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Chicago Fire

24 July 1:12 pm

On Tuesday, July 9, a Chicago Fire fan forwarded a Yahoo! article to owner Andrew Hauptman that included a detailed account of a young fan who wanted to meet soccer superstar Lionel Messi on his birthday only to be left disappointed. 

Upon further digging, it turned out, he wasn’t the only one.  A group of approximately 75 fans had paid a premium for a meet and greet at the July 6 Messi & Friends event at Soldier Field that ultimately didn’t come to be.  Learning more about this group, the Fire owner’s immediate response was to find a way to contact these fans and invite them for a true, VIP experience at an upcoming Chicago Fire game. 

Through a little help from Dirty Tackle’s Brooks Peck, an introduction was made, and then an invite was extended for those fans to be a guest of Andrew’s for last Saturday’s match against D.C. United. And while not everyone could attend, with some traveling from California, DC, Toronto and even as far as England for the original game, the Fire welcomed 16 fans to Toyota Park that night. 

After a quick tour of the Park, a trip on field and even to the locker room, the guests enjoyed the game from the Second Star Club. The 4-1 win over United was the icing on the cake.  Many of the fans were truly grateful for the invitation; calling it a “bright spot in all of this drama.”

One of the families shared this note with the Club after the game:

“…My family and I would like to thank you for yesterday's awesome tickets.  We had such a wonderful time and we won't forget it, ever.  Please thank Mr. Andrew Hauptman for everything that he did for us. This was a beautiful experience.  Looks like we'll be season ticket holders starting next year. Thank you!”

Don’t forget, the Fire is still offering anyone with proof of purchase to the July 6 Messi & Friends event at Soldier Field a 50 percent discount on a ticket to the Aug. 7 Chicago Fire vs. D.C. United Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Semifinal match. All discounted ticket offers must be redeemed at the Toyota Park Box Office only. Inquiries regarding the discount can be directed to 1-888-MLS-FIRE.

24 July 12:56 pm

I’ve always thought it odd that sports falls into the category of entertainment business. Sure people pay to watch it, same as all entertainment, and there are “actors”, agents, venues and all that. But when you’re emotionally attached, soccer feels like more than merely entertainment. “Entertainment” feels a little shallow, I think of county fair tents, while sports can feel like everything in the world.

Take the idea of “Sport”: Roman, high, physically extreme, competition; and the idea of “Entertainment”: Amusement, fun, pleasure.

But it’s not fair to separate the two quite so fast. I did a Twitter search for “R Kelly tears” after his highly lauded Pitchfork set on Sunday night and remembered that in music, too, people live for what happens on stage. You get caught up with performers and players, you put your expectations on them, you live through them, and when they stand up and return everything in performance, the exaltation is real and thorough and spiritual.

The word performance is interesting. We say players “perform” well (or not) the same way we do about musicians and actors. I suppose the main difference between performing and just, well, doing something, is that performances require an audience. And it’s the audience that makes the show, right? Nobody believes in your work unless you do it in front of a crowd, and the Pope in the woods isn’t selling tickets.

Something about those moments in a performance, when players and audience are one, when expectations are met and then exceeded, time speeds up and slows down, the moment stretches out into something like a feeling, and everything is right again. Whether it’s a band onstage or a team on a field, those encores, those goals, they make us bigger.

Performances are entertainment, and injecting competition into performances only makes them more so. A friend once told me that she had no problem going to youth swim meets; she found them entertaining because she just liked to watch races.

So among all the clamor this weekend about fancy players in town for Pitchfork and the Fire readying to bring in a new Designated Player, the team hosted a D.C. side Saturday night that is absolutely reeling. And the Fire handled business. The most “entertaining” factor in it all, though, was seeing Chris Rolfe grab a couple goals. 

 
 
 

I mean, your sister loves Chris Rolfe, we all love Chris Rolfe (you saw his cute reaction to Section 8’s song for him after his first goal, right?), and he was in desperate need for some goals because, let’s face it, you can’t make a career playing up top and not scoring in this league. And it’s not like he wasn’t trying, he leads the team in shots, we see his work rate game after game, but now it looks like Rolfe is finally starting to get in that rhythm where the goal looks all big and goalies are just annoying impediments. His finishes have that quick, confident feel about them again.

