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

The second part of the latest installment in the Know Your Enemy series, previewing TFC's upcoming opponent, the Chicago Fire, reviewing the game film for strengths and weaknesses

Mike Magee, Quincy Amarikwa, and Harrison Shipp celebrate a goal - they've been doing that a lot this season
Mike Magee, Quincy Amarikwa, and Harrison Shipp celebrate a goal - they've been doing that a lot this season
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Part One was posted earlier, looking over Chicago’s lineup and form

The Tactics

With some twenty matches remaining on their season, Chicago has plenty of time to make up the eleven point deficit they find themselves in – they are just five off the playoff line.

With points their desire and playing at home, expect Frank Yallop’s side to come out swinging against Toronto this evening; they have the firepower to cause trouble. Scoring has not been their problem – they have 22 on the season, enough to be tied for third most in the conference, with fewer matches played at that.

When a side has the likes of Mike Magee, Harry Shipp, Quincy Amarikwa, and Juan Luis Anangono in its forward stable, that fact should come as little surprise.

Magee is an MLS poacher, somehow he always finds himself open and in the right spot; he has yet to find the form that saw him register 21 goals last season, with only four this, but he should be watched carefully.

Toronto’s defenders must be aware of where his is at all times – something that Salt Lake failed to do:

Nat Borchers was caught napping and Nick Rimando was made to pay for leaving such a rebound for the striker.

Paired up top with Magee, Amarikwa has seen a resurgence in his form this season, with his tenacious, non-stop, take no prisoners-style paying dividends to the faith put in him by Yallop.

With five goals and three assists on the season from Amarikwa, Toronto will have their hands full keeping a lid on Chicago’s front two. He will pester the ball, looking to force mistakes, as he did against Philadelphia, before setting up Magee:

And he can finish in style himself should he be provided with the opportunity – as he did against Chivas - and every player loves to get one over on his previous employers.

The former TFC striker has become a cult favourite with the club; featured in his #QuincyTime video series and is quite the fantasy player apparently.

As if those two were not enough, Shipp has been an absolute revelation having starred in college for Notre Dame. With five goals and four assists on the season, the homegrown rookie has blown away all competition for the rookie of the year battle, and have many talking about when, rather than if, he will receive a call-up to the national team.

Shipp is a slippery customer – whether on the counter, as he was against Seattle, jinking away from two of the league’s best defenders in Chad Marshall and Osvaldo Alonso to finish with aplomb:

That elusiveness, combined with composure – as in his third against New York – and class – such as his second against Seattle – he looks to be a dominant player in the league for years to come; at least until he moves onward and upward in the world.

Of note on that goal in New York, it was exemplary how the Chicago forwards work together to press the opponent’s defenders on the ball – with Magee forcing a poor pass out of Jamison Olave and Shipp picking the pocket of Kosuke Kimura.

The way the three combine, will cause any side trouble – and they have a certain understanding that goes beyond the number of matches they have together under their belts. Whether forcing errors or catapulting up-field on a counter, such as Amarikwa’s goal against New England - courtesy a Jeff Larentowicz-forced turnover and a defense-splitting pass from Shipp, Toronto will have their hands full:

Rounding out the offensive threats, Anangono provides something different – a threat in the air – as he evidenced against Salt Lake with this lingering header:

Toronto will have to be wary of back-post runners in open play and from set-pieces, the likes of Larentowicz (against New York) and the suspended Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (against DC), have proved capable in the air – both corner kicks were delivered by Shipp.


Set-pieces have proved a weakness, which comes as a minor surprise given Yallop’s experience in organizing his defense. Bobby Burling’s late winner in the season opener came from a towering header over Bakary Soumare:

While both Dax McCarty and Perry Kitchen have also taken advantage of Chicago’s disorder, losing their men on corner kicks to score. And then there was Tim Cahill, who popped up more-or-less unmarked at the back-post after a quick throw-in caught Chicago napping:

Toronto has been very wasteful from their set-piece opportunities, but Steven Caldwell is due for a powerful header some time soon, while Doneil Henry and Nick Hagglund have looked very dangerous of late.

Sean Johnson, the Chicago keeper, is a fine shot-stopper, though he has been beat on several occasions from distance – this one from Joao Plata was very well placed, but no doubt Johnson would like to have it back:

He also let a Leo Fernandes deep free-kick sneak in untouched at the far-post against Philadelphia and could not get down fast enough to prevent DC’s Fabian Espindola from smashing a free-kick past him.

Toronto should have no compunctions about having a go at goal – and be sure to follow up those rebounds.

Portland’s Gaston Fernandez exposed another of Chicago’s defensive weaknesses that combined with Johnson’s proclivity for leaving juicy rebounds. Darlington Nagbe’s shot was turned away, but the rebound fell straight to an unmarked Fernandez, who tied the match in the 79th minute:

Both Plata and Dom Dwyer similarly took advantage of that lack of awareness on the back-side – Plata’s a touch in from a cross for Salt Lake’s late winner and Dwyer’s a header from a curling free-kick, though meagre consolation for Sporting.

Jermain Defoe can feast on that sort of open space, should the opportunity present itself and Jonathan Osorio needs to make himself a presence in the box with late runs.

Neither is Chicago all that fleet of foot at the back, as Jairo Arrieta and Jack McInerney exposed:

Again, Defoe will have a field day with that sort of space – Toronto should look to get the ball forward quickly, testing the centre-backs into footraces against Defoe.

Points of Interest

Penalty kicks have played a major role in Chicago matches these season with ten called – six for Chicago and four against, though the Fire did miss two of their attempts with Magee and Anangono denied by Zac MacMath and Bobby Shuttleworth.

Chicago are unbeaten in their last eight matches against TFC; Toronto’s last win came back in 2010 – 4-1 at home on goals from Nick LaBrocca (the wind-assisted beauty), O’Brian White, and a Chad Barrett brace (something about Barrett braces of late); Logan Pause scored the lone Chicago goal.

Toronto has never won in Chicago, losing four of seven matches and drawing the others – Chicago has won the last three encounters in the Windy City, TFC last taking a point in a scoreless draw back in 2010.

The two met twice last season: drawing in Toronto in September (1-1 on goals from Dilly Duka and Robert Earnshaw three minutes apart) and Chicago winning at home in October (1-0 with Magee providing the lone goal).

Chicago too will play Tottenham in a summer friendly – on July 26th – three days after TFC does so.