PODCAST: Harry Shipp’s Montreal move, Sunderland & Manchester United discussed

In this week’s MLSGB Podcast regular host Zack Walford sits down with Jamie Ives and Louis East to discuss Harry Shipp’s surprise trade from Chicago Fire to Montreal Impact and the implications for both clubs.

Then, moving on to the Premier League, the team look at Sunderland and Manchester United and what both sides can expect to achieve for the rest of the term.

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MLS Preview and Prediction: Chicago Fire vs New York City FC

Competition: Major League Soccer – Chicago Fire vs. New York City FC

Venue: Toyota Park – Friday April 24th – 20:00 ET (01:00 BST)

Match Odds: Chicago 5/4 – Draw 23/10 – New York City 21/10

Match Preview

Chicago Fire will look to make it three on the bounce when they host expansion franchise New York City FC on Friday night, with both sides only separated by a point in the Eastern Conference.

After starting the season with three successive losses, Frank Yallop’s men have won two in succession and look more comfortable going forward.

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Much of the improved form is down to the quality injection of attacking DP’s David Accam and Shaun Maloney as they look to be a real threat in the final third.

The Fire haven’t played an MLS game for 20 days so will be fully rested for this one, but will hope that the lack of game time hasn’t halted progression.

Chicago Fire’s 2015 MLS record: P5 – W2 – D0 – L3

New York City come into this one as the side out of form, having only managed one win all season. It is important for the expansion side to start picking up points soon, as they search for a playoff berth in their debut season.

The change of strategy by Jason Kreis for the Portland game was what was needed, as they have looked flat this season whilst playing the 4-4-2 system.

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The newly tested 4-3-3 system will allow rookie, Khiry Shelton, to use his pace as he looks set to continue on the right side of a front three.

New York City’s 2015 MLS record: P7 – W1 – D3 – L3

Much of how the team plays however relies on the fitness of star men, Mix Diskerud and David Villa, who once again remain doubts. If they both play, NYCFC tends to do well. If they don’t, it could be a long night in Chicago.

Team News

Chicago Fire will be without Mike Magee (hip) and Patrick Nyarko (knee) as both remain out injured, while Michael Stephens is a doubt with an ankle injury. Shaun Maloney is expected to play just off front man Quincy Amarikwa with David Accam and Harry Shipp on the flanks.

New York City will be without George John (knee), Tony Taylor (knee) and Jason Hernandez (calf) as all three have been ruled out, with Taylor out for the season. David Villa, Mix Diskerud, Shay Facey and Josh Williams are all doubts as Jason Kreis is struggling with a growing list of absentees. With all the injuries it looks likely that they will keep the 4-3-3 formation from the Portland loss, with Khiry Shelton playing wide and Patrick Mullins filling in as the central striker.

Key Points

Chicago Fire’s last five in MLS: L/L/L/W/W

New York City’s last five in MLS: D/L/L/D/L

Key Stat: New York City have only scored more than once on one occasion this season; a home win against the New England Revolution in what is their only victory so far.

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Key Player: Harry Shipp – With one goal and three assists so far this season, Shipp has been instrumental and we expect more of the same in front of a home crowd on Friday night.

Score Prediction

Chicago Fire 2-1 New York City FC – New York City may not have enough once again, especially without star men, and Chicago should edge this one in front of their own fans.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Chicago Fire vs Philadelphia Union

Competition: Major League Soccer – Chicago Fire vs Philadelphia Union

Venue: Toyota Park – Sunday, March 29 – 17:00 ET (22:00 BST – Live on Sky Sports 1)

Match Odds: Chicago Fire 6/4 – Draw 23/10Philadelphia Union 7/4

Match Preview

Chicago Fire host Philadelphia Union at Toyota Park on Sunday evening in an all Eastern Conference clash as both sides look for their first win of the 2015 MLS campaign.

The Fire have had a slow start to the season, losing their first three games and they already find themselves rooted to the foot of both the Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings.

