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02 March 9:38 am

The 2013 MLS campaign kicks off today and the All-In Podcast crew has made their picks for the weekend matches... We'll tally these throughout the season and be sure to point out who does the worst every week on the Podcast...

  Jeff Crandall
Co-Host
Eunice Kim
Co-Host
Nick Sintich
Producer
Philadelphia vs. Sporting KC
(3/2 4pm CT; MLS Live)
SKC SKC SKC
Vancouver vs. Toronto FC
(3/2 5:30pm CT; MLS Live)
VAN VAN VAN
Houston vs. D.C. United
(3/2 7:00pm CT; NBCSN)
Draw HOU Draw
FC Dallas vs. Colorado
(3/2 7:30pm CT; MLS Live)
FCD Draw Draw
Seattle vs. Montreal
(3/2 9:30pm CT; MLS Live)
SEA Draw SEA
Chivas USA vs. Columbus
(3/2 9:30pm CT; MLS Live)
CLB CHV CLB
LA Galaxy vs. Chicago
(3/3 4pm CT; UniMas)
Draw CHI CHI
Portland vs. New York
(3/3 6:30pm CT; ESPN2)
Draw POR Draw
San Jose vs. Real Salt Lake
(3/3 9:00pm CT; MLS Live)
RSL SJ SJ
2013 Records 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0

 

02 March 8:33 am

While most of MLS kicks off today, we in Fire country have to wait more sleep before we watch the Men in Red take on two-time defending MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy Sunday at 4pm on UniMas.

Whet the appetite with this video where MLSsoccer.com's Dan Haiek and Matt Doyle talk one of the most intriguing matches of Opening Weekend...

01 March 8:29 am

The Fire start the 2013 MLS season at the Home Depot Center on Sunday against the two-time defending champions LA Galaxy (LIVE 4pm CT on UniMas). Both teams made some major changes over the off-season and will be looking to start 2013 off on the right step. Here are a few tactical things to keep an eye on...

New central midfield pairing – how will the JL’s play together?

Last season, the Fire paired Logan Pause and Pavel Pardo in central midfield. This season, two new midfielders take their places: MLS veterans Jeff Larentowicz and Joel Lindpere. Both have played together in preseason but the regular season, against the defending champions at the Home Depot Center is a different animal.

Lindpere is noted for his attacking ability but he will be required to help Larentowicz defensively, especially when the Fire turn the ball over.  It will be important for both players to hold their positions and not get caught too far apart.

In an away match, it is vital to hold on to possession when you get it and it will be important for both of the JL’s to link well with each other through the match.

Set pieces – how will LA deal with service from Lindpere?

One thing that really stood out during the preseason was Lindpere’s ability to deliver a good ball into the box, especially from dead ball situations. Time after time, Lindpere put balls into the danger area – the space between the penalty spot and the six yard box. The Fire got some goals from set pieces last year and players like Austin Berry are a major threat from them.

Larentowicz is also good in the air, scoring a header in the Carolina Challenge Cup from a Lindpere corner. The Galaxy will be looking to avoid giving up silly free kicks around the area and will try to limit the number of corners the Fire but with Lindpere’s quality, the Fire can be very dangerous in this department.

LA will be debuting the vastly experienced ‘keeper Carlo Cudincini and the Fire’s set pieces will question whether he and his defense are on the same page.

Dilly Duka vs Sean Franklin – youthful exuberance vs experience

Dilly Duka looks set to make his debut for the Fire on Sunday, starting on the left wing. Duka’s opponent will likely be Sean Franklin, one of the best right backs in the league and a player with well over 100 MLS games under his belt.

This matchup is fascinating because just as Duka loves to get forward and take on his man, Franklin regularly pushes up to support in the attack, contributing with his fair share of assists. Duka will need to find a good balance between trying to keep Franklin pinned back by pushing forward, and helping out Gonzalo Segares when Franklin does advance to support the attack.

