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4_CupsThe Chicago Fire have 4 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup titles, more than any other MLS club. They've been in the final a total of six times, including last season's defeat at the hands of Seattle Sounders. The Fire are the "Kings of the Cup". So, when MLS clubs entered the competition in the third round last night, the Fire were looking for an easy win vs. the PDL Michigan Bucks. Apparently no one told the Bucks that they weren't supposed to win. 

Sure, you can take a look at the starting XI that Frank Klopas fielded, and even the gameday 18 and say that it's not a huge surprise that this side couldn't bring back the victory and move on to the next round. But even an MLS reserve squad should be able to beat a PDL team, if not than why are they playing on our reserve squad? What does that say about the depth of this club?

 The Fire starting XI looked like this: Paolo Tornaghi, Tony Walls, Jalil Anibaba, Austin Berry, Hunter Jumper, Michael Videira, Daniel Paladini (C), Corben Bone, Rafael Robayo, Federico Puppo, Orr Barouch. Subs: Dan Gargan, Dominic Oduro, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Sean Johnson, Gonzalo Segares, Victor Pineda, and Patrick Nyarko. DSC_0162-001

No Grazzini. No Pardo. No Pause. No Pappa - but that was due to international duty so I'll let Frank off the hook on that one. What did you think was going to happen with this lineup?

There were 4 guys in the game day 18 who haven't seen the pitch with the first team at all in 2012. Another one, in Bone, who has about a minute of playing time, and another who has only seen his playing time pick up recently because he's a crybaby. Is anyone surprised this team was beaten? 

I don't want to spend much time complaining about the result, it's over and we're out of the tournament. But I will say three things:

First, how the hell am I supposed to make fun of New York for not taking the tournament seriously when this is the lineup we trotted out there?

Second, Seattle can now tie Chicago for the most Open Cup trophies by an MLS club, and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. Yes, Seattle. Let that sink in for a moment and try not to throw up.

And finally, this club is NOT winning MLS Cup this year, why not continue your tradition as the "Kings of the Cup" and try and get that fifth trophy? Take the damn thing seriously.

Now, some other thoughts that are somewhat related to last night, and somewhat related to the last few MLS matches.

 

I will insert foot into mouth and not call for Sean Johnson to be benched in favor of Tornaghi - for now.

One key thing we saw last night was that Paolo Tornaghi is a few things. He's a talented young keeper with a bright future, but he might not be ready yet for regular play. Don't get me wrong, he did a remarkable job in SJ's absence, but SJ is the starter and should remain there unless he really runs into a bad stretch of form. 

 

Rafael Robayo should get his wish.

Guillermo Rivera does a great job covering the Fire over at Chicago Fire Confidential, and this article he posted about Rafael Robayo a few weeks back caught my attention. It made me a little bit angry, and made me hope that Frank stuck Robayo in the reserve squad until he can find a way out of town for him. I'll drive him to the airport myself. 

But, Frank didn't do that. He's given him three consecutive starts and a chance to prove himself. FAIL. Robayo simply doesn't look talented enough to fill in for Sebastian Grazzini or any of the other talented midfielders this club has. After last night, Robayo should be removed from first team action, and launched out of Chicago as soon as Frank can get a deal done.

 

DSC_0556Federico Puppo is not a professional soccer player.

I've said it. You've said it. Puppo is too small in both height and muscle to play professional soccer - anywhere. We've tried the Puppo experiment enough, haven't we? Sure, he brings speed to the club, but we have plenty of speed. We need some more height on set pieces (we can't always rely on Austin's head or Logan's back) and we need more players who don't present a huge drop off from the starting XI guys in the midfield. He should join Robayo on the bench until he can be moved, and he can hitch a ride with Robayo in my car to the airport.

 

Sebastian Grazzini is the key piece in the midfield.

We've seen it a couple times now. Grazzini is out of the match and the midfield has almost no creativity. He creates space with his moves on and off the ball. He can open up defenses with his passing ability, and he's not affraid to rip a shot from outside the box. Sure, he dives a lot, but he's one of the key players to this club moving forward. We need to get a long term deal in place for him, and make sure that we don't have to play without him very often.

 

Marco Pappa is making me a believer again.

I've been one of his biggest critics. And I don't know if it's the idea of a summer transfer that is making him play like a top midfielder again, or if he just has a new found energy playing alongside guys like Pavel and Seba, but I love what Pappa is doing right now. He's hit a great run of form and this midfield needs him in there with Seba to continue creating scoring opportunities. 

 

Is Chris Rolfe our savior?

During his first stint in red, Rolfe netted 36 MLS goals. However, the reason he only saw the back of the net 6 times and was limited to 35 appearances with Aalborg was because of injury problems. We were all elated to here that Rolfe was joining the club again earlier this year, but he's yet to see the field because of - wait for it - an injury. I'm going to hold back all excitement until he's fit and in form, and scoring goals again to help this team make a run toward MLS Cup playoffs. However, I will say that this club as it is constructed right now needs some more scoring options, and I love the idea of a Rolfe/Oduro pairing up top - or some combination of a 1-1 with Rolfe and Dom. DSC_0976

 

Will Dominic Oduro continue to progress, or has he peaked?

When Dom got here last spring he had a reputation as one of the fastest guys in the league who couldn't finish near the goal. He came in and has netted 16 MLS goals for the Fire so far, but he seems to be a one trick pony. He uses his speed to blast past people and put himself in a position to score with no one around him. Other clubs are catching on and are finding ways to limit his effectiveness on the break. He needs to learn how to control the ball in and around the box, and score goals in traffic - or else we need to find another RELIABLE goal scoring option.

 

I'm so frustrated by what I see time and time again from this club. They have talent. They need to start playing better on a more consistent basis. They need to stop relying on giving up early goals to fire them up - pun intended. They need to come out, play hard and attack from the first whistle to the final whistle. With one or two more pieces (and Rolfe and Alex might be those pieces) this club could potentially make a run late in the season. Once you get to MLS Cup playoffs, anything can happen.