Survival Sunday: Battle at the Britannia

Nowadays all the fuss in the depths of the Premiership basement is over crazy Ollie and his Tangerine army. To the neutral onlooker, they’re the underdogs, defying all expectations after initially given all but the death sentence upon their promotion to the English top flight. However, with their buccaneering style of play they’ve quickly become everyone’s favorite charity case, adopting Mr. Alex Ferguson (sorry, until Shankly gets a knighting, you’re still Alex to me) us against the big bad world philosophy.

Crazy Ollie has even gone as far as to say that the Premiership is conspiring against them and secretly want them to go down (which is about as believable as the rapture happening tomorrow). I find this extremely funny, seeing as every single person I’ve talked to (through my extensive contact list of players and experts), and pundit I’ve read is praying that they remain in the league.

Amidst all this Tangerine fog, one team has been forgotten, even by it’s own people at times. They are the complete polar opposite of the media darlings that are Blackpool United. Wigan Atheltic is a club that is also fighting for it’s life on survival Sunday. Currently perched on 39 points, they are far from safety. Throughout the season, Wigan has been terribly inconsistent, putting some sterling performances in right next to some utter tripe.

But that being said, the club represents, at least to me, the perfect cause of the underdog that you want to survive. Wigan is one of the most poorly funded teams in the Premiership, with Roberto Martinez stuck looking for bargains and loan stars to fill his ranks (although he did splash the cash on Mauro Boselli, but I’m sure Wigan supporters don’t need to be reminded), but still has managed to somehow survive the drop season after season. If not for a Charles Insomnia late winner the club may already be down.

So on Sunday, I implore you to move your attention towards the battle at the Britannia, because while Wigan may be unassuming the Premiership is much stronger for having a team that, like Blackpool is always willing to give it a go, but while drawing much less media attention to themselves. To me, they are the blue collar version of Blackpool, lacking the Hollywood flavor, but full of ingenuity and for that, I applaud them.

Written by: Geoff Stellfox

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Five Things We Learned From Manchester United vs. Arsenal

1. Defense is the best form of attack – Three defenders in a four man midfield? Such a team sheet reeks of negativity, but not in Manchester United’s case. Fergie proved once again he still knows best as John O’Shea had an effective performance alongside Darron Gibson while Fabio and Rafael Da Silva were dangerous all game long and at times uncontainable. With speed on the flanks and Rooney dropping deep, United were given the perfect platform to counter attack and continuously stretch Arsenal’s defense.

2. United have depth – Any honest United fan will tell you they probably cringed when they read the team sheets prior to kick-off. News circulated that Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher had joined Anderson on the injury list while Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs could only make the bench. United demonstrated the depth of their squad today as truth be told, that was probably Ferguson’s third choice midfield. You wouldn’t know it though.

3. Arsenal needs Fabregas and Song – You would know that Alex Song and Cesc Fabregas were absent, however. With Denilson having a quiet game in midfield and Diaby failing to make an impact, Wenger must have been cursing his luck to not have been able to call on his favored midfield pair. Song was missed in helping the Gunners close down United’s midfield and win back possession while the Arsenal captain could have made a difference in helping Arsenal maintain possession and use it effectively.

4. Van der Sar irreplaceable, Almunia capable – The most disappointing aspect of United’s win was that it was another reminder of how much they will miss the big Dutchman next season. An absolutely superb performance saw Van der Sar deny Arsenal time and time again, including a clutch save from Koscielny moments before Rooney doubled United’s advantage. The next United ‘keeper has some big, big shoes to fill. As for Arsenal, Almunia took another huge step in rebuilding his reputation with another assured performance in place of Fabianski and Scensny. Kept the score down with several vital saves.

5. The FA Cup still has its magic – Following Bolton’s dramatic last-gasp win earlier in the day, United and Arsenal didn’t fail to disappoint as both sides played their part in a highly entertaining match that sees United make the FA Cup semi-finals for the 10th time under Ferguson’s reign. With so much to lose after a dreadful week for both clubs, credit to Ferguson and Wenger for fielding their strongest teams possible and ensuring their players attacked rather than throw caution to the wind.