Duka is a very creative player and could end up giving Franklin a tough time but on the other side of the coin, if Segares and Duka are not in tandem, Franklin could hurt the Fire.

Robbie Keane – it’s not just all about goals

Robbie Keane’s goals dragged the Gals to their second MLS Cup victory in a row last season but his play is not all about goals. He likes to drop into the hole and link up with the Galaxy’s midfielders. Keane is very good and holding onto the ball in tight spaces and playing through balls to advancing players.

At Euro 2012, Keane played a similar role for the Republic of Ireland but was often crowed out, something the Fire should look to do if and when Keane drops deeper into the hole. Keane will certainly miss Landon Donovan and Mike Magee on Sunday but even without them, he is a major threat and should prove a handful for Berry, Friedrich and co.

Prediction: 2-1 Fire with goals from Sherjill MacDonald and Arne Friedrich. 

Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @irish_steve.

18 December 5:05 pm

The beginning of MLS scheduling season came and went today with the announcement of all team’s First Kick and Home Opening matches for the 2013 campaign.

Praise to the heavens, for the first time in four years, the Fire won’t be charged with opening up a new stadium but that’s likely only because no new MLS grounds are set to open until 2014. See you then, San Jose.

In case you missed it, the Fire open up at two-time defending MLS Cup champions on Sunday, March 3 before returning home to host the New England Revolution for Opening Day at Toyota Park on Saturday, March 9.

Because Sporting KC opens up their first two matches on the road, we also found out that the Fire will be their opponent when they open their third season at LiveStrong Sporting Park on March 16.

Some interesting things you should know about the team’s first three games and opponents…

·         If you felt a slight frost come over you with today’s announcement, it’s because both the March 3 First Kick match and March 9 Opening Day game will be the earliest competitive matches in club history.

·         The earliest game in Fire history came in a CONCACAF Champions Cup match on March 16, 2002 at Guatemalan side CSD Municipal as the Men in Red used a 55th minute goal from Dema Kovalenko to take the first leg 1-0.

·         The earliest home game in Fire history also came in the return leg four days later when Ante Razov and Carlos Bocanegra scored to give the Fire a 3-0 aggregate win and push them to the next round of the tournament.

·         The Fire have actually played four of the team’s previous 15 home openers against New England, going 3-0-1 against the Revolution (2003: 1-1 draw, 2006: 3-3 draw, 2007: 1-0 win, 2008: 4-0 win)

·         The Fire have faced at least one of their three opening opponents in 2013 in their first three matches 10 times out of 15 seasons.

·         Much like the team opened up at home three years in a row against New England, they also had a spell between 1998-2000 that saw them face Kansas City in one of their first three matches of the year. In total, they’ve played Kansas City six times (1998, '99, '00, '03, '04, '11) inside their first three games of the season, going 3-2-1 in those instances.

·         The First Kick match on March 3 marks the first time the Fire will open up a season against the LA Galaxy.  It also marks the first time in club history the Fire will kickoff against the previous season’s MLS Cup champion.

·         Overall, the Fire are a combined 5-3-4 when facing the three sides in their first three regular season matches of a campaign.

So what do you think of the first three matchups? What date are you picking in the “Full Schedule Release” pool?

18 December 11:11 am

With today's league-wide announcement of MLS First Kick and Home Opening matches, we wanted to take a photgraphic look back at some of the team's previous matches to open their season...

Fire First Kick and Opening Day in Photos

A look back at the club's previous opening matches...

