Blog

Blog

04 December 6:34 pm

Since 2001, the Mock World Cup Draw has been a fixture of sorts in the Crandall Household. Let’s be real though, the scale of it was quite small and usually just consisted of me pulling names out of a hat alone in my room.

Alas, Wednesday I took advantage of the soccer constituency available around the club’s Toyota Park office and welcomed my co-workers to the 2014 Chicago Fire Mock World Cup draw in Conference Room 1...

Chicago Fire 2014 Mock World Cup draw

All of the spelled out procedures for Friday’s draw were followed, such as pulling the odd ninth team out of the European Pot. Fire Season Ticket Services Representative Emily Morris assisted with this and randomly selected England.

We also automatically placed hosts Brazil into Group A…

Chicago Fire 2014 Mock World Cup draw

And then began placing the remaining seven seeds into their groups...

Which ended up looking like this...

Then in order to place England into a group, we put the four South American teams back into a Pot, and drew....

Finally, we drew the mixed South America/Africa pot and came away with this grouping...

Emily then began to draw the mixed CONCACAF/AFC pot...With many in the room holding U.S. and Mexico cheering interests, this proved most dramatic...

 

The European pot was the last to be drawn, adding to the drama and finality of the mock draw. A proud U.S. Men's National Team supporter, Emily was left doing this face after completing the draw...

And this is why...

Suffice to say, no U.S. fan came away from this exercise doing this...

...but thankfully, I'm not Sepp Blatter and this thing was just for fun.

Do your own mock draw ahead of Friday's official event (the spelled out procedures can be found here). Then join us for our World Cup Draw Bracket Brunch Friday from 10am-noon at Fado (100 W. Grand Ave.).

04 December 9:29 am

FIFA revealed the pots and procedures for the 2014 FIFA World Cup draw set to be held Friday morning in Coasta do Sauipe, Brazil.

The Pots:

Pot 1 (Seeds): Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Uruguay
Pot 2 (CAF/CONMEBOL): Algeria, Cameroon, Chile, Ecuador, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria
Pot 3 (AFC/CONCACAF): Australia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Iran, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, USA
Pot 4 (UEFA): Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, England, France, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia*

The procedure:

Step One: This is really the only variation from the previous wisdom on the draw. Instead of putting the lowest seeded team (in this case France) into Pot 2, FIFA will randomly draw one team out of Pot 4 to go into the mix CAF/CONMEBOL group of teams.

Step Two: Pot 1 will be drawn with Brazil automatically going into Group A. The rest of the seeded teams will be randomly drawn into Groups B-H and will also automatically take Position 1 (B1, C1, D1, etc…) in their group. This is important because there is already a set schedule which corresponds to each group position.

Step Three: With a mixed pot of three confederations, Pot 2 would run the risk of breaking FIFA’s rule of geographic separation which keeps nations from the same confederation (outside of two from UEFA) from being in the same group. In order to avoid having three European teams, there will be an additional “Pot X” featuring the four seeded South American teams. The country drawn out of this pot will automatically be grouped with the carryover UEFA team in the already established group.

Pot two will then be drawn, with all countries being pulled with a corresponding number to assign their group position. In the event that Chile or Ecuador is drawn into a South American seeded group, that group will be skipped with the country going into the next available (European seeded) group.

Step Four: Draw pots three and four.

Step Five: Celebrate or mourn your country’s prospects for next summer in Brazil.

Watch all the drama go down with your fellow lovers of the "Beautiful Game" at our World Cup Bracket Brunch this Friday from 10am-noon at Fado (100 W. Grand Avenue)! Stay tuned to Chicago-Fire.com as we'll conduct our own mock draw later on Wednesday.

Chicago Fire 2014 World Cup Bracket Brunch on Friday, December 6 at Fado Irish Pub

03 December 11:27 am

Mike Magee became the first Chicago Fire player since Wilman Conde in 2009 to grab an MLS Best XI selection on Tuesday. The Chicago native joined an exclusive club of 14 players that have earned the honor while with the Men in Red, adding up to 22 total selections (third highest in MLS) since 1998.

