Fire

Fire: Joevin Jones named to T&T's 23-man Gold Cup roster

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Fire: Joevin Jones named to T&T's 23-man Gold Cup roster

Prior to the Chicago Fire's 2-0 defeat to 2014 MLS Cup finalist New England Revolution on June 13, Frank Yallop was dealt three key losses to international duty: Shaun Maloney (Scotland), David Accam (Ghana) and Joevin Jones (Trinidad and Tobago). 

“When you have quality players they get called up for their national teams,” Yallop said. “We knew going into the season that they’re going to get called up because they’re good.”

One of Yallop's newest acquisitions to have made an instant impact with the Men in Red, Jones - named to Trinidad and Tobago's provisional 35-man roster on June 10 - was one of 23 players selected by head coach Stephen Hart Tuesday to compete in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

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With 38 caps - his most recent coming in a 90-minute display in Trinidad's 3-0 loss to Jordan on June 13 - and previous experience in major tournaments with the Soca Warriors at the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, Jones joins Cordell Cato (San Jose Earthquakes), Kevan George (Columbus Crew SC) and Rundell Winchester (Portland Timbers 2 - USL) as the fourth MLS representative.

The Soca Warriors, one of four national teams that qualified from the Caribbean, were placed in Group C along with Mexico, Guatemala and Cuba.

Trinidad will commence the round-robin group play on Thursday, July 9 against Guatemala at 6 p.m. CT at Soldier Field. They will then square off against Cuba on Sunday, July 12 (3:30 p.m. CT) at University of Phoenix Stadium in Phoenix, Ariz. and wrap up the group stage on Wednesday, July 15 at Bank of America Stadium against Mexico at 7:30 p.m. CT.

Hart, who steered his side to a quarterfinal appearance in 2013, has already begun a residential training camp in Port of Spain. Before departing for Chicago on July 7, the team will set up shop in Ft. Lauderdale on Sunday and face Haiti in a training match held behind closed doors.

[MORE: Fire look to avoid four-match losing skid with result vs. D.C.]

Gold Cup rules allow changes to be made to the 23-man squad up until the day before the opening match. After the group stage, teams that qualify for the quarterfinal round can replace up to six players on the roster.

The exact date of Jones's departure is unknown, but should Hart demand the midfielder join the team's training camp on Sunday, he could miss several of the Fire's July fixtures as the Men in Red enter the fifth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and press on with a congested slate of MLS regular season matches.   

Trinidad and Tobago

Goalkeepers (3): Adrian Foncette (Police FC/Trinidad & Tobago); Marvin Phillip (Point Fortin Civic/Trinidad & Tobago); Jan-Michael Williams (Central FC/Trinidad & Tobago)

Defenders (6): Radanfah Abu Bakr (HB Koge/Denmark); Sheldon Bateau (KV Mechelen/Belgium); Daneil Cyrus (Ha Noi T&T/Vietnam); Aubrey David (Shakhter Karagandy /Kazakhstan); Yohance Marshall (Juventud Independiente/El Salvador); Mekeil Williams (DirecTV W Connection/Trinidad & Tobago)

Midfielders (8): Andre Boucaud (Dagenham & Redbridge/England); Cordell Cato (San Jose Earthquakes/USA); Keron Cummings (North East Stars/Trinidad & Tobago); Kevan George (Columbus Crew SC/USA); Khaleem Hyland (Genk/Belgium); Dwane James (North East Stars/Trinidad & Tobago); Joevin Jones (Chicago Fire/USA); Lester Peltier (Slovan Bratislava/Slovakia)

Forwards (6): Kadeem Corbin (St. Ann Rangers/Trinidad & Tobago); Jonathan Glenn (IBV/Iceland); Atualla Guerra (Central FC/Trinidad & Tobago); Kenwyne Jones (Cardiff City/Wales); Willis Plaza (Central FC/Trinidad & Tobago); Rundell Winchester (Portland Timbers 2/USA)

Fire sign veteran MLS forward Alan Gordon

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USA TODAY

Fire sign veteran MLS forward Alan Gordon

As far as notorious players in MLS with a history of scoring big goals, Alan Gordon is one of the first names on that list.

