Blog

Blog

24 June 11:36 am

Sunday's announcement of Arne Friedrich's retirement was a tough one to take but the Twitterverse did a great job to pay tribute to the two-time German World Cup veteran's illustrious career.

Here are some of our favorite tweets from Sunday:

24 June 9:21 am
Get in on some small-sided soccer action on July 20 as the 3v3 LIVE tournament comes to Berens Park in Elmhurst.
 
- Teams are guaranteed a minimum of four games
- All registered players receive a 3v3 LIVE t-shirt as well as a ticket to the Chicago Fire vs. D.C. United match that night
- All championship games are to be played on the Toyota Park main field before the Fire/D.C. United game
- All additional tickets can be bought at a discounted rate at www.chicago-fire.com/3v3.
 
Registration is $240 and ends July 14! To register your team, click here.
 
 
22 June 11:54 pm

Select shots from the Fire's 2-1 win over the Crew.

Credit: USA Today Sports Images

21 June 10:01 am

If you've paid attention to Victor Pineda's story over the last year, you'll know that just making the U.S. U-20 roster was a challenge.

The Fire's original Homegrown player came close to making his competitive debut at the end of 2012 before a meniscus injury sidelined him through much of this year's preseason.

Ever resilient, Pineda recovered in time to join the U.S. U-20s and will hopefully take the field when Tab Ramos' side opens up the FIFA World Youth Championships Friday vs. Spain in Istanbul, Turkey (LIVE 1pm CT on ESPN2).

Yanks Abroad's Brian Sciaretta wrote this excellent piece on Pineda's road to Turkey.

21 June 8:54 am

The Men in Red extended their unbeaten streak to six games across all competitions on Wednesday night (4-0-2), coming behind to defeat the Colorado Rapids 2-1. Columbus notched a big win against Montreal last time out and face difficult trips to Kansas City and LA after the Saturday’s home game against the Fire.

Here are some things to keep an eye on from a tactical perspective in this big match for both teams (LIVE Saturday 6:30pm CT on My50).

The turnover game - both teams will look to pressure each other’s back line

In the Crew’s most recent loss to the Union earlier this month, the Ohio team had major problems retaining possession when put under pressure. The Union forwards, especially Jack McInerny, did not allow Columbus time on the ball and the pressure led to Philly getting on the score sheet.

Johnson, Rolfe Preview Columbus

As we know, players like Mike Magee, Chris Rolfe and Patrick Nyarko are excellent at putting pressure on the opponent’s defense and this will be important on Saturday night.

On the other side of the coin, the Crew like to deploy the high pressure tactic too, with former Fire player Dominic Oduro often hunting down defenders and not allowing them time on the ball.

READ: Berry recovers from blunder with winning goal vs. Rapids

In the Crew's 2-0 win over the Montreal Impact last weekend, Oduro stole the ball from a Montreal defender before slotting home the Crew's second goal in the 22nd minute.

Fire defender Austin Berry had an unfortunate incident in Wednesday's match against Colorado where he was stripped of the ball allowing rookie Deshorn Brown to give Colorado the lead.

In a game that is expected to be very tight, the team making the least mental mistakes could end up on top.

The battle on the left side - Duka/Lindpere vs Anor

Columbus winger Bernardo Anor won many plaudits for his performance against Montreal last week on his first start back from a horrible ACL injury.

The left-footed Venezuelan started on the right against the Impact and will be looking to build on that performance against the Fire Saturday night.

On the same side of the field, coach Frank Klopas will be choosing between former Crew winger Dilly Duka and veteran Joel Lindpere for the start.

Dan and Kevin Talk Crew

Duka played his best game for the Men in Red against Colorado on Wednesday night as he was able to get in 1v1 situations on numerous occasions and earned the penalty that equalized the match.

Lindpere has yet to fully live up to the high expectations put on him by Fire fans after his move from New York this offseason.

With the team in the middle of a 4 games in 11 day stretch, a start for Lindpere seems plausible.

Getting back into the stating XI in a huge Eastern Conference showdown could be the perfect motivation for Lindpere to put in a man of the match performance on Saturday night.

