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jeff crandall

10 December 11:45 am

Atletico de Madrid

Though Lionel Messi set a very impressive career mark on Sunday, it would be hard to argue anyone on the planet had as good of a weekend as Atletico Madrid’s Radamel Falcao who scored five goals in Atleti’s 6-0 home win over Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday.

Teammate Diego Costa put Atletico ahead 1-0 in the 23rd minute before Flacao unleashed a fury of goals in the 28th, 42nd, 64th, 68th and 71st minutes as the club eased to victory over the La Liga bottom dwellers. 

The goal fest moved Falcao past Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and into second on the La Liga goal charts with 16, sitting behind only Barcelona’s Messi who has 23 goals in the current campaign.

Atletico will shift focus to Copa del Rey play when they welcome Getafe to the Calderon for the first leg of their series on Wednesday.

Sitting six points behind Barcelona at second place in the La Liga table, the club will hope to cut into the lead when they travel to the Nou Camp for a top of the table clash on Sunday.

See all the goals from Sunday below...


 

Besiktas Istanbul

In Turkish Super League play on Friday, Besiktas ran out to a 2-0 lead over Eskisehirspor through Slovakian striker Filip Holosko (sixth minute) and Portuguese forward Hugo Almeida (66th minute).

They often say that in soccer 2-0 is the most dangerous lead though and that proved true as Eskisehirspor pulled two late goals back through a Necate Antes penalty in the 82nd minute before Austrian substitute Atdhe Nuhiu equalized in the 90th.

With the 2-2 draw, Besiktas sit third on 26 points in the Super League heading into Wednesday’s Turkish Cup  match at Antalyaspor. They return to league play Saturday when they visit ninth place Genclebirligi.

Raja Casablanca

Raja Casablanca remained first in the Moroccan Botola Pro League, earning four points in two matches last week.

The Green Eagles downed Moghreb Tetouan 3-1 at home last Wednesday before playing to a 0-0 draw at Maghreb Fez on Sunday.

With 23 points, the side sits one point above second place Wydad Casablanca with a game in hand, heading into their top of the table clash this Friday. 

07 December 10:04 am

Despite going into its third-year of existence, the MLS Re-Entry process still leaves plenty of folks scratching their heads every December. I'll try to explain the ins and outs ahead of today's Stage One Draft...

What is it? 

The Re-Entry Process is confusing because its also unique in terms of North American sport. The idea came as a compromise to help settle the latest Collect Bargaining Agreement in early 2010. 

In essence, the Re-Entry Process is Major League Soccer's form of free agency, allowing players that meet certain requirements the opportunity to test the waters of moving to another team. Prior to the signing of the current CBA, teams still held league rights to players that were out of contract, meaning that in order for a player to move, a team would need to waive his rights or a trade would have to occur.

Under the new terms, players that have played a minimum of three years in MLS and are at least 23 years of age are eligible for the annual Re-Entry process should their current team decline their option or if they're out of contract. Full eligibility requirements for players can be found in Section II.G here.

There are two stages to the Re-Entry Process, each with different caveats...

Explaining Stage One

Thursday night MLS released the final list of players eligible for Stage One of the 2012 Re-Entry Process set for Friday at 2 p.m. CT. Prior to the release, players had up until 4 p.m. CT Thursday to opt out of the draft.

This was the case for Gonzalo Segares, who re-signed with the club on Thursday. With that transaction, two Fire players, midfielder Corben Bone and goalkeeper Jay Nolly, remained on the list of 52 players eligible for selection.

UPDATE: As of 1:30 p.m. CT, Fire defender Dan Gargan was added to the Stage One Re-Entry list by the league.

Teams that pick players at Stage One on Friday must exercise the option (pick up the player's salary), or in the case of out of contract players, extend a Bona Fide Offer to, the player. If the player rejects the offer, the drafting club will hold the right of first refusal for that player in MLS (the player's league rights). Teams may not select their own players in Stage One of the Re-Entry Draft.

Held via conference call, generally Stage One of the Re-Entry Process is a quick affair, with only five players having been selected in the previous two stages combined. This is generally because of the first caveat above, by which a team must pick up the salary of a player's whose option hae been declined (the majority of players available fall under this category). 

Players that are not selected in Stage One are then able to come back to the table with their club and negotiate up until a second blackout period begins on Thursday, December 13 at 4 p.m. CT. 

After passing through the first stage of Re-Entry in 2010, Jovan Kirovski re-negotiated his contract to stay with the LA Galaxy another season, prior to Stage Two.

Expaining Stage Two

This is where the magic happens as Stage Two of the Re-Entry Process is one of the biggest days of player movement within the league every year. 

