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Interview

21 November 6:21 am

In the latest edition of Quaker Journeys, we sat down with Chicago Fire defender Austin Berry to his development from an all-sport athlete in Cincinnati, to a focus on the beautiful game at the University of Louisville to becoming the 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year with the Chicago Fire.

Be sure to check out our previous Quaker Journey with Patrick Nyarko (Part 1 and Part 2).

13 November 11:21 am

In this edition of Burning Questions we caught up with Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson. In his third season with the Men in Red, Johnson posted career-high numbers. In 31 regular season games, Sean went 16-10-5, had  five shutouts and recorded a career-low 1.24 goals against average. The Lilburn, Ga. native made 108 saves in 2012, including a career-high ten saves against the Earthquakes July 28.

Sean’s play caught the eye of U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who recently called the Fire ‘keeper in for a friendly against Russia on Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 9:00 a.m. CT (ESPN2/ESPN3/Univision Deportes). Before heading east, Sean took the time to answer our burning questions about his prowess on the dance floor, his favorite Thanksgiving dish and which teammates he’d pick for a MLS basketball tournament.

Always on the Inside: There’s another elite athlete with the same name as you, Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson, who was a “Dancing With the Stars” champion. Are you a good dancer and how do you think you’d do on the show?

Sean Johnson: I’d be fantastic. My dance moves are nice. I’m pretty sure I’ve been compared to Chris Brown.

AOTI: What’s your favorite Thanksgiving food or tradition?

SJ: My mom makes a green bean casserole that is unbelievable.

AOTI: You lettered in basketball for three years at Brookwood High School. Can you still ball? Which of your current teammates would you choose if there is a MLS pickup basketball tournament?

SJ: Call me the Black Mamba. My starting five would be point guard, Corben [Bone]. Two guard, [Dan] Gargan. Three guard, we’ll go Jalil [Anibaba]. I’d play the fourth spot, and maybe Austin [Berry] could play the five. Cory [Gibbs] can be the sixth man off the bench and [Soccer Operations Coordinator] Alex Boler could be the coach.

AOTI: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

SJ: I’d be able to fly.

AOTI: You’re one of the best table tennis and FIFA players on the Fire roster. What’s one random thing  youwant to work on so that you can best your teammates?

Jalil Anibaba: He’s No. 1 at everything.

SJ: I am THE best FIFA player on the team. In life my goal is to be No. 1 at everything I do.

AOTI: Main difference between Georgians and Chicagoans?

SJ: The pace of which they move. Chicago is so fast-paced that I feel like I’m being rushed by people in the city.

AOTI: Who plays you in the Sean Johnson movie?

SJ: Denzel Washington.

AOTI: What was the last movie you watched in theaters? And if you’re in a crowded theater, which armrests are yours?

SJ: The last movie I watched was “Argo.” And both armrests are mine.

 

02 October 11:43 am

Over the summer, we presented 15 Memorable Games and Goals from the club’s first 15 seasons. We also asked you the fans who the top 15 players in club history were.
 
To be clear, you won’t see numbers ranking the players. That’s because this isn’t a countdown but rather a series to honor 15 great players in Fire history.
 
In the previous four episodes of the #Fire15 presented by TrueCar, we’ve honored Chris Armas, DaMarcus Beasley, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Carlos Bocanegra, Lubos Kubik, Jesse Marsch, Brian McBride, Logan Pause, Marco Pappa, Ante Razov, Chris Rolfe and Zach Thornton.

Today, three Ring of Fire inductees round out the list… The final three players are Frank Klopas, C.J. Brown and Peter Nowak.

 

 
Frank Klopas –  Mr. Chicago. With eight goals and five assists across 50 games, it wasn’t stats but rather the heart and commitment Frank showed that got him on this list. Maybe that winner in the ’98 Open Cup final helped a bit too.
 
As Len Ziehm says in the video, the Fire needed someone local to help the new franchise make a connection to the city. Fans that remembered “Kid Klopas” from Chicago Sting in the 1980’s were reinvigorated by the reappearance of the city’s iconic soccer son in the club’s inaugural 1998 season.
 
More than that, there’s no player that has ever bled Chicago the way Klopas did in his two seasons playing for the Fire. Returning to the club as Technical Director in 2008 and now as head coach, Frank has served to remind the current crop of what it means every time they put on the shirt.
 
