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14 July 9:52 am

Happy 17th anniversary American soccer fans!

No the Fire haven’t been around that long but 17 years ago today, the United States pulled off one of the biggest upsets in team history, downing Argentina 3-0 at Copa America ’95 in Paysandu, Uruguay. The upset propelled the U.S. to the top of Group C on the final day of pool play, en route to an unprecedented fourth place finish at the tournament.

What does it have to do with the Fire? Current head coach Frank Klopas scored the first (and eventually game winning) goal, pouncing on a loose ball at the top of the box in the 20th minute.  (See video below).

Asked if he knew what today was the anniversary of Klopas laughed, “I just watched the DVD a couple days ago but I didn’t realize it was right around that time.”
 
“You never forget the first goal you ever score so my first one with the Sting was special. The first goal with the national team, with AEK, my first goal at Soldier Field with the Fire and then the goal in the Open Cup final. The goal [vs. Argentina] was part of such a big upset at the time – it’s definitely one of those moments that means more as time goes on.”
 
Names like Eric Wynalda, Alexi Lalas, Cobi Jones, Earnie Stewart and Tony Meola contributed in the win and Klopas said the group often remembers it when they come back together.
 
“There are times for sure when we talk about 1995 and Copa America and the success we had. I think that was really one of my last great moments that I shared with that group of players that I’d played with for many years.  It’s a very special memory for me.”
 
As for Frank’s hair for that match, he chalks it up to encouragement from a teammate…
 
“That was when I’d come back from AEK in Greece. Everybody weird hairstyles but [Tony] Meola told me I had to leave my hair long. I started to grow it out – it wasn’t the best look and my wife Sophia made me cut it. I thought it looked good but the more I look at it now, it was a disaster and she was right.”
 
Catch Frank's hair as well as all the highlights from the match, called by longtime American soccer announcer Phil Schoen and his counterpart Renato Capobianco below.
 
COPA AMERICA '95: USA 3, Argentina 0

 

11 July 10:07 am

Yesterday I wrote an open letter to MLS All-Star head coach Ben Olsen asking him to consider selecting Patrick Nyarko for the 2012 MLS All-Star Game. I was told this morning Ben had indeed read the letter which is the most I could hope for in the matter. Thanks for your consideration Ben!

Now into the third day of the #PickPat campaign, this morning I took the deep plunge in writing another open letter, this time to MLS Commissioner Don Garber to ask for his consideration of Patrick as one of the two "Commissioner's Picks" for this month's match vs. Chelsea FC.

Here's what I said...

Dear Commissioner Garber,

Though there’s no way you remember, I had the pleasure of meeting you at the Chicago Fire Season Kickoff Luncheon in 2011. Fire owner Andrew Hauptman graciously pulled me over and introduced me as “the man who knows all things about our club”. Surely he might have been exaggerating a bit but I do pride myself on my ability to name our Top 15 goal scorers by total, in reverse order, without skipping a beat.

It’s in that spirit that I come to you with a request: select Patrick Nyarko as one of your two “Commissioner’s picks” for this month’s MLS All-Star Game against Chelsea FC.

As Commissioner you’ve accomplished a lot -- modern day statisticians and soccer purists hold you in high regard for abolishing the hockey-style shootout while the businessmen and marketers of the league praise your name for the push of soccer-specific stadia and Designated Players.

Pat’s not a DP and he’s not even the biggest name in the Chicago Fire locker room so perhaps it wasn’t all that surprising for him to not be included in the team’s six nominees for this year’s MLS All-Star fan voting. Anyone that has watched the team and Pat’s play over the past three seasons will tell you he’s likely been the club’s most consistent performer, shredding defenses with his speed, ability on the ball and excellent work rate.

With that in mind, it was considered quite a coup for the club to re-sign Patrick earlier this year as he would have easily been a target of European sides once his contract expired at season’s end. 

