Blog

jeff crandall

29 June 8:29 am

1) FIRE LOVE NBC SPORTS… If you didn’t already know, tonight’s match can be seen LIVE on NBC Sports Network and that’s a good thing for the Fire. The side has won both previous matches on the national sports network earlier this season (3-2 at Toronto April 21; 3-1 vs. New York June 17) and had three different players score in both matches. Will the good ride on NBC Sports continue tonight?

2) GRAZZINI OPTION PICKED UP, ALEX ELIGIBLE FOR DEBUT… It was announced Thursday that Sebastian Grazzini’s option to stay with the Fire has been picked up by the club but the Argentine midfielder wouldn’t be in the 18 because of a lack of training this week. That all coincides quite well with Brazilian attacker Alex, who trained with the side the past three weeks, now being eligible for the team upon the opening this week of the summer transfer window.
 
3) WHETHER OR NOT WE SEE HIM START… It’s probably not likely that Alex will slot directly into the starting lineup to replace Grazzini in his debut. The most likely to move into the attacking hole would be Chris Rolfe, who has replaced Grazzini in the position in each of the past two matches. The returning veteran looked best there on June 17 against New York when he scored the icing goal and setup what should have been a Dominic Oduro goal from the spot.
 
Other options include Rafael Robayo, who played in the spot on May 26 in Columbus and Daniel Paladini who has filled in previously when Grazzini was injured.
 
4) SEGARES RED CARD… Fire defender Gonzalo Segares will miss Friday night’s match after receiving a straight red card for a mis-timed challenge on Tony Tchani in Saturdays 2-1 victory over Columbus. The third red card of the Costa Rican international’s MLS career, the Fire have actually faced Kansas City before when Segares was suspended from an ejection in the previous match. The team earned  a 2-0 win over the Kansas Wizards on August 25, 2007 after Sega was ejected in the 66th minute of a 3-2 loss (also against Kansas City) three days earlier…
 
5) THE LEFT (and right) BACK QUESTION…  Segares last missed a match to suspension (yellow card accumulation) on September 10 last season, falling 2-0 at San Jose at the small pitch at Buck Shaw Stadium. In that match, first-choice right back Dan Gargan played on the left while midfielder Logan Pause replaced him on the right. That was the same shift Frank Klopas made to the Fire back line after Segares’ sending off Saturday but is it good for 90 minutes?
 
Fire rookie Hunter Jumper is a natural left back but is he ready for his first start? If not, Gargan likely moves back to the left for this one. 
 
If that’s the case, who does Klopas use on the right? In the 2-0 loss at Colorado, we saw earlier this year how much not having Pause in midfield to break up attacks hurt the team. With Arne Friedrich back, is it prudent to instead move Jalil Anibaba back out to the right and leave the captain in the middle of the park? Is Friedrich good to go 90 minutes?
 
The decisions across the back will be the most interesting to come out tonight…
 
PREVIEW: Chicago Fire at Sporting KC
28 June 9:12 am

U-18s Have Nothing to Lose in Today’s Group Final vs. Home-Standing Solar SC

The Fire U-18s had the day off Wednesday to rest and prepare for this morning’s tournament finale vs. group leaders Solar Chelsea SC. The Dallas-based side leads the group with six points from two matches and needs just a draw in this morning’s game to advance to next month’s national finals.

The plot is much more difficult for the Fire, who have gone 1-1-0 through the first two and need a 3-0 win over Solar combined with Concorde Fire not winning by four or more goals over Alberston SC.

“We have our game plan in place”, said Sunderland. “The team knows we have a bit job ahead of us this morning and this group has long done well to make things interesting for themselves. This could be the last match with the Fire Academy for some of these guys and I don’t think they want that.”

Follow live updates of today’s U-18 group finale vs. Solar Chelsea FC can be found @ChiFireMatch beginning at 11am CT. 

