As they have the previous two years, the Chicago Fire ventured to the Three Lions Pub inside Blackbaud Stadium for the 2013 Carolina Challenge Cup kickoff luncheon Friday afternoon. The Fire were joined by hosts the Charleston Battery and the Vancouver Whitecaps at the luncheon while Saturday's opponents Houston were set to arrive into the Palmetto State later on Friday.
As I walked around admiring the wall-to-wall memorabilia inside the pub, I realized there were more than a few reunions occuring in the room...
First off was Fire assistant coach Mike Matkovich catching up with defender Jay DeMerit. Matkovich led the Fire PDL side when DeMerit played for it in 2001 and even appeared in "Rise & Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story" to talk about his memories of Jay...
A little further down the way, I spotted a Tottenham reunion as Fire trialist Pascal Chimbonda met up with Whitecaps defender Young-Pyo Lee. The two often manned the defensive flanks together for Spurs while at White Hart Lane from 2006-2008.
Finally, just as I turned around, I spotted Fire midfielder Daniel Paladini talking to his former manager and current Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie. The Scotsman was the one that brough Paladini to the second division Carolina RailHawks from Chivas USA in 2009 where the pair would spend two seasons together.
To finish the pleasantries Rennie, Fire head coach Frank Klopas and Battery manager Mike Anhaeuser did the annual trophy photo-op.
On to Saturday's first doubleheader featuring the Chicago Fire taking on the Houston Dynamo (if they show) at 4pm CT on Chicago-Fire.com. The Battery will host the Whitecaps in the second game at 6:15pm CT.
Was nice to wake up to this news this morning that U.S. international and current Aston Villa first-choice 'keeper Brad Guzan would like to return to MLS one day and potentially suit up for his hometown Chicago Fire.
A product of Homer Glen, Ill., Guzan was quoted as saying, "Hopefully, I will get the opportunity, when I’m finished playing in Europe, to go back and play in it.
"Especially being from Chicago, which has a team. I’d love to go back and play for the Chicago Fire in front of friends and family. That would be pretty neat.”
Guzan of course teamed with current Fire forward Chris Rolfe on the Chicago Fire PDL side that went a near perfect 17-1-0 en route to the league's regular season championship that year.
Having played two seasons at the University of South Carolina, Guzan left college to sign with MLS and was picked second overall by Chivas USA in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft.
At just 28 years old and with the Fire having a 'keeper in Sean Johnson who is nipping at his heels for the number two spot with the U.S., Guzan won't likely return stateside anytime soon but would likely be a welcome addition for many a Fire fan down the road...
Touching down in Charleston earlier today, the team ate lunch and took in a bit of the Real Madrid/Manchester United Champions League match before heading out to their first training session in the Palmetto State.
Due to heavy rain in the area the past few days, the team's regular spot at Charleston Southern University wasn't in shape for a session so the squad ended up at Blackbaud Stadium's Training Field.
With this being our third straight year to Blackbaud, I've often wondered about the adjacent field which has the stadium on one side and a pond on the other... I wondered because when I saw it before, it had warnings about potential alligators.
Well, today I wondered no more as one of the resident gators (lets call him Charlie) was there to greet us and watch the entire 90-minute training session from just behind one of the goals. Luckily, everyone's shots were very accurate and on frame today...
Check out this video of the players reaction to Charlie and photos from day one of training below...
PHOTOS: Day 1 of Training in Charleston, South Carolina
A quiet hangs over Toyota Park. A grey monochrome colors the morning sky and a slushy snow blankets the ground. It’s winter in Chicago.
Behind the brick façade and deep in the bowels, a solitary figure works diligently to make-ready one of Toyota Park’s most renowned features – the field. It’s been 99 days since the Toyota Park pitch saw action and Toyota Park Turf Manager Eric Adkins has #cf97withdrawals.
Only 30 days until Opening Night at Toyota Park.