Storified by Chicago Fire Soccer Club · Tue, Dec 18 2012 09:07:09

1998_FirstKickChicago Fire Soccer Club
Polish striker Roman Kosecki scored the first goal in Fire history, tallying what would stand as the game winner in the 76th minute of a 2-0 victory at the Miami Fusion on March 21, 1998.
0801706P FIRE V BURNChicago Fire Soccer Club
Hristo Stoitchkov celebrates the first of two goals in his Fire debut, which came in a 4-2 First Kick loss at the Dallas Burn on March 18, 2000.
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John Wolyniec celebrates after tallying in the 16th minute of the Fire's 1-1 First Kick draw at Columbus on April 7, 2001.
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Damani Ralph makes his Fire debut in the teams 1-1 First Kick and Home Opening draw with the New England Revolution on April 13, 2003 at Cardinal Stadium in Naperville, Ill. 
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Goalkeeper Henry Ring makes four saves en route to earning his first career MLS shutout in a 0-0 First Kick draw with the Kansas City Wizards on April 13, 2004.
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Fire players celebrate Thiago's 90th minute winner in the team's 2-1 home opening victory over the San Jose Earthquakes on April 16, 2005.
71145452JD003_New_England_RChicago Fire Soccer Club
Fire players celebrate the first-ever goal scored in Toyota Park by Nate Jaqua, tallied in the 39th minute of the team's 3-3 draw vs. new England on June 11, 2006.
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The Grand Opening of Toyota Park comes with a 2-0 Fire win over the New York Red Bulls on June 25, 2006.
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Gonzalo Segares battles New England's Taylor Twellman in the Fire's 1-0 home opening victory over the New England Revolution on April 7, 2007 at Toyota Park. 
13530074Chicago Fire Soccer Club
Logan Pause celebrates his first-career MLS goal, the game winner in the team's 1-0 Opening Night victory over New England on April 7, 2007 at Toyota Park. 
51669542Chicago Fire Soccer Club
Cuauhtemoc Blanco celebrates his stoppage time equalizer in the Fire's 1-1 away draw at Real Salt Lake in First Kick 2008.
80444285BK002_NEW_ENGLAND_RChicago Fire Soccer Club
Tomasz Frankowski scores one of his two goals in the Fire's 4-0 Opening Night victory over New England on April 3, 2008 at Toyota Park.
57136179Chicago Fire Soccer Club
Marco Pappa tallies his first career Fire goal in the 33rd minute of the team's 1-0 Opening Day victory over the New York Red Bulls on April 5, 2009.
97758160JD061_San_Jose_EartChicago Fire Soccer Club
Section 8 Chicago tifo ahead of the sold-out Opening Night match vs. San Jose Earthquakes on April 10, 2010.
64012864Chicago Fire Soccer Club
Diego Chaves tallies his first goal in his Fire debut in the 17th minute of the team's 1-1 First Kick draw at FC Dallas on March 19, 2011.
64086506Chicago Fire Soccer Club
Gaston Puerari puts the Fire ahead 2-0 in the 40th minute of the team's 3-2 Opening Day victory over Sporting KC on March 26, 2011.
ting_KanChicago Fire Soccer Club
Section 8 Chicago celebrates the team's 3-2 Opening Day victory over Sporting KC on March 26, 2011.
140307442RW108_Fire_ImpaChicago Fire Soccer Club
Dominic Oduro equalizes for the Fire in the team's 1-1 First Kick draw with the Montreal Impact on March 17, 2012 at the Olympic Stadium. 
140307457DB022Chicago Fire Soccer Club
Section 8 Chicago tifo ahead of the team's 1-0 Opening Night win over the Philadelphia Union on March 24, 2012
140307457DB005Chicago Fire Soccer Club
Dominic Oduro heads home the eventual game winner in the Fire's 1-0 Opening Night victory over the Philadelphia Union on March 24, 2012.

13 December 4:34 pm

Major League Soccer today released the final list of players eligible for Stage Two of the MLS Re-Entry process to take place via teleconference Friday afternoon at 2pm CT.

Midfielder Corben Bone, defender Dan Gargan and goalkeeper Jay Nolly remained on the list from the Fire after passing through the Stage One draft last Friday. Of course the Fire were the only team to select a player in that draft, picking Brazilian forward Maicon Santos. 

The Stage Two draft typically has more activity as teams who select players on Friday can negotiate their salaries. In Stage Two, teams cannot select their own players until after all 18 other teams have passed on them.

