The Blue Testament asks Hot Time in Old Town
1) At the beginning of the season it looked like Chicago could have ended up being the bottom feeders of the Eastern Conference. After watching them turn 3 straight losses to open the season into 3 straight wins, what has been the biggest turn around? Have Accam and Maloney now figured it out and they'll look to keep climbing the ranks... or will this continue to be a streaky team?
The Fire are at a tricky point now. The showing against the Galaxy in the opener was execrable, then they steadily improved through two more losses. There wasn't a great pivot after the three-game losing streak - the team looked threatening in the San Jose loss, and just scraped a win against lowly Philadelphia to turn the corner. So far, the arrow's been straight up. Now they've won three in a row, looking increasingly threatening on attack; it's still so early with this team that we're in completely uncharted territory, and have no idea what to expect. If the defense doesn't suddenly crumble, they're a contender.
2) The Fire have 6 goals on the season. Each of which scored by a different player. Is this good that they have everyone contributing, or is the club lacking a lethal goal scorer in the final third? There are 3 new attacking DP's this season, Mike Magee will return at some point, (....RIGHT!?) should we expect to see more goals coming?
The one position that has been a disappointment so far is striker, no question. Kennedy Igboananike was the first of the three DPs signed in the offseason, a guy Frank Yallop "had his eye on for years," and he seems lost in the wilderness. Reader shippsahoy contributed a sagacious Fanshot about Yallop's 'scout crush' on Igboananike. He's shown flashes of pace and creativity, but has seemed out of sorts and finished atrociously when given chances. Quincy Amarikwa is what he is: A bowling ball, a battering ram, a wrestler with great burst and goodness gracious if only he could consistently finish. Or see open teammates. It's the little things. Elegant, aloof journeyman Guly do Prado has recently gotten starts; he combines well but is an all-rounder on a team that really could use an obsessive finisher to convert chances.
3) Chicago has not won in KC since 2012. What will have to go right for the Fire to walk away with points on Sunday? What will likely be the reason if they lose?
The Fire won't create 24 chances again this week; they'll need to finish better if they're going to come out with anything. If they lose, it'll be a second ball cleaned up by Dwyer or Nemeth, some kind of half-breakdown.
Bonus: Quincy is still making good #QuincyTime videos.. but hasn't found the back of the net yet and had to come off the bench last week. Are those videos going to be his biggest contribution this season or will he come around?
At this point, it seems Quincy is what Quincy is - a handful to defend one-on-one, but not a guy who makes anyone around him any better. I've sometimes wondered whether the brash egocentrism of the videos reveals why he's hit a plateau in his understanding of the mental game. Unless the striker position implodes entirely, expect to see Quincy as a 60th-minute change-of-pace sub.
Lineup prediction (they'll say 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1, but it's a 4-2-3-1): Sean Johnson; Joevin Jones, Adailton, Jeff Larentowicz, Eric Gehrig; Matt Polster, Razvan Cocis; David Accam, Shaun Maloney, Harry Shipp; Kennedy Igboananike.
Game prediction: 2-1 Fire, and the hype around Chicago starts to build. Dwyer gets one for the home side, but Accam and Shipp each score their second for the Fire.
Hot Time in Old Town asks The Blue Testament
1) Dom Dwyer is obviously not having the start to 2015 that he hoped. What's the problem with everyone's favorite English exhibitionist workaholic striker? Is Sydney Leroux soccer-speak for Yoko Ono?
Dom has always been a guy that may take a minute to get going but once he sees the ball in the net and builds some confidence, the goals will come. Being called off side for him is nothing new, but he has seen 4 goals disallowed (rightly so) from offside calls and a couple more from fouls (not rightly so). So there's plenty reason to think he will be okay. However, we have seen some VERY bad misses from Dom lately. In the on field interviews Peter has been visibly upset and vocal about missing chances and even had Benny Feilhaber take the penalty kick last week. The addition of Krisztian Nemeth this season may be the key for Dom. Last year if Dom didn't score, nobody did. It was all on him. It is very possible Nemeth could lead the team in scoring from the winger position this year. In addition to Nemeth, other guys like Zusi, Feilhaber, and Espinoza have all been taking more chances on goal this season. Dwyer's hold up play and relentless work rate will never fade, he put one in last week, and with less pressure on him this year I think he will round into his goal scoring form.
And when I say less pressure, I mean on the field. Yoko Ono is about peace and love at least... Sydney just straight calls him out on Twitter for missing chances!
2) In Kansas City's championship team(s), there was always an invisible-wall guy at the back of midfield. Then Ori Rosell was sold without a direct replacement, and Sporting fell down the pecking order. How is this year's team attempting to compensate for a lack of a leg-breaker to cycle possession? Or is there a player who will step into that role? And how do you foresee either solution working?
That was/is indeed the big question. Espinoza and Feilhaber can both play defensive mid roles, but that holding mid slot (and the +90% passing success Uri was capable of) is definitely missed. With that void, the club brought in several versatile players in the off season and even Peter Vermes himself hinted at a possible formation change. But it looks like now they have settled into the same ol' 4-3-3. As of now, we are putting the hopes on Servando Carrasco and Soni Mustivar, who both new to the club this year. Carrasco has started the last two games and not impressed me at all, making it okay that he will miss Sunday's match for a suspension. It's possible they could switch things up a little, but I imagine Vermes gives Mustivar his first start. He came to the club very late in the off season and has been playing catch up, but I think he is the better choice over Carrasco anyway. He will not live up to Uri but will have to suffice, as the club is looking for another attacking player, and now unfortunately must focus on finding another CB.
3) How has our old friend and compatriot Jalil Anibaba been in the blue-and-darker-blue? Is he ready to get posterized by David Accam on Sunday?
Peter Vermes actually started rookie Amadou Dia at right back to open the season over Jalil Anibaba. But he has started the last 6 games as SKC continue to wait for the return of Chance Myers. Anibaba has been serviceable. He has scored a goal and since the injury to Ike is the tallest player (along with Besler) on the team who can't use his hands. He is not bad going forward with the ball at his feet but his crosses don't seem to amount to much. In the back, he tends to maybe get a little nervous and resorts to launching hopeful balls forward to Dom. On the back line right now, Anibaba is new, De Jong at RB is new, and Besler is paired with Kevin Ellis who is not a real CB. The familiarity with the system and the team from Chance Myers will be welcomed when he comes back in June.
Bonus: How ill-omened is poor Ike Opara? Feel free to use cataclysmic and/or apocalyptic metaphors to explain the extent of his karmic undoing.
Ike.... Oh man. It still gets me. The guy simply must have done horrible, unspeakable things in a past life because in this one he is an absolute delight. He had already kind of been labeled as injury prone and then the injury last year was a freak thing that could happen to anyone. He again worked incredibly hard for a year to come back. He scored opening day, was getting nationally recognized and then bam! So sad for the guy. But he is a fighter so no doubt he will be back. To quote him, "Fall down 7, stand up 8!"
Nemeth - Dwyer - Zusi
Espinoza - Musitvar - Feilhaber
De Jong - Besler - Ellis - Anibaba
3-1 for the home side!