Jonathan Campbell, Siera Santos go in search of killer barbecue

Jonathan Campbell, Siera Santos go in search of killer barbecue

Fire defender Jonathan Campbell is from North Carolina and people from North Carolina take barbecue very seriously.

Campbell and CSN Chicago's Siera Santos went to the Windy City Smokeout to check out some of the best barbecue available. They had some fall-off-the-bone ribs and found some barbecue from Missouri and Mississippi, all while wearing white shirts.

Watch the full video above to see Campbell and Santos eating smoked meat in Chicago. Be sure to watch for Santos' comment that was a head-turner for Campbell. It looks like they had some fun.

Notes from the rewatch: Fire under siege in Atlanta


Notes from the rewatch: Fire under siege in Atlanta

Saturday's 4-0 loss in Atlanta was the first setback in the young season for the Chicago Fire.

The first loss of the season came as a result of a nigthmarish first 11 minutes which left the Fire almost no way to come back. It wasn't just Johan Kappelhof's early red card that doomed the Fire though, things were already looking grim beforehand.

Here's a look at the 11 minutes of 11v11 from the match and other observations from after the Fire were down a man.

Evaluating things before the red card

It's hard to evaluate the Fire's performance considering they went down a man so early in the match. However, the symptoms of a bad loss were already showing in the first 10 minutes despite the Fire having a couple decent chances in the first several minutes.

In the second minute, the Fire showed a quick counter, which was probably the gameplan going in on the road against a possession-oriented team like Atlanta. Michael Harrington intercepted a switch pass with a header. The header landed with Dax McCarty. McCarty found Arturo Alvarez, who turned it over, but Atlanta gave it right back to David Accam. Accam mishit the shot and it went harmlessly wide. It was a sloppy play from both teams, but it showed the Fire's intent to be dangerous on the counter.

Two minutes later Atlanta went on top with a pair of slightly unlucky breaks for the Fire. Atlanta is cycling possession around the back until pushing forward with a pass to Yamil Asad. Asad takes a heavy touch and Alvarez and McCarty swarm him to try to force the turnover. They are unable to win it cleanly and Josef Martinez steps in to redirect the ball into the path of Hector Villalba. Seconds after nearly forcing a turnover, the Fire are now scrambling defensively.

Villalba feeds Julian Gressel wide right and his low cross ricochets off Brandon Vincent and into the net. Atlanta was quicker to a loose ball and was able to quickly get the ball in the penalty box. After that, it's just an unlucky deflection.

Arturo Alvarez did have a chance a few minutes after the goal by cutting onto his left foot, what else, but the shot is an easy save for Alec Kann.

Then Atlanta kicked in its possession dominance. A 26-pass sequence led to a Michael Harrington foul in Atlanta's defensive half. The Fire were already chasing and struggling to get on the ball, even before going down a man.

The red card itself comes from an intercepted Michael Harrington throw in. Atlanta is off to the races at that point and Johan Kappelhof is sent off, which practically ended the game at that moment.

It's easy to point to the red card when explaining Atlanta's mind-blowing possession numbers (83 percent for the match), but the hosts actually had 87 percent of the possession in the first 10 minutes of the match. The Fire may have planned to weather an early storm and then try to work their way into the match with counters or more aggressive pressing, but they were already down a goal and couldn't get on the ball. The red card may have ended the Fire's chances of coming back, but it wasn't looking good before it either, even considering the goal involved a bit of luck.

Jonathan Campbell's first action of 2017

Campbell probably had the toughest season debut possible. Sub into a match after just 15 minutes in front of a sold out, hostile crowd when your team is already down a goal and a man. On top of that Atlanta forward Josef Martinez has superb movement, forcing the centerbacks to constantly stay on their toes.

Campbell had an impressive rookie season and led the Fire in minutes. Coach Veljko Paunovic said he has a possible future with the national team. However, Campbell didn't play in either of the Fire's first two matches this season. Kappelhof's red card thrust him into a tough situation and will require him to start against Montreal in the Fire's next match.

He made some nice plays beforehand, but was involved in Atlanta's second and third goals. Campbell headed a clearance from goalkeeper Alec Kann that went right into the path of Miguel Almiron. Almiron then threaded a nice pass to Josef Martinez. Campbell's errant header started Atlanta's break and he couldn't keep up with Martinez after that.

The video below starts just as Almiron controls Campbell's header.

Then on Atlanta's third goal, Campbell denies a Greg Garza cross headed for Martinez. Campbell had position and was able to stay in front of his man. However, the clearance went up the middle in the box and Hector Villalba hammered it home.

It wasn't a great outing, but assuming he starts against Montreal that would be a better judge to see where Campbell is in his second year.

