With two of the season gone, the Chicago Fire have compiled a 2-5-1 record. I thought now would be a good time to do a progress report and give a grade to each player. As always with grades, they aren't permanent and some can be argued but this is how I see the season so far. I included minutes played and any stats that they have amassed (goals, assists, etc.). So let's get to it.
- Sean Johnson: C, 630 minutes played, 1.43GAA, 2SO, 1 yellow card, and a 2-4-1 record. He has had some spectacular saves throughout the season and he has also had some errors too. I would expect him to get better as the season grinds on, especially if Friedrich gets back into the lineup. Keep in mind that he may miss a lot of time as it is expected he will be with the USMNT this summer for Gold Cup action.
- Paolo Tornaghi: D+, 90 minutes played, 4.00GAA, and a 0-1-0 record. In the one game he did play in due to the absence of Johnson, the weather conditions weren't the greatest and he looked shaky all game long. I expected better out of the 2nd year goalie but it wasn't the case. Tornaghi should get some more playing time and experience in lieu of Sean's international action this summer.
- Austin Berry: C+, 720 minutes played, 1 assist, and 1 yellow card. One of 2 players on the team that has played every minute this season. It seems as though he is having a little sophomore slump this season after winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2012. I think the biggest thing affecting him is not having his normal defensive partner, Arne Friedrich, in the back line. Berry can play better then he has so far this season and as time goes on I think we will see an improvement.
- Jalil Anibaba: C+, 720 minutes played with 1 assist. Jalil is the other player that has played every minute so far this season. He started off the season shaky, especially the game against Chivas USA. Jalil has looked much better in the past few weeks however. He was my man of the match against Columbus and played well against Montreal. He seems to be getting more comfortable in the middle as time goes on while Friedrich is out. Like Berry he should improve as the season goes on.
- Gonzalo Segares: C+, 630 minutes played and 2 yellow cards. Has played well throughout the season and shows why he still is a starting left back. When he makes a mistake he still recovers well and still can get forward in order to be effective on the attack.
- Wells Thompson: D+, 367 minutes played, 1 yellow card, and a red card after the Crew game. Well, being the 4th choice right back you can't expect much. Besides a few times where he effectively joined the attack that's about all he has offered. His inexperience at right back has certainly shown up. For example, if you look at the Houston game he was burned by Brad Davis right before Houston's first goal. Right now he is the best option at right back , and we can only hope he will get more comfortable in that spot with more playing time.
- Steven Kinney: D+, 180 minutes played. The first 2 games of the season he looked a little winded and sluggish but I guess that's what happens when you are off for 2 years due to injury. Injured again and who knows for how long, I don't think he is our answer at right back. During the first 2 games he looked out of place and was unable to keep up with the tempo of the game. I don't really expect him to be on the roster after this season if the injury bug continues to plague him.
- Hunter Jumper: C+, 90 minutes played with one assist. Jumper made a couple mistakes in the beginning of the Red Bulls game, but showed he could hold his own as the game went on. He supplied a cross for Paladini's goal during the match as well as disrupting a few attacks on his wing. With time he could be our left back of the future. He provides ample backup for a position that is thin behind Sega.
- Michael Videira: C+, 84 minutes played. Filling in as the right back for the injured Steven Kinney, Videira played well and held his own versus SKC in his only start of the season. Unfortunately that start was cut short due to a concussion. His only other appearance was a short substitute appearance versus the Red Bulls. I wouldn't mind seeing him at right back a few more times to see if he could fight for a starting position.
- Jeff Larentowicz: C, 693 minutes played, 1 goal, 1 assist, 1 yellow card, and 1 red card. Let's just say it has been a tale of two Jeff's. When Jeff is the main defensive midfielder he seems to be a step off of his game, but when paired with an experienced DM his game changes. Everywhere he has played he has been paired with an experienced DM. In New England he played with Shalrie Joseph and in Colorado he played with Pablo Mastroeni. When paired with Logan Pause, it seems that he has more freedom as compared to playing with Lindpere or Paladini. I hope he continues to be paired with Pause for the rest of the season and not in the center by himself. This could make the difference in who controls the center of the park in future games.
- Patrick Nyarko: C, 564 minutes played with 1 goal. New year but almost the same story with Patrick. The only thing missing is some production from the wing. Like always he is getting knocked around and had to miss a game because of an ankle injury. Patrick, as always, will be lethal on the wings and will start to produce but so far he only has the 1 goal to his name. Hopefully he starts helping out our forwards more as we really need him to get our attack going if we want to make the playoffs.
- Joel Lindpere: D, 494 minutes played. The marquee off season acquisition for the Fire has not lived up to expectations at all. No assists, no goals, and a fan base that has grown tired of him really fast. I actually think that Joel does not fit this system- yet. In New York he was not one of the main men on the field, he was more of a complimentary piece. When he came here to Chicago he started to garner more attention from opposing defenses than I think he is used to. I think he could be a good player for us if Frank and company can get a central mid that can take some of the attention away from the other players. Being that complimentary piece in the midfield is the best spot he can be in and right now that is not his role. We need him to start being that player that he was in NY in order to challenge for a playoff spot.
- Daniel Paladini: B+, 392 minutes played, 1 goal, 3 assists, and 4 yellow cards. He has actually had a good season so far. He still has a lot to improve on but he has played well by scoring a goal and adding 3 helpers. Daniel has quickly become the engine of this team. When coming off the bench he adds that extra boost of energy this team needs. He reminds me of John Thorrington. I expect Daniel to be challenging for a starting spot for the rest of the season or he will be one of the first guys off the bench.
- Logan Pause: C+, 360 minutes played. After missing the first 4 games due to injury, Logan came back and showed why the Fire need to have him as the defensive midfielder. In his first 3 games back he played in the midfield and played like a captain should. Logan controlled play and made it tough for the opposition's attack. Unfortunately in the last game he was forced to play right back and that role is never ideal. I honestly think he should not be considered for right back the rest of the season unless absolutely necessary. As long as he stays in the center of the park he will remain consistent for the remainder of the season.
- Dilly Duka: D, 193 minutes played. Another acquisition that looked like the player that would take the spot vacated by Marco Pappa. Besides a shot that rang off the cross bar, he really hasn't shown anything that justifies a starting spot. I'd rather see Lindpere start on the wing than Duka. I honestly don't see him getting better as the season goes on, but I hope he proves me wrong.
- Alex: C-, 188 minutes played. Missing time this season due to an ankle injury sustained against Chivas USA, Alex really hasn't been able to show what he can do. Like Duka, he really needs to step it up and get it going. We have seen some flashes from him that show he has talent to be a regular but not enough consistency. This will probably keep him coming off the bench this season.
- Yazid Atouba: Incomplete, not enough minutes played. All of his minutes were played in the first game of the season and he has not seen the field since. I think the rest of this season will be spent in the reserve league with a possibility of a few minutes here and there.
- Corben Bone: Incomplete, not enough minutes played. After training with Athletico Madrid he only has 3 minutes so far this season. There has to be a reason why he is not seeing any playing time and I have no idea what it is (or anyone else for that matter really).
- Chris Rolfe: C, 692 minutes played, 1 goal, and 1 yellow card. We all know that Chris Rolfe can play and he has the necessary skill set to be a very good striker in MLS. For some odd reason this year he is playing below expectations. Could it be not having enough chemistry with his strike partner, Sherjill Macdonald? Could it be that there is no creative midfielder to feed him the ball? Those are both valid arguments. Right now I think he probably would have more chemistry with Maicon Santos as Chris is forced to drop back and be that creative midfielder in most games. However, that is not his position as he needs to be up front. Something needs to give because the Fire need him to start producing in order to be considered a playoff team.
- Sherjill MacDonald: F, 470 minutes played with 1 assist. What needs to be said? The lone DP on the team is having no impact on the field this season. Coming into training camp he was reportedly out of shape and it showed when the regular season started. Frank says his work rate is fantastic during practice but that work rate doesn't translate to games. The only thing that can change this grade and possibly his place on this team is if he goes on a scoring streak over the next couple months. If not, he will more than likely be gone by July.
- Maicon Santos: C+/B-: 256 minutes played, 2 goals, 1 assist, and 1 yellow card. So far this season he has been the Fire's most effective forward in terms of finding the back of the net (which is not saying much, I know). His work rate on the field has been good, but sometimes the choices that he makes can be questionable. The fact that he has not started a game since the first game of the season is just odd considering MacDonald's form. I would love to see what Santos could do up top with Rolfe when given more minutes. Over his career he has been a streaky striker but I think when given more opportunities he could become more consistent, especially after what we saw with Oduro when he was brought here from Houston (and now what he is showing in Columbus).
- Quincy Amarikwa: Incomplete, not enough minutes played. 22 minutes played is not enough to get a good look at what he brings to the table.
Overall the Chicago Fire have played far below expectations. A 2-5-1 record and a -8 goal differential is not what we expected from a team that looked to challenge in the Eastern Conference (at least) on paper. Will new faces be brought in during the summer transfer window? Will it be trades within MLS to change things up? I don't know what Frank and company have planned but the ship must be righted. We have seen the potential of this team when they play as they know how, as evidenced by the New York game. We have also seen what happens when things go terribly wrong, As the Galaxy and Chivas USA contests demonstrated. Bottom line is the Fire have to get their attack going and play more consistently on defense with less mental lapses. There are still 26 more games left in the season, which is plenty of time to gain points in order to head to the playoffs. However, continuing to drop points at home will likely signal a long season for the club and the supporters.