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09 August 12:47 pm

Have you ever wondered what your favorite Fire players are like off the pitch? Well, we aim to please here at Always on the Inside. Each week we are going to sit down with a different player to get answers to those pesky Burning Questions.

It seemed appropriate to focus the first installment on a rookie, so we sat down with defender Hunter Jumper. A native of Plano, Texas, Hunter was selected 28th overall in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft out of the University of Virginia. Hunter was kind enough to answer our Burning Questions regarding talking trash, which Olympic sport he would take on, his celebrity crush and how to get the ladies, Hunter Jumper style. 

Always on the Inside: We just endured a brutally hot July. How is your farmer’s tan coming along?

Hunter Jumper: It’s actually quite absurd because we’ve been training in sleeveless shirts. If I wear a tank top or anything else, I still have a white spot on my chest. My arms are super tan and my body is just pale, Alaskan white, so it’s quite the farmer’s tan.

AOTI: The UVA Men’s Soccer schedule was recently released. Your Cavaliers face six teams for which some of your current teammates featured (Georgetown, Duke, UNC, VCU, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech). Are you planning on talking trash?

HJ: I’m not a big trash talker but I’ve been getting into it with Gargs quite a bit because our season opener is against Georgetown. It’s definitely going to be a fun season and it’ll definitely be fun to give the ACC guys a lot of trash because I think we have a really good team this year, so I probably will talk a good amount of trash.

AOTI: What word or phrase do you use way too often?

HJ: I say “no chance” a lot. If something happens or someone asks me a question, I’ll say, “No chance!” Other than that I say “y’all” religiously.

AOTI: For which Olympic sport (besides soccer) do you think you would be a medal contender?

HJ: I’ve always been a good ping pong player until I played Pat, so that put me in my place and was a humbling experience. I’m not a big swimmer. Maybe I’d compete in some sort of equestrian event. I could own a horse like Mitt Romney and have a horse dance around.

AOTI: Current celebrity crush?

HJ: For body I’ll go with Jessica Biel. I just watched the movie “Dark Knight Rises” and I just fell in love with Anne Hathaway. I think it was the role she played; she was awesome. Probably her because I live my life, about thirty percent of who I am is the last movie I saw.

AOTI: The team recently had two days off. How do you like to spend your free time?

HJ: I like to catch up on sleep because we have to wake up pretty early every day. On Tuesday me, Sean [Johnson], Austin [Berry], [Dan] Gargan and Orr [Barouch] all went and did hot yoga. It was my first experience with hot yoga. There were mirrors so that everybody could see everybody and I was shocked by how athletic these people were. We walked in and they were doing handstands and like one-armed stuff and I thought, ‘What did we get into?’

We found out that we ended up in an advanced level class and were only supposed to do beginner’s stretching. We got into the wrong class and it was the hardest thing ever. I fell like three times. But I’d absolutely do it again. We get a free month, so why not?

AOTI: There are a number of bro-mances on the team. Who is your best bud and what is your favorite thing to do together?

HJ: I get along really well with most of the guys so I can’t single anyone out. Obviously I’m with my roommates Austin and Tony [Walls] (right) a lot so most of the time we just go and watch movies and stuff together.

AOTI: You are Texan, born and bred. Have you had a chance to check out any of the barbeque places in Chicago and how do they compare?

HJ:  I haven’t had any barbeque here and I don’t really want to try it. My expectations are so high I’ll just let it be.

AOTI: You’re at a discotheque celebrating a Fire victory. Are you more likely to be in the middle of the dance floor or off to the side, surveying the scene?

HJ: It just depends. If I take my ADD medicine I’ll be more alert and I’ll probably be in the middle but if I don’t I’ll probably be on the outside. It just depends on what kind of day and how much energy I have.

AOTI: What’s your patented lady killer move?

HJ: I let girls talk most of the time. It’s pretty easy because most girls have tons of things to say. You can’t hear that well so most of the time I just nod and smile.

AOTI: What’s the theme song for the “Hunter Jumper: Rookie Year” reality show?

HJ:  I’m a big fan of Avicii so probably “Blessed” by Avicii.