U-16s Down Seattle Sounders FC 3-0 Wednesday to go 2-0-0 in Group 4

The Chicago Fire U-16s took a giant step towards a place in the Development Academy national finals Wednesday night with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Seattle Sounders FC Academy in Frisco, Texas.

For the second game in a row it was Jeff Farina who opened the scoring for the Fire as Colin Fernandez cut in from the left side to feed the forward who slotted the ball back across goal in the 20th minute.

The Fire would make it 2-0 in the 31st minute when Martin Alba sent a ball from the left to Farina who then floated it back over Sounders FC keeper Connor Adkisson and into the back of the net.

Having already put their mark on the match, the Fire would ice the game in the 52nd minute when Christian Hennock’s cross from the right found Marcus Epps at the top of the 18. The Mississippi Fire Juniors product sent a bending, one-time chip to the bottom right corner to end the scoring at 3-0.

Farina (four) and Epps (three) have combined for all seven of the team’s goals at the tournament.

With the win, the Fire sit tied atop Group 4 on six points with Real Salt Lake Arizona who downed Clearwater Chargers 4-1 in Tuesday’s other match. Though the teams sit tied with a +5 goal difference, RSL-AZ holds the second tie breaker, having scored eight goals to the Fire’s seven.

What does that all mean? Friday’s group finale between the squads is purely a “win and you’re in” scenario for the Fire while a draw would be enough for RSL to advance to the national finals. The game kicks off at 9am CT Friday, with LIVE updates @ChiFireMatch.  

“The 16s are feeling pretty good right now,” said Academy Director Larry Sunderland. “I felt before the tournament that this team might peaking just at the right time. We know what we have to do in Friday’s match and we know it will be much more difficult than the first two. RSL is a residency program which brings in players from throughout the country but we think we match up well with them.”

DATE TIME CHICAGO FIRE OPPONENT FOLLOW/RESULTS
6/25 8:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-18 Concorde Fire (GA) 1-2 L
6/26 4:00pm CT Chicago Fire U-16 Clearwater Chargers (FL) 4-2 W
6/26 8:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-18 Albertson SC (NY) 2-1 W
6/27 6:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-16 Seattle Sounders FC (WA) 3-0 W
6/28 11:00am CT Chicago Fire U-18 Solar Chelsea SC (TX) @ChiFireMatch
6/29 9:00am CT Chicago Fire U-16 Real Salt Lake (AZ) @ChiFireMatch

 

27 June 4:49 pm

Daniel Paladini and defender Hunter Jumper took time out last week to answer questions for the Chicago Fire Kids Club newsletter, powered by American Family Insurance.

Check out their interesting answers to Kids Club member questions below and be sure to sign your young Fire fan up for the Kids Club for awesome giveaways at home matches, exclusive player autograph sessions and much more! Best part is it's FREE! Register here.

27 June 9:15 am

U-16s Open with 4-2 Win Over Clearwater

Tuesday was the Chicago Fire Academy’s busiest day at the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Playoffs in Frisco, Texas as both the U-16 and U-18 sides were in action and came away victorious to keep hopes of advancement to next month’s national finals alive.
 
In the mid-afternoon 100+ Texas heat, the U-16 Academy opened their playoff run with a 4-2 victory over Clearwater Chargers (FL) in a match that saw the two sides trade the first four goals back and forth. 
 
Dealing with the weather conditions, the Fire went ahead 1-0 when Mississippi Fire Juniors product Marcus Epps fed Jeff Farina through in the 12th minute. Seven minutes later Clearwater would respond of what was described by Fire Academy Director Larry Sunderland as “a long bomb”.
 
The Fire would get a bomb of their own from Epps on a 25-yard effort that screamed inside the bottom right corner in the 34th but Clearwater would again respond two minutes later to take things to 2-2.
 
“The heat here is incredible and is having a great effect on the play,” said Sunderland. “Through the first two goals, it looked as if both teams were playing five men on each side off the field and not playing with any type of midfield. We both looked tired 20 minutes into an 80-minute match.”
 
