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08 March 9:50 am

The Fire suffered a heavy defeat last weekend in Los Angles and are looking to rebound in the best possible way in the team’s home opener against New England on Saturday evening. The Revs have yet to play a game and will hope to shake off the rust and try and spoil the Fire’s first game at home in 2013. Here are some tactical things to look out for:

Handling Bengtson – how will the Fire’s defense contain the target striker?

In last weekend’s loss to LA, the Fire’s defense couldn’t contain Robbie Keane whose movement led to all sorts of problems for the team. Against New England, the defense will face a much different type of striker in Jerry Bengtson, a giant target forward who will likely play up front on his own.

New England have a host of attacking midfielders/wingers that will be looking for layoffs and knockdowns from Bengtson and the Fire’s defense will need to try and stop the Honduran from linking with his teammates.

LA were able to stop Maicon Santos and Shejill MacDonald from holding the ball up at the Home Depot Center last week and if the Fire’s defense can mimic LA’s, the Rev’s could be in a for a long night.

Who plays behind Bengtson? A wealth of attacking options for the Revs

Because New England did not play last week, the Fire will have less of an idea about who will be playing in the attacking positions behind Bengtson on Saturday night.

Though the Rev’s have lost Benny Feilhaber, they still have many options for the second striker/wide midfield roles.  Any combination of Chad Barrett, Andy Dorman, Juan Toja, Ryan Guy and Lee Nguyen could play against the Fire and all five offer something different.

The defense as a unit will be looking for a much improved performance and with Logan Pause and Arne Friedrich’s return unlikely, Saturday gives the back four a chance to redeem themselves against New England.

On the outside, Gonzalo Segares and Jalil Anibaba were caught out a few times with balls in behind them last Sunday and must be aware of players like Nguyen and Toja who look to do that on a regular basis.

Dilly Duka and Patrick Nyarko did a good job tracking back and helping the outside defenders but the emphasis will be on Sega and Anibaba to get forward and put in crosses as every opportunity.

Creating more chances – possession and set pieces

The Fire showed some rust last Sunday, giving the ball away on numerous occasions and completing over 100 less passes than LA with the Men in Red’s pass accuracy at only 74%. Large improvements in that department are certainly needed but the team will also be looking to get more set pieces in the attacking third.

The Fire’s first (of only two) corner kicks didn’t occur until the 60th minute in LA and it almost resulted in a goal for Anibaba after a brilliant cross by Lindpere.

As I mentioned last week, Lindpere’s excellent deliveries from corners and free kicks will create many changes for the team this season. Last week LA started a new goalkeeper and this week, New England may start a new acquisition in the defense Jose Goncalves. The Portuguese newcomer is an experienced defender but as we saw last week, putting balls into a place where it forces the goalkeeper and defender to communicate and make a decision can lead to a mistake and a Fire opportunity.  

The Fire only had one shot on target last week but also had some other excellent chances to score, most notably Rolfe’s scuffed shot after the Cudicini mistake and Maicon’s header just wide of the post. Klopas and co. will be looking for the Fire attackers to test Matt Reis as much as possible.

Prediction: 2-0 Fire with goals from MacDonald and Lindpere

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

07 March 3:07 pm

 

A little over a year since the Fire/Quaker Oats partnership began and just days before the Chicago Fire challenge the New England Revolution on Opening Night at Toyota Park (Saturday, March 9 at 6:30 p.m. CT live on NBC Sports Network), we stopped by the Quaker Oats headquarters to check-in and see how the club’s iconic jersey partner was preparing for the 2013 season.

From the looks of things, the partnership is really starting to make an impact... 

03 March 10:06 am

As we continue to countdown to kickoff, some facts and figures on the Chicago Fire’s 2013 First Kick Roster…

* The current roster features 26 players with an average age of 24 years, 9 months.

* 19 players return from the Fire team that finished the 2012 season.

* 7 new Fire players have joined the side over the offseason.

* 5 of those players were acquired by in-league movements: Maicon Santos (Re-Entry from D.C.), Joel Lindpere (trade with New York), Jeff Larentowicz (trade with Colorado), Dilly Duka (trade with Columbus), Quincy Amarikwa (trade with Toronto FC).

GAMEDAY Q&A: 8 Questions with Frank Klopas

*1 of the other players, midfielder Yazid Atouba was the Fire’s lone selection in the 2013 SuperDraft.

* 9 countries are represented: USA, Brazil, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Estonia, Germany, Ghana, Italy and The Netherlands.

* 8 players have made senior international appearances for their country: Chris Rolfe (10), Logan Pause (6), Larentowicz (4), Sean Johnson (3; USA), Arne Friedrich (82; Germany), Gonzalo Segares (19; Costa Rica), Patrick Nyarko (1; Ghana), Lindpere (84; Estonia).

* 5 players are alumni of the club’s player development setup: Rolfe and Austin Berry, (PDL), Brendan King (Super-20s), Victor Pineda, Kellen Gulley (Fire Juniors, Academy).

* Captain Logan Pause returns for his 11th consecutive season in Chicago – one of the longest consecutive tenures with one team all-time in MLS. Pause sits second on the club’s all competitions appearance list with 304 games played since 2003.

* Entering the 2013 season, Fire players have a combined 86 seasons of MLS experience. Leading the way are Logan Pause (10), Jeff Larentowicz and Gonzalo Segares (8), Chris Rolfe (6) and Wells Thompson (6).

