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Know Your Enemy: Chicago Fire – Meeting the First - Part Two – Game Film Review and Points of Interest

The second installment of the Know Your Enemy series, previewing TFC's upcoming opponent - the Chicago Fire - reviews the game-film for strengths and weaknesses, as well as highlighting some points of interest

Rolfe, Magee, and Duka - three to watch come the match
Rolfe, Magee, and Duka - three to watch come the match

Part One, dissecting their lineup and form, was posted earlier today

The Tactics

Having surmised that Mike Magee would not be involved – more a product of wishful thinking than any actual proof – it would be nigh impossible to discuss the Chicago attack without bringing up his role.

As mentioned in Part One, he has been a major factor in their goal-production since joining the club and currently sits second placed in the Golden Boot race on fifteen goals, two behind Marco Di Vaio.

It is a little counterintuitive to think of Magee as leading the line - he’s not particularly tall, nor exceptionally quick.

In LA he was often left to patrol the flank from whence he could make use of his greatest asset – his ability to assess the coming play and ghost into the correct space, often without being noticed.

Magee makes exceptionally good runs, peeling off the shoulder of the last defenders, as he did against Kansas City - though Aurelien Collin’s momentary lapse of concentration was equally at fault:

And he is such a clinical finisher.

With Chris Rolfe roaming to find space through the middle, Magee will seek to drop off and shift to either side – usually the opposite of where the play is developing, so that he can attack the delivery while the defenders are backing away from it.

Take the following goal against Seattle.

With the ball out on the right, Magee has tucked deep, once the ball floats towards Dilly Duka he shapes to the right, keeping his eye on the play the entire time, and picks up the pace on a curling run into the space abandoned by the collapsing defenders when the possibility of a through-ball evolves.

Duka does a brilliant job of spotting the run and poking the ball for Magee – perhaps one reason why Frank Klopas has preferred him over Joel Lindpere of late is that ability to play inside as well as out.

Lindpere has found most of his success in MLS as a wide player – first for New York, before joining Chicago this year.

His delivery from those wide positions is immaculate, leading to two Rolfe goals against DC – this one was particularly marvelous; an example of a cross that makes a goal:

And his tip-toed run down the touchline was half decent as well.

But what Duka offers is an entirely different – and wholly unpredictable – dimension, as his goal against Montreal, slicing through the middle of the defense, will attest:

Lindpere tends to slow down attacks, while Chicago excels at striking quickly – never hurts to have options.

Between Rolfe, Magee, Duka, Alex, and Patrick Nyarko Chicago has quickness, if not outright pace, up top and will look to use that ability to pounce.

Nyarko is particularly good at forcing turnovers and instituting attacks.

Against Philadelphia he shoulders Leo Fernandes off the ball in midfield before feeding to Magee, who has made space by delaying his run and inching wide:

Against Houston, he victimized Corey Ashe and found Magee in the middle – again in the defender’s blind-spot.

Combine all the above aspects – the drifting runs, the quick attacks, the crosses from wide, and the turnovers – and one of the main vulnerabilities is the back-post:

A Magee sneak attack and Lindpere’s pinpoint service combine for this goal against Columbus, or from the same match, Lindpere to Duka – notice how Rolfe drags the full-back in-field to open up the space for Duka to score against his former club, whom he left under a cloud:

Sophomore defender Austin Berry is a threat from set-pieces in the air – scoring against Colorado (video unavailable) - and Jalil Anibaba has a decent long throw on him.

The two combined to trouble both Salt Lake – after Berry flicked the throw towards Quincy Amarikwa – and Columbus – similarly flicked by Berry to Larentowicz:

One last thing – Dan Paladini hits a decent free-kick.


Chicago’s more obvious deficiencies come from direct play and shots from distance.

Take Camilo's goal for the Whitecaps. Straight from a Chicago corner kick, Brad Knighton alertly sprung the Brazilian, who twisted up Shaun Francis before finishing past Paolo Tornaghi:

While Portland’s Diego Valeri finished off a counterattack in style.

Again the trouble was wrought from a goalkeeper’s distribution with Milos Kocic’s kick flicked on by Frederic Piquionne.

That sounds like Robert Earnshaw territory, but he has been ice cold and Joe Bendik’s distribution needs to be more accurate to threaten.

Both Chicago’s keepers – Sean Johnson and Tornaghi - are very young and sometimes caught flat-footed or slightly out of position.

Graham Zusi’s floated cross-shot curled beyond the reach of Tornaghi and DC’s Luis Silva found a pocket of space – from a quick transition after another goal-kick – and beat Tornaghi from distance:

It would be nice if Toronto had a player like that; perhaps Jonathan Osorio will find similar space.

Sean Johnson, their regular starter, is a better shot stopper, but is prone to going walkabouts, such as on this goal in Seattle:

Toronto should get service and numbers into the box - one of these days they will listen.

Aside from that, Chicago has been stung by shoddy marking, or momentary lapses in concentration.

Bakary Soumare’s haphazard tracking of Cam Weaver – those more unkind would say atrocious and lazy – was poor, allowing the big Houston striker a clear path to the near-post:

And Nyarko was guilty of the same failure against Houston in the return fixture, allowing Adam Moffat to get in front of him from wide and smash in an equalizer in the final minutes of play.

That same lack of concentration – on the ball this time - cost Berry in Colorado, where Deshorn Brown forced a poor touch and stole in for the opening goal.

Though Berry would make amends with his game-winning header in the second half.

Points of Interest

This is the first meeting between the two clubs this season. They meet again in the penultimate match of the season, on October 19 in Chicago.

On matchday, it will have been one year minus a day since the two last met on September 12 last season, also in Toronto - First half goals from Alvaro Fernandez and Chris Rolfe were enough to see out a late Eric Hassli strike for Toronto - Highlights.

It was the thirteenth all-time meeting between the two clubs with Chicago winning seven, Toronto three, and drawing the other four.

All three of TFC’s wins have come at home, with Chicago winning four visits, and drawing another.

Chicago has won the last four meetings, regardless of location, and are unbeaten against Toronto in five matches stretching back to a 4-1 TFC win at home in May of 2010, during those heady days under Preki - goals from Nick LaBrocca, O’Brien White, and a Chad Barrett brace with Logan Pause scoring the Fire’s lone goal.