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Fireside Chat: Fire v Vancouver, MLS #2

We complete the question-and-answer ritual with John Szekeres of 86 Forever

Can Harry Shipp and the rest of the Fire midfield keep the ball more readily against Vancouver than last week? Here's to hoping.
Can Harry Shipp and the rest of the Fire midfield keep the ball more readily against Vancouver than last week? Here's to hoping.

We ask, they answer

1.) Toronto's switch to slow, earnest possession completely discombobulated the Whitecaps on matchday 1. How do you expect Vancouver to adjust to this rather easy-to-emulate tactic?

I would say the bigger problem for the Whitecaps was their own attack. Despite having two premier set up men in Pedro Morales and Mauro Rosales, the 'Caps decided to play one style of attack; lob the ball over the top and hope Kekuta Manneh or Octavio Rivero could run underneath it. It caused fits for TFC early in the match, but they adjusted by dropping back a little deeper in their formation. Once that happened, all creativity and movement from the 'Caps was gone, and that's very troubling. On the defensive side of the pitch, the 'Caps backline had an absolutely abysmal day at the office, and made things far too easy for the skill players on TFC. I would sub out the lumbering, volitale Pa Modou Kah at Center Back and hope the next man up, likely Diego Rodgriguez, could give a much better effort.

2.) When you look at the Fire's roster, who worries you? Whom would you seek to exploit?

The easy answer is Jesse Spencer, because I liked him on House and think he brings something special to the cast of Chicago Fire. On the pitch, the easy answer is Mike Magee, but I'm intrigued by striker David Accam, who you referred to as 'lightning in a bottle' in the SBNation MLS season preview. With Accam for Chicago and Kekuta Manneh, and Darren Mattocks on the 'Caps side, there's plenty of youthful, speedy legs available in this one.

3.) Is Kendall Waston a kindly giant? Does he demand tribute from the hill people?

How could you ever be afraid of a face like this?

He's a big boy to be sure, and he plays with intimidation and edge. However, he's also a Kah-esque card machine, something that might benefit the Fire later in the match.

Lineup Prediction: Ousted, Beitashour, Waston, Rodriguez, Harvey, Laba, Teibert, Rosales, Morales, Manneh, Rivero

Score Prediction: An early road match yields a likely 0-0 result.

They ask, we answer

1) 2014 was not as kind to Mike Magee as 2013 was. What's a reasonable expectation for him this season, goal-wise?

Magee's 2014 started poorly and ended poorer. Fortunately, his tentative movement and oddly unconvincing finishing are symptoms we can chalk up to the the labrum tear which ended his season - apparently, the MVP was fighting the hip problem for months before going under the knife in August.

Mike's still a few weeks from fully participating in training, so he's season is again going to be a bit truncated; we expect him back in a month or two. Once he returns, he'll find himself surrounded by better attacking talent, though. Assuming no further health setbacks, I'd look for Magee to chip in 8-10 goals this season.

2) Plenty of roster turnover for the Fire this season, which newcomer has looked the best to you so far?

The Designated Players have not been overwhelming success stories in the very early season; the hope is that they're still adjusting to the league and their teammates. Two less-heralded players have looked dramatically better than I expected - Trinidadian left back Joevin Jones and defender/midfielder Matt Polster. Jones has the pace to handle the considerable number of quick right wingers in MLS, and his positioning and timing of forward runs is much better than expected for a guy who's never previously been exclusively a defender. Polster, considered by many a reach when picked No. 7 by the Fire, has looked the part of a first-round draft pick consistently, combining tremendous bite and discipline with a surprising calm under pressure and the ability to find a simple pass.

3) What can be learned from the 2-0 loss to the Galaxy last week?

So, so much, frankly. The team that started the game did not look ready to play, and even in their better moments showed no ability to keep the ball against LA's pressing; the midfield will need to show a great deal more, and we expect some shake-ups in the XI. The combination of Qunicy Amarikwa and Kennedy Igboananike has at least one dude too many trying improbable stuff, instead of connecting possession. And so on. The season is so very young that the main narratives have yet to take shape; we're looking more for improvement and rational decisions than absolute results. That said, another febrile outing where the Men in Red are out-fought and out-thought will have supporters full of anxiety.

Lineup prediction (4-4-2): Sean Johnson; Joevin Jones, Adaílton, Jeff Larentowicz (c), Lovel Palmer; Harry Shipp, Matt Polster, Michael Stephens, Shaun Maloney; Guly do Prado, Kennedy Igboananike.

Score prediction: Draw-masters gonna draw, and the Fire do here, clawing back from an early deficit for a 1-1 tie.