CHICAGO - MAY 30: A flare is lit in the crowd in the second half during the international friendly between AC Milan and the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on May 30, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Thanks to Ryan Sealock of Hot Time in Old Town for exchanging three questions on the game tomorrow with the Fire. Look out for my answers to his questions coming up on HTIOT soon. Edit: Here are my answers to their questions
1) Chicago has had some pretty nice results this season so far, beating SKC and Chivas USA among others…what went wrong at Portland on Sunday night?
Portland is always a tough place to play. There is of course the notorious big, loud crowd but honestly the biggest factor in the loss was the size of the pitch in most Fire fan's opinions. While a few feet here or there don't seem to be a lot, we crunched some numbers at HTIOT and found that there is a big difference between Jeld-Wen and Toyota Park. Toyota Park pitch is 120x75 (yards). Jeld-Wen is 110x70.
Again, that doesn't seem to be a lot until you do the math. Our home pitch is 9,000 square yards. Jeld-Wen weighs in at only 7,700 square yards. That is a big, big difference. Our team is built off speed, among other things. Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko are greatly nullified when they are playing in what is essentially a shoe box (as one of the Fire players succinctly put it). Despite the small pitch, it is something every team has to face at Jeld-Wen and we did not overcome that.
The other main reason for the loss was poor play on set pieces. Both goals came off of poor defending in the box. The first goal saw a bunch of Fire defenders ball watching as Portland was allowed to get multiple touches in the box before the ball even went into the back of the net. So far this year we had been doing a decent job on set pieces so the Portland game was certainly a step back from that.
The backline is also trying to deal with injuries and right now we are employing two very capable but very young defenders in Jalil Anibaba and Austin Berry. While Anibaba is in his second year and sees starting XI action every week, Austin Berry only has a few starts under his belt now. As the season goes on and Austin settles into his role I definitely think the backline will shore up much more than they are right now.
2) Just 72 hours between games, especially a road game then a home game, is a pretty short turnaround. Do you envision changes to the Chicago lineup and will the short turnaround affect them much?
I think the short turnaround will affect us somewhat, as it would any team. Fortunately, due to early bye weeks, we have had more rest than most teams, but that extra rest will be depleted quickly as the Fire are in the middle of a very busy stretch. I definitely think the Fire will switch the lineups around a bit in either the Dallas or Columbus game, but not both. I would say it might be a bit more likely to see some lineup juggling for the Dallas game and then a full lineup for the weekend game since it is a road game.
Chris Rolfe is getting closer to being match fit so once he is ready that will change the look of the lineup in and of itself. I don't think he will be ready for tomorrow's game, but it is possible he could be ready for a brief appearance this weekend in Columbus.
3) All the FCD oldtimers that read the site remember Dominic Oduro as a guy that we really loved who, if he could just put some finishing skills with that speed, would be a fantastic MLS forward. It seems like he’s put everything together, how has his season gone so far?
He has done very well so far. Most fans were wondering whether last year's goal tally was a fluke but I am happy to report that it doesn't seem to be. As you know, Dom has a deadly weapon in his legs, but he has still struggled from time to time with his finishing. He has had some looks this year that should have been put away, and other looks that go in the net when no one is expecting it.
Sometimes I like to joke that he makes impossible shots seem routine (see his headed goal vs. the Union) and the routine shots impossible. It can bee a bit frustrating at times but overall we are very happy with his output. He has truly developed into a dangerous striker. The only thing the Fire have been needing to figure out recently is who we have (or who we can acquire) that can help him out with the goal scoring.
Bonus: Give us a Chicago player who may not be a household MLS name but could make a big impact on Wednesday night
I am going to say Rafael Robayo. He is a new signing we made this offseason and he is starting to ease into some playing time. He is a pretty versatile midfielder, and honestly Sebastian Grazzini (our midfield conductor) could use a rest. I expect to see him get rested some in one of the games. One of the problems the Fire had last year was that there was no depth behind Grazzini.
When he was hurt, it severely impacted our offense. I won't go out on a limb and say Robayo is clearly a replacement for Grazzini. I think he has that ability but we just haven't seen enough from him yet to say that. He is touted as being a versatile, box to box midfielder. Although his first appearance or two was a bit shaky, Robayo has rounded into form and is beginning to look dangerous. I would like to see what he could do with a chunk of playing time because I think he could be on the verge of getting into a groove.
The only downside to Robayo per se is that he pretty much came out and said he was using the MLS as a stepping stone to Europe next year. He was a bit harsh on MLS play and the league, so that has created some hard feelings in some fans eyes. While I don't necessarily agree with the attitude, if he wants to play in Europe he is going to have to step up and show international teams something.
There is also some debate as to when the comments were said, and that Robayo might have changed his tune now that he is getting playing time. He is used to captaining the Colombian side Millonarios, so moving to MLS and not playing at first was probably a bit frustrating. That being said, he would be one to watch if he steps on the pitch Wednesday.