Written by: Jeff Harbert

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History Could Repeat Itself Between Manchester United and Arsenal

Consecutive defeats to rivals Chelsea and Liverpool in the space of a week has diminished Manchester United’s lead at the top of the table to three points and suddenly thrown the title race wide open. Arsenal suffered an equally miserable week, drawing at home to Sunderland before a morale crushing defeat to Barcelona in midweek left the Gunners with only the League and FA Cup to play for. With United’s lead narrowed and Arsenal possessing a game in hand, Arsene Wenger and his players will still be confident of capturing their first piece of silverware in six years.  

After a winless week for both clubs, it goes without saying the next match will make or break both team’s seasons. Coincidentally, the table toppers go head-to-head on Saturday in a titanic FA Cup clash at Old Trafford, a match that brings back memories of an unforgettable and extraordinary semi-final replay between both clubs almost 11 years ago during United’s treble winning season. A certain Ryan Giggs was the hero (or one of several) that day, scoring one of the most incredible goals ever seen in extra time as United eliminated Arsenal and set themselves on the road to further glory before the season’s end.

When the draw for the quarter-finals was made on February 20th it was that remarkable game at Villa Park that emerged in my mind. But as Arsenal continued to edge closer to United in the standings, it was no longer the epic replay in 1999 that came to mind. Well aware that a win could give either side the boost required to go on a winning run and simultaneously derail the other’s title challenge, all I could think about was another historic but more recent match between both clubs in February 2008.

With United chasing league leaders Arsenal, a Darren Fletcher inspired Manchester United sent out a huge statement of intent to the North Londoners and the rest of the league. Playing as a lone striker, Wayne Rooney was in fine form and opened the scoring before two headers by Fletcher sandwiched a delightful finish by Nani to give United a monumental 4-0 win. Arsenal were crushed. United’s win was more than just a sharp riposte for those who doubted their title credentials, but was the fuel they needed to overtake Arsenal in the standings and end the season in a flourish. After a failed attempt to blame the pitch, Wenger painfully admitted United were the superior side, by far. The ‘Professor’ particularly singled out Rooney for praise.

“Against us I thought Rooney was fantastic. He was sharp, mobile, quick, aggressive, even good in the air. He did everything.”

What United supporters would give for a similar performance on Saturday from their number 10. And oh how Manchester United would give anything to have history repeat itself. Following the win, Rooney and co. went on to win seven out of their next eight league games and would eventually clinch back-to-back Premier League titles.

Speaking on the performance against Arsenal, which came just a week after an agonizing home defeat to Manchester City, Sir Alex Ferguson said: “They (his players) have made amends for that (City defeat) with a marvelous performance.”

Strange that United find themselves in the exact same predicament. Another marvelous performance by United on Saturday will go a long way in helping United overcome its disappointing loss to Liverpool last weekend and spur them on for the remainder of the season. The Red Devils may have exited the FA Cup the following round after beating Arsenal in 2008, but United gained the ultimate prize by advancing all the way to the final of the Champions League and beating Chelsea in penalties. Prior the cup win over Arsenal, United had drawn Tottenham before suffering the painful defeat at home to Manchester City on the day marking the 50th anniversary of the Munich disaster. With United in a dip of form and losing ground in the title race, it’s amazing what a big win over your title challengers can do.

And in Arsenal’s case, it is incredible how a monumental loss can completely derail your season. After being outplayed and humiliated at Old Trafford, Arsenal failed to record a win in their next five league matches. Wenger’s side would only win two out of their next 10 games, including a 2-1 loss to United in April which effectively ended their chances of winning the title. Favorites for the title in February and trophyless in May, Arsenal’s season fell apart after their FA Cup humiliation, paving the way for a miserable end to the season.

Fast forward three years later and although Arsenal are not necessarily favorites for the title, they are certainly in the running, and according to Samir Nasiri have ‘one hand on the trophy’. If history should repeat itself on Saturday and Arsenal suffer another defeat against Manchester United, Arsenal may slowly drift further and further away from the title while United storm forward in pursuit of their record 19th league title. And as every supporter is most likely well aware of, the two clubs will go head-to-head again in a potential title decider on May 1st at the Emirates.

