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.

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