Findley takes over as Real Salt Lake down Fire

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Findley takes over as Real Salt Lake down Fire

Thursday, July 8, 2010
Updated: 11:31 PM

By JJ Stankevitz
CSNChicago.com

Thursday night was World Cup Night at Toyota Park, so it was fitting that the only player on the pitch to play in the 2010 World Cup scored the game-winning goal.

Unfortunately for Chicago, that player was Real Salt Lakes Robbie Findley.

Findley, who appeared in three World Cup matches in South Africa for the U.S. National Team, scored on a penalty kick in the 39th minute. The goal was not an isolated incident, though, as Findley dominated the final seven minutes of the first half.

That dominance began in the 38th minute, when Findley beat Fire keeper Andrew Dykstra but saw his shot go off the right post. A minute later, Findley found himself in Chicagos box and was knocked down on a hard tackle from C.J. Brown.

Brown was whistled for a foul and Findley was given a penalty shot, which he easily converted to give Real Salt Lake a 1-0 advantage.

Coach Carlos de los Cobos was not pleased with referee Terry Vaughns ruling of a penalty kick on Browns challenge of Findley. There was contact between Brown and Findley, but de los Cobosand the Chicago fans at Toyota Parkvehemently disagreed with Vaughns decision to award a penalty.

I dont usually speak about the referee because I respect these guys too much, but they made a big mistake on the penalty kick because I saw very normal contact between C.J. and Findley, said de los Cobos.

Findley nearly gave Real Salt Lake a 2-0 advantage in the 43rd minute, too. The 24-year-old striker got behind Chicagos defense and had just Dykstra to beat, but failed to get a shot off.

Yeah, probably, said Findley with a laugh when asked if he thought he should have had three goals. But you cant make them all, I guess.

Findley didnt notice any changes in Chicagos defense late in the first half that led to his success. I started to read Chicagos defense, and every time I would check, they would be on my back, said Findley of his ease in getting behind Chicagos defense at the end of the first half. When we had the ball, it seemed like they had eight or nine behind the ball. It was tough to get through them, but we did well and were patient, and things opened up.

Chicago failed to mount any serious scoring challenges in the first half. But a pair of substitutions by de los Cobos sparked Chicagos offense in the second half.

At halftime, de los Cobos swapped midfielders, pulling Logan Pause for Justin Mapp. And, to the pleasure of the 17,847 fans at Toyota Park, Arlington Heights, Ill. native Brian McBride was subbed in for Stefan Dimitrov at forward.

Bringing McBride and Mapp to the field, I think the team had a very good change about possession of the ball and control of the game, said de los Cobos.

They came on and gave us that energy we needed, said defender Steven Kinney. We kept the pressure on them for the second half, but it just wouldnt fall for us tonight.

Kinney experienced that frustration of not finishing first-hand. The six-foot defender saw two headers cruelly bounce off both the left and right goalpost in the second half, the first coming in the 48th minute and the second in the 56th minute.

I was feeling that it probably was not our night tonight, said Kinney of how he felt after missing the second header. We got more chances, but it just wouldnt fall for us tonight.

Chicago continued to develop scoring chances throughout the second half, leaving Real Salt Lake only a couple chances on the counterattack. Real Salt Lake conceded nine corner kicks in the second half, but Chicago failed to convert on any of them.

To be fair, though, two of those failed conversions came on a Kinney header going off the post.

Kinney was robbed again in the 71st minute when Real Salt Lake keeper Nick Rimando got a piece of his shot. It wasnt as heartbreaking as his two header misses, but for a Chicago team that currently sits on the outside looking in of the MLS playoff picture, any good, missed chance hurt.

With 17 points, Chicago is in tenth place overall in the MLS table. The top two teams from the Eastern and Western conferences qualify for the playoffs, and the four next-best teams from either conference will also receive playoff bids.

While Chicago has only played 14 of 30 MLS matches, it currently is two points behind No. 8 San Jose. Houston currently is in ninth with 18 points.

Notes

Real Salt Lake subbed Findley out in the 58th minute24-year-old Ghanan forward Patrick Nyarko did not play and was designated as a substitute. Nyarko continued to experience concussion symptoms from a challenge July 3 against Columbus, according to the teamChicago announced Manchester United will hold an open training session at Toyota Park Wednesday, July 14 at 4 pm. The training session will be open solely to ticket-holders for that evenings Fire-Morelia SuperLiga matchManchester United will play the MLS All-Stars Wednesday, July 28 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas in the MLS All-Star Game.

Fire Talk Podcast Episode 4: The Fire have Bastian Schweinsteiger

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AP

Fire Talk Podcast Episode 4: The Fire have Bastian Schweinsteiger

Bastian Schweinsteiger has signed with the Chicago Fire, which means there's plenty to talk about in Fire land.

Dan Santaromita and Shane Murray (MLSsoccer.com) break down the big move in the fourth episode of the Fire Talk Podcast. They look at what his impact will be on and off the field, how much he can improve the team and how the team may line up with him.

Next, hear Dan's interview with coach Veljko Paunovic about Schweinsteiger's addition to the team.

Finally, Dan and Shane look back on the Fire's 4-0 loss in Atlanta, preview the upcoming home match against Montreal and answer some fan questions to wrap up the show.