In 2010, 11 players were chosen in Stage Two while 10 were take in 2011. 

Set for next Friday, December 14 at 2 p.m. CT, players that are selected in Stage Two can negotiate a new salary with the team that has chosen them. As long as that salary is deemed as a genuine offer by MLS, the team retains the player's league rights.

A genuine offer must be placed within seven days of selection, though a signing doesn't necessarily need to happen in that time as negotiations can continue.

A team is eliminated from Stage Two once they pass on their turn. A team can only select it's own player once all other clubs have passed on that player. 

Players that pass through both stages of the Re-Entry process are deemed free agents and available on a first-come, first-served basis to all MLS teams.

Fire History in the Re-Entry Process

The Fire have selected two players through the Re-Entry Process and both had different cases.

In 2010, the team selected recently retired defender Cory Gibbs (right) from New England and immediately announced his signing. This was able to happen as the team and player had already agreed to terms in the case that Gibbs was selected to come to Chicago.

In 2011, the Fire picked forward Kheli Dube, also from New England but the Zimbabwean forward didn't sign a contract with the club until late January as the two parties negotiated terms of the deal.

The team has also had two players selected from it in the Re-Entry Process.

In 2011, the Fire saw midfielder Baggio Husidic and goalkeeper Jon Conway chosen in Stage Two by the Colorado Rapids and LA Galaxy respectively. Neither player signed with those clubs as Husidic elected to sign for Swedish side Hammarby while Conway announced his retirement. 

 

06 December 11:34 am

We here at Always on the Inside like seeing nice goals. We like it even more when nice goals are scored by product's of the club's player development system.

Back in October, original Fire homegrown Victor Pineda hit a stunning strike in Reserve League play vs. Houston which led to him making his travel roster for a league game.

Today, we take a trip in the way back machine to two days ago when Fire U-16 Academy striker Luca Giovine hit an absolute blinder in the 66th minute to give the side a 2-0 lead over Portland Timbers at the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Showcase in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. Giovine would also assist on the third goal from Alex Underwood to give the Fire a 3-0 win over Portland.

Certainly the team highlight at the showcase was going 3-0-0 and defeating two MLS Academies, Giovine's second second strike of the three-game set takes individual honors.

Watch below (at the 44 second mark)....

05 December 11:04 am

The club announced today that starting goalkeeper Sean Johnson started a three week training stint in England earlier today, beginning with Premier League club Stoke City (Dec. 5-9) before joining U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Tim Howard and coach Chris Woods at Everton FC (December 10-23) for the second straight offseason.

I caught up with Sean Wednesday morning to talk how his first session went with Stoke, his third offseason abroad and what matches he’ll be taking in over the next few weeks.

Jeff Crandall: Sean, over the past three years you’ve spent parts of your offseason in Spain, Germany and England, do you feel tired at all or is the experience too good to pass up?

Sean Johnson: No, I don’t feel tired at all. I love taking in these experiences and I’ve learned over the past couple years how to deal with the management of my offseason.

It’s about soaking in the experience but also getting the rest and recover enough to be ready to go 100 percent for the season.

JC: What is Stoke like so far?

SJ: I think it’s been a great experience working with guys like Thomas Sorensen, Asmir Begovic and Carlo Nash.

Training with their goalkeeper coach and getting the chance to play and train with the guys at the top level. Just seeing how another team operates gives you perspective.

JC: Have you hung out with your U.S. Men’s National teammates Maurice Edu and Geoff Cameron yet?

SJ:  I’ve hung out with both of them. I’m actually staying with Maurice at the moment. They’re great guys to be around and it’s just good to see familiar faces and make most of the time you have with your friends while you’re over here.

JC: Next week you head to Everton for the second consecutive offseason. How important is it for you to have guys like Tim Howard and Chris Woods working with you there?

 

WATCH: Sean Johnson #4 in MLS 24 under 24

SJ: Having been in with the national team a lot more this past year, training with Chris and Tim again here is a fantastic opportunity to keep some continuity and show how I’m growing.

To be in that environment day-in and day-out and make yourself a better goalkeeper will do wonders for me as a player.

JC: What games are you taking in the next few weeks?

SJ: I’m going to try and take in as many games as I can. This weekend’s lineup has Stoke going to Aston Villa on Saturday and then Everton hosts Tottenham on Sunday at Goodison Park so it works out well. Manchester United also player Man City in a derby match on Sunday so there’s a lot of excitement for that as well.

Depending on how things work out, I’ll hopefully go to a few more games while I’m here. It’s great to go to those stadiums and see everything that goes into a match.

JC: You end your time with Everton just before Christmas. What are you doing with the rest of your time before preseason begins on January 18?