Players that pass through Friday's draft without getting picked are free to sign with any MLS team on a first-come, first-served basis. If you're at all still confused, I explained the entire Re-Entry Process in this blog last Friday

The list of the 49 eligible players for Re-Entry is below. Salary numbers are from the most recent report by the MLS Players Union.

This is probably a weaker Re-Entry Field than we've seen in the two previous versions. Given the three players the Fire have exposed to the draft and considering the moves made so far this offseason (re-signing Arne Friedrich and Gonzalo Segares; acquiring Maicon Santos), who, if anyone would you want to see the Fire take in Stage Two tomorrow? 

Tell us in the comments below...

Team Player Position 2012 Base Salary
CHI Jay Nolly GK $78,250
CHI Corben Bone M $100,000
CHI Dan Gargan  D $88,000
CHV Juan Pablo Angel F $350,000
CHV Peter Vagenas M $70,000
CHV Danny Califf D $275,000
CHV Alejandro Moreno F $185,000
CLB Will Hesmer GK $170,000
CLB Julius James D $100,000
COL Tyrone Marshall D $90,000
COL Scott Palguta D $63,670
COL Conor Casey F $400,000
COL Hunter Freeman D $105,000
COL Jamie Smith M $148,992
COL Ian Joyce GK $44,004
COL Joseph Nane M $44,100
COL Tyson Wahl D $65,000
DC Mike Chabala D $75,000
DAL  Bruno Guarda M $60,000
DAL Kevin Hartman GK $165,000
DAL Julian De Guzman M $1,863,996
DAL Scott Sealy F $50,004
HOU Colin Clark M $105,427
KC Olukorede Aiyebusi D $44,100
KC Luke Sassano M/D $81,000
LA Chad Barrett F $220,000
LA Andrew Boyens D $62,500
LA Bryan Jordan F $55,000
LA Pat Noonan F $70,000
MTL Shavar Thomas D $80,000
NE Tim Murray GK $44,100
NE Blair Gavin M $60,000
NY Bill Gaudette GK $60,000
NY Stephen Keel D $65,000
PHI Chase Harrison GK $44,000
POR Lovel Palmer M $85,000
RSL Paulo Araujo, Jr. F $65,000
SEA Andrew Weber GK $51,996
SEA Mike Seamon M $33,750
SJ Jean Alexandre M $44,100
SJ Tim Ward D $65,000
SJ Ramiro Corrales M $173,250
SJ Joseph Gjertsen M $85,000
SJ Khari Stephenson M $190,000
TOR Eric Avila M $125,000
TOR Adrian Cann D $126,000
TOR Ty Harden D $90,000
VAN John Thorrington  M $170,000

 

05 November 11:23 am

Following Wednesday’s disappointing knockout round exit to Houston, taking in the rest of the MLS Cup playoffs this weekend didn’t sit all the way at the top of my “want to do” list.

Being the seasoned Team Writer that I am, I decided it was a good idea to take in the four games from Friday to Sunday…

Real Salt Lake 0, Seattle Sounders 0 – Friday

With the Fire out, I have to say there are few teams in the league I would feel alright about winning MLS Cup and you know the Sounders do not fall in that category for me.

On the flip side, RSL has Fire legend C.J. Brown, defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe and even former Fire beat writer Sam Stejskal slingin’ PR in Sandy, so if someone has to win MLS Cup, I wouldn’t mind for it to be our friends from the Sawatch Front?

Playing on the Seattle Seahawks outlined pitch at CenturyLink Field Friday night, it was Nick Rimando who stood tall in net, making five big saves for RSL and even suffering a broken nose and laceration in the 67th minute after a collision with the Sounders Christian Tiffert.

The display left RSL head coach Jason Kreis to say, “I think it would have to go down as one of the best individual performances by any player that’s ever worn an RSL jersey.”

In my opinion, Rimando’s historic performance will likely go down as one of the best ever in MLS postseason play.

In the end, RSL escaped Seattle with a 0-0 draw and head back to the friendly confines of Rio Tinto Stadium for Thursday night’s second leg.

