Preview and Prediction: Chicago Fire vs Houston Dynamo

Two side’s who will be disappointed not to be making plans for the playoffs meet on Friday night as the Chicago Fire welcome Houston Dynamo for both side’s final game of the 2014 MLS season.

Both clubs are already looking ahead to next year but Chicago will be keen to get their first win in six against the Dynamo when they meet at Toyota Park.

The Fire have not beaten their Eastern Conference rivals since the 2012 season, and will be looking to end the season on a high, after failing to win in their past eight MLS matches.

Houston won the reverse fixture 2-0 at the end of September, but come into the game in relatively poor form too, having lost three of their last four and they will hope to end Dominic Kinnear’s reign with one more celebration.

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Although it would appear to be a game with little to play for, several players will be hoping to impress so that they are not released in the post-season, and so it could be an open game.

Chicago Fire’s home form: Played 16 – Won 3 – Drawn 11 – Lost 2

The Fire have only lost twice at home this season, and are unbeaten in nine at Toyota Park Stadium, so they will look to make it ten as they close out the campaign.

They have drawn an astonishing 18 games this season, and that has ultimately cost them valuable points along the way as their football has not been as bad as their league position dictates.

They can’t finish higher or lower than ninth in the Eastern Conference, but will want to add another loss to Houston’s miserable away record.

Houston Dynamo’s away form: Played 16 – Won 3 – Drawn 2 – Lost 11

With neither side likely to take the game by the scruff of the neck, an entertaining draw could be played out to end disappointing campaign’s for two sides who will already have one eye on the start of the new season.

Key Player: Harry Shipp – The Chicago playmaker’s rookie season started so brightly, but his form dipped along with his team. He will want to end on a high as he looks ahead to next season.

Key Stat: All signs point to a draw: Chicago have not beaten Houston in five games, but have drawn their last three home games, as well as two of the last three between the sides.

Chicago’s last five: L/D/D/L/L

Houston’s last five: W/L/W/L/L

Prediction: Chicago Fire 1-1 Houston Dynamo

 

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Takeaways from Seattle’s visit to Chicago

Seattle Sounders stretched their unbeaten streak to four on Saturday night with a hard-fought 3-2 victory over the Chicago Fire.

Chicago are now without a win in four and missed ‘Magic’ Mike Magee dearly.

There were a few things we learnt about the two sides and more specifically the individual players that made a difference. They are as follows:

1. Shipp strikes again.

Harrison Shipp is surely set to be rookie of the year as we are yet to see him have a bad game.

Both his goals on Saturday were top drawer and expect more from him this season, because at only 22 years old, he could take this league by storm.

3. Stefan Frei saves the day.

Barring two glorious efforts from Harry Shipp, Frei was in sensational form and effectively won the Sounders the game.

The Swiss-born ‘keeper managed to stop Quincy Amarikwa from just 6 yards out and the Sounders can thank Frei that they went on to win this game. He was Brilliant.

3. The good and the bad side of Obafemi Martins.

Martins only played 42 minutes but he managed to score two goals and get himself sent off.

It was a shame to see him go off, as he looked sharp as ever up until then, taking his first goal well and then converting a penalty with ease.

The probable suspension will leave Seattle in a spot of bother as Clint Dempsey is still away with the USMNT at the World Cup and the Sounders aren’t spoilt for suitable replacements, though they have a two-week break now to plan for their next game.

 

 

Chicago get first win of the season as New York Shipp five in goalfest

By Louis East

Chicago Fire survived a late New York fightback to record their first victory of 2014 in a simply pulsating game, that saw nine goals and two hat-tricks.

The Red Bull Arena hosted the most incredible game of the MLS season so far on Saturday night, as the Fire beat the Red Bulls 5-4.

Chicago’s Harrison Shipp and New York’s Bradley Wright-Phillips each bagged a hat-trick in a dramatic goalfest that provided a perfect advert for Major League Soccer.