* 3 players on the Fire roster have won MLS Cup. Larentowicz, Thompson and Amarikwa were all part of the Colorado Rapids side that won the 2010 title.

* 7 players on the Fire roster have won a combined 11 domestic titles: Pause (2 U.S. Open Cups, 1 Supporters Shield), Larentowicz and Thompson (1 MLS Cup, 1 U.S. Open Cup each), Segares and Rolfe (1 U.S. Open Cup), Amarikwa (1 MLS Cup), Maicon Santos (1 Canadian Championship).

* This season marks the first time since 2009 that the Fire have had two goalkeepers return. Sean Johnson is back for his fourth season while Paolo Tornaghi backs him up for the second year.

READ: Five things you should know about #LAvCHI

* The current roster has scored 158 goals in regular season play, led by 2012 Fire MVP and Golden Boot winner Chris Rolfe who has 44 career strikes. Three of the Fire’s offseason acquisitions boast double-digit career goal scoring figures: Jeff Larentowicz (23 goals), Joel Lindpere (15 goals) and Maicon Santos (21 goals).

* Frank Klopas returns for his second full season as head coach and third since taking over from Carlos de los Cobos in May 2011. 

* Klopas is 25-16-16 all-time in MLS play and is 28-19-16 in competitive matches since 2011.

* Klopas' full coaching staff of Mike Matkovich and Leo Percovich (assistants), Aron Hyde(goalkeeping) and Tony Jouaux (fitness) return for 2013.

* All five coaches were born in different countries: Klopas (Greece), Matkovich (USA), Percovich (Uruguay), Hyde (England), Jouaux (France).

 

02 March 10:38 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 9:33 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 9:29 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.

21 February 7:32 am

Now just 16 days away from Opening Night vs. the New England Revolution at Toyota Park, today we look at #16 Marco Pappa's first goal in a Fire shirt which came on Opening Day 2009.

Pappa of course joined the Fire on loan from Gutemalan side Muncipal in July 2008 but didn't make much of an impact as he adjusted to MLS in his first season.

With a new season ahead of him on this rainy and cold day at Toyota Park, Pappa warmed up Fire fans by taking advantage of Luke Sassano's misplayed header to first-time his volley off both posts before being ruled a goal in a 1-0 victory over New York.

Little did we know that the first goal of his Fire career would be a sign of things to come with his next 25...

Watch below and make sure to get your tickets to Opening Night on March 9 when the Chicago Fire welcome the New England Revolution to Toyota Park. 

WATCH: Marco Pappa's Debut Goal for the Fire

15 February 5:09 pm

As they have the previous two years, the Chicago Fire ventured to the Three Lions Pub inside Blackbaud Stadium for the 2013 Carolina Challenge Cup kickoff luncheon Friday afternoon. The Fire were joined by hosts the Charleston Battery and the Vancouver Whitecaps at the luncheon while Saturday's opponents Houston were set to arrive into the Palmetto State later on Friday.

As I walked around admiring the wall-to-wall memorabilia inside the pub, I realized there were more than a few reunions occuring in the room...

First off was Fire assistant coach Mike Matkovich catching up with defender Jay DeMerit. Matkovich led the Fire PDL side when DeMerit played for it in 2001 and even appeared in "Rise & Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story" to talk about his memories of Jay...

A little further down the way, I spotted a Tottenham reunion as Fire trialist Pascal Chimbonda met up with Whitecaps defender Young-Pyo Lee. The two often manned the defensive flanks together for Spurs while at White Hart Lane from 2006-2008.

Finally, just as I turned around, I spotted Fire midfielder Daniel Paladini talking to his former manager and current Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie. The Scotsman was the one that brough Paladini to the second division Carolina RailHawks from Chivas USA in 2009 where the pair would spend two seasons together.

To finish the pleasantries Rennie, Fire head coach Frank Klopas and Battery manager Mike Anhaeuser did the annual trophy photo-op.

On to Saturday's first doubleheader featuring the Chicago Fire taking on the Houston Dynamo (if they show) at 4pm CT on Chicago-Fire.com. The Battery will host the Whitecaps in the second game at 6:15pm CT.

15 February 8:27 am

Was nice to wake up to this news this morning that U.S. international and current Aston Villa  first-choice 'keeper Brad Guzan would like to return to MLS one day and potentially suit up for his hometown Chicago Fire.

A product of Homer Glen, Ill., Guzan was quoted as saying, "Hopefully, I will get the opportunity, when I’m finished playing in Europe, to go back and play in it. 

"Especially being from Chicago, which has a team. I’d love to go back and play for the Chicago Fire in front of friends and family. That would be pretty neat.”

Guzan of course teamed with current Fire forward Chris Rolfe on the Chicago Fire PDL side that went a near perfect 17-1-0 en route to the league's regular season championship that year.

Having played two seasons at the University of South Carolina, Guzan left college to sign with MLS and was picked second overall by Chivas USA in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft.

At just 28 years old and with the Fire having a 'keeper in Sean Johnson who is nipping at his heels for the number two spot with the U.S., Guzan won't likely return stateside anytime soon but would likely be a welcome addition for many a Fire fan down the road...

 

08 February 12:46 pm

Miss Fire head coach Frank Klopas' in-depth chat with Dave Kaplan last night?

Our friends at CSNChicago.com have the interview archived in four parts here:

Klopas Inside Look: Part 1

Klopas Inside Look: Part 2

Klopas Inside Look: Part 3

Klopas Inside Look: Part 4