Jorge Bava's distribution

Whenever a team signs a South American goalkeeper, the stereotype is that he is good with his feet and in distribution. In the case of the Uruguayan Bava, it was magnified because of Paunovic's desire to play out of the back and general manager Nelson Rodriguez's comment this preseason that Bava's skillset was rare among domestically based goalkeepers.

So how is Bava doing?

In the season opener at Columbus he had a pair of turnovers on distribution, one of which led to a chance on goal. The following week he was clean against Real Salt Lake. He came off his line on a couple occasions when needed, he caught all the crosses he was supposed to and his distribution was solid.

In Atlanta Bava made both some impressive throws and long kicks and had more dangerous turnovers.

For starters, Bava's yellow card in the 18th minute had a bit of a comedic element to it. Bava came out to punch away a long ball in the corner of the box. He dribbled the ball out of bounds after hesitation and then gets a yellow for running away with the ball so he can get back in position. He could have just blasted the ball 40 rows up, but for whatever reason he didn't. Ultimately no harm, no foul other than an unnecessary yellow card.

A few minutes later was a sequence that encapsulated what Bava's distribution has been like with the Fire. He turned the ball over on a goal kick, but after he reclaimed the ball from the ensuing attack he hit a nice long punt that found Nemanja Nikolic (who made an impressive one-touch trap) past midfield. Later in the half he heaved a throw past midfield that Nikolic was able to run onto.

To cap it off, in the 90th minute he came out of his box to intercept a ball over the top. He then missed the 10-yard pass aimed for McCarty.

Bava has shown the standout long kicks and throws that Paunovic seems to be looking for, but has also made mistakes on some of the simpler plays. None have led to goals yet, but that's something he will need to clean up.

To close, here's an impressive view of Josef Martinez's fourth goal from Saturday:

Fire defender Jonathan Campbell not buying into rookie wall

Fire defender Jonathan Campbell not buying into rookie wall

The ‘rookie wall’ is something that often gets trumpeted as a narrative in various sports.

As professional seasons go longer, rookies enter uncharted territory for how long they’ve been in-season. Sometimes performance takes a dip and the ‘rookie wall’ is to blame. Some growing pains occur and adjustments to the rigors of a long professional season are made.

The Chicago Fire entered the season with six young players new to Major League Soccer on the roster, three of which have earned fairly regular playing time. Brandon Vincent began the season as a spot starter before earning more consistent minutes lately. Rodrigo Ramos was a regular earlier in the season, but hasn’t played in the past six MLS matches. Jonathan Campbell earned his starting spot at centerback very quickly and hasn’t given it up since.

Even Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez gave his own version of the rookie wall when talking about young players like Ramos and Campbell.

“I think Jonathan Campbell continues to give everything he has,” Rodriguez said on Thursday. “I just think he’s tired. I think he’s mentally tired, but even in the game against D.C. where the backline struggled under the weight of playing with 10 men and three games in eight days, he still gave everything he had. He’s a smart enough young man to start to learn, ‘I have to play differently when I’m tired.’ I see progress there in a moment where the result was difficult.”

While Rodriguez didn’t explicitly say Campbell’s performance has dropped, he did say the North Carolina product was tired. That’s not how Campbell sees it though.

The Fire’s 6-2 loss at D.C. last weekend was the team’s third match in eight days. Midfielder Khaly Thiam picked up a red card in the first half, which put more stress on an already stretched team. Campbell thinks that had more to do with any signs of fatigue than the long season.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say hitting a wall,” Campbell said after Saturday's 3-0 win against Philadelphia. “I think it’s just when you have games really tight, obviously a lot of people are going to be tired at this point and when you have three games in (eight) days I think everyone will be feeling it. After you’ve been playing for a whole season it’s going to be very difficult. I think those points are just really hard and you have to do a lot with recovery.”

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Campbell is second on the Fire both in games played (25) and games started (23), only behind Johan Kappelhof by one in each category. The Fire have asked a lot of the rookie defender and for the most part he has answered the call.

Campbell says he has put a lot of focus on recovery and doing all the right things to prepare his body for the grind of a professional athlete. The veteran goalkeeper behind him, Sean Johnson, has noticed that.

“I think he’s a model professional,” Johnson said of Campbell. “Even though it’s his first year he does everything he can to make sure he’s the best he can be when he steps on the pitch. For us to support him as a first-year player, he’s done a fantastic job so he’ll do what he can to recover and be 100 percent every single game.”

Adjusting to the little things in preparing for each match and day of training is something Campbell says he has prioritized.

“From the beginning I’ve tried to focus a lot on recovery, just doing things off the field and making sure that I’m ready for the next practice, the next game,” Campbell said. “Mainly I was just trying to stay very consistent with that so it hasn’t changed too much, but it’s pretty difficult to maintain doing that day in, day out.”