The Chicago Fire upped its game in the second game of the preseason, and so did the club's media team. The Men in Red secured a 1-0 victory over Queens Park Rangers Thursday and there is video proof courtesy of the Fire's media team. There were even more in-game updates on the Fire Twitter account - with emojis and everything! I, for one, appreciated the additional coverage that was provided compared to the 0-0 draw against Norwich.
But even with the enhanced coverage, the game can really only be analyzed off the comments from Frank Yallop again. The manager deployed a similar 4-3-3 approach to the first preseason game, sending out a different group each half with Sean Johnson being the only 90-minute man. The lineups looked as follows:
1st Half: Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer, Jeff Larentowicz, Eric Gehrig, Joevin Jones; Franck Songo'o, Matt Watson, Alou Diarra; Harry Shipp, Shaun Maloney, Quincy Amarikwa
2nd Half: Johnson; Kingsley Bryce, Matt Polster, Danny Gabbidon, Greg Cochrane; Chris Ritter, Edwards, Michael Stephens; Razvan Cocis, Alex, Guly do Prado
Some interesting notes right off the bat. Gehrig took the start at center back with Adailton held out for mostly precautionary reasons, according to Yallop. Amarikwa, who played with the second unit against Norwich, also got a start as Kennedy Igboananike was also out with a minor injury.
That seemed to work well, as it was Maloney who connected with Shipp who then found Amarikwa for the lone goal of the game at the 15 minute mark. Having the top trio in a 4-3-3 all touch the ball to create a goal is a good sign even if it just preseason.
While the lone goal of the European trip is surely a bright spot, it seems Sean Johnson was the Man of the Match judging by the post-match report and Yallop's comments. The Milkman reportedly made a diving save shortly after Amarikwa's goal and then another impressive stop near the end of the game as he parried a shot over the crossbar. Johnson seemed to see more action than he did Sunday against Panama and was his usual impressive self. Always nice to see him turn in a strong performance, but he is one man fans never really need to worry about.
The other highlight moment for the Fire came in the second half when Greg Cochrane set up Michael Stephens near the top of the penalty area. Stephens struck the crossbar though and missed the chance. The official game report says midfielder Greg Cochrane, which would be interesting to see because he does have offensive skill, but I am assuming it was just a mislabel and he was playing his usual left back role.
Manning the right back spot in the second half was new draftee Kingsley Bryce, who was an attacking player in college. While I doubt we'll see much, if any, of Kingsley in the regular season I love when managers experiment and Yallop seemed confident in the unorthodox deployment.
"I don't know why but I looked at him and thought he looked like a right back," Yallop said. [Sidenote: best reasoning I've ever heard for making a personnel decision]. Yallop went on to say he would move him around and maybe try him on the right side of the midfield. He rightfully pointed out Bryce would never crack the rotation of strikers on this team anyway.
All in all, seemed like a decent outing from the Fire. Like the Norwich game, QPR sent out a mix of pros and youth players. This time we got some names though, confirming Alex McCarthy, Armand Traore, Eduardo Vargas, Adel Taarabt, Mauro Zarate and a returning Sandro all played in the game for Premier League outfit.
Thankfully for us fans, the Fire come back to the states where online streams are all the rage. We should be able to see all three games in the 2015 Simple Invitational in Portland where Chicago will play the Portland Timbers, Vancouver Whitecaps and the Stabaek Bob Bradleys.
Presumably suiting up for those games will be yet-to-be-seen David Accam. I am as excited for that debut as much as the next guy, but we'll see if he'll be able to get comfortable in the system in time to be an opening day starter. There is a wealth of options in the top line, especially in a 4-3-3, and I wouldn't be surprised if an Amarikwa or Shipp got the nod early on while Accam gets acclimated.