Luckily for the Fire, the team pulled away just before the half when AJ Jeffries slotted Farina into the box with a diagonal ball and the striker coolly finished for his second of the night in the 39th minute. Just after the break, Christian Henock was chopped down in the area to draw a penalty kick which Epps stepped up and finished in the 43rd.
 
With a two-goal lead in hand and taking advantage of a tired Clearwater team, the Fire possessed throughout the rest of the second half to kill of the game and take a 4-2 opening victory. With the result, the U-16s sit tied on three points with Real Salt Lake Arizona atop Group 4 who scored a matching 4-2 victory Tuesday over Seattle Sounders FC. 
 
The U-16s will look to move to six points when they take on Sounders FC at 6:30pm CT tonight in Frisco, Texas. Follow the game LIVE @ChiFireMatch
U-18s Leave it Late to Rebound from Opening Defeat 2-1 over Albertson
 
In what was another physical match against a bigger opponent, a smaller Fire U-18s side earned a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Albertson SC (New York) to keep their hopes for advancement to the National Finals alive Tuesday night.
 
Knowing the team needed a victory, the U-18s braved the heat, spreading the ball around to create opportunities but Albertson, who dropped their initial match 4-1 to Solar Chelsea Monday night resorted to long-ball and physical tactics to keep things scoreless at the break.
 
The Fire pressed the issue in the match after the break and thought they’d earned a sure penalty in the 72nd minute when forward Andrew Oliver navigated through three defenders into the box before being shoved from behind but no call was given.
 
The situation would be resurrected five minutes later when Manny Rios received the ball on the right and entered the box on the run before being hauled down. 
 
Fire midfielder Victor Pineda stepped up to the penalty spot and channeling Andrea Pirlo on Sunday, cheekily chipped his penalty effort right down the middle and just over the line to give the team a 1-0 lead.
 
“At that point in the match, when we’d played better soccer and things hadn’t been called, I didn’t mind Victor making a statement with his penalty,” said Sunderland. “We know Victor’s abilities and I don’t think it’s a bad thing for the club to have a player with the confidence in himself to do something like that.”
 
The Fire would stave off an equalizer in the 82nd minute when defender Dan Lojek cleared a ball off the line but Albertson would equalize in the 87th. 
 
Staring elimination in the face, late second half sub Manny Chavez would find the stoppage time winner for the Fire when he picked up a loose ball 25-yards out of the box and sent a looping effort that tucked inside the bottom right corner to clinch a 2-1 victory.
 
“The 18s haven’t played our best soccer of late but Tuesday night it felt we got our game back a little bit,” continued Sunderland. “Guys are excited and feel good about having to get three goals on Thursday.”
 
Sunderland refers to the scenario by which the U-18 side would find its way to the top of the group after Solar Chelsea defeated the Concorde Fire 2-0 in the day’s other group match. The Fire would need to defeat the Dallas-based club in the group finale Thursday at 11am CT (LIVE @ChiFireMatch) and hope Concorde doesn’t win by four clear goals in their finale vs. Albertson.
 
“I told them last night, since we’ve had these guys when they were 15 and 16, they always liked to make things interesting on themselves. We’ve scored three goals before and Solar’s given up three goals – we have nothing to lose on Thursday.”
DATE TIME CHICAGO FIRE OPPONENT FOLLOW/RESULTS
6/25 8:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-18 Concorde Fire (GA) 1-2 L
6/26 4:00pm CT Chicago Fire U-16 Clearwater Chargers (FL) 4-2 W
6/26 8:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-18 Albertson SC (NY) 2-1 W
6/27 6:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-16 Seattle Sounders FC (WA) @ChiFireMatch
6/28 11:00am CT Chicago Fire U-18 Solar Chelsea SC (TX) @ChiFireMatch
6/29 9:00am CT Chicago Fire U-16 Real Salt Lake (AZ) @ChiFireMatch

 

26 June 8:58 am

When you haven’t lost a game in 21 matches and the bulk of your team was the one that took a Development Academy national title in 2010, its fair to say you have a target on your back.