It was cathartic to see the elation after his first goal, right in front of Section 8. Rolfe’s been at it for a while, he’s been on more than a few tours, and we all want him to succeed and meet the expectations we put on him. It’s the life of a performer, I guess, to have to deal with not only the usual pressure one puts on oneself, or that a coach puts on, but to face the crowd’s expectations too. Like R. Kelly did on Sunday, and like all great performers, Rolfe stepped up in the moment and made it something bigger, something that we could all share in, and that’s entertainment at its best.

 

 

24 July 11:23 am

MLS Player of the Week, Goal of the Week nominee, the accolades just keep on coming for Chris Rolfe, but why not? His fourty-fifth minute brace completing goal from Joel Lindpere's perfect placement can only be described with one word... Sick.

That's why MLSsoccer.com's Greg Lalas breaks it down in this week's Anatomy of a Goal.

23 July 1:41 pm

Join Daniel Paladini, Gonzalo Segares, and Patrick Nyarko next Thursday July 25th from 6-8pm at Molly’s Cupcakes located at 2536 N. Clark Street in Lincoln Park.

Come by and see the Men in Red serve up your favorite cupcakes including the “Chicago Fire Velvet Swirl”. For each Fire Swirl cupcake sold, $1 will go back to the Chicago Fire Foundation.

Molly’s will match all tips collected during the evening with proceeds benefiting the Chicago Fire Foundation.

21 July 2:32 pm

Select shots from the Chicago Fire Season Ticket Holder Meet the Team event.

21 July 12:21 am
Quote Sheet
Chicago Fire vs. D.C. United
Toyota Park – Bridgeview, Ill. – July 20, 2013
 
Frank Klopas, Chicago Fire Head Coach
 
On what came together tonight and the team’s momentum
 
“The difference tonight was just finishing our chances. We had chances the last game and it was important how we would respond. So I think this was a crucial game we were playing, regardless of where this team is in the standings. They have quality players and you can’t underestimate anyone and I felt that the fast goals helped. We had chances, we put the chances away, and we defended very well as a team. We did very well as a team and I give a lot of credit to my players for the effort, the attitude they put into the game and their commitment over 90 minutes. I think this is a crucial part for us in the season, the next six weeks there are a lot of games we need to pick up points to be in that race and then we also have an opportunity in the semi final Open Cup game to be one step closer to where we can be playing for a championship, to win that trophy. It’s a crucial month, six weeks, and its important now at home to get points and also find a way to get points on the road. It was a great effort by the group today.”
 
On Joel Lindpere’s play tonight
 
“We started him at Columbus and he did the same. It’s about the team, I just felt that everyone had a good performance, they played well, and we won as a team today and that’s what it’s all about. We have talked throughout the season about guys needing to [perform] when the opportunity comes and Joel is an experienced guy. I had no problem. I have 100 percent confidence in Joel when he comes into the game and his work rate and all that stuff he showed tonight. It was a very good performance by the team and I give credit to the team so we need to obviously move forward. It was an important win for us and now we have to regroup and get ready for a top match next week because this game is over. We have to prepare for the game in Houston now.”
 
On Dilly Duka’s leaving the game and Quincy Amarikwa coming in for him
 
“At halftime Dilly [Duka] didn’t really say anything and when I came out they were warming up and preparing for the second half and he said that he had an issue with his hamstring or his groin, we will have to see tomorrow. Quincy [Amarikwa], that decision, we knew scoring the third goal, we knew that they were going to push the game. Both the goals came on a break for us and we felt that with his pace, they were trying to push the game and get back into it. We knew we would have space to play into depth. He is a guy that brings energy, his work rate, and his pace to get behind helps. Moments like that he’s been good and he’s played well, not only the times he’s come in, but also in the reserve matches. I think that is positive for him and also for the rest of the guys.”
 
On if any reserve player is really standing out
 
“We just have to see. Obviously [this week] we don’t have a mid-week game we just have to really see with injuries more than anything and see how guys are feeling through this week.”
 
On the challenges of integrating a player while maintaining team chemistry
 
“I think it’s important when you bring a guy in that he fits in with the group, that he can adapt quickly and it’s all about the team. That player has to realize that he has to sacrifice and do anything he can for the team. For us, that’s the most important thing when we bring a guy in.”
 
