Megabandera is back!
People always tell you that life will change when you have children. What kind of change, no one tells you about. Or if they do, they tell you about the sleepless nights, the dirty diapers, or how you will never eat out again.
Though some of that may in fact be true, what people lose sight of is the inconceivable capacity to love. In a fraction of a second when I held my daughter Isla for the first time, my world and everything changed.
I am so grateful to God for the blessing of fatherhood, because the gift of children gives us a glimpse of God's love for us.
Becoming a father has not only changed my love for my daughter and wife, it has also given me a deeper understanding for my own father's love toward me and my brother.
I am grateful that my dad has so intentionally showed me not only what it takes to be a man, but also what it takes to be a father.
So thank you dad, I couldn't do it without you. And to all you fathers out there, Happy Father's Day and don't forget to tell your children that you love them every single day.
If it seems like it’s been ages since one of these, that’s because it’s been 15 days since the last time the Fire played. A 2-0 loss in New England combined with a two-week break from action left the team as well as yours truly antsy. Lucky for us, the Fire are back this afternoon as they welcome the New York Red Bulls to Toyota Park at 4pm CT (LIVE on NBC Sports Network).
With that, five things to know about today’s match vs. Energy Drink FC.
1) LACKING IN THE STARS… Excitement at having the Fire back is one thing but if you were hoping to see the stars come out of the woodwork for Red Bull this afternoon, you’ll be sorely disappointed as both Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez didn’t make the trip due to injury.
On the Fire side, the long-term projection was to have Arne Friedrich back from a hamstring injury that’s kept him out of the team’s past four league matches. It appears the decision on whether or not he'll play will be of the gametime variety.
2) NO HENRY, FORMATION SHAKEUP… The strike partnership of Henry and forward Kenny Cooper has been deadly for Red Bull this season with the two combining for 20 goals in 22 joint appearances so far. When Henry has been out, Red Bull has moved to a 4-5-1 with Cooper alone up top and the likes of Joel Lindpere and Dane Richards providing support.
Still, it will be Cooper that is the focal point of Red Bull’s attack Sunday. The former FC Dallas striker is tied with San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski in the MLS Golden Boot Race at 11 and has tallied in each of the team’s last four matches.
3) COOPER, LINDPERE: GOAL SCORING HISTORY… Both players have histories of scoring against the Fire, with Cooper tallying six goals (all with Dallas) in nine career matches against the Men in Red while Lindpere has bagged three goals in four appearances since joining Red Bull in 2010.
Conversely, Fire forward Chris Rolfe, who looks set to make his first appearance at Toyota Park since re-joining the club in April has tallied six of his 36 career MLS goals against Red Bull.
4) LAST TIME PAPPA RETURNED IN SUMMER… Fire midfielder Marco Pappa returned to the team on Thursday after being away with the Guatemalan national side for friendlies and two FIFA World Cup qualifiers, culminating in his 82nd minute free kick to earn a 1-1 draw with the United States on Tuesday.
It reminded me of last year when Pappa returned from competitive June matches with Guatemala at the CONCACAF Gold Cup…In his first game back, he hit a bouncing 58th minute effort to draw a Sunday afternoon affair level at 1-1. The day, June 26, 2011. The opponent, Red Bull New York.
5) A RUBBER MATCH… Since a 2-0 win in the the Grand Opening match at Toyota Park on June 25, 2006, the Fire have never lost to Red Bull at the team’s soccer-specific stadium, going 5-0-3 in eight regular season matches.
On the flip, Red Bull comes into the game riding a six match unbeaten run, going 5-0-1 since dropping a 4-1 defeat at Eastern Conference leaders D.C. United on April 22…
6) HAPPY FATHER'S (and Mother's) DAY... Both my parents are awesome. I didn't have a Five Things to write on Mother's Day last month so I'll use this opportunity to wish my Dad Happy Father's Day and my Mom a Happy belated online Mother's Day wish. Both of my parents didn't always understand the obsession I had with soccer but they were always supportive and have been there for me throughout. Thank you both, sorry I can't be home today!
PREVIEW: Fire vs. Red Bulls
"Win at home, draw on the road.", "World Cup Qualifying can often be ugly and is rarely easy."
These are the old adages that U.S. Men's National Team fans hate hearing but time and again they remain true. While Tuesday night's 1-1 draw will leave a conflicted, sour taste in a Fire and USMNT fan’s mouth, the sky isn't close to falling.
Newish fans of the U.S. will look at a nation like Guatemala and ask why the U.S. couldn’t win there. It’s a fair question, though understanding historical context is important -- the U.S.is now 1-0-4 all-time at Guatemala in World Cup Qualifying with the only victory coming with an ugly 1-0 win there in 2008.
In his first true, competitive test as U.S. Men’s National Team coach, Jurgen Klinsmann had his side well prepared going in as the Guatemalans pushed the U.S. to a furious pace for much of the first half. The team moved the ball well and as we’ve seen in the past few matches, did well to create chances, though conversion still remains an issue.
Despite that, Clint Dempsey’s goal five minutes from the half was a perfect blow to the home side who looked ready to go into the locker room. Though after the break, Marco Pappa’s insertion into the game seemed to spark Guatemala and while the U.S. still created, los Chapines put Klinsmann’s side under threat via counter attack throughout the second half.