This was the case in the Fire U-18 Academy’s 2-1 loss to Concorde Fire (Ga.) to open the U.S. Soccer Development Academy National Playoffs Tuesday night in Frisco, Texas.

Playing in the 94-degree early summer heat in Dallas, the Fire U-18s nearly went up in the 10th minute when Andrew Oliver had an effort cleared off the line.

The team continued to possess throughout the first half and got what seemed a back-breaking goal just before the interval. A long sequence of passes led to Oliver sliding Luis Barajas through the Concorde backline before the winger placed his shot past the opposing ‘keeper to give the Fire a 1-0 lead in the 44th minute.

The goal didn’t put the physically more dominant Georgian side down however as a scramble off a 35-yard free kick led to the equalizer in the 69th minute. Nineteen minutes later, a similar sequence off a free kick from nearly the same spot saw Concorde steal a late goal to upset the top-ranked Fire U-18s, 2-1.

“We didn’t play a complete 90 minutes,” Fire Academy Director Larry Sunderland said following the match. “It never fails – when you cheat yourselves a little bit, it catches you. That’s what happened here.

“Concorde is a team we were going to have trouble with because they’re big, physical, direct and we’re a smaller team. Aside from those free kicks, they didn’t threaten us much but the muscle they play with kept them in the game. Credit to them for the win.”

With the gauntlet laid down and Solar Chelsea’s (Texas) 4-1 drubbing of Albertson SC (NY) Tuesday night, the Fire U-18s now have no more room for error and will likely need a little help in their remaining group matches. They also have little time to recover as their second game of the tournament comes tonight against Albertston at 8:30pm CT (LIVE on @ChiFireMatch).

While the U-18s prepare for another primetime match, their U-16 brethren will take their opening bow of the competition later this afternoon when they face Clearwater Charges (Florida) at 4pm CT (LIVE on @ChiFireMatch).

With the following two group matches coming against fellow MLS Academy sides Seattle Sounders FC and Real Salt Lake Arizona, a win Tuesday afternoon is considered key to advancement from the group. 

DATE TIME CHICAGO FIRE OPPONENT FOLLOW/RESULTS
6/25 8:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-18 Concorde Fire (GA) 1-2 L
6/26 4:00pm CT Chicago Fire U-16 Clearwater Chargers (FL) @ChiFireMatch
6/26 8:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-18 Albertson SC (NY) @ChiFireMatch
6/27 6:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-16 Seattle Sounders FC (WA) @ChiFireMatch
6/28 11:00am CT Chicago Fire U-18 Solar Chelsea SC (TX) @ChiFireMatch
6/29 9:00am CT Chicago Fire U-16 Real Salt Lake (AZ) @ChiFireMatch

 

25 June 9:24 am

Its playoff time! No, Doc Brown hasn't taken you in a Delorean to early November, rather, today kicks off the 2012 U.S. Soccer Development Academy postseason at the FC Dallas training complex in Frisco, Texas. 

Having finished the 2011-12 USSDA Regular Season as the top ranked team in the nation, the Fire U-18 squad begins its bid for a place at next month's Finals Week in Houston tonight when they take on the Concorde Fire (Georgia) tonight at 8:30pm CT. 

A bulk of the current squad were part of the club's 2010 U-16 National Championship team and have gone on to impress again this season with an 18-2-3 overall record. After last losing their first two matches of the season, the team is riding a 21-match unbeaten streak into this week's round-robin tournament and will be bolstered by current first teamers Victor Pineda and Kellen Gulley (pictures left and right above).

Having finished the regular season sixth in the nation, U-16 Academy side kicks off its bid for Houston Tuesday afternoon when they take on the Clearwater Chargers (Florida) at 4pm CT. 

Fire fans can follow all six of the club's U16 and U18 Academy matches this week LIVE via @ChiFireMatch (see full schedule below) and here on Always on the Inside, we'll have daily updates on how both squads are doing this week in Frisco!