The Fire signed the 36-year-old forward on Friday, continuing to add depth to a roster that appeared paper thin throughout the preseason. Gordon, who had been on trial with the Fire for part of the preseason and even after the season opener, signed a one-year deal.

Gordon adds plenty of experience from being in the league since 2004 and having scored 55 goals with five different teams. For the past few years he has been used primarily as a substitute, but has still maintained his reputation for scoring goals late in games.

At 6-foot-3 he brings plenty of size and strength to the team and is one of the best players on headers in the league. Last season the Fire failed to score directly off a set piece, which was both due to consistently poor service from corner kicks and a lack of players adept at finishing them off. Gordon should give the Fire a late-game option in that area.

Elliot Collier had impressed the Fire enough to earn a contract as a third-round pick and an international player and even came off the bench in the opening loss to Sporting Kansas City, but it appears the team wanted more experience at forward with Gordon.

Wild season opener shows plenty of things to work on for Fire

Wild season opener shows plenty of things to work on for Fire

If you were looking for entertainment, goals, plot twists and storylines, the Fire’s season opener had all of those boxes checked.

What it didn’t have was even a point for the hosts against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday at Toyota Park.

The first half showed a Fire team which very much looked like the “incomplete” roster that general manager Nelson Rodriguez referenced just before the season. KC led 2-0 and the Fire failed to get a shot on target, showing a lack of chance creation and any semblance of a dangerous attack.

The second half showed a Fire attack which was capable of turning the heat up on the visitors, but also a defense which couldn’t defend. Sporting's 4-3 win revealed that there’s plenty of work to do for the Fire to resemble the team that finished third in the MLS regular season last year.

“Especially in the first half we saw that we weren’t ready to compete with a team that had an advantage that they had one competition game before us,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “That was the main difference in the first half, but the adjustment in the second half was tremendous. I think just showing that we can score three goals that quickly and create even more opportunities was a positive.”

However, Paunovic wasn’t about to let his team off the hook by only speaking about positives.

“What we learned today is that we have to get better on every side of the game and in every aspect of the game,” he said. “We are not there. We didn’t have a good game. I think overall a lot of innocent and naive mistakes.”

After trailing 2-0 at halftime, the Fire revved things up in the final 25 minutes and Bastian Schweinsteiger keyed the first goal with a slick assist to newcomer Aleksandar Katai. Nemanja Nikolic showed the scoring instincts and finishing ability that won him the league scoring title a year ago by scoring two more goals to give the Fire the lead in the 82nd minute.

Then it all fell apart, with two KC goals within four minutes of Nikolic giving the Fire the lead. Dax McCarty, your thoughts?

“You’re 10 minutes away from the headline and the storyline being Chicago Fire show great character, make a fantastic comeback, win the game 3-2 and yet here we are sitting here, somehow losing that game, which is insane,” McCarty said. “It’s totally insane.”

The defensive struggles, which Paunovic pointed out mirrored last year’s early playoff exit in a 4-0 loss, will need to get resolved internally. Johan Kappelhof, Brandon Vincent and Matt Polster all started on a competent defense last year and McCarty and Schweinsteiger helped play damage control in midfield. This isn’t what the weakness of the team was supposed to be yet after one game, it’s all anyone on the team could talk about.

“We gave up four goals,” Kappelhof said. “That’s not good. Simple.”

While more additions may be coming in-season, as Rodriguez has mentioned, and injuries haven’t allowed the Fire to start 2018 fresh, this game wasn’t a good sign for what’s to come for the 2018 Fire. A lack of any offensive creation in the first half and a lack of defensive concentration, as Paunovic put it, throughout the game showed a team that has plenty of pock-marks currently.

“We don’t know how to defend, quite frankly," McCarty said. "From back to front, front to back, the defending aspect of our game was pretty poor. A lot of things to learn."

The good news is even if the Fire take some time to correct the errors from Saturday’s season opener, MLS is a forgiving league. A majority of the league, 12 of 23 teams, makes the playoffs and league-wide parity means teams can go through slumps and still end in good standing. A year ago, the Fire lost six games out of seven and still had the third best record in the league. It’s OK if the team takes time to iron out some organizational issues defensively, just don’t take too long.