Dominic Oduro - A striker with a point to prove

With seven goals to his name this season, Dominic Oduro has landed on his feet in Columbus after his trade away from the Windy City. Oduro also seems to have developed into a more complete striker since his move.

The speedy Ghanaian’s patience on the ball has resulted in him making better decisions and linking with his midfielders more instead of going alone and trying to score.

What has impressed me about Oduro since the trade is his move away from a reliance on his right foot to a player that is comfortable shooting with both.

READ: The Influence of Jeff Larentowicz

Fire fans will remember Oduro's hot and cold finishing but on his day, he can be unstoppable. The Fire have held Oduro scoreless in two matches already this season but at home, the Ghanaian will be aiming to prove a point and it is up to the Fire defenders to keep him quiet on Saturday night.

Prediction: 2-1 Fire with a brace from midfielder Alex

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

20 June 3:03 pm

With all the talk of "Magic" Mike Magee and his ridiculous five goals in five games since joining the Fire, it was always likely that other players would be overlooked.
 
But as much as Magee (or maybe because of him) we’ve seen other players step up and contribute to the Fire’s season-saving June. Midfielders like Alex and Daniel Paladini mitigated the effects of losing Logan Pause, defenders Jalil Anibaba and new addition Bakary Soumare stabilized what was a less than sturdy backline, and up front, Patrick Nyarko, Chris Rolfe, and Sherjill MacDonald selflessly put in the work supporting Magee.
 
But perhaps the most influential non-Magee on the Fire this season has been Jeff Larentowicz. The veteran was brought in this offseason and immediately won a spot in the starting line-up, a spot he proved he deserved with his signature tackling, distribution, and even a game-winning goal early in the season.
 
 
On Wednesday night against Colorado, Larentowicz showed once again why he’s become the platform on which the Fire’s recent surge was built (see his heat map to the right).
 
It was his harrying and tackling that helped change the momentum of the game after Colorado’s early goal (see his 30th minute tackle, and the effort he put in to win a goal kick in his own box a few minutes earlier). Later in the second half, as Colorado pressed to equalize, his header just wide was the Fire’s best chance. 
 
Maybe one ten minute period showed it best: His skill in the 71st minute won the Fire a corner and diffused pressure; his block in the 78th maintained the Fire’s lead.
 
And just like his eagerness this season has led to some ups and downs (including that unfortunate red card at Montreal), his early yellow card for diving in a little over zealously threatened to hamper his effectiveness. Would he hesitate to tackle out of fear of his second yellow?
 
Nope. It seems like he doesn’t let anything shake him off. We’ve talked about “Magee Face”, that expression of all the emotions a soccer game can summon in a person, all the heartbreak and endeavor and passion. “Larentowicz Face” is the opposite. It’s stone cold. It’s not hashtag material. It’s focused and determined and sort of scary.

 


 

That’s why his reaction after his miss in the second half was so endearing. As Fire fans and the My50 announcers celebrated what looked like a goal from certain angles, Larentowicz reacted with unadulterated frustration and anger. In his mind, he should’ve scored, he knew he had it, and as a leader by example, he couldn’t contain the flash of the expectations he has of himself. It was a totally honest moment.
 
As the game Wednesday progressed, Fire fans licked their lips at the prospect of Magee (and later MacDonald), Nyarko, and Rolfe running through wide open spaces in the Colorado defense.
 
But none of the counterattacks panned out. In the end, what defined the end of the game was a little bit of luck, sure, but mostly it was the plucky work of the Fire as a unit, withstanding the pressure and closing it out. Nobody represents that more than Larentowicz, and you could read it on his face.
 
Onwards. Three points. Who’s next?

Ben Schuman-Stoler is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @bsto.

 

20 June 10:39 am

Earlier Thursday morning I was once again invited back to U.S. Soccer Federation headquarters in downtown Chicago to witness the semifinal round Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup coin flips.

Let me be honest, unlike the previous three rounds, Thursday's process was the simplest I've witnessed.

That's because even before showing up at Soccer House on Thursday morning, U.S. Soccer had already confirmed what the potential semifinal pairings would be earlier this week based on geography.