D.C. United 1, New York Red Bulls 1 – Saturday

Knowing that one point at any time during the regular season would have had the Fire playing in this series, I had the most trouble watching this game of any during the weekend. With that said, it was nice to see D.C. switch home legs with New York after Hurricane Sandy left Red Bull Arena unplayable for the weekend.

WATCH: D.C. United 1, New York Red Bulls 1

 

Come the 33rd minute of the tie, United looked to be in good shape when Red Bull defender Connor Lade was whistled for a handball in the box, forcing referee Jair Marrufo to point to the spot. Chris Pontius’ take however wasn’t the greatest, allowing Red Bull ‘keeper Luis Robles to make one of his five saves on the night.

Despite the save, United would get on the board just after the hour mark when Chris Korb’s dangerous cross to the six left Red Bull’s Roy Miller with an attempted clear, instead roofing into the top of his own net.

In what seemed to be a comedy of errors, Red Bull would pull level with a United own goal just four minutes later. Off a corner kick from the right, defender Heath Pearce headed the ball back across goal, catching United goalkeeper Bill Hamid wrong footed before catching the ball inside his own goal and clearly across the line.

Perhaps most comical was Hamid’s insistence that he’d been fouled on the play. A replay shows Red Bull defender Markus Holgersson ducking even as United’s Dejan Jakovic is pushing him towards Hamid.

Own goals aside, the story of the match would be DC right back Andy Najar’s sending off in the 71st minute. Shown a yellow card for his foul on Joel Lindpere in the 71st minute, the Honduran international threw the ball at Maruffo, forcing the referee to show the Honduran international a second yellow and then a red card, forcing United to play a man down the final 19+ minutes of the match.

United will definitely be without Najar as they head back to Red Bull Arena for leg two and if they advance, it’s a fair bet they could lose him throughout a potential Eastern Conference Final series.

Houston Dynamo 2, Sporting Kansas City 0 – Sunday

In the surprise of the weekend, Houston came away with a dominant 2-0 victory over Sporting KC in leg one of their Eastern Conference semifinal series at BBVA Compass Stadium.

WATCH: Houston Dynamo 2, Sporting KC 0

Having defeated the Fire 2-1 on Wednesday night, the Dynamo were charged by the partisan crowd in Houston and went ahead in the 18th minute off of Adam Moffat’s wonder-volley from outside the area.

On the other side of halftime, Will Bruin would score his third goal in two playoff matches, connecting once again with former Fire striker Calen Carr to seal the 2-0 victory in the 75th minute.

It’s interesting to note that though the two sides finished even with 13 shots each, the Dynamo held just a 2-1 advantage in shots on goal, finishing both of their attempts for the win.

Houston can now go to LiveStrong Sporting Park on Wednesday, lose 1-0 and still advance to the Eastern Conference finals, knocking out the team with the second best record in the process…

San Jose Earthquakes 1, LA Galaxy 0 – Sunday

While the Dynamo didn’t look like they’d played at midweek, the LA Galaxy certainly did, looking tired a times throughout Sunday night’s home encounter.

Despite that, LA threatened just as much as San Jose but as so many other teams have this season, would fall victim to a late, late Earthquakes goal.

This time the marker would come from Honduran midfielder Victor Bernardez, who hit a low free kick underneath the jumping Omar Gonzalez and past Josh Saunders in the 94th minute, allowing the Quakes to stick with their “Goonies never say die” tagline.

The star-studded Galaxy will have a tall but not impossible order to overcome the 1-0 deficit in Wednesday’s second leg at San Jose…

Second Leg Picks
New York Red Bulls 2, D.C. United 1 (NY Advances)
Sporting KC 2, Houston Dynamo 1( HOU Advances)
Real Salt Lake 2, Seattle 1 (RSL Advances)
San Jose Earthquakes 1, LA Galaxy 1 (SJ Advances)

25 October 8:55 am

After two runs to the MLS Cup Final in three seasons, the high-flying Chicago Fire finished the 2001 MLS Regular Season similar to the previous year, winning the Central division and tying for the league’s best record (this time with Miami) only to be seeded second, losing on the tiebreaker to the Fusion.