While I made the statistical and playing case to MLS All-Star head coach Ben Olsen Tuesday, today I point to Patrick’s dedication to the club and the league as a reason you should consider him for one of your Commissioner’s picks for the All-Star game.

The DP’s of the league will certainly help sell tickets, merchandise and TV rights but players of Pat’s ability and ethic are the ones the league has always built its back on. His story alone is a great one but his ability to come in and improve every day and be a positive force on and off the field is a great advertisement for our club as well as Major League Soccer.

In the past your choices for the All-Star game have sometimes been about making sure a certain name is present but you’ve also selected players deserving players that have been overlooked.

I can think of no one better that Patrick that falls in to the second category of recognition and ask you to strongly consider to #PickPat on Sunday for this year’s MLS All-Star Game.

Yours in Soccer, 

 
Jeff Crandall
Chicago Fire Team Writer

Keep up the #PickPat campaign. Tweet the #PickPat hashtag to @TheSoccerDon with your best reasons to #PickPat for the 2012 #MLSAllStar Game!

05 July 12:37 pm

One-named players in the game of soccer are almost exclusively Brazilian. Going by a single name is almost a rite of passage for anyone that learned to play “joga bonito” growing up and its no different for new Fire arrival Alex who didn’t take long to put the Brazilian flare on display in last Friday’s 1-0 victory at Sporting KC.

While Alex shows promise, I thought it a smart exercise to detail the other Major League Soccer’s other one-named players that Alex  should look to as an example.

The Good 

Welton (New England, 1996; LA Galaxy, 1997-99; Miami 1999-00) - One of my sentimental favorites, Welton (pictured right) never really won a title in MLS and but #OldSchoolMLSFans will remember him as one of the most successful one-namers in league history (as well as a constant on my early MLS Fantasy team).

A traveling man of sorts, the Rio native would tally 43 goals and 34 assists over 144 career matches for New England, LA and Miami. He twice hit for double-digit goals in a season, scoring 11 goals in 1997 and 17 goals in 1998 for the Galaxy.

Fire fans will probably remember him best for ruining Zach Thornton’s shutout bid in the 2000 U.S. Open Cup Final with his 90th minute strike, which was the last goal he would score for an MLS side.

Camilo (Vancouver, 2011-present) – The midfielder led the Whitecaps with 12 goals and three assists over 32 matches in the club’s inaugural MLS campaign last season. His scoring pace is slightly slower this season with only three goals and two assists but he’s aided Vancouver to third place in the West at the half way point.

Preki (Kansas City 1996-2000, 2002-05; Miami 2001) – The best one-namer in league history isn’t even Brazilian. Preki’s (right) story is well known… a Yugoslavian indoor star who made his way back to Europe to play for Everton and Portsmouth before returning stateside to carve out one of the top careers in MLS history.

Spending all but one of his 10 MLS seasons in Kansas City, Preki amassed 79 goals and 112 assists in 242 games from 1996-2005, winning one MLS Cup (2000), two Supporters Shields (2000 KC; 2001 Miami) and one U.S. Open Cup (2004). He was twice named MLS Most Valuable Player in 1997 and 2003 and had four seasons in which he hit double-digit goals (scoring 18 in 1996).

Oh he also scored the United States’ only game-winning goal against Brazil.

Preki was good, that’s all. 

Juninho (LA Galaxy, 2010-present) – There have been more than a few Juninho’s before the Galaxy’s Juninho Paulista came onto the MLS scene but the central midfielder has proven to be one of the best one-namers ever in MLS. Since coming to the Galaxy on loan from Sao Paulo in 2010, Juninho has appeared in 72 matches, tallying seven goals and five assists while helping the Gals to a Supporters Shield and the team’s third MLS Cup last season.

Thiago (Chicago Fire, 2005-2007) – No Fire list of one-name players could ever be complete without Alex’s precursor at the club, Thiago (photo right). After impressing on a trial in 2004, the Porto Alegre product joined the Fire in 2005 and would go on to tally six goals and seven assists during his first season in Chicago.