The podcast is available on iTunes and the Podcasts app on iOS. Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

How does Bastian Schweinsteiger fit into the Fire's lineup?

How does Bastian Schweinsteiger fit into the Fire's lineup?

The dust has begun to settle from the Chicago Fire's signing of Bastian Schweinsteiger.

A few days after the announcement, everyone has had a chance to process the move, evaluate it and wonder how it will help the team. The big question that remains is how will Schweinsteiger fit in with this group?

While central midfield had been a problem for the Fire last year, the additions of Dax McCarty and Juninho, both former MLS All-Stars who are currently still in their prime, seemed to have filled the hole. Now Schweinsteiger comes in and the Fire have a glut of central midfielders.

When asked about finding a way to get all three on the field, coach Veljko Paunovic said it's not a concern at all.

"We were thinking about that a long time ago," Paunovic said. "We were preparing him and other guys to play together. We know what we are doing."

Paunovic wouldn't give much away about how the three would play together in midfield or what specific role Schweinsteiger would play. Will he be an attacking midfielder? Will he sit deep and have one of McCarty and Juninho move up?

"He's going to play the role of the midfielder," Paunovic said. "The midfielder has to play different roles depending on the situation so it's a proven player and I don't think that there is a question about his qualities and what he can bring to our team. For sure he can play, helping our team to build the attack, to help the organization of the play and then in the final third we all know that he can produce passes in the final third and score goals."

While Paunovic wouldn't give any hints as to how Schweinsteiger fits into the Fire's midfield, general manager Nelson Rodriguez did. Sort of.

"There's a current trend that the only way to be a successful No. 10 is to go to Argentina, find a No. 10 fairy tree... and that's the only way that you can have a 10,” Rodriguez said. "I'm not saying that Pauno is going to play him in the 10 role, that will be Pauno's decision. But there's a lot of different types of playmakers that can impact a game."

That answer implies that maybe the Rodriguez and Paunovic view Schweinsteiger as an attacking midfielder in MLS. Even though Rodriguez volunteered the concept of Schweinsteiger of a playmaking No. 10 without being asked about that role, he wouldn't commit to it.

"Pauno and I clearly have had discussions and we were comfortable with it in that regard," Rodriguez said of Schweinsteiger's fit. "I'm loathe to say No. 10 or otherwise again because I think those conjure up preconceived notions and I would also point out that Bastian played in attacking midfield role for Bayern in some of his last years there to great effect. We're talking about a player whose versatility, his intelligence through his dominance of the ball allows him to play a lot of different roles. I think that we all tend to fall into traps and want to define players in a very small way. Some players can transcend those definitions by virtue of their versatility. I think Bastian is one of those guys."

So if Rodriguez and Paunovic won't give much away yet, let's have fun speculating as to how the Fire may line up with the German in the fold.

For starters, there are some basic, reasonable assumptions you have to make when coming up with how things could fit together. These assumptions largely dictate the options available.

Neither Juninho nor Dax McCarty are going to the bench.

The simplest lineup solution would involve having Schweinsteiger step into his natural position and no one moving out of their natural spot. However, that's not going to happen because Juninho and McCarty are too good and too important to send to the bench. That's why this isn't simple. Finding a way to fit three central midfielders into the same starting lineup will require some creativity from Paunovic.

Nemanja Nikolic, David Accam and Michael de Leeuw all must start.

Like Schweinsteiger, Nikolic and Accam are designated players and will start when healthy. Hypthetically, the Fire could have Schweinsteiger come in as an extra midfielder in some sort of 4-5-1 (or 4-3-3) formation and have the Fire play with only one forward, which would be Nikolic. The problem with this is de Leeuw, who was arguably the team's best player after debuting last August, is too good to send to the bench. In this scenario he is left without a spot. Does he move into a wide position to accommodate Schweinsteiger and send Arturo Alvarez to the bench? This seems plausible, but less than ideal for de Leeuw, who has proven to be an effective goal poacher.

Given Rodriguez's quotes about Schweinsteiger being a playmaker, here are a couple ways this could work with him as the highest of the three central midfielders.

First, a 4-2-3-1, which Paunovic has used for most of his matches with the Fire. Schweinsteiger has more offensive responsibility here.

Second, a more traditional 4-3-3 where Vincent and Harrington will have provide more attacking width.

The differences between these two are subtle, but these seem to be the most likely possibilities.

But what about something very different? What about a 3-5-2? Paunovic tried this formation a few times last season, but often times it looked more like a very defensive 5-3-2 because, as he even said, the wide defenders weren't getting forward enough. Different personnel could change that. Behold:

The benefits to this are that the Fire's best offensive players are all on the field at the same time in their natural positions and Schweinsteiger won't be asked to cover a lot of ground with Juninho and McCarty playing behind him centrally.

However, there's always risk going with a three-man back line. McCarty and Juninho can provide better cover and support than the Fire had last year when trying this formation. Another option would be to have Brandon Vincent replace Alvarez to have a more defensive-minded player on the field.

The answer won't come until Schweinsteiger makes his first start in a Fire uniform, and even then Paunovic may tinker or change his mind.

"I would just say I don't think people should make an assumption as to how we're going to line up or play or what roles we're going to fill," Rodriguez said. "I think that we have to allow this team to come together. We have to allow this team to play together. We have to allow competition to change to determine who plays."