Philadelphia suffered their first defeat at home to FC Dallas last weekend having previously tied their opening game at home to Colorado before an entertaining 3-3 draw with Real Salt Lake a week later. The Union are currently seventh in the Eastern Conference.

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Chicago have struggled to find the net in the early stages of this season but Harry Shipp did manage to notch their first goal during the 2-1 defeat at San Jose last time out.

Head coach Jim Curtin has only seen his Philadelphia side pick up one win out of their last ten games in MLS if you carry over from last season’s fixtures, and they will be desperately trying to pick up three points against a Chicago side that appear to be there for the taking.

The Fire have an even worse recent record in MLS, with just one win in their last 12 games and head coach Frank Yallop has got a lot of work to do in order to turn things round.

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The last meeting between these two was a 1-1 draw back in October. In-fact, all three of last season’s games between Chicago and Philadelphia ended in a tie.

Team News

Chicago Fire will be without long-term absentee Mike Magee. Midfielders Patrick Nyarko and Razvan Cocis are also out, while Shaun Maloney and David Accam are away on international duty. The Fire have signed midfielder Víctor Pérez on-loan from Spanish side Real Valladolid, so he could make his debut.

Philadelphia Union have survived the international duty exodus, but do have a long list injuries. C. J. Sapong, Cristian Maidana, Eric Bird, Sheanon Williams and Conor Casey are all out. Goalkeeper Andre Blake is also unlikely to return to the squad following knee surgery a month ago. Zach Pfeffer will miss out through suspension.

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Key Points

Chicago Fire’s form: L/L/L

Philadelphia Union’s form: D/D/L

Key Stat: There has never been a goalless draw between these two sides.

Key Player: Fernando Aristeguieta – With two goals from his opening three games, he is Philadelphia’s main goal threat and Chicago have got a job on their hands trying to contain him.

Score Prediction

Chicago Fire 1-2 Philadelphia Union – Chicago Fire have had a poor start and the Union should edge out their first victory of the season and heap more misery on Frank Yallop’s men.

MLS Goal of the Week: Week 3 – Vote Now!

The third week of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is behind us and that means it’s time to vote for your Goal of the Week once again.

There were just 10 goals scored in the eight games this weekend and we’ve picked out five of what we think are the best for you to choose from.

Vote for your favourite goal from Week 3 below before Thursday at midnight. The winning goal will be announced on Friday.

Goal A: Bradley Wright-Phillips – New York Red Bulls

Goal B: Harry Shipp – Chicago Fire

Goal C: Ryan Hollingshead – FC Dallas

Goal D: Octavio Rivero – Vancouver Whitecaps

Goal E: Robbie Keane – LA Galaxy

MLS 2015 Season Preview: Chicago Fire

In the first of our MLS 2015 Season Previews, we take a look at what the Chicago Fire will be hoping for this year. We’ll have a new season preview up every day in the lead up to the season now so be sure to keep checking back for your team.

Chicago Fire will look to improve on what was a below par season in 2014 with the new-look squad that head coach Frank Yallop has put together. The Fire have splashed in order to improve their fortunes in 2015 following the marquee signings of Shaun Maloney, David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike to Designated Player contracts. And more additions are expected before the season gets underway.

Last season’s finish: Eastern Conference position: 9th – P34 – W6 – D18 – L10

What needs to change this year?

The Fire struggled last year with the amount of draws they accumulated and were very poor at hanging onto leads. Amazingly, Chicago managed to lose a total of 22 points from winning positions in 2014. This was the main reason for their league-high record of 18 draws (four more than any other MLS team). This season they will need to convert winning positions into points. A good way to secure these points is to find an out-and-out goalscorer, as Quincy Amarikwa only managed eight as their top scorer last season, and new DP’s Igboananike and Accam will be expected to find the net on a regular basis. It’s going to take a lot for the Fire to reach the playoffs in an even more competitive Eastern Conference this season.