Things might have gone differently if not for Ariel Graziani popping up once again to spoil the day in a match that would end up being the team’s last game of the 2001 season.  

In that game played September 8 at Soldier Field, the Burn came back from a 2-0 deficit to earn a 2-2 draw with Graziani once again the culprit, scoring the 91st minute equalizer. Had the Fire been victorious in the match, the team would have eventually been awarded its first MLS Supporters Shield.

Alas, three days later everything changed with the September 11 terrorist attacks. With all eight playoff teams known at that point, MLS decided to cancel the remaining regular season games and move to the playoffs roughly nine days later, meaning the Fire would once again face Dallas in an opening round playoff series.  

WATCH: 2001: MLS Cup Quarterfinals

 

 

 

#2 Chicago Fire vs. #3 Dallas Burn – MLS Cup quarterfinals (first to five points)

Chicago Fire 2, Dallas Burn 0 (Game 1)
Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill.
September 20, 2001

With the end of the September 8 game and memories of the devastating 1999 playoff defeat to Dallas fresh in their minds, it would be safe to say that the Fire held feelings of revenge in their hearts going up against their Brimstone Cup rivals.

The team would breakthrough just before halftime when Eric Wynalda’s free kick from the left picked out Carlos Bocanegra unmarked at the six, leaving the young Fire center back an easy header past Matt Jordon in the 40th minute.

Though the Fire held an 8-3 shots on goal advantage in the match, they weren’t able to put the Burn away until very late. Dallas would be awarded a direct free kick deep into stoppage time. Desperately looking for an equalizer, Jordan came all the way up the field to provide numbers but would regret it when Oscar Pareja’s take was hit straight into the wall before Peter Nowak intercepted a pass to start the counter attack.

The Fire captain fed a streaking Evan Whitfield in alone up the field and the current Fire color analyst outpaced Dallas defender Justin Evans to tuck the ball away and give the Fire a 2-0 victory in Game 1.

Chicago Fire 1, Dallas Burn 1 (OT) (Game 2)
The Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas
September 23, 2001

 Back home for Game 2, Dallas would take an early first half lead when Jason Kreis played a forward ball for Bobby Rhine at the top of the area. The Burn forward would find Chad Deering streaking through midfield and played a pinpoint pass into the box that the U.S. international one-timed past Zach Thornton in the 27th minute.

It looked as though Dallas would tie the series up at three points each the Fire had other ideas. In the 84th minute, Peter Nowak penetrated towards the middle of the field before feeding Dema Kovalenko into the box. The Ukrainian fired a quick effort that Matt Jordan did well to save but substitute striker Jamar Beasley was on the doorstep to equalize.

After 10 minutes of extra time, Beasley’s goal would stand to send the series back to Chicago with the Fire needing only a draw in Game 3 to advance.

Chicago Fire 2, Dallas Burn 0 (Game 3)
Soldier Field, Chicago, Ill.
September 29, 2001

Back in Chicago for Game 3, there was little doubt the Fire would advance.

In the 17th minute, Peter Nowak’s corner from the left was headed down in the area by Evan Whitfield leaving Dema Kovalenko to scrap inside the six, eventually knocking home the go-ahead goal.

Needing only a tie, the Fire would go for the jugular in the second half when Nowak made one of his patented long runs through midfield. The Fire captain entered the box on the left and saw a bit of confusion when his last touch on the ball was a bit heavy, allowing for Chris Armas to bury the second goal in the 55th minute and send the Fire to its third MLS Cup semifinal in four years.

#2 Chicago Fire vs. #3 LA Galaxy – MLS Cup semifinals (first to five)

Chicago Fire 1, LA Galaxy 1 (OT) (Game 1)
Soldier Field, Chicago, Ill.
October 10, 2001

The Fire had already received bitter disappointment from the Galaxy in late August when Alexi Lalas’ 94th minute “golden goal” knocked the team out at the semifinal stage.