AOTI: What is the best part about being a Fire rookie?

HJ: Carrying stuff, getting picked on, literally everything that you can imagine a rookie has to go to through, we have to do. 

Find out more Lady Killer moves from Hunter by following him on Twitter @HunterJumper_.

 

09 August 10:27 am

With his equalizer in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Toronto FC, Fire midfielder Marco Pappa moved into a tie for fourth on the club’s all-time regular season goals list with former captain Peter Nowak at 26.

Throughout his time with the Fire, the Guatemalan international has quietly moved up the goal chart, bagging more than half of his goals (14) in the last 18 months.

Sitting eighth at the start of 2012, Pappa began his ascendency up the chart this season by tying Nate Jaqua at 21 goals with his “Olimipico” on April 28 vs. Seattle. A week later, his late game-winner at Chivas moved him into a three-way tie for fifth with Damani Ralph and Dema Kovalenko at 22.

 

Pappa took over fifth place with another game-winner vs. Dallas on May 23 and built towards Nowak with goals vs. Columbus (June 23) at Sporting KC (June 29) before tying the former Polish international Saturday night.

Sitting six goals back of Josh Wolff at third place on the list (32), I pose this question: Can Marco pass Josh with 12 matches remaining in the 2012 campaign?

While Pappa has never scored more than eight goals in one single campaign, it’s important to also note that he’s never had six this early in a season.

History could be construed to be on Pappa’s side in this quest as well as he’s tallied 11 career goals against the team’s remaining opponents and has scored two goals each against the likes of D.C. United (who the Fire still play twice), Toronto FC, Sporting KC and Red Bull New York.

Two of those remaining 12 games also come against the two worst defenses in Major League Soccer in Montreal (43 goals conceded) and Toronto FC again (40). All he needs is six to tie…

What becomes more evident with Pappa is the team’s success rate when he finds the back of the net. Marco has tallied 26 goals in 23 matches and the team has earned points in 19 of those games, winning 13. Over the course of his time with the Men in Red, the Fire have only lost four times when he’s tallied, once in each season since 2009.

With the team already losing a match in which he’s scored this season, you can tie a lot to wanting to see Marco hit at least for six more goals before the end of the campaign.

So what do you think, can Marco do it? Vote to the right and comment below to give me your thoughts...

 

06 August 7:16 am

#6 - Chicago Fire 2, Tampa Bay Mutiny 0 -  April 4, 1998  -  MLS Regular Season Match  -  Soldier Field, Chicago, IL

In their first home match in Major League Soccer history, the Fire were taking on the now-defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny at Soldier Field. With a hearty crowd of 36,444, the Fire would deliver results on this spring night. Frank Klopas got the first goal of the match in the 43rd minute, with an assist from Zak Ibsen. Klopas would score again in the 88th to secure a brace and lead the Fire to their first home victory. The total combination of the inaugural home game, a 2-0 win, and two goals from the Fire’s future coach would make this a match to be remembered.

#5 - Chicago Fire 1, New England Revolution 0 - November 14, 2003  -  Eastern Conference Final  -  Soldier Field, Chicago, IL

The Fire outshot rivals New England Revolution 20 to 7 in this physical Eastern Conference Final. With neither side scoring in regular time, the match went into extra time. It took until the 101st minute for the Fire to score, off the back of a run from substitute Justin Mapp toward the goal line. Mapp cut the ball back, passing to the center of the six-yard box. Damani Ralph then attempted a weak shot, but it surely would have been saved without captain Chris Armas there to finish it off. At the time, the golden goal rule applied, meaning that the game was complete and the Fire were Eastern Conference champions.

#4  - Chicago Fire 2, Miami Fusion 1 -  October 21, 2000  -  Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final  -  Soldier Field, Chicago, IL

In the 44th minute, Fire legend Ante Razov broke past the Miami Fusion defense on a breakaway. After drawing out the goalkeeper and dribbling past him to the side of the six-yard box, Razov centered the ball to Hristo Stoitchkov. Soitchkov easily slid the ball past one defender to score the first goal of the match. Later, Fire favorite DaMarcus Beasley streamed down the left wing, beating his defender. Beasley put a low cross into the dangerous area in front of goal and Fusion defender Tyrone Marshall mistakenly knocked the ball into the net for an own goal. While the Fusion would grab a goal through Welton once before the match was finished, the Fire had put in enough effort to win the match, counting them as US Open Cup champions for the second time.

