tBG: Chicago has started the season a rather shocking 0-1-3. What is the reason for the slow start?
HTOT: Obviously, there's been a bit of a transition to Frank Yallop's way of playing, and it's not gone perfectly smoothly. The opener against Chivas was moribund until the insertion of Benji Joya and Quincy Amarikwa woke the team up. The next two games were draws in which the Fire had the better of play - a familiar scenario for Philadelphia supporters under Hackworth! In short, the play has been better than the results. We are trying to remember this is a long season.
tBG: When the Union had Bakary Soumare, he played in only a handful of games - ostensibly due to injuries. How has he been for Chicago since returning to the Fire lineup?
HTOT: Frank Yallop is a big believer in Bakary Soumare. The giant Malian, freed from worry by the tracking work of center back partner Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, is encouraged to rove forward aggressively, especially against modern single-striker sets. He's looked a different player in 2014. In fact, it was likely his imperious form in preseason which made Austin Berry expendable once the Fire felt the salary cap pinch.
tBG: Union fans are all familiar with Mike Magee, Baky Soumare, and Sean Johnson. Who else should we be paying attention to, and why?
HTOT: The big news for Fire fans in this early season is that the team is building through youth, so the new names-to-know on the Fire are also new to the league. Harrison Shipp is a Fire homegrown player who led Notre Dame to the College Cup last year; he's something a bit different in this league, a domestic trequartista, a schemer whose incisive service and clever use of space have added unpredictability to Chicago going forward. Benji Joya is a former USA U20 World Cup captain; he's seen time on the wings due to injuries, but his best position is as an all-action two-way central midfielder.
Starting XI (4-4-2):
Sean Johnson; Greg Cochrane, Bakary Soumare, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Lovel Palmer; Dilly Duka, Jeff Larentowicz (c), Alex, Harrison Shipp; Mike Magee, Quincy Amarikwa
2-1 Fire in a hard-fought, unlovely game.