As we look forward to Saturday's game against the Vancouver Whitecaps, let's mix in some news and notes from this past weekend. The Chicago Fire academy teams faced regional rivals Chicago Magic on Saturday, April 30th. Chicagoland Soccer has full recaps but the U-15/16 team tied 0-0 while the U-17/18 team gave up two goals in the second half to lose 2-0. Both squads rolled out familiar squads if you have been reading our academy write-ups. The biggest academy news is that three players from the U-17/18 team played against the Chicago Magic on Saturday morning and then showed up in Colorado the next morning to play in the reserves game. More on that, thoughts on the formation the reserves played, who we'll play in the U.S. Open Cup next, and more after the break.
The lucky academy kids who showed up in Colorado were U-17/18 captain Peter Beasley, Manny Guzman, and Brady Wahl. Beasley and Wahl both put in a full 90 minutes while Manny Guzman was a 46th minute substitution in the academy game. For the Chicago Fire Reserves game, Peter Beasley played the entire game at CB and Manny Guzman and Brady Wahl substituted in the 73rd and 89th minutes respectively. Beasley held his own in the back as the starting lineup of Alec Dufty; Bratislav Ristic, Beasley, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Pari Pantazopoulos; Victor Pineda; Martin Rivas, Baggio Husidic, Orr Barouch, Davis Paul; Patrick Nyarko won the game 2-1. Colorado's Steven Emory scored in the 51st minute and Nyarko and Barouch scored in the 66th and 68th minute respectively assisting each other on the scores.
A 4-1-4-1 lineup in the Reserves game suggests that Chicago coach Carlos de los Cobos is going back to his old favorite formation for the First team games. The most important position notes in my opinion are that Pineda saw time as a defensive mid, Barouch played as a central midfielder and Patrick Nyarko started up top. Nyarko has been used as forward sparsely in the past and Dominic Oduro started at RM over Nyarko in the Colorado game. Let's hope that Carlos de los Cobos was just conducting a one game experiment here and not searching for a solution. Count me as someone who thinks it is a bad idea to switch a RM into a F position while moving a F into the RM position. Barouch has been playing a midfield role since the Portland game. He is young enough that he could still be finding his best fit. I like seeing Barouch start in different places for now. I liked seeing Pineda start at all. Like Barouch, we are still trying to figure out where he will play best. I wouldn't rule out Pineda making the bench for the First team this weekend given the rash of injuries.
Mike Videira, Cory Gibbs, Logan Pause, and Josip Mikulic might all miss for Saturday's game according to the latest MLS Injury Report released on Tuesday. Instead of a 4-1-4-1, I wouldn't mind seeing the team go all out with a 3-4-3. I think Jon Conway; Jalil Anibaba, Yamith Cuesta, Gonzalo Segares; Patrick Nyarko, Daniel Paladini, Baggio Husidic, Marco Pappa; Dominic Oduro, Diego Chaves, Gaston Puerari might give up a goal or two but it would certainly pack enough punch to fight back and provide a great show for the home crowd. It's highly unlikely the defensive minded CDLC would do such a thing, but I think that lineup maximizes team performance and attributes. We are stacked at offense at the moment and frighteningly short in the back. This is Josip Mikulic's second injury so I think it is time to raise the alarm bells on his overall health consistency.
I think Chicago will sign a defensive player or two in the summer transfer window but Guillermo Rivera mentioned yesterday a report that Mexican International Sinha might be interested in the Fire. Sinha would be the midfield maestro many fans have been calling for. I would think that wouldn't be our only signing. The defense is just too thin. At least the Reserves look strong as the 2-1 victory gave them a 2-0 record on the year. I like our depth up front and I think this team can make a real run in the U.S. Open Cup. Speaking of which, the Portland Timbers and San Jose Earthquakes played last night with San Jose winning in the 120th minute of overtime on a Ike Opra header. The Fire will now play San Jose sometime before the end of May in the USOC in addition to the MLS Regular Season game on Saturday, May 28. If the two games are in the same week, I'd like to see the Fire put out the strongest team for the USOC game. Time will tell. There are a lot of questions still to be answered all the way from bottom to the top.