Stay tuned later this week for the final three matches in our #Fire15 Countdown... Check out our previous countdown videos below:

Memorable Matches 7-9
Memorable Matches 10-12
Memorable Matches 13-15

03 August 8:22 am

The last time both teams met, Toronto were without a win all season and went on to break MLS records for all the wrong reasons. With a change in coach came a change in fortune and now TFC are looking a much better side - winning three of their last four. I will briefly examine what's changed with TFC under Paul Mariner before identifying some tactical points to look out for during tomorrow's match:

Changes Under Coach Mariner:

The major difference between Winter and Mariner is the change in formation from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 system with a few variations. The 4-4-2 has brought some major changes in player positions which has helped Toronto tremendously.

 

COACH'S TAKE: Matko on TFC

 

Starting at the back, youngster Adam Eckersley has moved to center back from his outside position under Winter. Against Houston last week, Eckersley had a brilliant game, making many last ditch tackles and stepping in to win the ball off the toes of the Houston strikers. He’s formed a good partnership at heart of the defense with rookie Logan Emory.

Eckersley's move to the middle has allowed veteran Torsten Frings to take up his more suited position in the center of midfield.

In attack, former Fire player Ryan Johnson has moved from his wide position into a more central role. Johnson plays very well with his back to goal and is a lot better suited to a physical battle with a center back rather than trying to take on a defender on the outside. Johnson's form has softened the loss of Danny Koevermans to an ACL tear and his potential partnership with new striker Eric Hassli has the potential to make TFC's attack one of the most feared in MLS.

Set Pieces: New Coach, Same Old Threat

For all the changes that Paul Mariner has brought to TFC, one stalwart is the team's reliance of set pieces to create scoring chances.

Every time a TFC player is fouled within 50 meters of the opponent’s goal, the same thing happens: Torsten Frings will pick up the ball while the big boys trudge up from the back to take up a position in the opponent’s box. Frings's deliveries can be hit or miss but more often than not, he puts it in a dangerous area.

Frings also takes all of TFC's corners which also have a habit of wrecking havoc in the six-yard box. In Toronto's 5-1 win over Aguila Wednesday night in the CONCACAF Champions League, they scored one goal from a corner kick and had another goal called offside from a Frings free kick that was put in on a rebound.

The Fire back line and Sean Johnson have been criticized in the past for not dealing well with set pieces and though they have been defensively sound for most of the season, Toronto’s skill in dead ball situations will remain a major threat Saturday night.

Lack of Pace in the Middle: Take Advantage

Similar to the Fire, TFC has two defensive-minded central midfielders in Frings and Terry Dunfield. Their job is to sit in front of the back four but also provide support in attack whenever they can.

As mentioned earlier, Frings is often dragged forward to take set-pieces and this can be where TFC are most vulnerable.

Against Houston last week, TFC were caught multiple times on the counter attack, either from giving the ball away in the midfield or after an attacking set piece. Dunfield and Frings make up for their lack of pace by reading the game expertly - (similar to what Pavel Pardo does for the Fire) but unlike Pardo and Logan Pause, Dunfield and Frings have a tendency to get too far apart from each other on the pitch - something the Fire could exploit on Saturday night. 

Prediction: Chicago Fire 2, Toronto FC 0 with goals from Chris Rolfe and Patrick Nyarko

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

02 August 4:40 pm

Here at Always on the Inside we get a ton of fan mail (feel free to send some over! – 7000 S. Harlem Ave. Bridgeview, IL 60455) with all sorts of content ideas and things we can do to improve our fair blog. We recently got this piece of fan mail from a Sandy Hannan in Denver, CO:
 
Dear Jeff,
 
Love the blog. Long time listener and a huge fan of your work.
 
Thanks for always keeping us informed about everything happening in Chicago. I think of everyone who writes for Always on the Inside, you provide the most insight and really help us get to know the team.
 
