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Number Nine ... Number Nine ...: Who should play up top for the Fire?

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A quarter of the way through 2015, the numbers posted by the Men in Red's striking corps are simply not good enough

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Coaches know it, we all know it, the league knows it, hell the world knows it; our strikers have not done their jobs this season. We are a quarter of the way through the season and the Fire's leading goal scorer is one of its starting center backs, Jeff Larentowicz, with 3 goals - and our No. 9s have not one goal to their names. The No. 9s I'm referring to are Quincy Amarikwa, Guly do Prado, Kennedy Igboananike, and Jason Johnson.

Team statistics

After 9 games and with only 9 goals scored as a team, I thought it was time that we take a hard look and analyze the striker situation for the Chicago Fire. First let's take a look at the team statistics. I have already mentioned 9 goals in 9 games but here are some other statistics:

  • The Fire sit 8th in the league for shots attempted with 135, but only 42 of those were on goal, which is tied for 12th in the league. That means the Fire put 31% of their shots on goal. That is much closer to the worst in MLS (Kansas City, 25%) than the best (Seattle, 52%).
  • With only 9 goals and 42 shots on goal, that gives the Fire an 18% conversion rate - lowest in the league. Tops right now is Orlando at 41%.
  • Right now the Fire are tied for second-worst in the league with 9 goals scored; Montreal is last with 7, but have only played 6 league games to this point! Most goals scored so far is a tie between FC Dallas and Seattle who have scored 17 goals in 11 and 10 games respectively.
The players themselves

Now that we have that out of the way, let's now focus on the strikers that we have on the roster. I'll even include the ones that haven't played yet. We have six players on the roster that can play the striker position. You'll notice a theme with some of the statistics. Just as a note - I'm not including our wingers due to the fact that they play more like midfielders than out and out strikers.

  • Quincy Amarikwa: Has appeared in all 9 games this year, playing 558 minutes, 0 goals and 0 assists, 20 shots with only 6 on target. Quincy, also known as the human wrecking ball, has plenty of energy, size, and speed but is he really the legit No. 9 that we need? Lately, he has spent more time flopping to the ground and waving his hands at the refs than actually playing to the whistle and trying to create scoring chances. Does he have a part in our attack? I say yes, but only off the bench. He can do more damage coming in off the bench than if he starts.
  • Jason Johnson: Has appeared in 2 games since moving from Houston playing a whopping 8 minutes, 0 goals and 0 assists, and only 2 shots with none on target. I really haven't seen enough of him to make a fair assessment. He will probably gain more playing time as the season wears on but only in a substitutes role.
  • Kennedy Igboananike: Has appeared in 8 games playing 321 minutes, 0 goals and 0 assists, 10 shots with only 3 on target. The designated player that Yallop has been scouting for 3 years has not lived up to DP status. Granted he has looked better over the past couple games but there were times that fans were questioning Yallop when he decided to exclude KI from the starting lineup and only use him in a substitutes role. He has skill and, based on the past two games, he wants to succeed.
  • Guly do Prado: Has appeared in 7 games, playing 250 minutes, 0 goals and 0 assists, 5 shots with only 1 on target. Guly may have experience in England but the 33-year-old just doesn't seem like he can keep up in this league. Lazy at times and imbued with seeming wanderlust, he hinders the attack more than helps it. At times he looks almost disinterested and plays with no sense of urgency.
  • Kingsley Bryce: Has not appeared for the Fire and being a rookie will mean he will more than likely find playing time on loan at Saint Louis than in Chicago.
  • Mike Magee: Has not appeared in a game yet this season as he has been recovering from hip surgery. Who knows what Mike can bring after being away since August 16 of last year. The former MVP had a career year in 2013 when he scored 21 goals - 6 for LA and 15 for Chicago - but it will be very hard for him to replicate that kind of production. Being on the wrong side of 30, Mike may end up regressing back to his mean which was scoring an average of about 5 goals a season. He will undoubtedly bring leadership and hustle to the team but I don't think he will have the impact that most people are hoping for.
My take

Are these the forwards that will lead this club to silverware? Probably not.

Going forward, I would love to see Yallop use Kennedy Igboananike more. How do you scout a player for 3 years and then not play him? Isn't that admitting to bad scouting on your part, and that you were wrong on signing him to a DP contract? Sure it is - but play the guy.

Who knows? Igboananike could be the guy that gets rolling in the goal scoring account. He has seemed to have the best connection with Shaun Maloney, David Accam, Harry Shipp, and the other Fire midfielders. He makes better decisions with the ball than the other candidates. And you just know he wants to reassure the Fire faithful that signing him was the right choice.

At the same time, I would like Yallop to blow up his center-forward roster. Start a new by going after an actual Keane-like DP that is a legit scoring threat. Just a few names that are out of contract this summer:

  • Luiz Adriano at Shakhtar Donetsk,
  • Paolo Guerrero at Corinthians,
  • Giampaolo Pazzini at AC Milan,
  • Lisandro Lopez at Internacional,
  • Hugo Rodallega at Fulham,
  • Maxi Lopez at Torino, and
  • Eduardo at Flamengo.

Any of those players would have an immediate impact on the team, and would surely be more of a scoring threat than the strikers currently on the roster. Or if you really want to make a statement, go out and sign Carlos Tevez from Juventus or Lukas Podolski from Arsenal.

In the end, who knows what will happen - maybe our forwards will break out of their slumps after this poor quarter-season! Anything's possible.

What would you do, Fire nation? Do you want Yallop to go after a legit No. 9 or do you think we will be fine with who we have on the roster?