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article imageYallop's tweaks earn the Chicago Fire a vital point against TFC

By Tyrrell Meertins     Jul 3, 2014 in Sports
In the opening 45 minutes, you could question whether either side was seeking maximum points at Toyota Park. Toronto FC’s quick counterattacks were non-existent, and Frank Yallop’s Chicago Fire found it difficult to find their rhythm against Reds.
Although TFC won possession in the Fire’s third in the opening half, their quality in advanced positions was underwhelming. Following TFC’s positive start, the Fire controlled possession, with winger Harrison Shipp drifting centrally to offer an additional passing option, along with linking midfield and attack.
However, both sides effectively cancelled each other out as they operated in a standard 4-4-2. The forwards weren’t receiving adequate service, the midfield duos were unadventurous, and neither side possessed a creative outlet in the final third. Ultimately, a goal was likely to stem from a defensive lapse, a referee error, a moment of brilliance, or one side winning their individual battle.
Yallop’s men struggled to break down TFC’s two banks of four, with Mike Magee and Quincy Amarikwa forced to drop deeper to receive the ball, while Grant Ward was ineffective on the right flank. The Fire lacked invention, guile, and gusto in the final third, as TFC comfortably coped with their laboured buildup play. Ryan Nelsen’s side, however, offered a threat through Dominic Oduro and Jackson, with the latter involved in the Reds’ best opportunities in the opening half.
Yet, while a controversial red card issued to TFC striker Luke Moore was expected to alter the pattern of the match, the Reds took the lead shortly afterwards. Jermain Defoe’s latched onto Mark Bloom’s simple ball in the right channel, and centre-back duo Bakary Soumare and Patrick Ianni were at fault for an unmarked Jackson nodding the TFC striker’s cross into the net. Nelsen would settle with a draw heading into half time, and although the goal wouldn’t alter the pattern of the match, it ensured that the Reds had a legitimate reason to sit deeper in the second half.
The home side, though, responded well in the second half as Yallop introduced Alex for Chris Ritter, and the Fire transitioned into a 4-1-2-1-2. The Reds were less adventurous in the second half, and reverted to sitting deep and aiming to break on the counter. Nelsen’s men, though, conceded possession cheaply in the Fire’s third, often desperately clearing the ball to an isolated Defoe, which further extended the home side’s dominance.
Still, Yallop’s tactical switch played a key role in TFC’s inability to break on the counter, as the wide players drifted into central areas to overload Collen Warner and Jonathan Osorio, while the fullbacks were positioned in the final third, pegging back TFC’s wingers.
The Fire still struggled to create legitimate chances despite their attack-minded switch, with only Magee’s free kick and Amarikwa individual slaloms providing a few scares for Nelsen’s side. Yallop’s side was rewarded for their pressure minutes later when Shipp’s deflected shot flew past Joe Bendik to level the score line. The home side’s constant pressure continued, but apart from hopeless balls from wide areas, the Fire’s threat in the final third was futile.
This led to Yallop introducing another striker in Juan Luis Anangono for left back Greg Cochrane, and the Fire were now a 2-1-3-1-3; a variation of a 3-4-3. Unfortunately, the Fire’s second attack-minded formation change disrupted their fluidity and cohesion in the final third. Apart from Anangono’s two snapshots, the home side’s offensive threat decreased significantly.
With practically eight Fire players in TFC’s third, gaps became available for the Reds to break into, and on a few occasions Jackson drove into the final third, but his final ball was non-existent. Nonetheless, the TFC winger created his side’s best chance of the match, when he broke on the counter in stoppage time — following a Bendik punch from a corner kick — and he galloped into the Fire’s third before sliding the ball to Oduro on his right, but goalkeeper Sean Johnson pushed the 28-year-old’s effort over the net.
"This point is very valuable," Nelsen said. "It proves that away from home we've been down to 10 men twice and we've managed to get something out of the game and that was extremely important."
TFC coped well with the Fire’s possession dominance, and was arguably the better side in the opening half despite the home side’s numerical advantage. TFC failed to sustain their level of play in the second half, as Nelsen’s decision to make one change in the final moments of the match was pivotal, and displayed his lack of faith in the bench.
“I thought we did enough to win the game, with ten men against 11 we should win the game,” Yallop said.
Yallop’s formation change provided the attacking impetus the Fire lacked in the first half, but his decision to summon a third striker disrupted his side’s balance. Stylistically, this was a poor match between two sides that lacked a concrete game plan, and a draw served as a fair result.
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