Don’t worry, Eric and his crew will have the pitch ready.
Very few people have meant as much to the soccer scene in Chicago as Frank Klopas.
Tonight Dave Kaplan goes in depth with the Fire manager to talk how he came to The Windy City and learn more about his intertwining soccer story with the Sting, U.S. Men's National Team, AEK Athens and of course the Fire over the past 30 years "Inside Look" (7:00pm CT on CSN Chicago).
CSNChicago.com's Len Ziehm previews the show here.
I'm pleased to announce that Saturday's preseason friendly vs. the San Jose Earthquakes at Harder Stadium in Santa Barbara, Calif. will stream live on Chicago-Fire.com beginning at 8pm CT/6pm PT.
The stream will mark the third of four preseason matches that have had live video coverage on Chicago-Fire.com this preseason.
As a reminder, all three Fire matches at the Carolina Challenge Cup later this month will also be carried live on Chicago-Fire.com. By the end of preseason, six of the team's seven total warmup matches will have been carried with live video while all seven will have had some type of live coverage.
Fire fans in Southern California can get tickets to Saturday's friendly for $12 (adults), $8 (youth). Click here to purchase.
Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson is in Honduras for this afternoon's opening Final Round CONCACAF qualifying match vs. los Catrachos (LIVE pre-game beginning at 2pm CT on beIN Sport).
It's unlikely Sean will see time in the match, much less even dress but the honor of being chosen is still great.
Check out video excerpts from Tuesday's pre-game press conference with head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and midfielder Michael Bradley here.
Also re-live the team's last visit to San Pedro Sula, a dramatic match in which the U.S. qualified for its sixth straight FIFA World Cup appearance, below:
What do musical acts The Talking Heads, the Rolling Stones and Paul Simon all have in common?
They’re all favorite musical stylings of Fire midfielder Jeff Larentowicz.
The Ginger Ninja waxes about his musical tastes with Jon Langford of The Chevin in a new piece to MLSsoccer.com called The Tuesday Top 10.
Preseason is always a lot of work and a lot of fun.
One of the best parts though is the ongoing saga of number choice throughout camp as players leave, new players come in.
Rolfe had worn the number through his first five seasons with the Fire but when he re-joined the side last April, Mexican legend Pavel Pardo had it.
“There was no need to try and shift things around then,” Rolfe told Chicago-Fire.com. “While 18 was good for me last year I thought that it would be a good idea to switch back to 17 when it became available.”
With Pardo’s retirement announcement last month, the opportunity arose and the league recently approved Rolfe’s change back to the numerals with which he’s scored 40 of his 48 Fire goals across all competitions.
Check out the impromptu and sort of awesome video of the first new "Rolfe 17" jersey being pressed by Assistant Equipment Manager Allan Araujo below...
NOTE: All-Time Fire #17s: Andrew Lewis, (1998-2001), Aleksey Korol (2002), Dipsy Selolwane (2002-2004), Rolfe (2005-2009), Davis Paul (2011), Pavel Pardo (2011-12), Rolfe (2013- )
With the #18 left vacant, renaissance Fire defender Steven Kinney jumped at the opportunity to switch from #28.
“My whole life I had been #18,” said Kinney. “Coming here the first year Mike Banner had it and through all my injuries I wasn’t going to be switching numbers. Then Rolfie came in and had it last year but when I heard him talk about switching to 17 I knew it was time to make my move.
Asked why #18 had always been his number, Kinney said, “It’s always just felt lucky for me. I would have done anything to get my hands on it.”
To be fair, he didn’t have to do too much.
NOTE: All-Time Fire #18s: Zach Thornton (1998-2004), Matt Pickens, (2005-2007), Mike Banner (2008-2010), Gaston Puerari (2011), Chris Rolfe (2012)
Stay tuned later this week for more updates on Fire squad numbers heading into 2013.
WATCH: Rolfe #17 is BACK!