If ever history needed a platform to repeat itself, this is it. Will Arsenal allow themselves to suffer the same fate as 2008 while United claim an unprecedented and highly sought 19th league title? Saturday could tell us just that…

Written by: Jeff Harbert

United 4-0 Arsenal highlights (2008)

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After Barcelona Devastation, Arsenal Need Change in Philosophy

The mere fact that Barcelona attempted more shots on their own goal than Arsenal managed themselves (0) over the entire 90 minutes on Tuesday tells you about all you need to know. Yet in a sense, it really doesn’t. Arsene Wenger’s men were outplayed by an irresistible Barcelona side at the Nou Camp for the second straight year. Last campaign it was the magic of Messi – scorer of all four goals in a 4-1 win – that ended Arsenal’s search for a first Champions League triumph while this year saw an incredible combination of precision passing, off the ball movement and inexorable individual skill send the Gunners packing once again.

 After pulling off an improbable yet stunning comeback in the first leg, Wenger claimed the win was also a victory for Arsenal’s philosophy. If that was the case, Tuesday night was a major defeat. No one can question the North Londoner’s attractive style of football, but Pep Guardiola’s team put forth a masterclass in attacking football that completely overshadowed any claim to an effective passing game, known as  ‘liquid football’ by Arsenal. It may have only been 3-1 (4-3 on aggregate), but Arsenal have the Catalonians to thank for being wasteful, as well as substitute goalkeeper Manuel Almunia for pulling off a string of fine saves. 

The truth is we’ve seen it all before. All too often Arsenal has prioritized playing the pure, flowing football that has the football purists reveling in every pass, awing at every attacking move, and praising the club for reminding us why it is called the ‘beautiful game’. Unfortunately for Arsenal, this has not won them any trophies. The last piece of silverware to make its way into Arsenal’s trophy cabinet was the 2005 FA Cup. And who was it who lifted that trophy that day? None other than Patrick Vieira, the epitome of everything Arsenal stood for during its most successful periods since the beginning of the Premier League: A strong, physical, dominating force.

 Arsenal’s title winning sides of 1998, 2002, and 2004 were full of players just like Vieira; players not afraid to get ‘stuck in’ and allow their physical attributes and sheer determination and passion for the game outweigh their ability to play patient, attacking football. The likes of Tony Adams, Ray Parlour, Martin Keown, and Lee Dixon were all dependable and resolute players, capable of intimidating any opposition they faced. Am I saying Arsenal’s current squad is not determined and passionate? Absolutely not, but it has to be said they lack the same key ingredients the club’s title winning sides possessed. 

On a day night when Arsenal needed to do nothing more than contain Barcelona’s midfield, they were run ragged and ripped to shreds. Disrupting Barcelona’s fluid passing game is no easy task, but it isn’t impossible. And preventing the free-scoring La Liga champions from picking and choosing what type of goals they feel like scoring that day is no easy feat either, as every club in Spain can attest to, including Real Madrid. Once again though, it’s not impossible. 

The clubs who have all experienced success against Barcelona in Europe have focused on completely disrupting their midfield, even if it meant compromising its attacking tendencies in order to disallow Andres Iniesta and Xavi any room to weave their magic. Jose Mourinho’s Inter demonstrated the perfect example of ‘parking the bus’ at the Nou Camp last season and it resulted in them progressing to the semi-finals and eventually winning the final. Two years earlier Manchester United utilized the work rates of Park Ji Sung and Darren Fletcher to leave Barcelona’s defense without any breathing space. The plan paid off as Barcelona failed to score in both legs and United ended up lifting the trophy several weeks later.

 To be fair, Barcelona have progressed immensely under the guidance of Guardiola, as United would discover in the final the following season. But against Arsenal, Iniesta and Messi were untouchable at times. Iniesta excelled in his freedom and all too often sprayed passes across the ptich or skipped by defenders with ease. The Gunners made just two touches inside Barcelona’s penalty area, while the home side had a total of 47, demonstrating the ease in which Barcelona moved forward. It shouldn’t come as a surprise at how much Barcelona dictated play and retained possession, but is a surprise at which ease they did so. 

Arsenal’s greatest criticism is they are too soft, a word probably never once used to describe Wenger’s title winning sides. Although they boasted plenty of attacking options in Thierry Henry, Sylvain Wiltord and Dennis Bergkamp, Arsenal’s main identity was being able to run the midfield and give any opposition striker nightmares. Where are those same qualities? 