It is the first time a MLS game has seen two hat-tricks, and the unrelenting nature of the game left viewers breathless at the final whistle.

The game started as it meant to go on, with drama present from as early as the third minute.

Harry Shipp fired a shot from the edge of the box, with Mike Magee clearly in an offside position, and the ball found its way past Red Bulls goalkeeper, Luis Robles, and in to the bottom corner.

Referee, Kevin Stott allowed the goal to stand despite the fact that his assistant had raised his flag, much to the fury of Red Bulls players and fans alike.

Photo: USA TODAY Sports

Photo: USA TODAY Sports

New York didn’t waste much time thinking about the early setback, as they equalised just two minutes later, with Tim Cahill rising high in the box to head in from Eric Alexander’s cross.

The frantic start to the game did slow down for a while after, with both sides struggling to gain control of the match.

Chicago then had a great chance to take the lead in the thirty-seventh minute, as Shipp sent Magee through on goal, but the striker watched his shot sail agonisingly wide of the post.

Chicago were punished straight-away, as Thierry Henry carried the ball forward with purpose before crossing to Bradley Wright-Phillips, who scored his seventh goal of the season to put the Red Bulls in front.

The teams went in at halftime with New York deserved leaders, with Chicago left disappointed to have thrown away their early lead in such a short space of time.

Though Fire coach Frank Yallop clearly said the right things at halftime, as Chicago came out firing in the second period.

They managed to tie the game once again in the forty-eighth minute, as Quincy Amarikwa was able to get on the end of a Jeff Larentowicz cross to make it 2-2.

The away side looked confident, and New York left stunned.

Just five minutes later, they took the lead once again, courtesy of rookie Harry Shipp for the second time in the match.

Some poor New York defending helped the ball through to Shipp, who found space in the box and fired past Robles.

The Red Bulls looked rattled, and they gifted Chicago with their next goal, as Jamison Olave and Kosuke Kimura’s over-relaxed defending led to the latter being dispossessed by Shipp, who grabbed his hat-trick and put Chicago 4-2 up.

Good fortune then went the way of Chicago, who added a fifth goal in the sixty-third minute, thanks to a mis-cued cross by Patrick Nyarko which found its way over Robles and into the net.

New York manager, Mike Petke, had to change it up and try and get back into the game, and the introduction of Jonathan Steele and Peguy Luyindula put the Red Bulls back in the driving seat.

Three minutes after conceding the fifth goal, Bradley Wright-Phillips volleyed home to instil some life back into the side, as Steele’s cross was chested into the path of Wright-Phillips by Lloyd Sam.

The home crowd roared their side forward in search of another, and they got a penalty in the seventy-sixth minute after Thierry Henry was brought down in the box by Jhon Kennedy Hurtado.

Wright-Phillips stepped up and blasted the ball in for his second hat-trick of the season and took his tally for the season to nine, making him the league’s top scorer.

Photo: Smiley N. Pool/AP

Photo: Smiley N. Pool/AP

Chicago were now stunned once more, and thoughts of last week’s late capitulation against Real Salt Lake must have been creeping into their minds.

Though goalkeeper, Sean Johnson, made sure his side stayed in it on eighty-one minutes, as he stopped Henry one-on-one to prevent what looked like the equaliser.

A last minute bicycle kick from Wright-Phillips couldn’t find the back of the net, with Sean Johnson pouncing on the ball to ensure that Chicago would pick up their first win of the season.

New York will be deflated after putting so much in, and to score four goals and not get a point is quite incredible.

They remain just three points behind Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference but will see the game as a missed opportunity, especially when they were leading at halftime.

For Chicago, it’s the much needed break they’ve been waiting for, and the result leaves them in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

A truly wild night of MLS action in the Red Bull Arena, and one that fans won’t forget in a hurry.

Highlights courtesy of Major League Soccer’s YouTube channel: