Chicago Red Stars

FuegoCast #138: Zoned Out

The gang returns to discuss the Fire's 2-2 draw at the Los Angeles Galaxy, preview the Liga MX Playoffs, look at the MLS League standings, quickly discuss the Red Stars' 2-0 home win against Houston, and, oh yeah, preview Saturday's Fire game against Seattle.

Also, Gregg is salty at the panelists that don't respond to the group e-mail, Gregg calls out Nick's empty editing threats, Nick files the rare live report, Rudy's vendetta remains strong, the gang revisits some past visits to Los Angeles, Gregg continues the running joke about a certain slow, old man, Gregg tries to open everyone's eyes that this Fire team is actually kinda good, and the gang get nostalgic in Predictions. 

Host: Gregg Mixdorf
Panelist: Rudy Gomez
Producer: Nick Fedora

TRT: 68:14

FuegoCast #137: Acceptable Loss

The gang returns after a week off to discuss the 2-1 loss at New York Red Bulls, take a quick look at the goalkeeper situation, check in on the CONCACAF Champions League Gran Final, preview Saturday's game at Los Angeles, Gregg reviews the Dutch League Cup, and Nick gives a shout out to his Fulham and our Red Stars. 

Also, the ladies remain in Parts Unknown, the gang disappoints Gregg with their CCL commitment, Nick went to the cinema, Nick is super excited to watch a Fire game live again and is wildly optimistic in his prediction, Gregg gives a vivid description of the directorial efforts for the Dutch League Cup celebrations, Nick is afraid of Joey's jinxes, and Rudy shares a story from the road in the bonus material section. 

Host: Gregg Mixdorf
Panelists: Rudy Gomez, Joey T
Producer: Nick Fedora

TRT: 56:09

FuegoCast #135: Luxury Dax

The gang returns to talk about the weekend's 1-0 home win against Columbus, quickly mention the CONCACAF Champions League semi final results, review the results Around the League, attempt to preview Saturday afternoon's home game against New England, and mention the season debut for the Red Stars. 

Also, Nick recovers from working overnights, Joey shouts out to a mother, Nick may not be correct where he thinks the next Club World Cup will be located, Joey gets his Baldomero Toledo on, Gregg's smoke detector makes a cameo appearance on the show, Nick recalls a classic MLS heckle, Gregg triggers Rudy's memory of some bad away day experiences, and Nick gives a shout out to an old friend of the show.

Host: Gregg Mixdorf
Panelists: Rudy Gomez, Joey T
Producer: Nick Fedora

TRT: 53:05

FuegoCast #133: The Four and a Half Million Dollar Man

The gang returns to discuss Player Insanity 2017: Bastian Schweinsteiger edition, mention the CONCACAF qualifiers, travel Around the League, preview this weekend's home match against Montreal, and give quick shouts out to Logan Pause FC and the Red Stars. 

Also, Joey is in Texas, the ladies are away, Nick doesn't like the wind, Gregg rants against league writers again, Nick rants about a roster move he's obsessed with, Gregg appreciates Nick's astronomy interest, Rudy wishes discomfort to Columbus, and the gang chuckles at Jason Kreis who continues to be Jason Kreis.

Host: Gregg Mixdorf
Panelist: Rudy Gomez
Producer: Nick Fedora

TRT: 53:09

FuegoCast #131: Hopeful Home

The gang returns to review the Fire's 2-0 home opener win over Real Salt Lake, fly through the games Around the League, preview the game of all games at Atlanta, quickly preview CONCACAF Champions League, and give a shout out to the Red Stars who have just opened pre-season camp.

Also, Joey makes an interesting red card prediction, Nick has a woeful stat, Joey provides a legit hot take, Joey continues his MLS acronym jokes, Rudy goes off about a certain article about a former Fire goalkeeper, Nick confuses the references to a certain MLS commentator, Nick isn't up with the current dank memes, Gregg shouts out a tweet from a podcast legend, Gregg releases a torrent of filth when talking about Atlanta, Nick expertly trolls Rudy, and Nick brags about last week's prediction.

Host: Gregg Mixdorf
Panelists: Rudy Gomez, Joey T
Producer: Nick Fedora

TRT: 64:31

FuegoCast #119: Mikey Mo' Money, Mikey Mo' Problems

The gang returns to discuss the Fire's 4-1 loss at New York City FC, look at the faulty lineup selection, preview CONCACAF Champions League, look at the recent Red Stars win and preview the NWSL playoffs, and finally quickly preview the matches at Seattle and Columbus if it really matters at this point.

Also, Rudy is gross, Nick is melting in LA, Sara reports the truth about babies, Sara sneaks tacos into her room and forgets she's on mute again, Mad Gregg returns to spew about Nelson and Pauno, Sara channels her Liga MX background, The gang confuses their Liga MX coaches and drug cartel leaders, Nick gives a depressing stat, Gregg calls out Nick when he falsely claims to edit out time wasting, Gregg gets defensive about claiming ten-day-old children, Nick does not like change to his prediction spreadsheets, and Nick blames the fans. 

Host: Gregg Mixdorf
Panelists: Rudy Gomez, Sara Corona
Producer: Nick Fedora

TRT: 65:27

FuegoCast #117: It's Good to Have Goals in Life

The gang returns to discuss the Fire's 3-0 home win against Philadelphia, look at the imminent decision regarding Luis Solingac's 2017 contract, preview the weekend game against Toronto FC, Nick reports on the Red Stars' 2-2 draw against Seattle, and the gang breathe a sigh a relief over avoiding the Cubo Torres situation.

Also, Elle and Sara are in Parts Unknown, Joey does not like the recording start time, Rudy appreciates having goals in life, Eva loses the call, Gregg laments the win causing a lack of ranting, and Rudy wants more taco trucks.

Host: Gregg Mixdorf
Panelists: Rudy Gomez, Eva Hall
Producer: Nick Fedora

TRT: 42:22

FuegoCast #94: Keep It Simple

The gang returns to talk about the Fire's 3-2 win over Vancouver Whitecaps in the Simple Tournament opener, preview the remaining Simple games against Minnesota United on Wednesday and Portland Timbers on Saturday, preview the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals, reluctantly discuss the Copa America Centenario draw, and have a quick talk about the upcoming Red Stars season. 

Also, Sara is in parts unknown, Nick is working then watching Italian death metal, Elle is taking care of Gregg's cat, Rudy hypothesizes the real reason behind Colin Fernandez's enhanced physique, the gang gets excited about Club America's new old signing, Gregg delivers breaking Matt Polster news, and Rudy learns not to mess with Nick in the post show bonus material. 

Host: Gregg Mixdorf
Panelists: Rudy Gomez, Joey T
Producer: Nick Fedora

TRT: 65:15

Defensive Breakdowns: Red Stars Late Game Collapses

Alright Red Stars, we need to talk. Look, you were doing so well throughout the season, especially without your national team players away at the World Cup, but now with the end of the season in sight and playoffs within reach, it's time to look at something that's really bothering me (besides the embarrassing goal against Portland). One win from the last seven games is bad enough, but dropping five points from three goals conceded after the 80th minute in that span is criminal when chasing first place and building momentum for the post season. Let's take a look at what's going wrong. Keeping Calm Under Pressure

Let's start all the way back to July 25th when the Red Stars were on their way to earn another three points against Washington Spirit to add to the gap atop the standings. Chicago held a 1-0 lead after a Christen Press opening goal in the 30th minute and attempted to close the game out. Let's take a look at Vanessa DiBernardo who finds time and space with the ball to keep valuable possession alive. Red Stars captain Lori Chalupny shows for the easy ball, while Press makes herself available, likely for a give and go behind the defense, with Sofia Huerta occupying empty space as the secondary release. However, DiBernardo's eyes are locked on a deeper, longer range target.

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This is the first critical mistake and where inexperience shows for DiBernardo as she releases for Arin Gilliland as Francisca Ordega quickly closes down the space and fights for the ball. The Red Star defense should still be in decent shape outnumbering the Spirit attack six to three should they lose possession, although league leading goalscorer Crystal Dunn (navy blue #2) all alone in the middle of the frame should cause concern.

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Ordega wins the ball from Gilliland and the second ball battle in midfield against Chalupny giving the Spirit an opportunity to counterattack. The webcast direction fails us here as we only see Amanda DaCosta immediately rushing toward goal with Christine Nairn supporting to provide a delayed run at goal. We can't see how the other players react to the change of possession.

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Here's where the next critical development for the Red Stars happens as Nairn lines up a long distance attempt at goal from around the same spot Press scored earlier roughly 25-30 yards out. The camera angle is too tight for a clear picture and too fast to get the exact frame I wanted (Thank you for having a slow motion option, MLSLive), but Nairn fakes out Danielle Colaprico's last ditch slide tackle to block the attempt. With a wider camera angle, we may have been able to see how these three things developed: 1. The effect of DaCosta's run, if any, dragging the back line out of position. 2. Colaprico defending the center of the midfield without cover as Chalupny remains behind the play after losing the 50-50 ball. 3. DiBernardo not dropping into the midfield in Chalupny's place after Ordega releases the pass to Nairn.

Regardless, Colaprico going to ground without cover is an ill-advised risk. Merely closing down the space may not have been enough at that distance away from the shooter to thwart the danger, but losing an all in bet from a desperate position prompted the scrambling Red Stars centerbacks to double down on the next shot attempt.

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With Nairn ready to release her real shot, both Julie Johnston and Samantha Johnson close her down leaving space behind them right in front of the goal. Ideally, Johnson would close down with Johnston covering, as goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc cheats toward her near post and Johnson would eliminate the far post angle. But with the Spirit attack keeping its momentum, there's no time to decide, and it's better for both of them to react rather than neither of them.

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The ball deflects off Johnston fortuitously to Dunn, who manages to find the space occupied by the centerbacks for a clear look at goal. Gilliland does a great job sticking with Dunn deny space for the shot, and even gets a piece of it, but it unfortunately manages to be a deflection that beats LeBlanc at her near post.