For the record, former Fire captain Chris Armas has the most Best XI selections with the club, earning five (1998-2001, 2003) during his 10-year career with the Men in Red.

See below the club's previous MLS Best XI selections:

02 December 8:51 am

Fire Chief Operating Officer Atul Khosla named to Crain's Chicago's 40 Under 40 list

Congratulations to Chicago Fire COO Atul Khosla (AK) for being named a member of Crain's Chicago "40 Under 40" class of 2014. Khosla is joined on the list by Hip Hop artist Lupe Fiasco, “The Onion” founder Mike McAvoy and Mike McGee, no not that Magee, the McGee that co-founded The Starter League.

While the Crain's recognition is an individual honor, AK knows that it is really a team award - literally.

"I'm honored and humbled by the recognition from Crain's. Were it not for the tremendous opportunity provided by the Hauptman family, the Club, its incredible fan base and my front office team, I know my name would not be on the list.

"For me, these past two years have been challenging and extremely rewarding. There's a lot to be proud of, but a lot more work to do. It's the opportunity to work with a young, energized and enthusiastic team, both on and off the field, which really inspires me for what's next."

Another congrats to Heather Holtsberg Smith who also made the list for her work as the Marketing Manager for Quaker Foods North America’s global grains division.

Learn more about AK and all the other members who made this year's 40 under 40 list at http://www.chicagobusiness.com/section/40under40-2013

Remember to follow AK on Twitter @AtulKhosla!

01 December 11:11 am

Two schools with Fire Academy ties will continue their quest for the 2013 NCAA College Cup in the tournament’s third round on Sunday.

Coming off the program’s first ever NCAA tournament win last Sunday vs. Akron, the #9 Marquette Golden Eagles travel to Charlottesville to take on perennial collegiate powerhouse #8 Virginia at noon CT.

Ex-Fire Academy goalkeeper Charlie Lyon made eight saves to push Marquette past the Zips in last week’s 1-0 overtime win and is joined by Fire alums Bryan Ciesulka, Brady Wahl, Louis Bennett II and Eric Pothast on the Golden Eagles squad.

Fans can catch the match LIVE via CBSSports.com beginning at noon CT.

Later that afternoon, catch much-talked about Fire Homegrown Prospect Harry Shipp as he leads #3 Notre Dame against #14 Wake Forest at 6pm CT in South Bend, Ind.

The ACC Offensive Player of the Year, Shipp tallied two goals in the Irish’s 4-0 second round win last weekend over Wisconsin to reserve Sunday’s date vs. the Demon Deacons and is joined in South Bend by fellow Fire Academy alum Danny Lojek. 

Catch the game LIVE at 6pm CT on WatchND.com

26 November 10:10 am

Just eight days away from Major League Soccer's MVP announcement and Mike Magee has picked up another endorsement, this time coming from SBNation.com's merry band of soccer editors. SBNation.com is of course the parent organization of Chicago Fire-related blog, "Hot Time in Old Town".

Magee garnered 14 of the 25 available votes, doubling up on next closest candidate Robbie Keane.

The nod from SBNation.com is the latest in a series of endorsements featuring Landon Donovan (sort of), The Washington Post's Steven Goff and Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney. Let us not forget, Magee also collected Section 8 Chicago's 2013 Supporters Player of the Year Award on Saturday as well.

Joel Biden awards Mike Magee 2013 Section 8 Chicago Supporters Player of the Year award

The MLS Best XI (which Magee is expected to be on) is set to be announced next Tuesday, December 3 while the MVP award will be doled out Thursday, December 5.

Magee would be the first player in the club's 16-year playing history to garner the league's highest individual honor. 

Until then, watch the #MikeMageeMVP video one more time...

25 November 2:04 pm

One of my favorite days of the year is the day the MLS schedule is released.

For many fans, this announcement means compiling a list of blackout days where the Fire are playing at Toyota Park. For Fire fans not residing in the Chicagoland area, it means finding out when the Men in Red will be visiting your nearest MLS team. But for someone like me who has been on quite a few road trips (over 50 but not as many as this guy), the schedule release day means not only looking at the home fixtures but also the away ones.