Combine that with all eight quarterfinal teams applying to host the semifinals, literally all that was needed was to flip the famous bicentennial silver dollar twice.

Still, Competition Secretary Paul Marstaller kept things official, handing out the same formatted paper which clearly listed the matchups and assigned heads and tails.

That sheet looked like this:

Heads Tails
D.C. United/New England Revolution Chicago Fire/Orlando City*
Real Salt Lake/Carolina RailHawks* Portland Timbers/FC Dallas

If I can be bold enough to say, every time the Fire have come up in a coin flip, I honestly get this strange excitement in my stomach. The feeling of a simple coin going a long way to deciding your team's tournament fate is a thrilling, if not brief emotion.

TICKETS: Chicago Fire vs. Orlando City Quarterfinal on June 26

Luckily for the Fire, the first coin flip landed tails, meaning the winner of next Wednesday's game vs. Orlando City will host the winnder of D.C. United/New England on August 7. This is the third straight flip the Fire have won after losing the initial third round flip to the Charlotte Eagles.

In the second flip, the coin came up heads, meaning the winner of Real Salt Lake/Carolina RailHawks will host the winner of Portland/FC Dallas. The flip was the fourth consecutive win for RSL in the 2013 U.S. Open Cup.

And that was it.

Only one coin flip remains and that's for the final which will be played in early October. I'm told that will go down at some point in July.

All intentions to host the final were due along with intentions for the semifinal on Wednesday, though U.S. Soccer will likely not make that list public until the final coin flips occur.

I can confirm the Chicago Fire have applied to host the 2013 U.S. Open Cup final.

Earlier 2013 Open Cup Coin Flips:

- Quarterfinals
- Fourth Round
- Third Round

18 June 12:44 pm

After a rousing comeback against Portland last time out in the league, the Fire start a busy period Wednesday night against a tricky Colorado Rapids team (LIVE 7pm CT on My50) who just their six-game unbeaten streak snapped at the weekend by San Jose Earthquakes. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective:

Exposing the Rapids center backs: targeting Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne

Colorado's usual starting pair at the center of the defense is Shane O'Neill and Drew Moor but with the Irish-born youngster in Turkey with the US U-20 team, right back Marvell Wynne has slotted into the middle.

FIRE vs. RAPIDS: Tickets Still Available

Against San Jose last week, this pairing had a lot of trouble, especially when the Quakes attacking players separated and isolated the center backs.

The movement of Rolfe and Magee, both very mobile strikers, could open up the Colorado defense. If the Fire’s attacking pair can draw Moor/Wynne out, it can lead to space being created behind them, something San Jose did well last weekend.

Keeping an eye on Deshorn Brown - the rookie has 4 assists this season

Similar to my thoughts a few weeks ago about D.C. rookie Kyle Porter, Deshorn Brown has caught my eye for Colorado this season.

Playing on the left of a front three he’s dangerous and a good supplier of the ball for striker Edson Buddle. Much of Colorado's chances in the past few matches have come from Brown’s side.

Larentowicz, Duka Preview Colorado

The Rapids will be without Atiba Harris after his red against San Jose last week which puts even more emphasis on Brown to step up in the Kittitian’s absence.

Right-sided players Jalil Anibaba and Patrick Nyarko will need to be very wary of the rookie on Wednesday night.

Fire squad rotation - my case in for it

The Men in Red have a tough stretch of 4 games in 11 days and it would be very demanding on the players to try and stick with the same starting XI for all four because of a risk of burnout.

A more likely approach would be one of steady and not drastic rotation meaning making a few changes each match and not starting a completely different team. This is of course assuming the team doesn't pick up any injuries or suspensions during this stretch.

READ: Nyarko says next eight day stretch is "crunch time"

Giving a few players a break Wednesday night with one eye on the tough away Eastern Conference match against Columbus on Saturday might be a worthwhile policy for head coach Frank Klopas.

Fire squad rotation - my case against

Something fans have criticized coach Klopas for is sticking to a regular starting XI and not making too many changes from game to game.