The home side would take the lead in the 32nd minute when Peter Nowak gallivanted through midfield before sending DaMarcus Beasley down the left flank. The second-year Fire winger crossed to the back post where Eric Wynalda first-timed his effort past Kevin Hartman for the 1-0 lead.

The Galaxy would equalize just before halftime after Chris Armas was judged to have brought down Sasha Victorine at the top of the penalty area. Vaunted Galaxy striker Luis Hernandez saw his spot kick saved by Zach Thornton but buried the rebound to tie the score in the 44th minute.

The Fire would be dealt a blow in the 60th minute when Evan Whitfield was shown a straight red card for pulling down Cobi Jones who was in alone on goal. Despite playing a man down for the final 30 minutes of regulation and 10 more in overtime, the Fire escaped the match with a point in the 1-1 draw.

LA Galaxy 1, Chicago Fire 0 (OT) (Game 2)
Titan Stadium, Fullerton, Calif.
October 13, 2001

The Fire returned to the site where the team fell in U.S. Open Cup semifinals nearly two months before and already without Whitfield due to his one-match suspension, would be dealt another blow when Peter Nowak left the game at halftime with a hamstring strain, ending his participation in the remainder of the team’s playoff run.

In eerie similarity to the the August Open Cup match, the game would head to overtime and see another Galaxy winner come in the 94th minute when Peter Vagenas tallied off a Luis Hernandez feed, giving the Galaxy a 4-1 points advantage heading back to Chicago for Game 3.

LA Galaxy 2, Chicago Fire 1 (OT) (Game 3)
Soldier Field, Chicago, Ill.
October 13, 2001

Returning home, the Fire would once again take the early lead at Soldier Field when Chris Armas fed DaMarcus Beasley through in the 30thminute.

Again though, similarities to a previous match between the two sides would reign supreme. This time when the Galaxy’s Danny Califf would tally the equalizer in the 44th minute (the same time as Luis Hernandez’s penalty put back in Game 1) that would eventually send the match to extra time.

In the overtime period, LA’s Mauricio Cienfuegos would tally his second overtime winner of the postseason, finishing off the Fire in the 98th minute and sending the Galaxy to their third MLS Cup appearance.

For the Fire, it would mark the team’s first home playoff loss in four seasons.

22 October 10:09 am

The MLS Cup playoffs are nearly upon us and even with Saturday’s disappointing result, you can feel the excitement for the club’s return to the postseason after a two-year absence. With their playoff qualification back on October 7, the team locked in its 12th postseason berth in 15 seasons, by far the best playoff qualification rate of all professional teams in Chicago in both their first 15 seasons of play and last 15 seasons.

With a strong postseason presence through 15 seasons, I wanted to take a year-by-year look back at the club’s postseason performances leading up to the beginning of the MLS Cup playoffs next Wednesday.

We'll begin where it all started: The magical run in 1998...

The Fire played their first two seasons in the Western Conference and aptly enough, the first saw them finish where the team could potentially finish this season (second place) behind only the league’s regular season champions LA.

#2 Chicago Fire vs. #3 Colorado Rapids Western Conference Semifinals (best of three)

GAME 1: Holding home-field advantage over Colorado, the Fire welcomed the Rapids to Soldier Field on October 1, 1998.

After forcing Colorado ‘keeper Marcus Hahnemann into five first half saves, the Fire would take advantage of Rapids defender Steve Trittschuh for the first time in the series when he pulled down Peter Nowak in the box, leaving refree Kevin Terry to whistle a penalty.

WATCH: The 1998 Playoff Run

 

As he’d done four out of four times during the regular season, defender Lubos Kubik blasted his effort to the top left corner to give the Fire a 1-0 lead in the 50th minute. Facing a loss in Game 1, the Rapids would equalize in the 79th when Adrian Paz’s cross from the right was deflected by C.J Brown and found Waldir with a diving header at the back post, forcing the game to a shootout.