C.J. Brown – There are few players quite as deserving of being honored on such a list as C.J. Brown. The club’s all-time appearance leader at 372, Brown is one of only three Fire players to be part of all six domestic titles and was the last connection in the locker room to the 1998 double-winning team.
 
Learning from the likes of Peter Nowak, Lubos Kubik and Chris Armas, the 1998 season helped guide the rest of his 13-year career, carrying on and passing down the same characteristics of hard work, competitiveness and integrity to young Fire players through the years.
 
As I say in the video, the former Fire captain was never flashy. He played hard, he picked up cards but he was the constant rock at the back. His legacy is still carried on in the Fire locker room today.
 
Peter Nowak – Often mentioned as the best player to ever wear the badge, Peter Nowak set the bar as high as it could go during his five seasons with the Fire.
 
Nowak joined Kubik, and fellow veteran Poles Jerzy Podbrozny and Roman Kosecki as a large core of the original Fire team, captaining the side to the 1998 double and winning MLS Cup MVP honors in the process.
 
Having played 147 competitive matches, the first signing in Chicago Fire history tallied 29 goals and retains the Fire record for assists across all competitions (60) and in MLS play (48).

At least 11 of the #Fire15 will be present at either Wednesday night’s 15th Anniversary Match vs. Philadelphia or the October 8th Anniversary Party  at the Chicago History Museum.
 
Also! Get your 15th Anniversary Merchandise by clicking here.

26 September 12:30 pm

In this edition of Burning Questions we sat down with forward Sherjill MacDonald. Since joining the Fire on July 24, the Dutch striker has scored two goals and tallied three assists, helping set up a battle for first place against Sporting Kansas City on Friday, Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. CT on the NBC Sports Network. Sherjill took the time to answer our Burning Questions about how he spends his time in Chicago, the difference between European and American fashion and just how many people mispronounce his name.  

Always on the Inside: You’ve been in Chicago now for a few months. How are you liking it?

Sherjill MacDonald: I love it. I love the restaurants; my favorite of the moment is an Italian restaurant called Scoozi! It’s close to my house so I go there a lot. I’ve been to the Hancock Center and eaten upstairs on the 95th floor, so that was fantastic. I have an apartment in River North. I love it. It’s a quiet neighborhood, it’s nice for dogs, so I like to walk the dog. It seems like a dog-friendly neighborhood.

WATCH: MacDonald equalizes vs. Montreal

 

AOTI: What kind of dog do you have?

SM: She is a Chihuahua mixed with a French Bulldog. Her name is Nala, from the Lion King.

AOTI: You’re pretty active on Twitter. What do you like about it?

SM: I like to talk to the fans. The last game I traded a fan that had made a banner for me with a jersey, so I like to do those kind of things. Sometimes I give away shoes to the fans; it helps to keep in touch with the fans.

AOTI: You’re a pretty stylish guy. What is the main difference between European and American fashion style?

SM: I’ve noticed that everybody wears running shoes, like downtown, so now I also do it. I think it’s an American thing because the distances are a little bit further. I’ve sometimes seen people wear suits with running shoes. It’s a lot of people.

AOTI: Who do you think are the best and worst dressed guys on the team?

SM: I like everybody’s style. It’s difficult to see in football because when you come to training, you dress comfortably.

Editor’s Note: During the interview, Daniel Paladini declared that Hunter Jumper was the worst dressed player on the team because he favors Polo Ralph Lauren. This editor does not agree with the views and statements of Daniel Paladini.

AOTI: What percentage of people in Chicago mispronounce your name and what’s the worst pronunciation you’ve heard?

SM: I think 80-85 percent. The worst I’ve heard is “Sheryl,” like the girls name.

AOTI: What do you like to do on a typical day off?

SM: Normal things. I like to go into the city with my girlfriend, do a little shopping. I like to walk the dog. Sometimes we stay outside for two hours walking the dog, especially when there is good weather. We like to enjoy the weather.

I also watch all kinds of television series and all kinds of movies. I watch a lot of movies; sometimes I watch like five movies a day. I’m a movie freak. “Gladiator” is one of my favorites.

AOTI: Who is your roommate on the road?

SM: Last time it was Wells Thompson. He’s a very good roommate. He sleeps very early but it’s good for me. It was a good example for me so I also sleep early. He’s a nice guy, a very gentle guy so I like him.

AOTI: One of the things that has helped endear you to fans is your passion on the field. Is your on-field persona similar to your off-field persona?