SJ: I’m going to be back in Atlanta through Christmas and maybe New Years. I caught up with the family for a week over Thanksgiving and planned to be there longer.

Because I was coming over here I decided to go down to Florida for a week by myself to get away and be able to get ready for this experience.

JC: Great to hear from you Sean. We’ll talk soon.

SJ: Have a good one!

 

03 December 9:55 am

Atletico Madrid

With both Jalil Anibaba and Austin Berry in attendance, Atletico fell 2-0 to Real Madrid in a derby match at the Santiago Bernabeu in a derby match Saturday night. The defeat snapped Atletico’s five match winning streak across all competitions.

With the result, Atleti stays in second place though third place Real pulls within five points, while Barcelona’s 5-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao opens their league-lead to six points.  

Already through to the next round of the Europa League, Atletico continue their quest to defend their European crown when they return to the field Thursday to close out Group B play away to Czech side Viktoria Pizen.

The team returns to league action on Sunday when they welcome 19th place Deportivo La Coruna to the Calderon.

Sport Club Internacioncal

Internacional closed out the 2012 Campeanto Brasileiro campaign with a 0-0 draw away to Gremio Sunday.

With the result, Inter finished 10th in the 20-team Serie A with 52 points and will look to regroup ahead of the Gaucho state campaign, which kicks off January 19th against EC Passo Fundo.

Besiktas Istanbul

After league-leading Galatasaray drew 1-1 with Gaziantepspor on Friday night, Besiktas would come within one point of the league leaders using goals from Ibrahim Toraman and Oguzhan Ozyakup to earn a 2-1 come from behind victory away to Orduspor Saturday.

With the win, Besiktas move to 7-3-4 in the Turkish Super League, one point behind joint leaders Galatasaray and Antalyaspor. Samet Aybaba’s side will hope to go first when they welcome sixth place Eskiserhispor to the Inonu Stadium on Friday.

Al Ain

Al Ain continued their impressive run at the start of the Emirates Pro-League season, using goals from Asamoah Gyan (13th minute) and Ali Al Wehaibi (61st minute) to down bottom of the table Al Shaab 2-1 on Friday.

The result pushes Al Ain to an 8-1-1 record and top of the table Emirates Pro-League table with 25 points. The club will look to turn their three point advantage to six when they visit second place Baniyas Wednesday.

Raja Casablanca

Much like Al Ain, Raja Casablanca took steps to remain atop the Moroccan Botola Pro League with a 2-1 home win over Khouribga this past Saturday in Marrakech.

With two games in hand, Raja currently sit tied for first on 19 points with cross-town rivals Wydad Casablanca and will hope to take sole possession on Wednesday when the host fifth place Moughreb Tetoun.  

29 November 12:59 pm

The MLS Regular Season Schedule may not yet be out, but the Fire already have three opponents scheduled for next eyar after the Charleston Battery released the match schedule for the 2013 Carolina Challenge Cup.

Participating for the third straight season in one of North America's top preseason tournaments, the Fire will open up the tournament with an MLS Cup playoff re-match with the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, February 16 at 5:00pm ET (4:00pm CT). 

See below the full tournament schedule:

Saturday, February 16 
Chicago Fire vs. Houston Dynamo, 5 PM/4 PM CT 
Charleston Battery vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 7:15 PM/6:15 PM CT

Wednesday, February 20 
Houston Dynamo vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 5 PM/4 PM CT 
Charleston Battery vs. Chicago Fire, 7:15 PM/6:15 PM CT

Saturday, Feb 23 
Chicago Fire vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 5 PM/4 PM CT 
Charleston Battery vs. Houston Dynamo, 7:15 PM/6:15 PM CT

If you've never been to the Charleston Battery's home at Blackbaud Stadium, I highly recommend heading south to catch a Fire match and take in the amazing Three Lions Pub. Tickets for the tournament go on sale next Monday, December 3 at 9am CT via www.charlestonbattery.com or by calling (843) 971-GOAL (4625)

28 November 4:25 pm

Jalil Anibaba and Austin Berry aren’t the only Fire representatives at Atletico Madrid.

Earlier today Fire head coach Frank Klopas, assistant Mike Matkovich as well as President of Soccer Operations Javier Leon and Vice President Guillermo Petrei all checked in on how the Fire’s young defenders are doing in their training stint.

The group was able to see Anibaba and Berry train with the Atletico first team and even see the pair mark Colombian superstar Falcao during the proceedings.

Afterwards the Fire technical delegation held meetings Atletico CEO Miguel Angel Gil, Academy Director Carlos Aguilera, Marketing and International Development lead, Emilio Gutiérrez as well as Slanisa Jokanovic, the coach of Thai giants Muanghtong United, another member of the Atletico alliance.