In the decider, Tom Soehn and Frank Klopas converted to cancel out goals from Paul Bravo and Chris Henderson in the early rounds. Fire ‘keeper Zach Thornton then took over, making three consecutive stops on David Vaudreuil, Wolde Harris and Peter Vermes before Jesse Marsch chipped Hahneman to clinch the win and give the Fire a 1-0 series lead.

GAME 2: The Fire traveled to Mile High Stadium for Game 2 on October 5, knowing that a victory would push the team to the Western Conference final.

Once again, Peter Nowak would take advantage of Trittschuh, going on a stunning run through the Rapids midfield before being tripped up by the former U.S. international at the top of the box. For the second time in five days, Lubos Kubik would step up and convert his spot kick, this time placing a low effort to the left of Hahnemann in the 42nd minute.

Thornton would stand tall, making two second half saves to give the Fire a 1-0 victory and push the team to the conference finals.

#1 LA Galaxy vs. #2 Chicago Fire Western Conference Finals (best of three)

GAME 1:  Five days after advancing, the Fire traveled to The Rose Bowl to take on top-seeded LA on October 10. The Galaxy would outshoot the Fire 11-5, with the Fire not registering a shot on goal until the 86th minute.

Luckily enough, the two that came with just four minutes to play would be all the visitors would need as Lubos Kubik’s free kick was stopped with a diving save from Kevin Hartman before Jesse Marsch was there on the doorstep to tally his second winner of the postseason, sending the Fire back to Chicago with a  1-0 lead.

GAME 2: The Fire welcomed the Galaxy to Soldier Field on October 16 and would once again take the first lead.

In the 31st minute, C.J. Brown sent a long ball over the top and into the stride of Ante Razov. The U.S. international sped into the box before seeing his close-range effort stopped by Hartman but Captain Clutch Peter Nowak saw the rebound fall to him near the penalty spot and he fired the effort past the Galaxy ‘keeper to give the Fire the lead.

It lasted just six minutes as Cobi Jones cross from the right found a wide open Danny Pena in the box. With acres of space, Pena was able to take two touches before hitting a low effort to the inside post, catching Thornton flat-footed and equalizing just before the half.

LA outshot the Fire on goal 2-0 in the second half but couldn’t convert, forcing the Men in Red to another shootout. Through the first three rounds, the Galaxy held a 1-0 edge as Welton tallied while Nowak, Razov and Soehn all failed to convert for the Fire.

As he did against Colorado in Game 1, Zach Thornton would come up huge at the end, making three consecutive stops on Martin Machon, Mauricio Cienfuegos and Greg Vanney while Marsch converted and Podbrozny hit the back of the net to push the team into MLS Cup in front of 32,744 at Soldier Field.

Chicago Fire vs. D.C. United – MLS Cup ’98 – The Rose Bowl; Pasadena, CA

After wrapping up their conference final series in two matches, the Fire would return to The Rose Bowl on nine days rest while opponents D.C. United came into the match having played just four days prior against the Columbus Crew in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final.

Facing the only champions the young league had ever known, the Fire were outshot by United 9-6 in the first half but the advantage wasn’t reflected on the score board.

In the 29th minute, Nowak’s quick combination with Razov saw the Fire captain into the box on the left.  Now in, the former Polish international simply slid the ball across to an open Jerzy Podbrozny who slotted past Tom Presthus to give the Fire a 1-0 lead.

It was Nowak again helping to pad the Fire’s lead just before halftime. This time, the future Ring of Fire inductee cut into the box from the left before unleashing a blast that took a deflection off the chest of Diego Gutierrez, sending Presthus to the right while the ball trickled in on the left.

As he had in so many previous playoff matches, Zach Thornton stood tall in the second half, making six saves and visibly frustrating United to give the Fire an unprecedented MLS Cup title in their expansion season.

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