On Chris Rolfe’s performance
 
“It was great. I thought Chris [Rolfe] had opportunities last game and I think both goals were great finishes, and I think his movement was very good. The first ball that Joel [Lindpere] played to him, his movement; it was just a fantastic goal. The second one also came on a break through ball and his finish [was great]. Chris has that kind of quality. I think more than anything today, besides his goals, his work rate was fantastic. You can play him out wide he’s willing to do the work. When you have him on top he’s very dangerous, he’s a very technical player. And when you get him around the goal he makes plays like that. I think that the goals and his movement today was fantastic and I was very happy for him to rebound from last week and some of the opportunities he’s had.”
 
Chris Rolfe, Chicago Fire forward
 
On his first goal:
 
“I think our combination play was really good tonight, we had a lot of three men combinations and the timing was on for the most part. I got behind a few times, Mike [Magee] got in once and Dilly [Duka] was beating his guy – it was a good first half in particular.”
 
On converting an early opportunity for a goal:
 
“It helps the whole team.  We have all been talking about how important it was for us to score first, and then we ended up getting the second one in the first 15 minutes – that changes the whole outlook of the game for us.”
 
On Joel Lindpere’s performance:
 
“Joel [Lindpere] had a great game coming in again after not playing in the last couple. He is really stepping up and helping the team, I’m happy for him.”
 
On Lindpere’s off-field contributions:
 
“Like most of the guys in this locker room, he’s had a great team spirit, he’s been very positive and that helps. It shows when he comes in tonight and does a great job.”
 
On the potential of the team bringing in another striker and its affect on his performance:
 
“It doesn’t affect it at all.  If anything it’s exciting.  I hope they do bring in another guy if it’s going to help the team win.  I think it’s important for any team or organization to bring talent in to make us more competitive.”
 
Joel Lindpere, Chicago Fire Midfielder
 
On his performance tonight
 
"Wednesday, in the reserve game I gave an assist, last game, in Vancouver, I gave an assist, Columbus I gave an assist, so I think I've been doing my job how I like to do it and how I have to do it. I love to play so if you can enjoy playing, then it’s a good thing."
 
On the difficulties of staying ready when he isn't starting
 
"I don’t know when I didn't play three games from the start. But that means I'm doing my job. I think I've been starting most of my career but that’s the way it is. It's a team game. Like I said, I will try to find myself always to do my job and help the team. It doesn't matter if I start next game or I don’t start, I really hope that we take something for the road trip from this game. We have won only one road game and with the season at this point we have to be smart. For next week we need to concentrate because we don't play at home. Home advantage is so big and we have to get a good start for this game.”

Ben Olsen, D.C. United Head Coach
On the positives from the match:
 
“[The goal] is a bright spot, I suppose.  It was a good goal.  It’s good to get him off the mark.  It was just a day where no one on our team had a good day.”
 
On the team playing better in the second half:
 
“Yes, but it was 3-0 at that point.  It’s easy to have momentum and play with nothing to lose when it’s 3-0.  I’m looking for us to play for nothing to lose from the start.  We learned some lessons tonight.  I think some of our young guys learned a lot tonight, so maybe that’s a positive.  Chicago was very good tonight.  I don’t want to make this about us too much because that would take away from the performance of Chicago.  I thought Rolfe and Magee’s relationship is becoming very clever.  They’re both bright players.  They get it.  They play off each other very well right now.  They are tough to deal with.  We just didn’t have an answer for those two.  And then you give up an early goal, and you’re chasing the game the whole time.  It’s a tough team to chase because the weapons they have up top.  All credit to them.  They were very good tonight.”
 
On facing New England:
 
“We’ll regroup.  We’ve had a lot of losses this year.  We will continue to regroup, and continue to try and get better.  Again, I think the positive is for some of our young guys tonight that went into a tough place to play and learned some lessons.  As long as we can learn from that stuff, I think we’ll move forward.”
 
John Thorrington, D.C. United Midfielder and Captain
 
On the match:
 
“The only positive I see is that I hope we remember what this feels like and I hope it never happens again.  [We played] not good enough.  Didn’t carry out our game plan, not enough guys ready to do what it takes to win a game.  It’s not just coincidence that we won two games this year.  It hurts.  It sucks.  It hurts the coaches, it hurts the players, but it’s no good for us to hurt now, the game is done.  We lost 4-1.  I guess you could say there were some moments where we played well, but when you give up four goals, you just have to play like Barcelona and we didn’t.”
 