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Key changes to squad:

Ins: Kennedy Igboananike – Forward (Designated Player), Shaun Maloney – Midfield/Forward (Designated Player), David Accam – Forward (Designated Player), Patrick Doody – Defender (Homegrown Player), Adailton – Defender.

Outs: Bakary Soumare – Defender, Patrick Ianni – Defender.

Key player: Shaun Maloney – Midfielder/Forward

Shaun Maloney will provide invaluable experience to a side that lacked inspiration last season when seeing off games. A creative forward who is adaptable in many formations, Yallop has made a good addition to his squad with Maloney. As a Designated Player he will command a key role in the team but do not be surprised if he plays multiple positions throughout the season as Yallop will want to use Maloney, and other versatile players like Harry Shipp, to his full advantage.

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One to watch: Harry Shipp – Midfield

A strong contender for MLS Rookie of the Year in 2014, Harry Shipp will want to follow up a solid first season by solidifying his spot in Yallop’s much-changed team. Shipp will benefit from the new additions and we fully expect him to still be a key player in a Chicago team that is out to prove a point this term.

Predicted finish: Eastern Conference – 7th

We expect a good showing from Chicago this season but we’re not convinced it will be enough for the playoffs as this is strongest the Eastern Conference has ever been. But as always, the MLS provides an entertaining watch, and anything can happen. The key will be how quickly all the new signings can gel together.

How do you think the Chicago Fire will fair in 2015?

Shaun Maloney captains Chicago Fire in debut draw with Norwich

Shaun Maloney wore the captain’s armband on his Chicago Fire debut yesterday as he played 45 minutes in a goalless draw with Norwich City at the Championship club’s Colney Training Centre.

Head coach Frank Yallop changed all eleven players at halftime as 22 players got their first preseason action under their belt in the 0-0 draw.

The Fire have been one of Major League Soccer’s busiest clubs this offseason and 11 of the 13 players brought in this winter played on Thursday.

Two of the new Designated Players started in attack with Kennedy Igboananike and Shaun Maloney accompanied by Harry Shipp up top in a 4-3-3 system.

David Accam, the third DP signing, is still away at the African Cup of Nations with Ghana but he will join up with his teammates within the next week.

Maloney captained the Men in Red on his debut before being replaced by Quincy Amarikwa at halftime with usual captain Jeff Larentowicz ruled out with a knee injury.

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Frank Yallop was pleased with what he saw from his side in the draw and starting preseason with a clean-sheet against a Norwich side with a few first-team regulars is a major positive.

“It was very good,” Yallop told reporters after the game. “We had two completely different units starting the first half and the second, so 22 players got to play a 45-minute spell, which is always good to start with.

“I feel like some of the soccer we played and our continuity [was good], and after nine or 10 days of training I thought we were quite bright, played some good stuff, and getting a clean sheet is always important.”

The Chicago Fire now move on to London where they will train with Queens Park Rangers before playing the Premier League club in a behind-closed-doors friendly on Thursday.

FC Dallas’ Tesho Akindele named as MLS Rookie of the Year

FC Dallas forward Tesho Akindele has been named as the 2014 MLS Rookie of the Year, beating Chicago Fire midfielder Harry Shipp and DC United defender Steve Birnbaum to the award.

The 22-year-old enjoyed a fantastic campaign as he scored eight goals and picked up three assists through the 2014 regular season and MLS Playoffs.

Dallas have run a social media campaign supporting Akindele for the past few months with the hashtag #VoteForTesho. The campaign was an outtake of the classic US comedy Napoleon Dynamite starring Tesho Akindele and teammate Matt Hedges.

The support for the forward clearly worked and his impressive form through July and August saw him score six goals in six games – incidentally when nearest rival for the award Harry Shipp‘s form dipped.

Shipp looked like he was going to run away with the award after his incredible start to life in MLS but the FC Dallas man has beaten him to the award in the end.

Akindele was selected with the sixth pick of the 2014 MLS SuperDraft and wasn’t disheartened by the fact that he only saw 15 minutes of action through Dallas’ first ten league games.