I’m a big music fan and would love to know more about the players musical interest. What kind of stuff are they listening to right now? Can I find the tunes anywhere?
 
Hope all is well. I’ll send some snacks your way soon.
 
Toodles,
Sandy
 

Wait? Was that a letter from my Mom? Since Jeff is busy with some #Fire15 stuff, I thought I’d take a crack at putting together a music series. Each week Always on the Inside is going to focus on three tracks/albums that a #cf97 player is listening to currently. Put the tracks between your headphones with Muve Music, if you’re so inclined. For the first addition we caught up with aspiring rap lyricist and resident beat-bopper Tony Walls. Without further ado, here’s Between the Headphones:
 

Always on the Inside: What type of stuff are you listening to right now?
 
Tony Walls: The first album is "Self Made Vol. 2" which is by Maybach Music Group which is headed by Rick Ross and two of his most popular artists -Meek Mill and Wale.

Overall, it's up tempo with really nice beats, something to bob your head to and stuff that you can play not only before training but also before games. They're really clever and good with wordplay.

 Another track is "Take Care" by Drake, even though it is older. I would have to say Drake is one of my favorite artists right now. He does a really good job, I know it sounds corny, painting a mental picture and an image in your head when he's rapping. A lot of the situations he talks about, I can relate to actually. Not just with women, but with growing up.

He does a really good job of talking about his childhood and struggles he went through with his parents. I can relate to his music and he can sing. He has a really good voice.
 
I'm also listening to Meek Mill, who I mentioned before. His mixtape is called "Dreamchasers 2". I like Meek Mill because, similar to Drake, he raps about a lot of day-to-day situations. He's all about motivation and staying focused toward the goals you want reach in life, which is important to me and relevant to where I am right now.

That mixtape is one of my favorites right now. The lyrics are easy to listen to and he has a smooth flow.
 
AOTI: What do you get out of listening to music, especially these albums?
 
It's not necessarily to escape reality. It's something to get you amped up, pumped up before a game. I think that's why a lot of people listen to music. You do get lost in the music. A lot of music paints a mental image.
 
AOTI: What did you listen to growing up?
 
TW: I've always been into rap music. My neighbors, who were like older brothers to me got me listening to it. I've always liked Biggie, he's one of my favorite artists. I've always been surrounded by it growing up. 
I'm not close-minded to other music, though.

I listen to a little bit of Gavin DeGraw, a little bit of Lauryn Hill. My little sister is really musically diverse so she got me on a little Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber. So I try to stay open-minded, but rap is my first choice for sure.

 

 

27 July 9:58 am

The Fire play the Supporters Shield leaders San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night at Buck Shaw Stadium. Here are a few things to look out for from a tactical standpoint…

Outside Backs: San Jose’s Biggest Threat?

 

COACH'S TAKE: Matko on Quakes

 

When people think of the ‘Quakes, everyone’s mind wanders straight to 17-goal striker Chris Wondolowski. Unfortunately for the Fire, San Jose is far from a one-trick pony. Saturday night the team has another date with a league-leading side in the Golden State but they’ll head north of Carson to take on the high-flying San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium.
 
Two of the Earthquakes biggest threats come in the form of their wingbacks, Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow. Beitashour, who has six assists this year, is suspended for Saturday’s match but this will not stop the ‘Quakes from pushing their full backs forward at every opportunity. They look to get in 2v1 situations which allow them space to cross into the middle for the ever-dangerous trifecta of Wondowski Steven Leinhart and Alan Gordon.  
 
Last week, Vancouver allowed Morrow and Beitashour to get behind on too many occasions with Morrow in particular causing problems down the left wing. Marco Pappa’s suspension means we will likely see Chris Rolfe and Patrick Nyarko playing in the wide positions for the Fire. Both Rolfe andNyarko are very good at tracking back and helping out the wide defenders – something that will be essential in thwarting San Jose on Saturday.
 
Outside Backs: San Jose’s Biggest Weakness?