Arsenal currently boast plenty of attacking flair, but the ingredients of the most successful Arsenal teams in the Premier League’s history have long been transformed. If the Gunners really wanted to offset Barcelona and give themselves a chance of progressing, they needed to harass Iniesta and Xavi off the park and give Messi a taste of what it is like to play in the Premier League against teams like Stoke or Bolton. Instead, Arsenal allowed Barcelona to play its game and it resulted in the loss of yet another trophy opportunity and the rise of more question marks over their ability to win when it counts. 

To rub salt in Arsenal’s wounds, Xavi has claimed the Gunners ‘made no intent to play football’. The statistics certainly back the Spaniard’s assertions, but so does the manner in which Arsenal allowed Barcelona to play their style of football. The absence of Alex Song hurt Arsenal, as it was evident they had no one up to the task of offsetting Barcelona’s rhythm. With the home side fielding two makeshift central defenders, the opportunity was there for Arsenal to take advantage. Instead, Barcelona were allowed to dominate once more, providing every reason to question Wenger’s failed philosophy once more. Fortunately for Arsenal, they could still resurrect their season on Saturday against Manchester United in the FA Cup sixth round. If that is to happen, however, a change in philosophy similar to the days of Vieira is a must.

Written by: Jeff Harbert

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Return of the King

History has a very funny way of repeating itself.

In August of 2004, Michael Owen, announced that he wanted a transfer Real Madrid. He ended up moving to the club for a paltry sum of £8m. Not only did a local boy turn his back on the club that made him the player he was and force the move to the Spanish capital, but in return the club essentially received pocket change. Now this was a very tough pill to swallow for the club and supporters alike, but his departing words (and his eventual move to United, of all places) are what destroyed his legend status, and earned him the tag ‘Judas’. “I would like to say a special thank you for being given the opportunity to play for the best team in the world.”

But fate can be a very cruel thing to the coward. The “feeder club” that Mr. Owen had left went on to be crowned kings of Europe in the most dramatic of fashion. Captain Fantastic and a much more spry Jamie Carragher will receive most of the plaudits for the victory over Milan, but the Istanbul final may never have been if it wasn’t for the heroics of the man brought in to help replace Owen: Luis Garcia.

Standing 5’10 with a rather slight build, he was by no means the most imposing of players. But as Mark Twain wrote, “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Luis was the Derek Jeter of Champions League football. When the occasion arrived to stand up and be counted, you needn’t look further than Liverpool’s Spanish number 10. King Luis scored two massive, massive winners against both Juventus and that blue team from London without any history, whose name escapes me at this time. The winner against Juventus was a brilliantly struck volley from next to nothing, knocking out, who at the time was one of the tournament favorites. The goal against the Chavs, was admittedly less brilliant, but is, in my opinion one of the most significant goals in Liverpool history.

But King Luis not only showed his class on the pitch but off it as well. In the summer of 2007, his proposed move to Athletico Madrid (as a makeway for my next subject) was completed. Upon leaving Luis delivered a letter to the club and supporters about his time with the club, and what we all meant to him, and there’s one section that stick out to me the most.

“A football club isn’t just made up of players, coaches and directors. More than anything else it’s the supporters who make a club, and that perhaps is the ingredient which best distinguishes Liverpool Football Club from every other team. The supporters. Because if one thing has remained obvious to me after these few years, it’s that with supporters like you, Liverpool Football Club will never walk alone.”

Luis Garcia gets it.  He understands what it means to be a Red, gave everything to the club, and most importantly appreciated and respected us. In the body of this letter, King Luis showed more class than either Michael Owen, Steve McManaman, or Fernando Torres could ever dream to in their entire life. That’s why you’re a legend, Luis.

Several years have passed and we Reds find ourselves in a similar position. Our former golden boy, Fernando Torres, or Judas mark II has turned his back on the club for the plastic landscape that is west London. Not only does this seem an eerily similar situation, but the departing words bring up even more bad memories of Owen. “This is the target for every footballer – to try to play for one of the top clubs in the world. They [Chelsea] are one of the biggest teams in Europe and are always fighting for everything.” At the time, everything seemed pretty bleak, but as mentioned earlier, fate is a funny thing. We now have a new hope and a new Luis to celebrate. If his performance against United is anything to go off of, we may have a King Luis II on our hands, who could lead us to similar glories. There’s big hopes, and only time will tell.

