It is game day so I thought I should check in with a detailed recap of last week's game. I feel this team is very close to being a good side. Some things need to get cleaned up, a couple of guys need not be involved in the rotation anymore and patience needs to be exercised by the fan base. When you have a young team you have to be patient while they make mistakes and figure things out.
Join me for the recap after the jump!
Chicago vs Houston game recap
Weather: 60 degrees and clear
Surface: Natural Grass
Location: Stadium in Bridgeview IL
Referee: Mark Geiger
Line Judges: Hector Vergara, Adam Wienckowski
4th Official: Ismail Elfath
Matchday Live announce crew:
Coach: Carlos de los Cobos
GK: Jon Conway
D: Jalil Anibaba
D: Josip Mikulic
D: Yamith Cuesta
D: Gonzalo Segares
MF: Patrick Nyarko
MF: Baggio Husidic
MF: Logan Pause (c)
MF: Marco Pappa
F: Dominic Oduro
F: Diego Chaves
F: Gaston Puerari
M: Bratislav Ristic
D: Dasan Robinson
M: Mike Videira
F/M: Orr Barouch
M: Daniel Paladini
GK: Sean Johnson
Changes from last week: Yamith Cuesta gets the start for the injured Corey Gibbs. Baggio Husidic gets the start in place of turnover prone Mike Videira. Dominic Oduro gets a spot start against his old team in place of Gaston Puerari. I don't think anyone can argue with these changes. Nyarko returns to his customary spot in the starting lineup. The only other move I might have made is Ristic for Anibaba but at the same time sticking with the rookie now will pay dividends later in the season.
Coach: Dominic Kinnear
GK: Tally Hall
D: Hunter Freeman
D: Bobby Boswell
D: Andre Hainault
MF: Danny Cruz
MF: Lovel Palmer
MF: Geoff Cameron
MF: Brad Davis
F: Will Bruin
F: Cam Weaver
F: Colin Clark
D: Je-Vaugh Watson
M: Jason Garey
M: Mike Chabala
D: Eddie Robinson
D: Kofi Sarkodie
GK: Tyler Deric
1. Immediately Husidic makes his presence felt as he makes an aggressive run into the offensive third, wins the ball at the goal line and puts a pass into the box. No shot came of it but nice play all the way around. Oduro gets the ball in the box whiffs on the shot.
2. Nyarko finds Oduro making a run but just misses him. Good pass from Nyarko. Pappa gets the ball on the right and puts the service out of bounds.
3. Houston settles things down a bit, Cameron makes a run towards the goal line makes a cross that is gobbled up by Conway.
4. Husidic finds Chaves in the middle of the field, Chaves to Pappa on the right, Pappa makes a run don the end line and gets a cross deflected out for a corner.
5. Pappa's corner is easily defended. Pappa and Nyarko are starting on different sides than normal. Husidic find Nyarko who passes to Chaves at the top of the box, Chaves looks to make a pass to Oduro but it is blocked. Husidic's presence is already apparent, not turning the ball over and making excellent passes.
6. Corner earned after Sega blocks a cross out of bounds. Corner ends up going over everyone, Goal Kick.
7. Husidic manages to win the goal kick, his header ends up with Chaves who blasts from distance that Tally Hall controls. Pappa was lurking for a rebound. Oduro gets free on the right side puts a cross in that is defended by Houston.
8. Oduro gets free on the right hands side and tries to put a service in but he puts it long and wide of Nyarko. Oduro is working really well right now.
9. Cuesta winning headers and playing solid positional defense right now. Definite upgrade over Robinson in the middle.
10. Fire win throw in on the right side.
11. Nice play by Pappa to combine with Anibaba down the right but Jalil's pass is wide of Chaves. Unfortunate mistake there by the rookie. Cuesta covers for Sega and puts the ball out of bounds. Smart play by the Columbian.