He went on to become a star and became the youngest Dallas player to ever score a goal in the playoffs when he netted against the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Western Conference knockout round.

Akindele is delighted to have picked up the award and will now be focused on getting FC Dallas back into the playoffs next season.

“It’s honestly one of the best days of my life. It’s such an honor and I couldn’t be happier,” he said upon learning of his award.

Video to celebrate Tesho Akindele’s Rookie of the Year award (via MLS on YouTube):

Do you think Tesho Akindele deserved to be named MLS Rookie of the Year?

Chicago Fire looking to bring in Shaun Maloney to MLS as designated player

Chicago Fire‘s search for talent is ongoing and the club appear to have identified Wigan Athletic midfielder Shaun Maloney as a man worthy of a designated player contract.

The Scotland star netted a sensational winner in last week’s Euro 2016 qualifier against the Republic of Ireland, and is reportedly being offered a big-money contract if he chooses to join Chicago Fire this offseason.

The 31-year-old’s contract with Wigan is set to expire next summer, and that means the Latics may have to cash in now if the Fire come calling.

New boss Malky Mackay is keen to keep Maloney at the club as he looks to guide Wigan out of the Championship relegation-zone, but the player has reportedly expressed a desire to play in MLS.

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Chicago endured a poor season in 2014 and won the tied-lowest number of games with just six wins. A player of Maloney’s calibre would inject so much life into an attack that only scored 41 goals this year.

The former Celtic star won 13 trophies during his time in Scotland and then won the FA Cup with Wigan in 2013 as they beat Manchester City against all odds. His experience will undoubtedly help the side.

He would be a great addition to Frank Yallop’s side and would be able to help the development of players such as MLS Rookie of the Year candidate Harry Shipp.

The Fire are expected to make numerous changes to their roster this winter, and bringing in Shaun Maloney would certainly be a good bit of business.

Would you like to see Shaun Maloney make the move to MLS?

Harry Shipp reveals thoughts on rookie season with Chicago Fire

Chicago Fire didn’t enjoy the best of seasons in Major League Soccer this year but one bright spark for the team was rookie Harry Shipp and his performances will give the team hope for the next campaign.

Shipp made the transition from college football to professional standard look incredibly easy in the first half of the 2014 season despite the fact the Fire struggled to find form.

His performances dipped slightly as the season progressed, and he admits that getting used to losing was a tough adjustment to make.

“Obviously from a team standpoint it was a disappointing year. Coming off being successful at Notre Dame, it was hard to come in here and have a realistic expectation that you’re not going to win every game and I think that was an adjustment for me,” he said.

“But the good thing about these guys is that we didn’t stop fighting all year, just unfortunately I think we were unable to sustain possession.

“I think there were key points in games where we let the other team dictate the game, and we were always on the back foot reacting to what they were doing rather than being proactive on the field. That’s definitely something we can work on going into next year.”

Shipp is expected to win the MLS Rookie of the Year award for his remarkable season as he scored seven goals and led the team in assists with six in 2014.

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He played in all but one game and has become an integral part of the Chicago team, and will be again next season regardless of who is brought in during the offseason.

“I learned to play out wide this year, both on the right and left and that’s something I’d never really done before so that was part of the learning experience.

“It doesn’t matter who comes in here as the more positions I can play means there will always be a role for me on the field and that was my goal coming here.”

The 23-year-old believes that he can become more and more of a leader for the Fire as his career progresses and the team will already be looking ahead to next season.

“As the season went on I tried to take on more responsibility and I think as I grow in my career I’ll take on more and more leadership and that’s what I foresee for myself, but I learnt so much from the older guys this season.”

Chicago are planning to strengthen the squad ahead of the next campaign and are looking at bringing in “two or three” designated players as they bid to make the playoffs for the first time since 2012 next time out.

Full interview with Harry Shipp (via Chicago Fire on YouTube):

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