2012 Chicago Fire Preview

Discussion in 'Thread Archive' started by The Richuation, Feb 29, 2012.

  1. The Richuation

    The Richuation Walk On

    Jul 18, 2010

    Depth Chart: 1. Sean Johnson, 2. Jay Nolly, 3. Paolo Tornaghi
    Strengths: Johnson is one of the bright young goalkeepers in the US soccer player pool. After training with Everton, earning his second cap with the senior national team, and participating in two Under-23 camps this offseason, Johnson will return for his third MLS season – but not for long. It’s likely that Johnson will be called up to the Olympic qualifying tournament in late March and the Olympics in July and August. That’s why the Fire traded a 2013 first-round Supplemental Draft pick for Nolly, who started 14 games for Vancouver last year.
    Weaknesses: Johnson was shaky at the start of last season, and he was benched for six games in April and May before regaining his form. Nolly started last season as Vancouver’s starter, but was benched midway through the season.
    Wildcard: Nolly will be forced to step in when Johnson is gone on Olympic team duty. The 30-year-old allowed six goals in his last two games last season, and his play will go a long way to deciding important games in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

    Depth Chart: RB: 1. Dan Gargan, 2. Logan Pause, 3. Jalil Anibaba 4. Tony Walls; CB: 1. Cory Gibbs – Jalil Anibaba, 2. Austin Berry 3. Kwame Watson-Siriboe; LB: 1. Gonzalo Segares, 2. Hunter Jumper 3. Pari Pantazopoulos
    Strengths: Gibbs brings experience and leadership, and Anibaba is back after a standout rookie campaign. In his eighth year with the club, Segares is reliable as ever on the left. Gargan was strong after last year’s midseason trade, and Klopas has been happy with rookies Berry and Jumper in camp.
    Weaknesses: Depth at center back is currently an issue, but Klopas said he plans on bringing in another player before the start of the season to fill that need.
    Wildcard: Gibbs hasn’t played more than 26 games in a season during his four years in MLS. If the 32-year-old has to miss time, Berry will probably be inserted. The 22-year-old rookie would be paired with Anibaba, who is in his second year. The youthful center back tandem would be the biggest question mark in an otherwise experience lineup.

    Depth Chart: LM: 1. Marco Pappa, 2. Logan Pause 3. Corben Bone; CM (attacking): 1. Sebastián Grazzini, 2. Rafael Robayo, 3. Daniel Paladini; 4. Michael Videira; CM (holding): 1. Pável Pardo, 2. Logan Pause, 3. Daniel Paladini, 4. Tony Walls; RM: 1. Logan Pause, 2. Rafael Robayo, 3. Patrick Nyarko, 4. Victor Pineda
    Strengths: Depth – lots of it. The midseason arrivals of Grazzini and Pardo pushed the Fire to the brink of an MLS Cup Playoffs berth last season. The Fire signed Robayo in the offseason, and it may be difficult to keep him out of the starting lineup for long. The Fire have plenty of versatility, with Nyarko’s ability to slide back into the midfield and talented young players such as Pineda and Bone waiting in the wings.
    Weaknesses:The Fire don’t usually play with traditional wingers, but even so, Pause isn’t a natural fit on the right side, where he’ll probably play with Pardo taking over the holding midfield spot. It will be difficult to leave the captain out of the lineup, so he’s expected to play, even in an awkward spot.
    Wildcard: Robayo was the biggest addition of the offseason. The question Frank Klopas must answer is how he fits him into the starting lineup.

    Depth Chart: 1. Dominic Oduro, 2. Patrick Nyarko, 3. Federico Puppo, 4. Orr Barouch, 5. Kheli Dube, 6. Lucky Mkosana
    Strengths: Oduro had a career-changing season in 2011, scoring 12 goals after notching just 13 in his five previous years in the league. The speedy Ghanaian tandem of Oduro and Nyarko played well with the service of central midfielders Grazzini and Pardo last season. Not many teams have a speedier front line. Puppo and Barouch also may have opportunities to start if Nyarko slides back into the midfield.
    Weaknesses: The Fire don’t have a proven target forward in the mix. Nyarko has led the team in assists for the last two seasons, but he scored just two goals during that time.
    Wildcard: For the second straight year, the Fire added an Uruguayan striker when they signed Puppo. The 25-year-old takes will likely fill a similar role to his countryman, Diego Chaves, as a spot starter. He played in only 10 games for Primera División Uruguaya side Danubio FC last season, so it’s difficult to gauge exactly how much he’ll contribute.

    Setting the Scene

    Last season’s start was dismal. The Fire won just two games and tied 15 in their first 24. But the arrival of central midfielders Pável Pardo and Sebastián Grazzini changed everything. Patrick Nyarko was pushed up top alongside fellow Ghanaian Dominic Oduro, and the two flourished in front of the newly arrived playmakers. Oduro finished the year with 12 goals. The Fire finished the season 7-2-1, and were just three points shy of the MLS Cup Playoffs.
    This year, the Fire bring back their entire starting lineup and added another layer of depth behind them. The addition of Colombian Rafael Robayo, a box-to-box midfielder, adds to an already deep midfield. It may be difficult for coach Frank Klopas to keep his key offseason signing out of the starting lineup for long.
    Still, Oduro is the only proven goal-scoring forward, and it’s still not clear whether last season was an anomaly. But if the Fire are truly the same team that finished 2011, they’ll get back to their traditional winning ways after two years without a playoff berth.
    In and Out

    IN:G Jay Nolly (12/5: trade from Vancouver); F Kheli Dube (12/12: Re-Entry Stage 2/New England); M Rafael Robayo (1/9: free/Millonarios); F Federico Puppo (1/11: free/Danubio); D Austin Berry (1/12: SuperDraft); F Lucky Mkosana (1/12: SuperDraft); D Hunter Jumper (1/12: SuperDraft); M Tony Walls (1/17: supplemental draft)
    OUT: F Christian Nazarit (12/7: option declined); F Gabriel Ferrari (12/7: option declined); G Alec Dufty (12/12: option declined); M Baggio Husidic (12/12: Re-Entry Stage 2/Colorado); G Jon Conway (12/12: Re-Entry Stage 2/LA Galaxy); F Diego Chaves, (1/15: free/Palestino); D Yamith Cuesta (12/7: loan expired); D Josip Mikulic (1/26: waived)
    Star Attraction: Dominic Oduro

    Oduro burst onto the scene with 12 goals in 2012. The Ghanaian forward has always been one of the fastest players in the league, but last year he added a finishing touch after an early season trade to the Fire. Paired with Nyarko up top, Oduro was lethal at the end of last season and was recently rewarded with a national team call-up.
    After a career year in 2011, there is reason to believe this year may be an even better one for Oduro. Seven of his goals came in his final 13 starts, after Grazzini and Pardo arrived.
    Unsung Hero: Logan Pause

    Pause is one of the last remaining links to the Fire’s winning tradition. The unheralded leader was forced to vacate his natural holding midfield position when Pardo arrived last season, but he has the respect of his teammates.
    In his 10th year with the Fire, it’s unlikely the captain will find himself on the bench, even in a crowded midfield. He won’t be a traditional winger. Instead, he’ll track back more as a defensive stopper. If Klopas wants to insert Robayo into Pause’s spot, the 30-year-old veteran can slide back to right back.
    Ready for Primetime: Orr Barouch

    After spending six weeks during the offseason playing with the Israeli U-21 national team and training with Israeli club Maccabi Haifa, the 20-year-old forward comes into 2012 with some valuable experience. He came off the bench 26 times in 2011 and started twice.
    Barouch should start off the year in a similar role to 2011, but it wouldn’t be a shock if he starts a few more games this year after scoring two goals and adding two assists in 624 minutes in 2011.
    Storylines to Watch

    1. Who will start in the midfield? With five midfielders who found themselves in Klopas' lineup at the end of 2011 and Robayo added to the mix, it isn’t clear who will start. Right now, Robayo looks like the odd man out. Nyarko will probably get the nod at forward. Grazzini and Pardo were two of the biggest catalysts during the Fire’s season-ending resurgence in 2011. Pause is the team captain and a respected leader, so it’s difficult to envision a scenario in which he sits. Of course, Pappa is one of the most talented players on the team. Pause may move to right back at some point, opening up a spot for Robayo.
    2. How will backup goalkeeper Jay Nolly perform when Sean Johnson is away? Johnson will probably miss some time this season with the Olympic team, so Nolly, who started 14 games last year for Vancouver, will get an opportunity to start some games between the posts. He’ll likely be the biggest question mark in the starting lineup when Johnson is away.
    What He Said

    “There’s a sense of excitement. I think great teams, in whatever sport, take time to build. The longer you can keep a group together while adding some pieces along the way, the more you get to know each other’s tendencies and learn from each other.”
    Fire midfielder Logan Pause
    If Everything Goes Right

    Chicago were one of the top teams in the league over the last 10 games of 2011. There is little reason to believe they’ll start the year any different.
    If everything goes to plan, the Fire will be back in the top tier of the Eastern Conference and they’ll earn a postseason berth. Without a true marquee player, it’s hard to envision the Chicago winning MLS Cup, but an Eastern Conference Championship berth is certainly within reach.

    Last edited: Feb 29, 2012
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  2. The Richuation

    The Richuation Walk On

    Jul 18, 2010

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