12. Ensuing corner is defended well by the Fire. Mikulic first to get a head on it.
13. Houston wins free kick on a questionable call from the ref.
14. Palmer with a strike from distance that gets deflected out of bounds for a corner. Fire defense looks worlds better right now than it did in the past two games. Ensuing corner is ably defended again, this time Chaves gets the first head tot he corner. Marco with a bad turnover in the defensive end but Anibaba is there to clear long.
15. Fire eventually earn throw in after the turn over. Houston earns throw in deep in Fire territory.
16. Houston keeps control but a wayward cross goes out of bounds for a goal kick. Chaves gets the ball free in the middle but Chaves and Oduro are not on the same page as Diego puts the ball where Oduro is not. They yell at each other a bit after the play. Missed opportunity there.
17. Nyarko keeps looking to spring Oduro. He has missed him a few times now.
18. Pappa takes advantage of a bad Houston turnover (a slip up by 16) and races down the right hand side. Oduro and Chaves are on the run Marco gets handled by three Houston defenders and is knocked down (could have been a foul call) loose ball ends up at the feet of Diego Chaves who blasts the ball into the left hand side of the net easily beating Tally Hall. Goal Fire 1-0. Great finish but you would expect Marco to make a good pass their instead of dribbling into a bunch of Houston players and losing the ball. A bit lucky on the goal but finishing on your chances is important and there was no doubt about this one.
20. Evan Whitfield already recommending to Park the Bus. Evan, there is like 70 minutes to go in this game. Oduro gets free on the right hand side heads into the box and is taken down. Oduro gets a yellow for simulation. Not sure it was worthy of a yellow as Oduro did need to hurdle the leg of the Houston defender. He should have run into the guys leg instead of jumping over it.
21. Fire on the attack again, this tim eOduro trying to work with Pappa but Oduro turns the ball over.
22. Oduro wins the ball back and gets it to Pappa, Pappa puts in a deflected cross that gets cleared long to Conway. Chicago looking excellent and dangerous. Late tackle from behind by Mikulic earns no card. Weird looked like a yellow to me.
23. CUESTA~! clears the ball near the line after Mikulic does not get enough of the ball and Conway is beaten. The replay shows that it wasn't as close as it initially looked. Still Excellent play by Cuesta.
24. Near catastrophe at the back as Conway has to reach behind him for a save, ahhh the flag was up for offsides.
25. Oduro tripped up no call.
26. Reckless challenge from the Fire on Will Bruin, Mikulic again, lucky to get away with that.
27. Needless turnover by Dynamo, Fire throw in. Houston gains ball back and tries to make a run down the side but Cuesta is there to calmly hammer the ball out of bounds. Off the throw in Cruz gets the ball and passes to Bruin who puts in a dangerous cross the Mikulic weakly clears towards Cruz, Cruz is about to smash the ball when Sega with a diving one footed challenge gets the ball and pushes it towards the top of the box which ends up in a shot from outside of the box from Geoff Cameron who puts it wide. Dangerous work from Houston. Fire defense looking a little less compact there as three guys went towards Bruin and left Cruz unmarked.
28. Anibaba panics a bit and slams the ball out of bounds. Still safe play there can't blame him for that.
29. Cuesta heads the ball clear off the ensuing throw in. Houston with a nice spell offensively hear. Nyarko tackles down Freeman in the offensive third. Dangerous free kick coming for Houston.
30. Free kick ably defended and then a long cross into the box is gobbled up by Conway.
31. Fire having problems maintaining possession, they gain a bit of possession and it ends up with Pappa mis hitting a shot from distance that is ably saved by Hall.
32. Bad turnover by Anibaba, passed directly to Houston player. Ends up in corner for Houston. Corner headed away by Cuesta, Pappa fighting with Palmer to get the ball, hand on back of Palmer when he went down, foul called just outside the box. Dangerous position.
