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A Supporter’s View: Chicago Fire


It was a crazy week in Chicago Fire land. First came the news that John Guppy was forced out resigned as president and general manager, then came the club’s second straight victory of the early season to move it into first place in the East.

Chicago isn’t dominating opponents (well, aside from a short-handed Revs team) but the Fire is using disciplined defense and timely finishing to get off to a strong start to the campaign despite a handful of key injuries.

SBI Correspondent Stephen Wattles took in the action and filed his own take on the Fire’s memorable weekend (Share your thoughts and opinions on Stephen’s piece in the comments section below.)

Unbeaten, but Fire is still sorting things out

By Stephen Wattles

The day started with a stunner.  The news jumping off the front page of the Chicago Tribune sports page (a miracle in itself) that John Guppy was no longer employed as President of the Chicago Fire.  It was a promising start. 

The news as I flipped on the TV was far less positive.  Chris Rolfe, Brandon Prideaux, and Diego Gutierrez, had joined CJ Brown on the shelf for the game. The afternoon had become a test of the depth that Fire fans were beginning to think their team possessed. 

Most notable from this development was Wilman Conde’s 2008 debut. I was happy to see this come on the road, giving him the chance to reprove himself before appearing in front of the Toyota Park faithful.  I’ll admit I spent most of the game looking for signs that his dedication was anything less than one hundred percent, but couldn’t find any.  Call me too forgiving if you wish, but he passed my test and I’ll greet his introduction in Bridgeview with a cheer.

When play started it didn’t take long to determine that the dominating performance I’d hoped for was not in the offing, and that the Guppy news might be the only positive bit to hang our hats on this day.

Yet, the one moment when San Jose would give Blanco a little space on the afternoon would allow for the perfect through ball to Frankowski. His shot could only be parried into the path of Chicago’s own Rodney Dangerfield, Chad Barrett, to clean up for what would ultimately be the game-winning goal.  A win not entirely deserved.

Most credit for the win belongs to those in the back line (Bakary Soumare chief among them) and John Busch, who easily took Man of the Match despite the late candidacy of his woodwork, and Quakes rookie midfielder Shea Salinas.

The glaring issue on the afternoon was the unchallenged space and possession San Jose enjoyed between the midfield stripe and the Fire’s penalty box, and the opportunities it afforded them, a repeat of the Week 1 visit to RSL. The Earthquakes enjoyed 19-9 and 7-0 advantages in shots and corners on the afternoon.

It was clear from his actions on the sideline that Dennis Hamlett had no difficulty diagnosing the issue but no amount of urging on his part seemed to solve it.  Ultimately it may require offering Logan Pause assistance in defensive midfield, at least on the road since MLS coaches seem far more aggressive in their own stadiums this season, as evidenced by home teams’ 13-3-4 (through Saturday) start to 2008.

If it comes to this, Justin Mapp has to be the one to make way.  His performance again provided only dizzying runs never leading to shots, crosses, or decisive passes. For a player that offers nothing defensively this isn’t enough.  He continues to go down too easily and, perhaps most damningly, has shown little compatibility to play with Blanco. His role with USMNT is little more than a ‘change of pace’ and I think that might be all he can provide the Fire as well.

Nonetheless, the Fire notched a road win and sit top of the league after three weeks.  But it begs the question whether this team is Jekyll and Hyde, or a squad with the ability to get results when not at its best, and with an injury list that would cripple the majority of team’s in MLS.  If it’s the latter, look out, as that is a quality in sport that turns good seasons to great. 


  1. Tom Long- well unless the fire played with a 3 man line on saturday (i didnt get to watch the game due to work), the fire have played with a 4 man line all season ( with Guit and Soumare in the center, Seg. and Prid. out wide….

  2. Very good article. Your redeemed yourself. i didn’t catch the game this week, but I will look for all the things u said in the coming weeks. keep up the important analyzing!

  3. My take on Conde was that I was looking for signals about his attitude: loafing, sniping or not communicating with teammates, etc…. I didnt see that. What I did see was him trying to stay in the game despite obvious cramping issues.