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This sequence began with DiBernardo making a high-risk, long distance pass back to the defensive third when easier, safer options away from goal available. Taking care of the ball is absolutely critical to managing close games late and giveaways in the defensive half put immense strain on the tired defense. The Red Stars did well to scramble after Gilliland lost the ball, but the chain reaction had already started and a dangerous attempt at goal became inevitable.

Keeping Track of Wide Danger

This match against Kansas City FC comes the week after the collapse against Washington. This being a home game and after the burn of a late goal the week before, one would expect a better performance in the latter stage of the match. Unfortunately, that was not the case again.

So we see Kansas City take a throw-in late in the match with the Red Stars forming a defensive shell around Heather O'Reilly who receives the throw without immediate pressure and Lauren Holiday making a run to the corner for a pass down the touchline.

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Julie Johnston pressures Holiday as she catches up to the through ball and everyone else follows the play completely abandoning O'Reilly. One of the players from the defensive shell needs to stay behind to track one of the most dangerous players on the team and a USWNT veteran.

This sequence is framed so poorly it is hard to see what is happening in the box. This isn't a provocative stylistic framing choice like on Mr. Robot (highly recommended viewing if you aren't already watching, BTW). Anyway, we can't see the movement developing in the box or if a side has a numerical advantage. We do see Frances Silva making a run towards goal, though.

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O'Reilly receives the pass with too much space allowed by the Red Stars midfield. She will have plenty of time to touch, look up, and pick out a target. Again, it's too hard to tell who is marking whom, but the Red Stars' centerbacks aren't marking anyone. Johnston is still out by the corner after defending Holiday and Abby Erceg is floating around atop the six-yard box.

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By the time O'Reilly attempts the cross, no one is standing in front of her and the goal and the nearest defender is still three yards away. Meanwhile, Sarah Hagen starts her run to the far post.

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Hagan wins the header at the far post as she loses her mark and beats the defender, who had to slide over to cover, at the far post. This is a perfect cross to the top of the six-yard box right in front of goal. The type of cross O'Reilly can make all day with no pressure at all.

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When goals like this happen, we often look at the defender's marking or the goalkeeper's decision of whether to come off the line, but these issues would not come in to play if the midfielders properly tracked the opposition, especially one of the most dangerous players on the field.

Step Up and Stay in Line

Our last late goal to look at comes from last Sunday against the same Washington Spirit as league leading goal scorer Crystal Dunn nets the winner in the 92nd minute. This lost result would send the Red Stars down to their current position in third place behind Washington and eight points behind league leaders Seattle.

This sequence begins with a low-percentage long ball from the Spirit's defensive third that the Red Stars defense should easily recover. However, Dunn's speed puts pressure on Michelle Lomnicki, so instead of an easy recovery and pass to the goalkeeper to regain possession, Lomnicki has to put the ball out of touch conceding possession to the Spirit in their attacking third.

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The defense recovers quickly and appears to be in position to defend the throw-in. It is taken quick and immediately passed back to Dunn. Lomnicki closes down Dunn immediately and Arin Gilliland leaves her marker to double team Dunn. Meanwhile, we see only one Spirit attacker in the box attentively marked by Taryn Hemmings.

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Dunn attempts to power through the double team as Amanda DaCosta makes a run in the box. Abby Erceg tightly marks Spirit attacker Ngozi Okobi with Hemmings closer to goal and ready to clear away a far post cross.

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The Red Stars defense drops deep to prevent any dangerous runs behind the line, but concede all the space at the top of the box. Dunn knows if she can get to the top of the box, she can get a dangerous shot off. At this point, Gilliland has to put pressure on Dunn to stop her, or at least make her pass the ball where the organized defense can intercept. Erceg, however, breaks the defensive line following Okobi's run instead of letting Okobi run offside.

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Gilliland does apply pressure, but it's not aggressive enough as Dunn easily outruns it and continues her dribble. Melissa Tancredi is a peach of a forward who tracks all the way back to apply further pressure on Dunn's shot. Unfortunately for the Red Stars, Okobi's run works as she drags Erceg completely out of position opening a huge window through which Dunn can shoot.

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Tancredi is too late to block the shot (nice to see the effort from a forward, though!), and Karina LeBlanc is very late to cover the far post. All while Dunn dribbled centrally, LeBlanc stuck tight to her near post, possibly screened by her defenders, and reacted far too late to the shot. As for the shot itself, sure enough, right through the huge window vacated by Erceg. Dunn did all the hard work, but Okobi is the unsung hero for opening the space for the shot.

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With only three games left of the season, the Red Stars should still qualify for the playoffs, but the battle for the top position they were winning before these dropped points has been long lost. Thankfully, the Red Stars play two of the last three games at home on Sunday, August 23rd in Lisle and Sunday, September 6th at Toyota Park. Go support your Red Stars as they will have hopefully fixed the problems leading to these late game collapses.