DATE TIME CHICAGO FIRE OPPONENT FOLLOW
6/25 8:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-18 Concorde Fire (GA) @ChiFireMatch
6/26 4:00pm CT Chicago Fire U-16 Clearwater Chargers (FL) @ChiFireMatch
6/26 8:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-18 Albertson SC (NY) @ChiFireMatch
6/27 6:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-16 Seattle Sounders FC (WA) @ChiFireMatch
6/28 11:00am CT Chicago Fire U-18 Solar Chelsea SC (TX) @ChiFireMatch
6/29 9:00am CT Chicago Fire U-16 Real Salt Lake (AZ) @ChiFireMatch

 

23 June 9:25 am

Five things you should know ahead of tonight’s match against the Columbus Crew at Toyota Park (Pre-game on NBC 5.2 beginning at 7pm, radio broadcast on ESPN Deportes 97.5 FM beginning at 7:30pm).

1) ANOTHER UNBEATEN RUN… A 3-1 win over Red Bull on Sunday extended the Fire’s unbeaten run vs. New York at Toyota Park to 6-0-3 since the stadium opened in 2006. Tonight, the Fire have another unbeaten run to extend at Toyota Park against the Crew where the team has gone 3-0-4 since last losing to Columbus in Bridgeview on October 7, 2006.
 
2) WHITFIELD 15… Though he’d never say it, it must be somewhat difficult for Fire color analyst Evan Whitfield to watch as current players pass his amount of appearances. Earlier this year it was Patrick Nyarko who moved into 13th on the club’s all-time appearance list by passing the former Fire defender at 103 regular season games played. With an appearance tonight, Marco Pappa will do the same, moving past Evan into 14th place with 104 games played. 
 
3) LOGAN SECOND AGAIN… He sits second behind C.J. Brown in all-time Fire appearances and starts in MLS and across all competitions. With five minutes spent on the Toyota Park pitch tonight Fire captain Logan Pause (19,201) will move past Zach Thornton (19,205) into second all-time in MLS minutes played for the Fire.
 
4) MILLER LITE HOLOGRAM CUP… More of a promo than anything else but the first 5,000 fans 21 and up into Toyota Park tonight will receive this Fire hologram cup courtesy of Miller Lite!
 
5) #VoteFIRE… Twitter voting for the MLS All-Star game may be over but the Hashtag battle with the Columbus Crew runs through tonight at 7pm CT! Continue to find creative ways to #VoteFire in your tweets, to ensure we beat the Crew in the digital world before a win on the field tonight.
 
 
PREVIEW: FIre vs. Crew
21 June 8:27 am

"Soccer is a game about goals. It's a low scoring sport. We love it dearly -- when goals are scored, they need to be given." - NBC Sports Play-by-Play Announcer Arlo White's immediate comments following the above instance from Sunday's match vs. New York.

The idea of goalline technology has likely been floated since Geoff Hurst's "not-so hat-trick performance" for England in the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final but that was the 60's and this is now.

The above photo clearly shows former Fire defender and current Red Bull player Wilman Conde working to deny Dominic Oduro's 64th minute strike in Sunday's 3-1 victory over Red Bull. It was just the first instance this week of a ball clearly crossing the line without a goal being given (see also Ukraine vs. England on Tuesday). 

"That’s never happened to me," said Oduro this week. "Obviously I think they missed the whole thing. I thought it was a goal, everyone thought it was a goal except for the two officials. Its my first time having a goal that was so obvious be disallowed."

Had it stood, it would have given the Fire a 2-1 lead as well as counted as the Oduro's fifth of the MLS campaign and first since a 2-1 victory over Sporting KC on May 12.

After the ball crossed the line, the Fire striker's celebration quickly turned to disbelief as the farside linesman denied the goal.

"It was a little heartbreaking for me," he continued. "I needed that going forward, just getting back on track scoring goals and it didn’t happen. My emotions were really high and I got a yellow card. It was all in the heat of the moment." 