33. Free kick headed out by Cuesta. Houston regains control and Cameron puts another shot over the bar. Goal Kick.
34. Fire maintain possession in the midfield get the ball out to Oduro who makes with some nifty footwork and gets the ball to Pappa who combines with Chaves but can't get on the ball there but is fouled by Hainault. Hainault blatantly kicks Pappa in the back and then on the leg as they fall down. Card deserving deliberate play right in front of the linesman. Marco is pissed and lets him know. OK people quick sidebar here: If MLS is serious on cracking down on the hard challenges that have plagued the league then things like Mikulic's late tackle from behind and this deliberate kicking by Hainault have to be considered yellow card offenses. If you let these go then you will continue to get the same overly physical play that MLS has continuously offered these past few seasons. 9 game suspensions after the fact are good but why let it get to that point? Yellow card's for legit yellow card offenses need to be given. Ignore the criticisms about cards being up. Cards are going to have to go up to get things under control, it is why they are there. OK back to the game.
35. Pappa earns corner.Corner taken shortly but ends up as a throw in. Good idea not the greatest execution. Sega with a blast from distance that goes way over the cross bar. Good decision by Sega.
36. Cuesta heads the ball away again.
37. Chaves fouled in the midfield. After a great first 25 minutes Husidic has disappeared a bit. He needs to be more aggressive. Cuesta clears the ball again this time long towards Oduro, Hall has to come out and grab the ball.
38. Great effort by Nyarko and oduro to force a turnover Husidic gets the ball and helps control, Oduro makes a nifty run down the side by can't get on the ball, Pappa ends up with the ball and goes through two defenders and earns a free kick just outside the box.
39. Unsurprisingly Houston has targeted Marco and are busy thugging it up with him. Standard Houston protocol. Free kick is knocked out for a corner.
40. Corner punched away by Hall, the Fire actually looked dangerous on that free kick. Logan puts a shot well over the bar after the ball is punched away. Again a good decision just poor execution. Anibaba puts one out of bounds that didn't need to be again, this one a bit more egregious than the last.
41. Fire gain control in the midfield. Husidic makes a good pass by Nyarko turns the ball over with a bad pass, Husidic with an excellent tackle to win the ball back for the Fire. Chaves gets the ball in the center circle and sprays it wide that forces Ashe into a handball to slow the attack. Anibaba gets the ball in the box and manages to get it to Husidic who is surrounded by Houston and has the ball taken away. Nice work by the Fire there.
42. Feel the need to note Diego Chaves is everywhere tonight. This guy is a machine. Nyarko down to Sega on the left hand side tries to cross it in but it is blocked out for a corner.
43. Corner goes to no one, terrible play. Goes all the way back to Conway who boots it long down the field. Mikulic puts the ball out for a corner, miscommunication between Mikulic, Cuesta and Conway there.
44. Off the corner Chaves heads the ball out for another corner. Off the next corner Cam Weaver blasts a header just wide of the post for a gaol kick.
45. Husidic wins the ball i the middle and gets it to Chaves who gets fouled for a free kick. Free kick poorly taken by Chaves. Houston comes down the field and Will Bruin takes a shot from distance that is well wide of the goal. Anibaba with some decent work to disrupt Bruin. Stoppage time 1 minute: Mikulic deflects a ball wide, great play by Josep as if that gets through there will be an excellent chance for a goal. Corner Kick goes through everyone and ends up on the other side of the field. Logan shuts down a possible cross and the halftime whistle blows. FIRST HALF THOUGHTS: This was a very good half of football for the Fire. The improvement initially came from the excellent passing of Baggio Husidic, the lull in the first half corresponded with a lack of touches and aggressiveness for Husidic, once Baggio got involved again the Fire attack picked back up. Having a good passer in the middle is key for this team especially when Puerari starts the game on the bench. Cuesta was also impressive in the first half. Anibaba had an adequate half on the right but continues to make rookie mistakes. Oduro had a nice start but quieted down a bit as the half went on. Everyone else played like you would expect them to. Yes I expect Diego Chaves to be awesome all the time now. Ok onto the second half.