That being said, the team is currently unbeaten in four games and if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

The last 20 minutes against Portland last weekend was the team’s best spell all season and if they can continue that form the next few weeks could see us in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals and moving closer to the MLS Cup playoff positions in the East.

With the back line finally stable and the Mike Magee/Chris Rolfe partnership starting to really gel, there is a strong case for coach Klopas to stick with the same XI during this run of games.

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

18 June 8:57 am

It's simple really: #MakeMagee an #MLSAllStar.

Last year we here at Always on the Inside put our eggs in one basket when it came to #MLSAllStar voting by getting behind talisman winger Patrick Nyarko.

Stealing the Chicago White Sox idea of #TakeJake, (a ploy to get pitcher Jake Peavy to Major League Baseball's All-Star Game), we decided to push the #PickPat hashtag on Twitter. Along with the social calls to action, we got CSN Chicago's Dave Kaplan in on the action, with him displaying this sign on Chicago Tribune Live.  

In addition, I wrote open letters to All-Star head coach Ben Olsen and MLS Commissioner Don Garber appealing for them to #PickPat.

While there was a lot of nice buzz created, in the end, Pat wasn't chosen (though I still think he should have been).

Fast-forward to today when we find out that Mike Magee is second in fan voting among MLS midfielders (even though he's a forward in Chicago) to go to this year's All-Star Game vs. AS Roma at Kansas City's Sporting Park.

Though we came up short last year, I think its time we bring the hashtags back out and #MakeMagee an #MLSAllStar for the first time in his career...

His credentials...

- A career high of eight MLS goals in 12 games played this season (currently third most in MLS and definitely most for a "midfielder").

- 10 goals in 14 competitive matches in 2013.

- As of Tuesday, he's never not scored in a match for the Fire, tallying four in as many games since joining the Men in Red last month. 

- A true leader on the field and player that has come into his own over his 11-year MLS career.

- While the MLS All-Star Game is a reward for achievement during the first half of the season, we'd be remisce if we didn't mention that Mike Magee has won two MLS Cups and two Supporters Shields over the course of his 11-year MLS career. 

- #MikeMageeFacts can truly go national when he's included among the league's best players.

Vote for Mike, Patrick Nyarko, Jeff Larentowicz, Sean Johnson, Austin Berry, Jalil Anibaba and Chris Rolfe by clicking here or by texting the player's last name to 22442 through July 2 at 2pm CT.

17 June 4:33 pm

The Chicago Fire U16 and U18 Academy sides as well as the U18 Indiana Fire Academy learned their groups for next week’s U.S. Soccer Federation Development Academy National Playoffs set to be held in Dallas, Texas earlier Monday. 

UPDATE! U.S. Soccer then realized they had made a mistake with the drawings and held a re-draw for both age groups. Below are the updated groupings for the Chicago Fire U16, U18 and Indiana Fire Academy U18 side...

- Chicago Fire U18s are in Group 1 with Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Houston Dynamo and PA Classics
- Indiana Fire Academy U18s are in Group 7 with Baltimore Bays Chelsea, Chivas USA and De Anza Force (CA)
- Chicago Fire U16s are in Group 1 with De Anza Force (CA), Georgia United and Arsenal FC (CA)

With the USSFDA now into the fourth season of their current playoff format, the Fire Academy is one of just four clubs (out of 80) to see both U16 and U18 sides qualify for the National Playoffs every year.

They’re joined by FC Dallas, CASL (NC) and Concorde Fire (GA) as the four clubs with the current distinction.

The USSFDA National Playoffs feature eight groups of four teams in a round-robin format with the winners of each group advancing to the July’s national finals in Houston, Texas.

Earlier Draw, now null and void:

The Chicago Fire U18 side has been paired in Group 4 with Real Salt Lake (AZ), Dallas Texans and Weston FC (FL) while the Indiana Fire U18s join Vancouver Whitecaps, Pateadores (CA) and Kendall SC (FL) in Group 1.

The Chicago Fire U16s were drawn into Group 3 with PDA (NJ), Colorado Rapids and Revolution Empire (NY).