You might say that the missed call helped rile the team up more as four minutes later Gonzalo Segares slammed home what would be the go-ahead goal after Oduro dug a ball out in the box from Red Bull 'keeper Ryan Meara. In the 81st minute, substitute forward Chris Rolfe iced the match with a tap-in off a beautiful run up the right from Patrick Nyarko.

"At the end of the day, I’m glad we were able to pull it back, score two and get the win."

 Having gone through the whole experience, the Ghanaian attacker sees the addition of goal-line technology, which MLS Commissioner Don Garber has shown an interest in for the league, would be a good move. 

"I think implementing goal line technology would be the best course going forward. I’m not saying we should stop the whole game and have a replay but to just have something that tells you right away whether or not the ball crossed the line would be a positive. We’re all humans, sometimes referees get it wrong. Sometimes the line of sight is blocked. I don’t think any soccer player would disagree on that.”

Except maybe Wilman Conde...?

19 June 2:32 pm

The Chicago Fire U16 and U18 U.S. Soccer Development Academy sides are good. Both sides concluded the 2011/12 regular season on Sunday at Indiana Fire Academy with the U16s taking a 2-2 draw and the U18s a 3-1 victory. 

Both results helped keep the sides first in the Great Lakes Division with the U18s going 13-0-3 (18-2-3 overall) and the U-16s going 11-1-4 (15-3-5 overall) on the campaign.
 
With the finish, the U18s also remained the number one ranked team in the country while the U16s finished fifth in the nation -- both are the top ranked MLS Academy in their age group with the next being the LA Galaxy (#4 at U18 and #8 at U16).
 
Yesterday, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced the draw for the 2012 Developmental Academy playoffs, set to begin Monday, June 25 in Frisco, Texas. See the results below...
 
U-18s
Group 7
Chicago Fire (Bridgeview, Ill.)
Solar Chelsea SC (Dallas, Texas)
Albertson SC (Great Neck, N.Y.)
Concorde Fire (Atlanta, Ga.)
 
U-16s
Group 4
Chicago Fire (Bridgeview, Ill.)
Real Salt Lake AZ (Casa Grande, Ariz.)
Seattle Sounders FC (Tukwila, Wash.)
Clearwater Chargers (Clearwater, Fla.)
 
Only the top team from each group will advance to the Academy Finals week, set to be held in Houston, Texas from July 16-23.
 
Earlier Tuesday, Fire Academy Director Larry Sunderland took both sides to a mini-camp in South Bend, Ind. to prepare for next week's playoffs. Joining the teams in Indiana are first teamers and Academy eligible players Victor Pineda and Kellen Gulley.
 
Check Chicago-Fire.com Wednesday for an exclusive podcast interview with Sunderland about the team's progress heading into the postseason.

 

19 June 9:06 am

 

Fire fans get ready to beat the Crew not only on the pitch this weekend but via Twitter!  

This week, we're encouraging fans to use the hashtag #VoteFIRE to help spread the word and get out and vote for the Men in Red for MLS All-Star on July 25th in Philadelphia. The Columbus Crew will be using the hashtag #VoteCREW during the same time and just before kickoff on Saturday, June 23rd we will calculate the results between the two teams to see who's the winner.   

FACT: Brian McBride likes Chicago better.
 
FACT: Yellow is a cowardly color.
 
FACT: Chris Rolfe and Austin Berry hated Ohio so much they had to leave.
 
Vote for Fire #MLSAllStar nominees Marco PAPPA, Pavel PARDO, Dominic ODURO, Sean JOHNSON, Gonzalo SEGARES and Sebastian GRAZZINI by logging onto MLSsoccer.com/AllStar or text the player’s last name only to 22442. Twitter voting begins this Thursday, June 21 at 11am CT and runs through Friday, June 22 at 11:00pm CT.
 
FINE PRINT: The tweet doesn't actually count as a vote, but the hope is that other fans will be encouraged to participate, vote and help us beat the Yellow Team.

Use the button below to Tweet your support!