46. Mikulic with a strong tackle on Bruin, got the ball first but got a lot of Bruin as well.
47. Conway punches it away but Lovell Palmer hammers the ball towards goal but it hits the post.
48. Nyarko steals the ball and gets fouled for a free kick.
49. Free kick taken by Husidic who gets a good look on goal but hits it wide. Houston advance down the line with throw ins. Segares concedes another one.
50. Nice tackle by Nyarko to take possession away and force Houston back into their defensive half. Husidic wins the ball in the offensive half and the Fire gain control. Foul given to Pappa after Brad Davis elbows Pappa and then Pappa pulls Davis down. Unimpressive performance by the Ref.
51. Lovel Palmer earns free kick after foul by Husidic. At this point the Fire are sitting back and looking to win possession. At this point it seems like a decent strategy.
53. Husidic and Pause combine to win the ball. Pappa sends a speculative ball towards Chaves that is grabbed by Hall.
54. Cuesta with a nice long ball down the field that Oduro puts pressure on that gains a throw in for the Fire.
55. Fire seem to be holding the midfield a bit better. Anibaba with a speculative shot towards goal that gets deflected. Poor decision by the rookie.
56. Game a bit sloppy right now both teams having some issues controlling the midfield.
57. Big time header from Cuesta whose head collides with that of Cam Weaver. Both players go down. Cuesta stays down for quite a while. Clean play by both guys nothing dirty in it.
58. Cuesta still down.
59. Cam Weaver was bloodied on that play.
60. Cuesta up and over to the sidelines. He will remain in the game after telling everyone he is fine. Weaver gets the black tape wrapped around his head for his wound.
61. Game back on. Ashe puts a dangerous cross into the box that is headed away by the Fire. Weak clearance from Mikulic helped on by Husidic. Husidic combines with Chaves
62. Chaves earns a free kick in the offensive third. Free kick taken by Pappa, deflection goes to Husidic who is wide open at the spot, he blasts it over the ball and immediately is pissed at himself. That should have been on frame. I suspect if Baggio had been playing a bit more (not sure how much time he has been seeing in reserve games) that would have been on frame.
63. Houston comes charging down the field and Mikulic again calls for Conway to come and get the ball when Conway is not near it. This time Jon manages a clearance but looks most displeased with Mikulic. After the Fire take control of the ball Pause has a needless turnover as he looks to move the ball forward. Not a good play.
64. Cuesta continues his excellent work as he shuts down a Dynamo opportunity. Conway comes out of his box to make a clearance.
65. Mike Videira comes on for Baggio Husidic. When I was at the game it seemed liked Husidic had been pretty invisible for long stretches of play but after re-watching the game up to this point he was staying involved and was working hard. In retrospect I don't like this sub but when I was watching the game live I was fine with it. Well as fine as one can be when Mike Videira comes on for your side. Videira carries some nice defense on Cameron wins the ball and dribbles up field.
66. Then Videira promptly turns the ball over with a horrible passing decision. He tried to get it to Oduro who was covered by two Dynamo players 20 yards up field. The pass was horrible as well as it had no chance of getting to Oduro just to go out of bounds. Mike please attend your Turnovers Anonymous meetings I'm begging you. Cuesta hammers a clearance long that Oduro initially wins but Hainault wins back. Cameron has a pass intercepted by the Fire who gain control. Nyarko combines with Chaves on quickly puts a ball back towards Nyarko who beats the Houston defender to the ball and passes it on to a charging Oduro, deemed to be on sides, who is through with a one on one against Hall. Oduro's shot beats Hall but goes off the cross bar. An unfortunate miss off of some terrific passes and runs from all involved.
67. Houston sub Colin Clark on for Danny Cruz. Sega gets his foot to make a key deflection off a cross into the Fire box.
68. Hainault hammers another Fire player this time Diego Chaves in the head. Elbows him blatantly in the head. Hainault should have at least 1 yellow by now (as should Mikulic). Helpful graphic by the Fire broadcast Hainault has 4 of the 7 fouls so far. Two of those fouls were very physical. Again poor performance in game management from the ref this evening. Completely unimpressed with the refereeing ability of Mark Geiger.