    It wasn’t a commentary on his form. Sure he’s going to be rusty and may not be in top condition but he lasted longer than Barrett, but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt as he’s gotteng no matches all spring.

    But in all honesty I thought Dasan looked more out of shape than Wilman.

    Meanwhile I’m looking forward to what Luis has to say and is teasing us with about Conde’s attitude turnaround. And I think the best way to encourage a continuation of that is to greet him warmly on Sunday.

    If we weren’t a better team with him than without him we wouldn’t have been so bent out of shape the last few months.

    But this piece is my opinion and its only one. I appreciate the criticism as well as the postive comments.

  4. The fire need to develop a 3rd striker…. Andy Herron, Calen Carr, or John Thorrington need to step up this year with some key goals.

    Their defense is solid, I really see Soumare havin a breakout year this year. Dasan Robison should be traded, he is a solid CB but I think he is just a tab bit too slow for a 3 man backline.

  5. – On conde i think he is just out of shape much like Dasan looked.

    – Fire clearly missed Rolfe , and the D he plays.. how wierd does that sound!

    – Mapp really needs to track back more and play D if he is going to stay on the field

    – King was good as a sub, but i thought terrible as a starter. I would have rather had conde in the mid(even out of shape) with woodlawn(something like that) in the back line , since guit and prid where out.

  6. eric- i think with his nagging “injury” he simply got out of shape…. probably wont be game fit (07 game fit) till closer to mid season….

  7. Good posting.

    I do disagree about Conde though, watching on TV my first reaction was that he looked tubby and out of shape. Hopefully he gets it back, he’s clearly one of the best defenders in MLS, but I don’t think he responded to the off-season drama by hitting the training extra hard.

  8. I agree about Mapp. I find him to be particually frustrating when he looses the ball then has absolutely no hustle when it comes to defense. I sense Blanco’s frustration with him as well.

    I know people have been commenting about Conde being out of shape, but I did not see that. I was happy with his performance and hopes that he is no longer sulking about not joining the Professor.

    It will be interesting to see what changes the “resignation” will have on the team.

  9. I like Mapp– I think his dribbling ability opens up the field for the Fire even when he’s not contributing directly. But I get everyone’s frustration with him: he always seems to promise so much more than he delivers.

    But I think it’s also telling that SJ (well Kamara in particular) got a lot less space once Hamlett made a few adjustments. The Fire got lucky that SJ’s offense is so toothless, but I liked their ability to change tactics when something wasn’t working defensively in the first half.

  10. Dominghosa- of course you know if the fire ever traded him, he’d have a blow out season and personally take whatever team to the cup :-/

    just be fire’s luck

  11. I agree about Mapp. I’ve never been a fan of anything besides his dribbling skills.

    He’s the American Denilson.

    Just not as flashy.

    Bash that statement all you want. It’s true. I don’t see anything else that the kid offers besides a nice move here and a blow-by there. And then what?


  12. EDB- king has more of a reason for being invisible as he’s a rookie… altho ive been impressed with his play so far this season (didnt get to see the SJ game as i was stuck at work 🙁 )….. hopefully this pickup can improve more and provide quality depth…

    Mapp has to improve his play throughout the season… if not i wouldnt be surprised if he gets replaced… there was talk of Klopas in europe looking at a forward (altho dont know how accurate that is), but truely we need some outside mids… we have no depth there, and Rolfe is being forced out right to suffice the empty space (and doing fine in my opinion, altho wont be too flashy as he wont score as much from there)….

  13. I think Mapp and Blanco are to similar, it was a worry i had last year. but didnt matter alot since mapp was out. I’m not sure our mid field can work with those 2. Howeever, king was even more invisible then mapp.

  14. I agree with almost everything in your take, except the Conde approval. He looked either unfit or uninterested. I hope this changes, there are suggestions that it will. The other issue that wasn’t emphasized enough (ok because this is a game recap) was Guppy being gone. I think he held the Fire back during his tenure and confused or F-ed up issues that shouldn’t have been. On the field, you won’t see that much of a difference, but the change (to whoever it is) will be appreciated throughout the organization I think.


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