Written by: Geoff Stellfox

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EPL Team of the Week

Week 29

Mingonet

Jagielka      da Costa      Cahill

Duff      Hitzlsperger      Kalou      Jarvis

Kuyt

Defoe     Suarez

GK – Simon Mingonet: The Emirates witnessed one of the best goalkeeping displays we’ve seen all season. And for some it will come as no surprise it was from a member of the opposition. The Sunderland ‘keeper was in inspired form as he repeatedly thwarted Arsenal, particularly Nicholas Bentdner and Samiri Nasiri. His save from Nasiri’s free-kick was world class and Bentdner is probably still wondering how Mingonet stopped his fierce volley that looked destined for the back of the net. Hard to believe he’s just 22.

RB – Phil Jagielka: An impressive performance by the English defender. His match-winning goal was a piece of fine skill to direct Leighton Baines’ in-swinging free-kick in off the crossbar. Not only did he provide the match-winning goal, but he was vital in preventing Newcastle from finding an equalizer in the second half.

CB – Manuel Da Costa: Any defender will tell you that playing Stoke City is anything but a walk in the park. Da Costa did brilliantly to cope with Stoke’s physical prowess and his goal doubled West Ham’s advantage to send them on their way to another important three points.

CB – Gary Cahill: The former Aston Villa defender provided the equalizer moments before the break and his second headed goal of the match with 20 minutes remaining ensured Houllier’s side paid the full price for a penalty miss only minutes earlier.

RM – Damien Duff: It had been almost seven years since the last time Duff scored in consecutive games in the Premier League. Duff’s brace against former club Blackburn finally ended the wait and helped the Cottagers to a 3-2 win. Both goals came off him cutting inside from the right wing onto his left and sending a low and powerful drive past Paul Robinson.

CM – Thomas Hitzlsperger: West Ham supporters will wonder just how much further up the table they could have been had Hitzlsperger not been injured from the start of the season. His midfield play against Stoke was what the Hammers have been missing this season and he linked up effectively with Scott Parker. His fierce bullet put the icing on the cake for the home side and maybe, just maybe, forced Avram Grant to crack a smile.

CM – Salomon Kalou: Days after indicating he might leave Stamford Bridge this summer, Kalou stepped off the bench to help Chelsea beat Blackbool 3-1 on Monday. His introduction completely changed the game for Chelsea, who had allowed Blackpool to gain a foothold in the game. Not only did he earn his side a penalty but he set up Lampard’s second goal of the game to complete an important victory for the Blues. Came close to scoring on several occasions and contained Blackpool’s midfield.

AM – Dirk Kuyt: The Liverpool midfielder’s hat-trick was far from the most stunning of trebles ever seen in the Premier League this season, but it will certainly be one of the most memorable. Two tap-ins sandwiched a simple header and had Liverpool cruising to a big win over rivals Manchester United. It is difficult to decide who contributed to his hat-trick more: Luis Suarez tricky play or United’s defensive errors.

LM – Matt Jarvis: Wolverhampton’s impressive 3-3 draw with Tottenham was arguably their best performance of the season. Much of that had to do with the threat posed by Jarvis. His wing-play was excellent and his delivery of crosses into the box was a danger for Spurs all afternoon. Did well to get to the by-line on several occasions and set up the equalizer with the perfect cross towards Steven Fletcher.

ST – Jermaine Defoe: 323 days had passed since Jermaine Defoe’s previous league goal. Injury has kept him on the sidelines for much of the season but his stunning brace against Wolverhampton was well worth the wait. Both of his goals were powerful and well-placed shots from outside the box, leaving Wayne Hennessey no chance. Defoe was even denied a hat-trick by the post in the second half.

ST – Luis Suarez: The Uruguayan gave United’s defense its most torrid afternoon of the season. Twisting and turning in the box and somehow eluding three United players, Suarez was the architect of Liverpool’s opening goal and his dipping free-kick in the second half was spilled by Van der Sar, allowing Kuyt to secure his hat-trick. Only a few matches into his Liverpool career but he is already proven himself to be in an extremely important signing.

Manager – Kenny Dalglish: Just after his 60th birthday, the Liverpool hero could not have asked for a better birthday present. Took a big risk in fielding such an attacking side but reaped the benefits as he saw his side tear apart Sir Alex Ferguson’s men. The victory will only enhance his reputation with the Liverpool supporters.