69. Dynamo is controlling the ball in the midfield and the Fire currently have no ideas on how to maintain possession.
70. Cuesta misses a clearance that allows Cameron to get free but Pause covers and makes a great stop on the shot that ends up with a throw in. That has amounted to nothing. On the counter attack Oduro gets free and finds Chaves Chaves shot is blocked but some how the Fire do not earn a corner.
71. Silly long ball from Mikulic to no one there. Bad decision. Possession is of the utmost importance right now. Team is really lacking ideas on how to take care of business with out Husidic or Puerari on the field.
72. Mike Videira with some lazy defending gets beat which allows a through ball to Will Bruin that Bruin can't quite get on the end of before Conway slides out to grab it. Nice work by Cuesta to disrupt Bruin's run. A hearty Screw You goes out to Mike Videira for being mentally and physically lazy on that play. This may be the game that cements his place on the reserve team. Really bad play by him. Chaves shows some wizardry by keeping the ball alive in the offensive end.
73. Chaves gets the ball to Anibaba who makes a bit of an over aggressive run towards the goal line that amounts in nothing for the Fire. Houston comes flying down the field and Marco Pappa gets caught not watching his defensive responsibility as he gives up an easy pass to a diving Cam Weaver that is put wide of the goal. Good chance for Houston there.
74. Diego Chaves is an Uruguayan Machine. He wins the ball passes it off while falling down, receives a pass back to him while he is on the ground wins that ball, dribbles into space and puts a great pass onto the chest of Marco Papa who is ten yards outside of the box. Pappa rips a good shot that Tally Hall is in position for and plucks out of the air. Excellent work by Chaves to create that opportunity. Right now he is, by far, the best player on the field.
75. Free kick earned by Houston. Incoming free kick headed away by Chaves towards Oduro. Oduro slow to get to it and Houston retains control.
76. Chicago Fire Sub Dasan Robinson on for Jalil Anibaba. Another substitution that felt better live than on tape. Anibaba was a bit panicky at times in this half especially when he was making pushes offensively and that is really not what you want this late in the game. Houston gains control after a bad throw in from Robinson.
77. Houston moves the ball around Dasan leaves a man unmarked Mikulic shuts down Clark whose first touch let him down a bit as he had a clear look on goal. The ball finds it way to Will Bruin who puts a shot above the bar. Chaves is down with cramping and his head is clearly bothering him from the elbow he received earlier.
80. Game back on. Houston maintaining control. They easily knife their way down the left hand side and a cross comes in the ball ends up at the feet of Clark who blasts a shot that is saved by Jon Conway. Fire defense is to bunched up and Houston can do anything they want right now down the left.
81. Dasan takes a shot to the nether regions and stays down for a bit. Dasan gets up and grimaces a bit but plays on.
82. Palmer earns free kick for Houston. Free kick quickly passed over to a wide open Ashe who puts in a great cross that Conway drops but Cuesta boots out of bounds. Nyarko beaten down the right hand side and a cross is put in that Robinson clears out.
83. Puerari on for Oduro. Long throw in into the box that is punched out by Conway. Then a corner is conceded by Chaves. Chaves is gritting though cramps right now. Goal Houston 1-1 Bobby Boswell scores on the header. Boswell gets a sloppy header over Mikulic and Pause. He didn't get good head on that either. Disappointing goal to give up but you could see that coming as they just were hemorrhaging possession again. If anything this should be the final nail in the Pause/Videira defensive midfielder combination. Videira just isn't up to it.
85. Videira with a nice touch he manages to find Puerari who tries to get it to Chaves but did not work. Fire looking very gassed right now.
86. Conway puts a ball long and wide out of bounds. Chaves earns free kick
87. Mikulic down with cramps. Houston substitution as Jason Garey comes on for Will Bruin. Mikulic screaming at the medical staff. Clearly in a lot of pain as he gets some magic spray on his ankle and he can move around again.