With six more goals scored than any other team in the league this season and two in-form strikers, San Jose just can’t stop scoring. That being said, the team’s 44 goals eclipse the fact that they have given up 27. Of the teams currently in playoff positions, only New York and the Galaxy have given up more. 

Last week’s loss to Vancouver exposed one of San Jose’s biggest weaknesses which also happens to be one of Fire’s greatest strengths: speed. Though Morrow had a good game on the attacking side, he was punished time after time by Dane Richards whose goal came directly from a Morrow error.

On the right hand side, San Jose will be without Beitashour for the first time all season which could pay dividends for the Men in Red. The pace of the Fire’s Ghanaian duo of Nyarko and Oduro could cause San Jose some major problems on the outside. Because the outside backs push up so much, there is plenty of room behind them for Oduro to run into. When he does go wide however, it requires the other attack-minded players Rolfe, Alex and Nyarko to get into the box in support.

Wondo and Gordon: Stay Tight

A major reason San Jose is sitting at the top of MLS this season are the goals from Wondolowski (17), Gordon (9) and Lenhart (6). The Quakes don’t  set up their strikes the traditional way, with one on the shoulder off the last defender looking for flick-ons from the target man. Wondolowski and Gordon/Lenhart are constantly switching positions; dropping back into midfield and drifting wide. The interchanging of positions causes major problems for defenders and is one reason why you see Wondolowski score so many simple goals (think Fire vs. San Jose last season) - even though he is the obvious danger man, his movement makes him so difficult to pick up.

The other reason is that San Jose attack in such great numbers that it allows Wondo to go undetected. It sounds simple to say “stay with your man” or “keep your eye on the man and not the ball” but that’s exactly what the Fire need to do. 

Using last week’s game as an example again, Jay DeMerit didn't let him out of his sight for almost the entire match to great effect. The Fire's defensive performances have been stellar this season we and should expect nothing less from Austin Berry and co on Saturday night.
 
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @Irish_Steve.

 

26 July 4:03 pm

Soccer and fashion have long been intertwined. 

It’s the application of creative expression – a darting run through three defenders on the way to goal or a bespoken three-piece suit and snappy pair of socks. 
 
The list of sartorialists has ranged from the free-wheeling, large collars of George Best, the measured dapperness of David Beckham and Pep Guardiola’s mastery of the sweater, skinny tie combo. 
 
Perhaps the intersection of soccer and style can be attributed to the fact that soccer jerseys can be worn out and about and not just on the field of play. The effervescence of canary yellow against the background of caipirinhas and drum circles, the stark white simplicity of the Three Lions in the corner of a dingy pub or the brightness of the Oranje walking along a path of the Vondelpark in Amsterdam.  (Note: I’ve tried to rock my 1995 purple Damon Stoudamire Toronto Raptors jersey in public – not a good look). 
 
In what other sport are Cristiano Ronaldo’s short shorts so widely revered (see www.kickette.com) and detested? Who but Gigi Buffon, an Italian goalkeeper, could make a snood (fancy word for neck scarf) a fashion statement? 
 
In this edition of Touchline TV, we tag along with Fire midfielders Corben Bone and Daniel Paladini to Chicago’s Trunk Club (www.trunkclub.com) to see how style takes shape and pick up a few helpful hints on how to match our shirts and trousers. 
 
Hopefully this helps us at Always on the Inside become cool (er, cooler?).

TOUCHLINE TV: Daniel and Corben's Summer Style
 
 
 
 
 
26 July 10:24 am

Happy birthday to Fire midfielder Pavel Pardo who's still going strong in the middle of the park for the Chicago Fire. Today also happens to be the one-year anniversary of el Presidente joining the club.

Coming off the heels of the succesful canoli for Paolo Tornaghi's birthday last month, we at the Fire presented Pavel with a piñata before training this morning.

Always the professional, the longtime Mexican international looked at the gift, smiled and said, "I'll take it home for the kids."

Win-win for everyone!

¡Feliz cumpleaños Pavel!

 

23 July 10:17 am

 

In our third installment of the #Fire15 Memorable Matches countdown, we look back to the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinal vs. New England, the 2003 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final at the MetroStars and the 2001 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal at LA Galaxy. 

