Fire, players nominated for MLS awards

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Fire, players nominated for MLS awards

At least this is progress.

Last year the Fire had but one player chosen among the three finalists for the various postseason awards handed out in Major League Soccer. Dominic Oduro was among the trio in contention for Comeback Player-of-the-Year, but the award went to David Beckham of the Los Angeles Galaxy.

MLS announced its various award finalists for 2012 on Thursday, at about the same time Fire players were cleaning out their lockers at Toyota Park. As expected, defender Austin Berry was among the finalists for Rookie of the Year.

Captain Logan Pause was also mentioned for the Fair Play Award. The winner of it is selected by MLS, based on objective criteria such as fouls committed, cards received and games and minutes played as well as a subjective evaluation of sportsmanship behavior.

The Fire was also nominated for the Team Fair Play award, joining the Houston Dynamo and New England Revolution.

Frank Klopas, who merited consideration for Coach of the Year based on his teams improvement from a 9-9-16 record in 2011 to this years 17-11-6, was bypassed. The finalists among the coaches were Frank Yallop of San Jose, Peter Vermes of Sporting Kansas City and Ben Olsen of D.C. United.

At least the Fire wont have to wait long to find out if it has an MLS award winner for the first time since 2009. The first winners will be announced on Monday, and they are in the three categories that the Fire has finalists.

In the Fires last trip to the awards stand three years ago, the club won the Team Fair Play and Pause took Humanitarian-of-the-Year. His rivals for this years Fair Play honor are Ante Jazic of Chivas USA and Heath Pearce of New York.

Lens Picks

As previously mentioned here, Berry is my clear-cut choice for Rookie of the Year and Pause is as good as any for Fair Play. He didnt draw a card in 32 games this season.

My choices for the other MLS individual player awards are: Matt Besler, Sporting Kansas City, Defender; Kei Kamara, Sporting Kansas City, Humanitarian; Olsen, Coach; Eddie Johnson, Seattle, Comeback; Jimmy Nielsen, Sporting Kansas City, Goalkeeper; Michael Gspurning, Seattle, Newcomer; and Chris Wondolowski, San Jose, Most Valuable Player.

Illinois State Soccer Assn. Hall of Fame ceremony

While Fire players have scattered for the season Toyota Park will still be a busy place, especially on Sunday when the Illinois State Soccer Assn. holds its Hall of Fame banquet beginning at 4 p.m. Heading the list of this years inductees is Hank Steinbrecher, former head of the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Also joining past honorees at the Toyota Park Hall of Fame exhibit are Frank Basan, Mary Jane Bender, Rey Carlberg, Tony Dallas, Charlie Dyson, Harold Hall, Robert Meschbach, Boris Pavichevich, Zygmunt Prudzienica, Hans Wissman, and Richard Znamierowski.

Five others will receive Meritorious Service awards: Edner Franck, Stanley Makowka, Karen ODowd, Harry Quidzinski (posthumously) and Jeff Stern.

Notes from the rewatch: A deeper look at David Accam's big game

Notes from the rewatch: A deeper look at David Accam's big game

It's not often that teams win games in MLS by four goals, especially when a red card wasn't involved.

After the Chicago Fire couldn't score one goal against Orlando when the Lions went down to nine men for more than a quarter of the match earlier this month, the Fire put up a four spot against Orlando at Toyota Park on Saturday. The Fire were dominant in every aspect of the game.

David Accam had one of his best games for the Fire and the team had arguably its best performance of the season.

It takes two for a blowout in MLS

There have been 10 games in MLS this season decided by four goals or more. Out of that group, two of those involved red cards (including the Fire's 4-0 loss at Atlanta in March) and two of those were Minnesota's first two games as an MLS team when it was thought they could be the worst team in league history. Blowouts happen in MLS, but the relatively balanced play in the league means both the winning team had to be very good and the losing team had to be very bad.

The Fire may have had its best performance of the season. Nemanja Nikolic said the team was near perfect after the match (in the video above).

Meanwhile, Orlando was without its leading scorer (Cyle Larin) and was coming off a game Wednesday halfway across the country in Seattle. Those factors, plus an overall lethargic showing from Orlando (coach Jason Kreis said his team "didn't have enough energy" at the start of the match) made the Lions susceptible to the beatdown they received.