Questions I asked myself earlier today: Does Toronto away fall on weekend instead of a Wednesday night? How much does it cost to fly to Portland in March? These important questions get answered on this special day.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at five exciting dates in the 2014 Fire calendar:

Week 2 – Portland away – Saturday, March 15 

Ever since Portland came into the league in 2011, the Fire supporters umbrella, Section 8 Chicago, has had a very good relationship with the Timbers Army, Portland’s main supporters group. The relationship is based on mutual respect and a shared “dislike” of all things Seattle.

Fire fans are always treated well in Portland and it’s not uncommon for Fire and Timbers fans to hang out before and after the games, something you would never see Fire fans doing in Columbus or Kansas City.

The atmosphere at JELD-Wen Field is also second to none. Though is certainly isn’t going to be the easiest away trip on the field or the lightest on the wallet, I think we will see quite a few Fire fans making the trip to Portland in Week 2 instead of traveling to LA to watch the Fire face Chivas in the season opener.

Week 6 & 22 – Montreal away – Saturday, April 12 and Sunday, August 16

The Fire were the Montreal Impact’s opponents in the Canadian club’s first home MLS back in 2012 and I was lucky enough to be at the game and had a great time.

That game was played indoors at the Olympic Stadium with a less than favorable playing surface – something many of the Fire fans observed firsthand the day before the game when we were invited to watch the team train (see photo above).

Now the Impact have Saputo Stadium refurbished, which provides another incentive for traveling Fire fans who may not have gotten there earlier this year.

Montreal is also a unique MLS city for a number of reasons. I can’t think of another MLS city where fans can brush up on their French by talking to the locals or take in the spectacular Notre-Dame basilica while eating some amazing poutine!

Montreal can be quite cold in April, but luckily for Fire fans, the April date is only the first time the Men in Red visit The City of Saints. I hear the weather is a lot nicer in mid-August, when the Fire visit for the second time.

Week 11 – Columbus away – Saturday, May 24

Columbus or Fire House East as many Fire fans call it is the closest away trip of the season distance wise. Due to this fact, the number of Fire fans attending this match is exponentially bigger than most other away games.

In 2001, Fire fans went to Crew Stadium in their hundreds, even when the Fire was not playing! The Fire had been knocked out in the Conference Semifinals by the Los Angeles Galaxy and many fans turned up to cheer against LA (and for the then Frank Yallop-led San Jose Earthquakes) at MLS Cup.

There have been many highs experienced in Columbus, such as Paulo Wanchope’s winning goal in a 2007 match after the game was delayed due to a torrential downpour. Fire fans were also 45 minutes away from MLS Cup in 2008 but for a Crew comeback in the second half which left Fire fans, including myself, devastated. There’s also the 2012 invasion which saw 600 Fire supporters make the trek.

The Fire only play once at Fire House East this season and I expect to see a lot of red behind the goal on May 24.

Week 16 & 32 Kansas City away –Sunday, July 6 &  Friday, October 10

Kansas City is another road trip that fans have attended in large numbers throughout the years. My first trip to Kansas City was a disappointing one, with the Fire losing to the Kansas City Wizards in the final of the U.S. Open Cup in 2004.

Since then, the Kansas franchise has a new name and a soccer specific stadium. You can no longer play the count the crowd game that we often did when the Wizards played at Arrowhead Stadium.

Most fans travel to this game by bus thus skipping the “delights” of downtown Kansas City and the bus ride does offer one cool treat – a visit to the world’s largest truck stop in Iowa.

Though SKC are not really a Fire rival (despite efforts made by the KC front office to make it into something bigger) there is certainly a dislike between the players and fans on both sides.

With the October 11 game coming so late in the season, it may be a pivotal one in terms of Playoff positioning.

Week 23 – Toronto away – Saturday, August 23

By far my favorite MLS city to travel to is Toronto. It's roughly the same distance from Chicago as Kansas City and again many fans travel to Canada on supporter’s buses.

Each visit, Fire fans shack up at a great hostel where we run into soccer fans from all over the world. Toronto itself is a great city aside from the prohibitive drinking laws on weekends (who doesn’t want to have a pint at 10am while watching the Premier League the next morning?).