The following year, he would bag just three goals and two assists in the league but wrote his name into Fire lore for his late-game, close-range tap-in to send Toyota Park into pandemonium as the Fire clinched their MLS-record fourth U.S. Open Cup title with a 3-1 victory over the LA Galaxy on September 23, 2006.

With diminished playing time in 2007, Thiago was released by the Fire that September. Now 30, he’s bounced around Brazil’s lower leagues, winning the Campeanato Gaucho Segunda Divisao with hometown club Porto Alegre in 2009 and currently plays for Sao Luiz de Ijui. 

 

03 July 9:24 am

Happy Tuesday Matchday! The Chicago Fire travel to Houston for their first-ever match at BBVA Compass Stadium tonight at 7:30pm CT LIVE on NBC 5.2 (Channel Finder) and 97.5FM ESPN Deportes Radio.  

Here are five things to know heading into tonight’s Fourth of July-eve match…

1) FOUR GAME WINNING STREAKS…  With a victory tonight in Houston, the Fire would achieve the club’s first four-game MLS regular season winning streak since June and July 2005 when the team took down Real Salt Lake (3-1), D.C. United (4-3), Chivas USA (1-0) and New England (1-0). 

 

PREVIEW: Fire at Dynamo

 
It’s been seven years since it’s happened and even then two of the opponents were expansion teams with only the win against Chivas coming on the road. IF the Frank Klopas’ side is victorious tonight, this streak will be more impressive as it will have come against two teams higher in the standings (New York, Sporting KC) with two matches in difficult environments (Sporting KC and Houston).
 
IF the Fire win tonight, it would mark just the seventh time in 15 years that the team has strung together a four-game winning streak. It happened twice in 1998, once in 2000, twice again in 2001 and not again since 2005. A win tonight would not only be good from an historic perspective but would also move the side into third place in the Eastern Conference.
 
2) WHAT A WIN TONIGHT WOULD MEAN… Aside from equaling a little bit of history, a win tonight would also equal the team’s total victories (nine) achieved over the course of 34 games during each of the past two seasons. 
 
3) FIRST TIME IN A NEW STADIUM… Thankfully and for what seems like the first time in a while, the Fire aren’t the team having to open a brand new MLS stadium. Tonight will however mark the team’s first visit to BBVA Compass Stadium where the Dynamo are unbeaten (4-0-2) since opening their new downtown facility with a 1-0 victory over D.C. United on May 12. 
 
But let’s keep this about the Fire, who are 9-15-7 all-time in their first match at an MLS stadium. The last time the team won in this instance was a 1-0 victory against San Jose in a one-off match for attendance purposes at McAfee Coliseum on April 12, 2008. In a more permanent venue, the last time the Fire won in this instance came with another 1-0 victory in the Dynamo’s first home, Robertson Stadium on May 20, 2006. 
 
4) 50th CONSECUTIVE… Last season Fire forward Dominic Oduro scored his team-leading 12th goal in his first return to Houston since being traded to the Dynamo by the Fire following the first week of the MLS campaign. IF he steps on the field in his second return to Houston tonight, he’ll make his 50th consecutive appearance for the Fire. The current Fire “iron man” has appeared in every regular season match since joining the team last March, providing 17 goals and four assists. 
 
Who’s next closest to Dom in consecutive appearances? Fellow Ghanaian Patrick Nyarko who is set to make his 40th straight appearance tonight.
 
5) 25 GOALS FOR MARCO… Marco Pappa has sort of quietly wrote his name into the Fire history books over through the first half of the season. Since the start of the season, the Guatemalan international has moved from ninth on the club’s all-time MLS goal scoring list all the way to fifth with his game-winner Friday night. his  and with one more goal will tie inaugural Ring of Fire inductee Piotr Nowak for fourth on the list at 26. Two more goals will make Pappa the all-time leading scorer among Fire midfielders.  
 