28 November 11:12 am

When we unveiled the #Fire15 players list in conjunction with the club’s 15th anniversary earlier this year, I spoke about how spectacular most of the goals Marco Pappa scored in a Fire uniform were. Off the top of my head, I can think of only three that the Guatemalan scored from inside of the box in his five seasons in Chicago.

Since the Fire Goal of the Year tournament began in 2010, Pappa has always had at least one entry make the final four with the current Heerenveen midfielder getting there with high margin defeats of his early-round opponents.

Ironically enough though, that support seems to wane in later rounds.

In 2010, Pappa's bending strike against San Jose (which went on to win MLS Goal of the Year) was narrowly defeated in the final by Logan Pause's equally stunning long-distance bomb at Toronto.

Last year, Pappa's hat trick clincher at Real Salt Lake (one of his four entries in the tournament that year) fell at the semi-final stage to the now legendary long-distance blast "through the guise of smoke" from Jalil Anibaba in an early round U.S. Open Cup qualifier vs. Colorado.

As of Tuesday night, Pappa will once again fall short of winning the club’s Goal of the Year honors after Austin Berry’s game-winning header (8/4 vs. Toronto) pulled yet another upset over the Guatemalan’s olimpico (4/28 vs. Seattle).

At the very least, it’s an interesting phenomenon.

I say that because having managed the Fire Facebook and Twitter accounts for nearly three years, there is no player that evoked as much consistent response in terms of Likes, Retweets and web traffic then Marco. An update on his play in a friendly with Guatemala, a photo of him from training or even a post about another player would even bring a comment or six about “El Chapin del Fuego”.

With Pappa no longer a member of the Fire, this has all died down a bit but how ironic when you consider that his latest defeat came against a player that could take on the mantel of sentimental popularity in 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year Austin Berry.

Berry has barnstormed to today’s final, where he’s facing down another fan favorite in the team’s 2012 MVP Chris Rolfe and his stunning quick kick in little space (9/22 vs. Columbus).

While Rolfe’s goal could have been a number one seed (his strike vs. San Jose was), neither of today’s finalists were top seeds in their respective brackets. As we learn every November, anyone can win.

As we have when deciding the top 15 players, goals and matches in Fire history or just putting fans on season tickets, we at Chicago-Fire.com feel it most important to utilize fan input and engagement in determining valuable pieces of our club.

Happy voting everyone!

 

27 November 11:33 am

While the Chicago Fire are out of action for a bit, we thought it appropriate to check in to see how the club’s worldwide Alliance Partners are doing in their current campaigns. Here’s a quick update on their recent results…

Atletico Madrid
With Fire defenders Austin Berry and Jalil Anibaba in attendance, Atletico defeated Sevilla 4-0 on Sunday, with Colombian superstar Falcao scoring his 11th goal in 12 matches. They currently sit second in La Liga with 34 points, three behind league leaders Barcelona.

Atletico take the field again Wednesday in a Copa Del Rey match against Real Jaen and return to league action this weekend for a derby match against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Sport Club Internacional
Sport Club Internacional fell 2-0 to Portuguesa in Campeanto Brasileiro action Sunday. Currently ninth in the Serie A table, Internacional head into their final match of the season with a chance to finish as high as seventh as they visit Gremio on Sunday.

As Internacional look to build for next season, it seems they could do so with Dunga at the helm as the former Brazilian national team captain and head coach reportedly held a meeting with club President Giovanni Luigi Tuesday morning.

Club America
After falling 2-0 in the first leg of the Liga MX Apertura semifinals against Toluca last Wednesday, goals from Miguel Layun and Daniel Montenegro brought Club America level on aggregate at halftime of Sunday’s second leg at the Estado Nemesio Diez.

With all to play for in the second half though, Toluca’s Edgar Benitez tallied the lone goal in the 59th minute to regain the aggregate lead and eventually send the home side on to the Liga MX final with Club Tijuana.

Al Ain
Nine matches into the Emirates Pro-League season, powerhouse Al Ain sit top of the table with 22 points from nine matches. Last Frieday the side received braces from Ghanaian international Asamoah Gyan and Omar Abdulrahman to earn a 5-2 decision away to Dubai Cultural Sports Club.

Currently sitting with a +26 goal differential, Al Ain welcome 12th places Al Shaab to the Tahnoun Bin Mohamed Stadium on Friday afternoon.

Raja Casablanca
After seeing Saturday’s encounter at FAR Rabat postponed, fourth place Raja Casablanca will hope to move further up the Moroccan Botola Pro league table as they welcome 13th place Khourigba to the Stade Mohamed V on Saturday.