BMO Field is located right on the shores of Lake Ontario and is thus left exposed and is often windy and chilly but the warm pies served at some of the concessions stands are an excellent halftime treat.

On the field, the Fire have had some good success against a TFC team that has languished near the bottom of the MLS table since starting in 2007. Thankfully, this match is on a Saturday in August so I expect a much larger contingent of Fire fans to attend.

Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @Irish_Steve.

21 November 9:38 am

On Friday, December 6, we'll all gather at Fado's for the club's "Bracket Brunch" with great hopes and prizes on the line for the FIFA World Cup draw. 

There's plenty to get you started on your "Drawology" now, with the below graphic representing the suspected four pots that FIFA representatives (or perhaps Brazilian celebrities) will use to determine the eight groups for the tournament.

What you should know…

  • It should be noted that the only confirmed pot are the seeded teams in Pot #1, which features the hosts Brazil and the next seven best teams according to October’s FIFA Ranking.
     
  • For the second straight World Cup, FIFA has somewhat controversially gone by October’s FIFA rankings to determine seeds, rather than the previous formula which factored in both FIFA rankings along with nation’s finishes at the previous two or three tournaments.
     
  • The change wasn’t felt quite as heavily for the 2010 World Cup as traditional powers like Italy, The Netherlands and England all remained seeds. Those countries have been upended this time around in Pot #1 by the likes of Switzerland, Colombia and Belgium.
     
  • The mix of CONCACAF/AFC (Pot #2) seems likely as both confederations have four teams each to make a round group of eight.
  • The only real question seems to be around which European team would join the mixed CAF (5 teams)/CONMEBOL (2 teams) in Pot #3 . If FIFA continues to go by their ranking procedure, France would be the lowest ranking European team, which could very well push them into the mixed pot, though this is unconfirmed and might not be known until the week of the draw.
     
  • Draw Makeup: Only nations from UEFA can be grouped with each other but only two per group and you obviously can’t be draw against countries in your own pot, so U.S. dreams of getting another crack at Iran (wither 1998) will have to wait.
     
  • DOWNLOAD our tournament bracket (PDF) and begin conducting your mock draws now! The Fire's "Bracket Brunch" is just two weeks away!

So there it is… On what we know (and suspect), what’s the best case scenario for your nation of interest? What's the worst? 

18 November 10:53 am

 

We're not far off from finding out the finalists for the 2013 MLS Most Valuable Player award and the case has more than been made for Mike Magee to take that honor.

Still, MLSsoccer.com's John Bolster recommends the Fire forward for another "not yet awarded" award, that being the league's Most Improved Player.

He makes his case for Magee here...

15 November 9:01 am

It's the end of the road for the U.S. Men's National Team in 2013...

Qualified for next summer's FIFA World Cup for two months, Jurgen Klinsmann will take a last look at his side with a pair of European friendlies beginning this afternoon at Scotland (LIVE 2pm CT on ESPN2, UniMas & WatchESPN). They'll close out the calendar year with another friendly Tuesday at Austria (LIVE 1:45pm CT on NBC Sports Network, UniMas).

Here's hoping Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson gets some time in one of the matches over the next week.

While the USMNT can continue their prep for Brazil, a number of European and African sides are still playing for their World Cup lives this weekend.

A full schedule of the games and where you can watch them on the TV set:

Friday - (UEFA First Legs)
Iceland vs. Croatia; 1:00pm CT on ESPN3.com, WatchESPN
Portugal vs. Sweden; 1:45pm CT on ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN
Ukraine vs. France; 1:45pm CT on ESPN3.com, WatchESPN
Greece vs. Romania; 1:45pm CT on ESPN3.com, WatchESPN

Saturday - (CAF Second Legs)
Nigeria vs. Ethiopia (2-1); 9:00am CT on beIN Sport, beIN Sport en Espanol
Senegal vs. Ivory Coast (1-3); 1:00pm CT on beIN Sport, beIN Sport en Espanol 

Sunday
Cameroon vs. Tunisia (0-0) ; 8:30am CT on beIN Sport, beIN Sport en Espanol