On playing games now like the team has nothing to lose:
 
“I don’t see why we aren’t already.  Given where we are in the table, a game should matter more to us more than anybody in the league, so it doesn’t matter who we are playing against, they are above us in the table.  We should be fighting and scrapping for every point get can get at this point.  Tonight wasn’t our night.  I’ve been on a lot of teams in the league, I know this isn’t a bad group of players, I know it’s not a bad coaching staff, I know there is something here but for whatever reason it hasn’t been working.  We’ve showed signs in the last month so maybe we can start a bit of a turn around.  Tonight it’s hard to see a silver lining.”
 
Luis Silva, D.C. United Forward
 
On his goal:
 
“I was asking for the ball and Perry saw me in a good hole, right in the middle.  I knew I had time and space, so why not try it.  I decided to take the shot, and it went in.”
 
On breaking the shut out:
 
“Yes, it was [a relief].  We needed a goal and to stay in the game and we got it.  I think we played well in the second half.”
 
On the team’s play in the second half:
 
“I think we came out really slow and they ran at us.  They got their chances and they put them away.  I think in the second half we came out with more energy, and we felt the game was equal.  We had to take our chances.”
 
On facing New England:
 
“We have the right tools; we just have to put them together.  We have to work as a team, defending as a team, and attack as a team as well.  We know it’s 11 versus 11, and if we do our job, if everyone does their job, we’ll be fine.”
20 July 10:26 pm

Select shots from the Fire's 4-1 win over D.C. United.

CREDIT: Brian Kersey Chicago Fire

20 July 11:06 am

Long before he reached U.S. Men's National Team and Roma fame, Michael Bradley was just a kid running around Fire training watching the likes of Piotr Nowak, Hristo Stoichkov and Ante Razov kick around.

On Friday night, MLS Insider told the story of Michael's young years around the teams his father managed before becoming a professional at age 16 with the MetroStars.

Watch the segment below and catch the full edition of MLS Insider Episode 5 by clicking here.

19 July 9:07 am

The Fire head back to Toyota Park on Saturday evening after a disappointing display in Vancouver last weekend, giving up three second half goals to the Whitecaps. D.C. come to town (LIVE 7pm CT on My50) after last playing out a 0-0 draw in Colorado on July 7. With D.C. sitting last in the East and the Fire slipping back from the playoff positions in recent weeks, this game is extremely important.

 Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective.

Team defense – be wary of quick transitions

In last weekend’s match against Vancouver, individual errors were again to blame for the Fire not coming back with any points but the team’s defending in transition also left something to be desired.

When the Fire turn the ball over, it is up to the team as a whole to defend, obviously not just the back four. D.C. will be looking to catch the Fire on the break as much as possible and when this happens, Fire players, most notably the outside defenders must turn attack into defense.

READ: Pause likely to be back for D.C.

Against Vancouver last weekend, the Whitecaps first goal came from a quick transition from a corner where the Fire were caught with too many players up the field. The Men in Red should be able to create multiple chances against D.C. and while getting forward and coming up with chances is important, the players must not neglect their defensive responsibilities.

DC getting back to full strength – DeLeon and Porter return

Athletico Coaching Corner on D.C. 

Over the past few matches, D.C. United have been without two of their start players, Nick DeLeon and Kyle Porter due to injury and international duty respectively. Both look set to return to the team on Saturday night which will be a big boost to the Black and Red.

Though still raw, Porter’s crossing and 1v1 abilities make him one of the best up-and-coming wingers in MLS, while DeLeon’s creativity in the attack is also a major threat. D.C. have only scored eight goals this season but Porter and DeLeon have either scored or assisted in three of those.

That may sound like a small number but when you’ve only scored eight, contributing to three makes you responsible for almost half of the teams goals!  

Because D.C. plays with one recognized striker, the emphasis is on players like DeLeon and Porter to get forward and support the lone striker whenever possible. The more the Fire can isolate both players and not allow them to link with the lone striker and withdrawn forward Chris Pontious, the better.

Targeting the middle two – getting past Kitchen and Thorrington

D.C. plays a system with two recognized defensive midfielders, presumed Saturday night to be John Thorrington and Perry Kitchen. Unlike Vancouver, whose three central midfielders often get forward to support the attacking three, D.C.’s pair are very much holding midfielders.

Both players sit in front of the back four to provide cover which makes D.C. a very difficult team to break down. There are times however when one of the central two is dragged wide, leaving space in the middle to exploit. When this happens, players like Alex must step forward and take advantage.

READ: Johnson keeping tabs on Fire from USMNT camp

Recognizing when these opportunities present themselves and quicker switches of the point of attack from the wing to the middle are things I am looking to see on Saturday night.

After the last home match against Kansas City, Mike Magee criticized his teammates for not getting forward in larger numbers in the second half when the team was down.

If the Fire can get more people forward and force Kitchen and Thorington into 2v1 situations, the team will create chances.

Prediction: 3-0 Fire with goals from Magee, Nyarko and Alex  

16 July 11:35 am

And here the Fire go into the second half of the season, now suddenly in a losing streak, with as many questions swirling around everybody as there were in March. Last week I wrote about how the Fire have an opportunity to define their season, but it’s games like Sunday’s in Vancouver that show how this Fire team this year, for good or for bad, just refuses to be defined.
 
There are a million ways to look at games like Sunday’s. I mean, the Fire lost. They didn’t score when they had the chances, they gave up three goals, and they didn’t get any points. Those are the facts that count, sure, but games are never completely comprehensible in a quantitative way, and, especially as we all try to figure out the true identity of this team, the mysteries are confounding.
 
Was Sunday’s game as bad as the score line looked? Or did the Fire not get all they deserved? Was the lineup wrong? Or was the lineup fine but certain plays didn’t go the Fire’s way, that’s life, etc.? Let’s look a bit closer…
 
View 1: The Fire died in the second half, gave up three goals in 20 minutes, and couldn’t muster a comeback.
View 2: The Fire stood up against a plastic pitch and hostile atmosphere, dominated the first half and were unlucky not to score, then broke down against Vancouver’s momentum after Camillo’s first goal (which was brilliant and would’ve come off against anyone.)
 
View 1: The Fire’s defense is too exposed and the additions of Soumare and Francis, as well as moving Anibaba out wide, couldn’t keep Vancouver at bay.
View 2: The Fire’s defense has cut down the blatant mistakes we saw earlier this season, Segares was suspended, first choice goalie Sean Johnson is with the USMNT, defenses take time to gel, it’s hardly the end of the world, none of Vancouver’s goals were due to terrible defending or mistakes.
 
View 1: Sunday’s result makes sense because the Fire haven’t been strong away from Toyota Park.
View 2: One of the Fire’s best results this year was a scrappy away draw at RSL in May.
 
View 1: Klopas’ second half subs aren’t making a difference the way they used to.
View 2: The gist of the substitutions - refreshing center midfielders and providing more options up front (see Lindpere, Quincy, and Maicon) - are exactly the same as they were when they changed games in the unbeaten run. Also, without Paladini and Pause in Vancouver, he had fewer options.
 
View 1: Magee’s hot run is over.
View 2: Magee created multiple chances in the first half, just missed the back post twice in the second, had a shot blocked later, and was generally all over the place and annoying for Vancouver.

And so on...
So - was the Fire’s unbeaten run a fluke? Were the losses against KC and Vancouver proof that the Fire can’t convert against the best in MLS? Did the additions of Magee and Soumare, the resurgence of Duka-Rolfe-Nyarko trio, and the presence of Larentowicz all flame out?
 
OR: Did tough-fought results against Portland and RSL prove that the Fire can fight against anyone in the league? Maybe back-to-back losses against KC (the best team in the East) and at Vancouver (one of the hardest places to play in MLS) aren’t totally surprising, even for top teams? Maybe the Fire lost to a brilliant goal and a tough atmosphere/pitch, were unlucky not to score a handful themselves, and should just wash themselves of this game and move on?
 
In other words, there are no answers. I don’t think the Fire were dominated in Vancouver. But they lost. If the Fire had converted one of their first half chances, maybe Vancouver loses some confidence, and the Fire come away with some points. If not for Camillo’s second goal, the ball didn’t manage to squeeze past three Fire players, and the Fire equalize, who knows?
 
The “if” game is tough. One could say that the best way to address is that is to decisively remove all “if”s, convert the chances, not give up goals and be champions -- end of story. Fair, but maybe the best approach this year is to embrace what this team is. Maybe this year’s Fire is defined by a transient identity, a team finding itself through wins, losses, and draws. Maybe that’s what’s best about them?