02 July 4:07 pm

I remember my 15th birthday like it was yesterday. I woke up early and went to the DMV with my mom to secure my Learner’s Permit – gaining the ability to drive (with supervision) was a true right of passage growing up just outside of the Motor City. 

Coming up later this year, October 8 to be exact, the Chicago Fire officially turn 15 years old and to celebrate our Quinceñara, we’ll be counting down the 15 most memorable matches, goals and top players in Fire history, as part of our #Fire15 series.


We started last Friday by posting this video counting down Games #13-15 on our list. We’ll have a video each week in the above categories as we lead up to our 15th Anniversary celebration to be held Wednesday, October 3 against the Philadelphia Union at Toyota Park. 

#Fire15: Memorable Matches 13-15

#15  -  Chicago Fire 2, New York Red Bulls 0 - June 25, 2006   MLS Regular Season - Toyota Park, Bridgeview, IL
 
In the Grand Opening match of Toyota Park, a capacity of 20,133 watched their Chicago Fire take on the New York Red Bulls in Major League Soccer’s newest soccer-specific venue.
The players responded to the enthusiastic crowd and captain Chris Armas put the Fire ahead in the 12th minute by jumping on a bouncing ball at the top of the Red Bull box. New York ‘keeper Tony Meola got a hand on the shot, but it wasn’t enough as the ball slowly rolled past the goal line. Later, 
Brazilian Fire midfielder Thiago capped off the day by making a diagonal run into the Red Bull box and beating the goalkeeper with a low, powerful shot (69’) to ice the match at 2-0.
 
#14  -  Chicago Fire 4, Dallas Burn 3 - May 24, 2000  -  MLS Regular Season -  Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
 
Before any of the scoring occurred in this match, Fire defender and current TV Analyst Evan Whitfield was ejected from the match in the 15th minute. With the man advantage, Dallas would open the scoring with a 37th minute goal from Jorge Rodriguez but the Fire would pull level when the Burn’s Richard Farrer redirected his clearing header into to his own net just before the half. The Burn pulled back ahead in the second half, adding two more goals from Jason Kreis (57’) and Chad Deering (63’). 
 
Down 3-1, the Fire looked like they were heading for an inevitable loss at home. Ante Razov, however, began the counter crusade with a goal in the 79th minute. Entering pandemonium, Dema Kovalenko tied the affair with one minute left in the match. The Fire were not content with a draw and kept pushing up the field, receiving a glorious stoppage time winner from Ante Razov (91+’) to close the book on one of the best comebacks in club history.
 
#13  - Chicago Fire 1, LA Galaxy 0  October 21, 2007  -  MLS Regular Season -  Toyota Park, Bridgeview, IL
 
After a slow start to the 2007 campaign which resulted in the firing of head coach Dave Sarachan midseason, the Fire rebounded under Juan Carlos Osorio to make a late playoff push. As a result of their strong form, the team needed just a draw in this match on the final day of the regular season and would control the lion’s share of this meeting having outshot the Galaxy 10-1 by the end of the match. 
 
Playing in front of a sellout crowd of 21,374, the Fire saw great chances from Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Chad Barrett and Wilman Conde go begging. Just as it looked like the team would back-in to the playoffs with a 0-0 draw, then-rookie forward Calen Carr popped up the ball over the Galaxy’s back line to an unmarked John Thorrington. The former Manchester United midfielder chested down the bouncing ball and with one touch chipped the LA ‘keeper Joe Cannon to give the Fire a dramatic win in the 93rd minute.

 

 

 

28 June 11:04 am

Germans and baseball? In this edition of Touchline TV, Brendan Hannan talks to Arne Friedrich prior to his first pitch at the Cubs game on Tuesday, with Arne questioning why there isn't a batter at the plate for his ceremonial throw.

The TLTV Crew then follows the big German as well as teammates Dominic Oduro and Dan Gargan for the practicing and eventual traditional singing of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch at Wrigley. 

05 June 3:16 pm

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).