The expected goals didn't lie

Soccer analytics are still nascent, but expected goals is one of the stats getting more attention. Expected goals (click here for the longer, better explanation) track the position of all shots taken in a match and quantify the likelihood of that shot going in. Shots from close are more likely to score so they are worth more expected goals. Each shot's percentage of scoring is added to produce the team's expected goals total.

Often in blowouts, the winning team's expected goals total is lower than the actual goal total because in order to score a large number of goals it probably took a couple low-percentage shots scoring. Teams don't typically create several high-percentage scoring chances in a match. It takes a screamer from distance or a goalkeeper flub to get a high goal total, and the expected goal total won't go up with that as a result.

However, the Fire's expected goal total from Saturday was actually above four. Including the penalty kick, the Fire's expected goal total finished at 4.26, one of the highest totals in the league this year. Meanwhile, Orlando had a miniscule .16 from three long-distance shots.

The Fire scored two goals early and kept creating chances. Nikolic was denied on a close-range volley in the first half and missed an open shot in the second half or else he could have scored more than the one goal.

Without going deeper into the stats, the takeaway is that this game was a blowout, was always going to be a blowout and didn't require particularly efficient finishing from the Fire to be a blowout.

Accam: "I thought I could do anything on the pitch"

Accam's hat trick got the headlines, but he also had an assist on Nikolic's goal. On the assist he showed something he hasn't done often. Look where Accam received the ball on that play:

This is Accam as a playmaking attacking midfielder for one play. He received the ball just past midfield off a turnover, but it wasn’t a classic counter. Orlando had five players behind the ball and he had two Fire players, Nikolic and Luis Solignac, in front of him. He turned, put a move on Antonio Nocerino to give himself the space to set up Nikolic, made the pass and Nikolic finished with his first touch.

Accam's first goal was about positioning. He found a way to get open in the six-yard box, and the backheel was just the exclamation mark to finish the play. His second goal was classic Accam getting behind a defense and being almost too patient to shoot before scoring into an open net.

He showed a little bit of everything Saturday.

Michael de Leeuw tracking Kaka

Just watch Michael de Leeuw, a natural forward, recognize Kaka running into open space and then cut him off and intercept a pass intended for the Brazilian.

Dax McCarty named to U.S. national team roster for Gold Cup

Dax McCarty named to U.S. national team roster for Gold Cup

After the Chicago Fire's 4-0 win against Orlando on Saturday, midfielder Dax McCarty said his goodbyes to his teammates and got an extra handshake and a good luck message from coach Veljko Paunovic.

That's because McCarty was preparing to leave the Fire to join the U.S. national team for the upcoming Gold Cup, CONCACAF's regional tournament. McCarty was named to the 23-man roster that will take place in the tournament, which runs from July 7-26.

The U.S. will play against Ghana on July 1 in a tune-up. Fire winger David Accam will be a part of that Ghana team and is also away from the Fire. McCarty and Accam will both miss the U.S. Open Cup game in Cincinnati on Wednesday and the MLS game against Vancouver the same day as that friendly.

MLS is taking a break during Gold Cup group play, but will resume as the knockout round begins. If the U.S. gets to the semifinals, McCarty would miss three MLS games (July 1 vs. Vancouver, July 5 at Portland and July 22 vs. New York City FC). He would also miss a potential Open Cup quarterfinal if the Fire beat FC Cincinnati.

McCarty has been called in regularly under coach Bruce Arena, but has only played in friendlies. With the Gold Cup drawing mostly from MLS players, with European-based players getting a break during the club offseason, McCarty could see more playing time.

Fire right back Matt Polster was also included on the preliminary roster, but was not on the final 23-man roster. Former Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson was also on the team.

Here is the full roster:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (New York City FC)

DEFENDERS (8): Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca, Mexico), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest, England), Matt Miazga (Chelsea, England), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna, Mexico), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana, Mexico), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana, Mexico), Dax McCarty (FIRE), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution), Kenny Saief (Gent, Belgium), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

FORWARDS (3): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Dom Dwyer (Sporting Kansas City), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders)