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Chicago Fire

04 February 7:09 pm

A quick update on unsigned players currently with the team in Ventura, Calif...

Unsigned holdovers from Ave Maria
James Belshaw – GK – Supplemental Draft
Alec Kann – GK – Trialist
Neal Kitson – GK – Trialist
John Gallagher – DF – Supplemental Draft
Rauwshan McKenzie – DF – Trialist
Yazid Atouba – MF – SuperDraft Pick

*Note that while not listed, forward Colin Rolfe picked up an injury during the Columbus friendly last week. The former Houston Dynamo draftee won’t be with the team in Ventura but will re-join the squad in Charleston.

Players Departed:
Rich Balchan – DF – Trialist
Caleb Konstanski – DF – Supplemental Draft Pick
Eric Robertson – DF – Trialist
Trialist #1 - MF - Trialist

New Trialists for Phase Two

Blake Brettschneider; Forward (D.C. United, New England Revolution)
If it seems like you just saw Brettschneider, that’s because he was on trial with the Crew, playing against the Fire in last Wednesday’s friendly. The South Carolina alum has made a habit of earning a spot on an MLS rosters in preseason, impressing D.C. United (2011) and New England Revolution (2012).

Like Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson, Brettschneider is also from Lilburn, Ga. and attended rival high school Parkview High School

Dailos Tejera; Forward (Conquense; Spanish Tercera Division)
A 22-year-old midfielder/forward that played in the Spanish second division with Conquense before being relegated after the 2011-12 season.

Kevin Mercado; Forward (LDU Quito; Ecuador)
One of two players on trial from LDU Quito, Mercado is an 18-year-old forward who made it into five matches during LDU’s 2012 campaign in Ecuador.

Jose Alexander Pabon Midfielder (LDU Quito; Ecuador)
The other trialist from LDU Quito, the 21-year-old Pabon has been with the club’s first team since 2010, appearing in 13 matches in midfield.

There are also two other new trialists that for discovery reasons will remain unnamed… Call them Trialist #3 and Trialist #4. 

04 February 10:40 am

Five things you should know about the newest member of the Fire, Dilly Duka.

1) He's Albanian-American and his name is short for "Dilaver".

2)  Dude's also got the Twitter machine, follow @D_Duka11.

3) A product of Montville, NJ, Duka came up in the New York Red Bulls Academy and went to Rutgers for two years before signing a Generation adidas contract and being selected eighth overall by Columbus in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft.

4) He scored a ridiculous goal from the left wing for the U.S. U-20’s in the 66th minute of the team’s 4-1 win over Cameroon at the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Championships in Egypt. (See video below, start at 2:45).

5) The trade to the Fire reunites him with U.S. U-20 teammate Sean Johnson. Check out a great flashback shot of Sean Johnson beginning at 42 seconds of at video….

WATCH: Dilly Duka Scores Impressive Goal at 2009 U-20 World Cup

04 February 8:38 am

Though he didn’t have all that much to do in the U.S. Men’s National Team’s 0-0 friendly draw vs. Canada last week, it seems clear the Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson remains in Jurgen Klinsmann’s plans after being one of three goalkeepers called in for Wednesday’s CONCACAF Final Round World Cup qualifier at Honduras (LIVE 3pm CT on beIN Sport).

The summons means Johnson will miss most of the team’s second phase of preseason camp in Ventura, Calif. but nearly a month of training with the national team won’t leave him out of shape.

Consistently called up since last August’s 1-0 friendly win at Mexico, the 90 minutes the fourth-year Fire ‘keeper earned in Wednesday’s draw seems to indicate Johnson is stating a strong case for the U.S. Men’s third goalkeeper shirt behind English Premier League veterans Tim Howard and backup Brad Guzan.

Should his form hold up and the U.S. Men navigate another difficult CONCACAF qualifying test, Johnson could find his way to Brazil next year.

There are still too many variables to allow anyone to get that far ahead and strong competition will remain from the likes of veteran Nick Rimando (injured for January camp), as well as Johnson’s friendly rival Bill Hamid.

While the trio wouldn't be expected to appear in this year's qualifying matches, with the U.S. expected to send a B-team to the this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup, the tournament will likely serve as the next indication as to who Klinsmann favors for the presumable third spot.

Even if he’s not always playing in matches, the 23-year-old's continued inclusion in camps, working with the best ‘keepers American soccer has offer, can only help with his chances and his form for the Fire.

It should be an interesting year for Sean and the U.S...

Remember the last time the U.S. went to Honduras?

Trailing 1-0 just after the break, the U.S. used a brace from Conor Casey and a Landon Donovan free kick to eventually win the match 3-2 and qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Check out highlights below:

03 February 6:42 am

I’ve never been on the west coast for “The Big Game”. First time for everything and thanks to the Fire coaching staff, we’ll all have the afternoon off to watch the game beginning at 3:30pm out here on the west coast.

In advance of the “match”, I polled Fire players on who they wanted to see win the game. What ensued was a bit of an open conversation, interjections of soccer terminology and other hilarity…

Jeff Crandall: Hey Steven Kinney, who do you have in Wednesday’s “Big Game"?

Steven Kinney: I’d like to see the Ravens win. I’d like to see Ray Lewis go out on top. 1-0 Ravens.

JC: What about you Chris Rolfe?

Chris Rolfe: I have Coach Harbaugh.


Which Coach Harbaugh will be champion?

JC: The Gaffer has already been joking about that... You can’t steal his thunder.

Chris Rolfe: Who’s playing? I like the 49ers. Tied: 1-1.

JC: Why do you think the 49ers?

Chris Rolfe: Because we’re in Northern California

JC: We’re in Southern California.

Logan Pause: We did drive an hour and a half north of LAX but we’re still in Southern California. California’s a big state.

JC: Who do you have winning the Super Bowl, el capitan?

Logan Pause: I have the Baltimore Ravens Football Club. 2-1 Ravens.

JC: When did they add FC to the title? Why do you have them?


Ray Lewis, the ultimate villain?

Logan Pause: They’re on a great run right now, riding a lot of emotion. It’s hard not to jump on the bandwagon.

JC: Jalil Anibaba, you’re from NorCal… Who do you have winning the Big Game?

Jalil Anibaba: I’m a bit indifferent because I’m a Raiders fan. I like Ray Lewis a lot but I gotta stay with my Cali team and go with the 49ers. (2-2 tie).

JC: Hell freezing over? A Raiders fan cheering for the Niners?

Jalil Anibaba: I think they play good football. Their attack – I mean its not soccer – their offense is amazing and they’re exciting to watch so I’m going with them.

JC: Arne Friedrich, you’re a self-described “big Bears supporter”. Who do you have in Sunday’s match?

Arne Friedrich: I have no interest in either of these teams. For me it is always about the Bears.

JC: Arne, folks want to know what you think.

Arne Friedrich: If you’re forcing me to an answer, I’ll say Ravens but I don’t like it. (3-2 Ravens)

JC: Hey Gonzalo Segares, you’re from Costa Rica, I bet you’re a long-time 49ers fan.

Gonzalo Segares: Yes, the 49ers are actually my team. (3-3 tie).


Kaepernick: First Bro to win
the Big Game?

JC: I was just joking. They’re your team? How so? Since when?

Gonzalo Segares: Since living in Costa Rica. In the early 90s my cousin was a 49ers fan so he had Steve Young and Jerry Rice posters – since then I’ve been following them.

JC: So you actually followed American football in Costa Rica?

Gonzalo Segares: Yes that’s where I learned how it was played by watching it on TV and then I became a bigger fan when I moved to the States in college

JC: So we’re tied at 3-3 (21-21 in American football). This is about as high scoring as soccer gets. To break the tie, I’ll ask Equipment Manager Charles Raycroft who he thinks will win.

Charles Raycroft: San Francisco 49ers. I like Colin Kaepernick and I do not like Ray Lewis.

JC: As always Charles, you're short and to the point.

There you have it, according to the Chicago Fire, the San Francisco 49ers will be crowned champions of “Big Game XLVII”.

02 February 9:40 pm

Good evening from Ventura, Calif. where the first team escaped the snow of Chicago Saturday morning to begin Phase Two of 2013 Training Camp.

After arriving at our beach-side hotel, the team quickly ate and changed before heading to Oxnard Community College for a little over an hour long training session.

Notes from today: 

- The long-rumored trade that would send forward Dominic Oduro to Columbus in exchange for Dilly Duka seems to have happened according to both players Twitter accounts and multiple reports. Oduro is not in Fire camp and Duka tweeted Saturday that he was headed to join the team in California. Expect an official announcement Monday.

- The Daily Herald's Orrin Schwarz also added a significant rub to the trade: the Fire will also reportedly gain the MLS rights to out-of-contract U.S. international Robbie Rogers.

- 2012 Fire Defender of the Year Arne Friedrich trained with the team for the first time after being allowed to take extra time off while the side was in Ave Maria, Fla.

- After flying from Norway all day Friday, new signing Brendan King also trained for the first time. 

- It was good to see midfielder Patrick Nyarko do some light ball work off to the side as he continues his comeback following a grueling 2012 campaign.

- Defender Hunter Jumper and forward Maicon Santos did not train with the team Saturday. Jumper pulled up lame in Wednesday's friendly vs. Columbus while Santos was unavailable for selection in the match after suffering an injury in the days leading up to the game.

- New trialists have arrive in camp. A full list will be published on Chicago-Fire.com in the coming days. 

That's it for Saturday's notes... Take in some photos from training: 

01 February 12:41 pm

On this day 15 years ago, the Chicago Fire selected defender C.J. Brown first overall in the 1998 MLS Supplemental Draft.

Having spent the 1997 season with the San Francisco Bay Seals in the USISL D3 Pro League, Brown impressed then D.C. United head coach Bob Bradley as the Seals fell to the defending MLS Cup champions at the tournament’s semifinal stage.

TRUE CAR PLAYER REGISTRY

Brown would of course go on to be part of all six of the club’s domestic titles and currently holds the Fire record for most competitive (372), regular season (296), playoff (25) and U.S. Open Cup appearances (25) amassed over his 13-year career in Chicago.

Last season, Brown forever wrote his name into Fire history as he became the seventh member of the Ring of Fire, joining Bradley, Piotr Nowak, Frank Klopas, Lubos Kubik, Peter Wilt and Chris Armas in the club’s Hall of Fame.

29 January 4:29 pm

Throughout preseason, your favorite Fire players will give you a first-hand, behind the scenes look at what actually goes down at training camp. This installment is brought to you by Fire defender Gonzalo Segares. Now entering his ninth season with the Fire, Segares shares his veteran methods of handling the inevitable downtime that comes with preseason training camp. Make sure to check www.Chicago-Fire.com for all the action as the Fire kick off their 16th season.
 
Hello my amigos from the Chicago Fire. It’s now time for me to tell you guys a little of what’s happening on and off the field for me and my teammates.
 
We had our first preseason match on Sunday and the atmosphere was great. After a long time without competing in a game, it was great to get back on the field and kick some people. It’s been quite a while since I’ve played against someone other than my teammates, so it was good to get in some tackles and battles.


It’s been good to see the new faces working hard, competing and adapting well with the group.
 
Off the field there has been a lot of down time so I have been playing a lot of Halo in between practices. I’m trying not to nap during the day so I can go to bed early, so I’m usually on the computer, on the phone or transformed as a soldier, killing aliens on Halo.
 
It’s been nice here in Florida but I’m excited to go back to Chicago for a few days and spend the days off with my wife (it’s weird to say wife but I guess I have to get used to it) and have a nice romantic dinner and maybe watch a movie with her. I don’t think I’ll enjoy the cold weather but at least I will be at home with my family.
 
See you all soon and go Fire!
 
Gonzalo Segares

29 January 8:25 am

Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson has been absent from camp in Ave Maria but like the past two January’s he’s had a good reason.

The budding American goalkeeper has spent much of the month in U.S. Men’s National Team camp with the gathering culminating in tonight’s friendly s. Canada at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.

The Fire goalkeeper joined D.C. United’s Bill Hamid and Houston’s Tally Hall to round out the goalkeeping corps in Jurgen Klinsmann’s camp and like the past two January camps, will hope to earn another cap Tuesday night vs. the Canucks.

Though he hasn't made an appearance for the national team since the side's 1-0 friendly win at Panama a year a go, Johnson did earn a number call ups during the semifinal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying last fall.

Perhaps a good performance could put Johnson in the mix for a trip to San Pedro Sula as the U.S. opens up the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying at Honduras next Wednesday, February 6.

Catch Sean and the rest of the U.S. team Tuesday night LIVE at 8pm CT on ESPN2, WatchESPN and Univision Deportes.

28 January 11:13 am

Throughout preseason, your favorite Fire players will give you a first-hand, behind the scenes look at what actually goes down at training camp. The first installment is brought to you by Fire midfielder Daniel Paladini. Entering his third season with the Men in Red, Paladini hits the town of Ave Maria, Fla. for the annual steak cook off. Make sure to check  www.Chicago-Fire.com and follow Paladini on Twitter at @PaladiniXI for all the action leading up to March 3.
 
Checking in from Ave Maria: Well we are about halfway through our first phase of preseason and things couldn't be going better. Legs are sore, bodies are in pain, but the coaches are getting the best out of the team. As we keep continuing to grind and sweat through the double-days, I promise you this, there is a much bigger plan taking place for the Chicago Fire this year. We played our first exhibition game against FGCU Sunday, which is another reason to be excited.  It was nice to go out and kick someone else besides my teammates. Haha.
 
Off the pitch: Saturday was Ave Maria's annual steak cook-off! Having been fortunate enough to have been coming to Ave Maria for three years now, I knew exactly what Saturday was about.  Basically we are in what you call a very, very small town outside Naples Fla. (think The Truman Show). Kids are out playing games, live music in the background, there’s perfect weather, and of course that good smelling steak cooking on the BBQ.  And what do 30 or more guys do when they smell steak being cooked? Of course we will take over and invade their small town. But honestly, Saturday was great. Awesome food, good people, and just a great atmosphere to hang out in a little town called Ave Maria.  Special thanks to the Mastandrea family for taking such good care of the coaching staff and players on this special night.  Until next time, this is Daniel Paladini checking in from Ave Maria.

28 January 9:27 am

Throughout preseason, your favorite Fire players will give you a first-hand, behind the scenes look at what actually goes down at training camp. The first installment is brought to you by Fire midfielder Daniel Paladini. Entering his third season with the Men in Red, Paladini hits the town of Ave Maria, Fla. for the annual steak cook off. Make sure to check  www.Chicago-Fire.com and follow Daniel on Twitter at @PaladiniXI for all the action leading up to March 3.

Checking in from Ave Maria: Well we’re almost done with our first phase of preseason and things couldn't be going better. Legs are sore, bodies are in pain, but the coaches are getting the best out of the team.

As we continue to grind and sweat through the double-days, I promise you this: there is a much bigger plan taking place for the Chicago Fire this year.

We played our first exhibition game against FGCU Sunday, which is another reason to be excited.  It was nice to go out and kick someone else besides my teammates (and also score a goal).

Off the pitch: Saturday was Ave Maria's annual steak cook-off! Having been fortunate enough to come here for three years now, I knew exactly what Saturday was about. 

Basically we are in a very, very small town outside Naples, Fla. (sort of like the set of The Truman Show). Kids are out playing games, live music in the background, perfect weather, and of course that great smelling steak cooking on the BBQ. 

What do 30 or more guys do when they smell steak being cooked? Of course we take over and invade their small town.

Honestly, Saturday was great. Awesome food, good people and just a great atmosphere to hang out in a little town called Ave Maria.  Special thanks to the Mastandrea family for taking such good care of the coaching staff and players on this special night. 

Until next time, this is Daniel Paladini checking in from Ave Maria.