And as you go back to the final 10 minutes of the match – seeing Fabian Johnson whistled for a foul about five yards outside the U.S. box – you were likely on the edge of your seat. As a Fire and U.S. fan, you might have cringed when you saw Pappa stand over the ball with Carlos Ruiz. As he struck it, you sort of knew it was going in – 1-1.
It’s alright to feel conflicted this morning. Marco’s goal came at a time when his country was facing having zero points from two matches. Like he has a few times this year, he struck late to help his team and he did it with the skill that all Fire fans know he has in him.
In the end, the U.S. scrambled to defend and earn the point and that’s fine. It may not “progress” on paper but there is something to be said for the fact that the team is playing much more attractively than previous years.
Having admitted that, attractive soccer isn’t always going to get results and those all that matter in World Cup Qualifying. Klinsmann still hasn’t been on the job a year and has had some good ones. The team is still in a bit of transition and the biggest issue from the past three U.S. matches shows a team that can attack but hasn’t yet figured out how to play a complete 90 minutes.
Looking at the big picture, that’s sort of okay.
Earning a point in Guatemala is still nothing to shake a stick at, with most considering the match the most difficult of the six semifinal games.
By virtue of Jamaica and Antigua drawing 0-0 Tuesday, the U.S. sits alone atop the group and in the driver’s seat heading into their September home and home series with the Reggae Boyz – one that could potentially see the U.S. into the next round inside four games. Even sticking with the win at home, draw on the road mantra, the U.S. would still have eight points and need just a win from their final two games to go through.
In the end, playing beautifully is great as long as you’re getting the results. In CONCACAF, drawing on the road in a place like Guatemala City is a result…not what you want, not necessarily what could have happened but also not a disaster.
We're all soccerphyles in this office so the kickoff of Euro 2012 tomorrow has a lot of people excited. Having said that, most of us don't have a first-generation tie to any of the 16 teams that will play over the next month in Poland and Ukraine.
The Solution? Do a European Championships office pool! Earlier this week, our own curtain raiser for Euro 2012 was held in the break room at Toyota Park where 16 members of staff drew at random the team they'll be pulling for beginning tomorrow.
Some of the draw results and reactions in photo form...
Chicago Fire Juniors Manager Brian Roberts, the Portuguese Leprechaun...
Marketing intern Mario Gonzalez offends Germans everywhere...
Communications Coordinator Eunice Kim smiles with her choice of Holland...
Director of First Team Operations Ron Stern pulls Poland...
Communications Director Brendan Hannan shouts, "ALLEZ LES BLEUS!"
Operations Specialist Erin Kwiatkowski doesn't seem pleased about her choice of Russia
Erin seems happy for Season Ticket Services Rep Neil Desmond's choice of Croatia
Director of Player Personnel Mike Jeffries pulls Greece... Frank Klopas rejoices!
With the last pick out of the hat, I drew co-hosting nation UKRAINE! Lets just say I'm hopeful the hosts can pull a Denmark '92 or Greece 2004.
The complete draw whipped up by our Creative Services Manager, Kayser dos Reis... Enjoy the Euros everyone!
Tonight is every Fire and Soccer nerd's dream in Chicago. On the eve of Euro 2012 and the U.S. opening up CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, your's truly will be co-hosting Fire Team Trivia Night at Halsted Harp (2138 N. Halsted) at 7:30pm.
Since joining the Fire almost two and a half years ago, I've written a lot of trivia for social media, in-stadium and other types of assets but as a longtime bar trivia enthusiast, I've always wanted to do a live trivia game for the club's die-hards and other soccer-loving folks in our fair city. This dream became a reality when Chicago Fire Season Ticket Account Executive Drew Eiden (better known as @ChiFireDrew) approached me with the idea.
The questions will range from easy to difficult. Fire to European Championships and some other world soccer mixed in. Top 3 teams win great prizes!
Click here for more information on tonight's event.
Marco Pappa has a new team but don't pull out your "Jump to Conclusions" mat just yet...
Before prepping for Guatemala's upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Jamaica and the United States, Marco joined up with world soccer stars Lionel Messi, Didier Drogba, Sergio Aguero and Fernando Torres just to name a few in this new Pepsi commercial, "Donde hay Pepsi, hay fútbol" (Where there's Pepsi, there's futbol").
Not to get all bookish on you when you’re trying to get your blog on, but the definition of art (when you Google it, we couldn’t find a dictionary lying around) is stated as – the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination. Or, works produced by such skill and imagination.
In recent days Fire midfielder Daniel Paladini has been putting in some decent work to grow this handlebar mustache....
What's the motivation behind this new look?
"A lot of it has to go through my dad," Paladini explained "I saw a picture of him a couple weeks ago with my uncle that passed away – they used to rock the handlebar mustache so I decided I was going to try it out." While the sentimental motivation is there, the veteran also explains his more covert intentions with the team taking a few days off beginning Thursday.
"It works well because there’s a little festival we’ll be going to on this upcoming break – Bonnaroo 2012. I think I’ll fit in well there with the hippies."
Paladini will head to the music festival in Tennessee this weekend with teammates Corben Bone and Chris Rolfe and is most looking forward to seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
As for tips for survival at Bonaroo, our resident "Always on the Inside" cameo man Orr Barouch, tells his teammate to stay away from the Sonic Forest... (props to anyone that gets that reference).