31 August 2011
Posted in August
It is the best feeling in the world. Our Chicago Fire look to be hitting top form at the most perfect time of the year. As we close in on the final few matches before the MLS Cup playoffs, the Fire have started to really roll, taking away six points vs. Toronto FC and Colorado. A two game winning streak is not something to normally get overly excited about, but if you've watched the last few matches - any of this season really - there is a hope that better things are just over the horizon. On top of that, the Men in Red secured a chance at their record tying 5th US Open Cup last night, beating Richmond 2-1 at Toyota Park. It is always a joy to watch your team hit top form (as a Fire and Chelsea fan, it can be hit or miss) but when a team that has performed the way the Fire have this season, you have to ask how they are turning it on all of a sudden. Of course there are a number of reasons, but here are a few.
The additions of Pavel Pardo and Sebastian Grazzini Frank Klopas made a couple of wonderful moves during the summer transfer window. Let's start with Sebastian Grazzini. This guy has been nothing short of remarkable since arriving in Chicago. I remember when they signed him I was very excited to see what he would do for a listless Fire attack. Having seen very little of him before the signing, I spent some time reading up and watching clips on Youtube, and I was very happy with what I saw. I thought we could really have a guy that could pair out on the edge opposite Marco Pappa and help create some great chances in the attacking third. I've been very happy with what I have seen so far from Grazzini, he is great both on and off the ball, and he's proven himself valuable by putting a couple in the back of the net as well. I see only great things in his future, hopefully a future that has him at Toyota Park for a while. Now, to Pavel Pardo. I was very unsure of this move when it was made. I was a lot more familiar with Pardo than I was with Grazzini, and I was a little displeased that the Fire brought him in. I thought he was a little too old, a washed up, unfit former star that would not be able to perform on the pitch. I'll be honest, I thought the Fire FO only brought him in to fill seats at a somewhat empty Toyota Park. Boy have I been surprised. We all know how it happened, Pardo scored in his first match and has been creating for everyone else since then. He's been a horse who can go out there and play a full 90 on any given day, and he has assisted several of the Fire goals over this last run of good form. There is no doubt in my mind that Dominic Oduro's recent hot streak is due in part to the arrival of both Pardo and Grazzini. In addition to his offense help, his arrival has really freed captain Logan Pause to play defense. His role was kind of murky at the beginning of the season, was he supposed to play up? Back? No one knew. Now, with this solidified midfield, Pause knows his role and has been performing well as of late.
Dominic Oduro has learned how to finish Seriously if you haven't seen it look at it - Dominic Oduro's miss in Houston's season opener was awful, no doubt the reason the Fire were able to acquire him in the first place. Now, look at his goal against Colorado last weekend. He's a different player, and I can't help but think that some of that has come from having guys like Pardo and Grazzini there in training to help him out. (Of the 12 goals the Men in Red scored in August, 5 were from Oduro, 3 were from Grazzini and 1 was from Pardo.)
The unsung hero - Dan Gargan Dan Gargan has been a big surprise since arriving here. He's played very well in the back and has even contributed a goal from the defensive position. His arrival has allowed Jalil Anibaba to move back to his more natural role in the center, and helped to really solidify an already serviceable back line.
Cory Gibbs return to the lineup Cory Gibbs makes everyone around him a better player. No questions asked. He's a great leader in the defense, and anyone who has the opportunity to play in the back with him is better for having been able to do that. Taking all of these aspects into account, we all better buckle our seat belts for the stretch run. The Fire have a real shot at making the MLS Cup playoffs, something no one thought as little as 3 weeks ago. They have a tough USOC final in Seattle at the beginning of October, a win there will see them to the CONCACAF Champions League next season. It's going to be an exciting, yet very heartburn-inducing couple of months here as we wind down the season. Don't miss our new photos page! Ryan Byrne has already posted some great shots he took during the Colorado game. (He's already been asked if he is a professional photographer for the Fire)