#9 - Chicago Fire 2, New England Revolution 0 - November 7, 2009  -  Eastern Conference Semifinals, Second Leg  -  Toyota Park, Bridgeview, IL

 In the first leg of the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Revolution defeated the Fire 2-1 at Gillette Stadium. In the 35th minute, Marco Pappa received the ball in the box, feinted past one defender, then laid the ball off to John Thorrington, who shot it low into the New England goal. The superb crowd of 21,528 roared in response to the aggregate equalizer. In the 82nd minute, Patrick Nyarko beat his marker near the corner flag and rushed parallel to the goal line toward the box. After drawing out the keeper, Nyarko nutmegged another defender and passed short to Cuauhtemoc Blanco. Blanco took a short step forward and lifted the ball up to the top right corner to push the Fire to the Eastern Conference Final.

 

#8 - Chicago Fire 1, MetroStars 0 - October 15, 2003  -  US Open Cup Final  -  Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ

The 2003 US Open Cup Final took place at Giants Stadium, where the field was lined with football markings. In the 68th minute, Evan Whitfield broke in from the right sideline through the end zone, centering the ball to Damani Ralph. The Jamaican forward needed only one touch to slide the ball around MetroStars goalkeeper Jonny Walker. The Fire would only need one goal to be rewarded with the US Open Cup for the third time.

#7 - Chicago Fire 2, LA Galaxy 1 (aet) - August 23, 2000  -  US Open Cup Semifinal  -  Titan Stadium, Fullerton, California

This physical match resulted in a total of 12 yellow cards between both sides. Fire defender Carlos Bocanegra earned a red card in the 51st minute, putting the Fire down a man. LA Galaxy icon Cobi Jones would score the opening goal in the 79th minute. Down to ten men and trailing by a goal, it surely seemed that the Fire’s run in this US Open Cup was extinguished. However, the Men in Red rallied through Fire legend Ante Razov, scoring in the 85th minute. With the score level, the match went into added time and in the extra frame the Fire would lose captain Peter Nowak after Luis Hernandez purposely stepped on his face but referee Sergio Vega only produced a yellow card. Still without Nowak the Fire strung together 10 passes before Josh Wolff buried a rebound to send the side to its second U.S. Open Cup final in three seasons.

 

17 July 10:52 am

A midday, midweek match in mid-July Jersey humidity doesn’t seem like the greatest idea in the world but, that’s what will occur Wednesday afternoon as the Fire visit the New York Red Bulls in Harrison, New Jersey.

While the kickoff time gives the game a bit of a Chicago Cubs at Wrigley feel, I did a non-scientific survey of Fire players Monday to see if they’d ever played a game of significance in the middle of a week day.

Cory Gibbs: “No.”
Corben Bone: “No.”
Austin Berry: “No.”
Jalil Anibaba: “No.”

Though the topics couldn’t be more different, the responses put together began to sound like a certain Amy Winehouse song.

Fire captain Logan Pause came to the rescue with this answer, “Midweek, midday? Maybe in youth soccer. I don’t think in college we even played midweek games in the middle of the day so I'm sure Wednesday will be a first for most of the guys.”

Part of that is likely because playing in the middle of the day in summer heat doesn’t necessarily make for good soccer. For those wondering why the kickoff is set for 12pm CT (1pm local time), the Red Bulls are going back to experiment with a “Camp Day” looking to attract summer camps to Red Bull Arena Wednesday afternoon.

As this article from BigAppleSoccer.com’s Michael Lewis points out, it’s something the team’s precursor, the MetroStars, did in a match against Kansas City back in 2003. The result for the Wizards Jimmy Conrad and the Metros Edgar Bartholomeu weren’t great

Luckily for both sides Red Bull Arena’s grass field is not the Giant’s Stadium turf, which should make things a little bit cooler in a match that is absolutely considered a “swing game” with the Fire sitting just one point behind New York in the Eastern Conference standings.

“Wednesday is obviously an important game despite the weird time and whatever heat we have to deal with,” said Pause. “Either way, the way our schedule goes through the summer – midweek, weekend -- I honestly lose track of the days.”

PREVIEW: Fire vs. Red Bulls