SM: Off the field I’m not emotional, not the same as on the field but sometimes I have to keep my emotions more to myself. I just have to control them sometimes on the pitch. I’m working on it; some people like it, some people don’t like it. Personally I don’t like it. I have to be more focused.

AOTI: FIFA 13 was recently released. Which team and difficulty level do you usually use? If we had a team FIFA 13 tournament, where would you rank?

SM: I love FIFA. I’m going to get it. I play with Chelsea on the highest difficulty level. I think I would be maybe first or second on the team. Sean [Johnson] would maybe be first. Sean is very good. 

 

20 September 11:45 am

In this edition of Burning Questions we sat down with defender Jalil Anibaba. Now in his second season with the Fire, Jalil has put together a solid sophomore season, starting 26 of his 27 appearances. An integral part of a solid Fire defense, he has also contributed on the offensive side, scoring one goal and adding one assist. A native of Davis, Calif., Jalil was selected ninth overall in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. Jalil took the time to answer our Burning Questions about his hidden talents, his favorite birthday memory and what it’s like to own canaries.
 
Always on the Inside: You were named the Gatorade California Player of the Year for Soccer in 2006-07. What’s your favorite Gatorade flavor?
 
Jalil Anibaba: Probably Glacier Freeze. Light blue.
 
AOTI: What is the most embarrassing song on your iPod?

JA: Probably a song of myself. I wouldn’t say I sing a lot but it’s a hobby of mine.

AOTI: Are you going to make us a mix tape?
 
JA: No. Definitely not. That’s why it’s one of the most embarrassing things on my iPod.

AOTI: Who plays Jalil Anibaba in the Jalil Anibaba movie?

JA: Probably one of my brothers because they know me so well, they’d be able to portray my character in the best light.
 
AOTI: Your brother Jammil and yourself look remarkably alike. How often do people confuse the two of you and have you ever used your similar looks to trick people?
 
JA: We’ve never used our similar looks to deceive people on purpose. In Chicago we get confused for each other pretty often. It happens a lot up in the Stadium Club after games but it’s great having my brother here for support. It’s awesome.
 
AOTI: Your birthday, which is on October 19, is almost exactly one month away. What’s your favorite birthday memory?
 
JA: I would say being back in Davis when I was younger, in my teenage years and before that. My birthdays were always special because they were times when the whole family was together. My grandmother would always come and make my favorite cake, Lemon Pound Cake. We would just have dinner together, so they were great times and great experiences.
 
AOTI: Last year you put together a very solid rookie season, starting 27 of 29 matches and registering three goals (one of which became the team's Goal of the Year) and one assist. This year the Fire have another rookie defender, Austin Berry, who is putting together similar numbers. Do you consider him your protégé and have you ever called him Jalil Jr.? What do you think of him following in your footsteps?
 
JA: No, I definitely don’t think of Austin as a Jalil protégé. Simply because I’m still a young player and I’m still trying to prove myself day in and day out. I think Austin has done a tremendous job learning on the curve, and that’s part of being a rookie. His future is definitely bright.
 
AOTI: What’s a typical day like in the life of Jalil Anibaba?
 
JA: I wake up for training, come to the stadium in the morning, and put in my day’s work as far as my profession is concerned.

Once I leave the stadium, the day is pretty slow. I like to get a nap in after training and then pretty much after the nap, it’s all about getting ready for the next day, so eating well, resting, watching either a movie or a couple of TV shows and just being ready for the next day.
 
AOTI: What TV shows do you like?

JA: There are a couple series that I’ve been intrigued with lately. I’m happy that season five of “Sons of Anarchy” started again; that’s one of my top choices. I was into “Damages” but that show is done now. I’m a big fan of “Suits.” With time on my hands I like to indulge in different TV series to entertain myself.

Reality TV is something that me and my brother and some of my friends like to get into. We watch “Love & Hip Hop” and “The Voice” to keep things light hearted.”
 
AOTI: Do you have any hidden talents?
 
JA: When I was young I used to skateboard and I used to yo-yo. I’m a little rusty but maybe I could still do some tricks.
 
AOTI: Your dad raises canaries. What’s the most interesting thing about canaries?
 
JA: What’s interesting about them is that the males sing, and they sing beautifully. If you’re ever to come to my house back in Davis, you’ll definitely hear birds singing, and it’s a great, great sound.

09 August 11:47 am

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_.