89. Free kick for Pappa amounts to nothing ball pushed back into offensive third, Videira can't maintain control but manages to harass enough to earn a throw in. Ends up with a goal kick for Houston.
90. Foul called on Cuesta Houston take a quick restart that Clark hits wide off the side netting, took a deflection off of Sega's leg for a corner. Chaves and Nyarko manage to combine to eventually get the ball clear. SEVEN MINUTES OF STOPPAGE. This actually is pretty accurate considering Cuesta was down forever earlier this half.
91. Hainault and Chaves going at it again. Hainault is lucky to still be in this game don't know what he is complaining about. Somehow Chaves gets a yellow out of all of that. Total nonsense by this referee. Terrible game for him.
92. Puerari working hard to try to latch onto any ball in the middle but nothing is happening. Cuesta continues his hard work in the middle getting a needed clearance.
93. Dasan puts a ball of a Dynamo player. The Fire look weary of giving up a counter. Robinson continues to gravitate towards the middle of the field.
94. Sega and Pappa combine down the left but Sega's cross is not as good as it needed to be. Still good work this late in the game.
95. Chaves continues to give it his all but he is clearly laboring at this point.
96. Nyarko gets the ball in the midfield and is tackled down by Houston, Yellow card shown to Lovel Palmer for the professional foul. Good play by Lovel as Nyarko had a gab to maneuver in. Fire showing some possession here. Cuesta is pushed way up and makes his first bad play of the night as he tries to cross or shoot the ball and puts it way over the goal. Yeah he is a center back.
97. Nyarko goes toe to toe with a Dynamo player. I'm enjoying the attitude from key members of the team tonight. Final whistle blows.
Post game Chaves has a word with Hainault for his awful elbow he leveled at Chaves earlier in the game.
While giving up the goal late sucked it was a much better performance from the team over all. The first half was really good. Excellent play early in the game from Baggio Husidic combined with Oduro and Chaves hard work up front made for several dangerous moments. The second half was a story of some poor substitutions by de Los Cobos. In retrospect putting Mike Videira on killed any sort of passing out of the midfield. Possession was clearly hobbled after he came on. Plus Mike played poorly even by Mike Videira standards. Also it is getting clearer and clearer that Dasan Robinson's effectiveness as a bench player at the MLS level might be coming to an end. He just doesn't have the wheels to play on the outside in any sort of formation any more. It is also questionable if he can play in the middle. I thought he was serviceable last year and had no issues with him coming back to the team this year but clearly his play has dropped (or overall league offensive talent jumped from last year to this year). Yamith Cuesta's performance tonight cements his place as the primary backup behind Gibbs and Mikulic. If Cuesta puts in another performance like this he will push Mikulic for his minutes.
I fully expect to see Ristic get some minutes at right back as a late game substitution for Anibaba in the future. For better or worse this team is stuck with Jalil starting and we all should be fine with that. Suffering through the mistakes of young players early in the season typically leads to results later in the year.
Going into tonight's game I really would like to see Paladini get the start with Husidic. It appears like DLC is leaning in that direction. This team badly needs someone who is better at corners and dead ball situations (as apparently Paladini is good at those things) to take advantage of all the set pieces this team generates. This has to be a point of emphasis moving forward.
One point regarding the referee Mark Geiger. He was atrocious in his game management and consistency regarding foul calls. His cards were arbitrary. I don't think his reffing had an impact on the out come of the game. I want to make that very clear. His refereeing leads to overly physical games as he has no idea how to make sure tempers calm down. He is an expert at fanning the flames. I've watched him ref games terribly before and I will watch him do it again (in fact this Philly/SJ game he is reffing right now is an example of what not to do as a referee). I watched this guy turn a friendly match into a fairly chippy game. The USSF needs to remove him from the pool of 1st division referees. The guy makes Baldemero Toledo look like a good referee. Yeah it's that bad.
I'll check in soon with a recap of this week's game.