Written by: Jeff Harbert

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Chicago Fire: Time to Stop the Rollercoaster

A semi-final penalty shoot-out defeat in 2009, a new coach and a season to forget in 2010, the last two years have been nothing short of a rollercoaster for the Chicago Fire. The period that saw the Fire establish themselves as one of the top teams in Major League Soccer has been somewhat forgotten as a year of changes off the pitch and inconsistency on it saw the Fire endure its most difficult season in six years.

Following three consecutive defeats in the MLS Eastern Conference semi-finals, the Fire parted ways with head coach Denis Hamlett and acquired Carlos de los Cobos from the El Salvador National Team prior to the start of last season. De los Cobos and the Fire missed out on the playoffs for only the second time in its 13-year history – and suffered early round exits in the U.S. Open Cup and SuperLiga – but the Fire will be hoping to improve drastically in order not to endure a similar fate this time around.

The main question is, how much will they improve? It is hard to disguise the fact that the Chicago Fire disappointed in several areas last season but fortunately for them, a number of bright spots did surface over the course of the year. A week before the beginning of the 2010 season, the Fire announced they were waiving goalkeeper Jon Busch, a fan favorite and the club’s first choice ‘keeper during the past three seasons. Stepping up in his place was Jim Dykstra, Busch’s back-up who had yet to play a single MLS game. The result was a disaster. Dykstra’s inexperience showed as several mistakes caused the Fire to drop valuable points in the opening stages of the season. Fire technical director Frank Klopas announced last month the Fire had released Dykstra.

So where is the bright spot amongst this? Sean Johnson. Had Busch not been forced to move on and Dykstra fail to fill his shoes, we may have never seen the outstanding potential of the Fire’s stand out rookie last season, or at least this early into his career. With the Fire in desperate need of a reliable pair of hands between the posts, Johnson stepped up and provided the answer. He was solid in goal, had a knack for making spectacular saves, and eventually even earned a call-up to the United States Men’s National Team. No small feat for a rookie. With Johnson establishing himself as the first choice keeper, the Fire can enter the 2011 season confident of knowing they have a safe pair of hands at the back.

The Fire may have been inconsistent all season but the experience some of the younger players gained should make a difference this year for the Fire. Baggio Husidic continued to significant strides of improvement in an attacking midfield role while Steven Kinney gained valuable minutes at the center of the Fire’s defense. Kwame Watson-Siriboe also picked up some important games under his belt which will only benefit him as he looks to slot into the vacated position at the heart of defense following the retirement of C.J. Brown. The acquisition of Cory Gibbs over the off-season will also be a huge boost for a Fire team who shipped in 38 goals last season.

Its defense has hardly been the issue, however. Despite the reunion of former Fulham teammates Brian McBride and Collins John, the Fire failed to deliver up front. The fact that midfielder Marco Pappa led the team with seven goals says it all. If the Fire are to turn around their fortunes this season, they need to be much more effective up front. No one can doubt the quality of McBride, but it came as a disappointment he and his former teammate failed to link up efficiently with each other and the midfield. Both players have moved on – with the former calling an end to an illustrious career – meaning the Fire will need to rely on new options up front.

Patrick Nyarko is one of the best attackers in the squad but few will really expect the Ghanaian and Calen Carr to bang in the goals the Fire so desperately need.  Diego Cháves has joined Chicago’s ranks from Uruguayan club Nacional and de los Cobos will be hoping the striker has more success in front of goal than he did last season, where he scored just two goals in 20 appearances for both Nacional and former club Veracruz. Also arriving from Uruguay is the speedy Gaston Puerari. It’s a big risk for the Fire to acquire two forwards with no MLS experience, but if the two can form a good partnership up front, the Fire will soon be able to put last year’s goal scoring woes behind them.

New Fire signing Diego Chaves

The Fire have also been quick to offload big name failures Freddy Ljungberg and Nery Castillo, a step in the right direction, but also a decision that leaves the Fire as a very young team. With established players such as Pappa, Nyarko, Johnson and Logan Pause, the Fire still have a good foundation but will need the new arrivals to gel with the rest of the squad and quickly adapt to the MLS. A repeat of last season looks out of the question, so long as the Fire can avoid the attacking problems they experienced last season. And with the kick-off of the 2011 season just over a week away, Section 8 and the rest of the Chicago Fire support can look forward in excitement to what this team can achieve this year. If anything, this season should at least bring the Fire rollercoaster closer to the peak they have long been waiting for.

Written by: Jeff Harbert

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