Lowry, Logan Pause, Dasan Robinson
Four guys that have been with the team for awhile now and will probably each start a game or two along the way but are best utilized as subs.  Each player has had a moment or two this season when they looked great (Mike Banner’s free kick against New York Red Bulls, Logan Pause’s long range goal against Toronto FC stand out) but primarily these guys just provide depth to the roster.  It is hard to expect any more than that from them even though I think de los Cobos does just that with Pause. 
C-            Andrew Dykstra
As I’ve mentioned, this has as much to do with the defenders around Dykstra and the way the front office rolled out the move as it does with the keeper’s own play.  It is tough for any goalie that is named the starter less than a week before the start of the season.  It is tougher for rookie goalies.  It is even tougher for goalies who are replacing a popular veteran goalie that is a year removed from being MLS Goalie of the Year.  At the time I was somewhat excited.  In retrospect, it was a terrible decision unless the front office had been honest about rebuilding.  Dykstra even looked uncomfortable even playing in front of friends and family in D.C. when the Fire won 2-0 and the likely tipping point for his starting job was when Monarcas Morelia put in 5 goals two weeks ago.  Sean Johnson has started the last two games and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get more starts especially if the Fire fall out of the playoff picture.  If Johnson does come in to the save the day, Dykstra should be traded so he can start over fresh and hopefully lessons will have been learned all around. 
D+          Tim Ward
He looked like a lock at RB to start the season but it’s been a very rocky road for Tim Ward.  When he hasn’t been injured he has given away the ball much too easily and has not contributed on the offensive end.  I’m not sure he is playing at 100% because he has looked better in the past but with Kinney knocking on the door and the Fire desperate for points, I think he is on a short leash as we go into the final stretch of the season.
D             Stefan Dimitrov
Someone has to be down here and while Dimitrov hasn’t had that much playing time he hasn’t done anything with those few minutes he has had.  He has basically been invisible on and off the field.
Incomplete         Calen Carr, Collins John, John Thorrington,  Deris Umanzor
It is obvious that Calen Carr and John Thorrington get an incompletes because they have been injured all season.  I’m giving an incomplete to Collins John because he has looked good, he has looked lethargic, and he was also out for weeks at a time with a mysterious illness.  Let’s hope he is back up to speed and can thrive as strike partner with Nery Castillo.  Deris Umanzor has been played all over the place but looked quite good at defensive midfielder against Pumas.  If that is where he is going to play the rest of the season, we have reason to be optimistic.  If Coach Carlos is going to continue to have him be some kind of patch in player, we should be worried.  The jury is still out on him.
Hello and Goodbyes       Justin Mapp, Julio Martinez, Nery Castillo
Brought in by Carlos de los Cobos, I imagine El Salvadoran international Julio Martinez was let go by technical director Frank Klopas.  The general consensus was that Martinez just could not cut it in the MLS.  Justin Mapp we thank you for your long service to the Fire.  I would have given him a B- for his season this year.  I think many would have given him a F for his complete time with the Fire.  So much potential yet so much money wasted.  Let’s move onto happy things like Nery Castillo.  The Mexican international was signed a week ago to save the 2010 Fire team.  Here’s to hoping he can set the curve and everyone will have As when the full season report is written this fall.