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05 February 8:03 am

Preseason is always a lot of work and a lot of fun.

One of the best parts though is the ongoing saga of number choice throughout camp as players leave, new players come in.

Last week on Twitter I alluded to the fact that more than a few new numbers would be announced in the coming days and the first two are in…

Fire forward Chris Rolfe re-launched his dormant Twitter account (aptly named @ChrisRolfe17) last week to ask Fire supporters their thoughts on his switching back to #17.

Rolfe had worn the number through his first five seasons with the Fire but when he re-joined the side last April, Mexican legend Pavel Pardo had it.

“There was no need to try and shift things around then,” Rolfe told Chicago-Fire.com. “While 18 was good for me last year I thought that it would be a good idea to switch back to 17 when it became available.”

With Pardo’s retirement announcement last month, the opportunity arose and the league recently approved Rolfe’s change back to the numerals with which he’s scored 40 of his 48 Fire goals across all competitions.

Check out the impromptu and sort of awesome video of the first new "Rolfe 17" jersey being pressed by Assistant Equipment Manager Allan Araujo below...

NOTE: All-Time Fire #17s: Andrew Lewis, (1998-2001), Aleksey Korol (2002), Dipsy Selolwane (2002-2004), Rolfe (2005-2009), Davis Paul (2011), Pavel Pardo (2011-12), Rolfe (2013- )

Kinney’s Switch

With the #18 left vacant, renaissance Fire defender Steven Kinney jumped at the opportunity to switch from #28.

“My whole life I had been #18,” said Kinney. “Coming here the first year Mike Banner had it and through all my injuries I wasn’t going to be switching numbers. Then Rolfie came in and had it last year but when I heard him talk about switching to 17 I knew it was time to make my move.

Asked why #18 had always been his number, Kinney said, “It’s always just felt lucky for me. I would have done anything to get my hands on it.”

To be fair, he didn’t have to do too much.

NOTE: All-Time Fire #18s: Zach Thornton (1998-2004), Matt Pickens, (2005-2007), Mike Banner (2008-2010), Gaston Puerari (2011), Chris Rolfe (2012)

Stay tuned later this week for more updates on Fire squad numbers heading into 2013. 

WATCH: Rolfe #17 is BACK!

 

17 January 5:07 pm

 

Feelings on joining the Chicago Fire?

"I’m extremely delighted to be drafted by the Fire. I feel it’s a golden opportunity for me to play under better conditions and show what I can do in MLS."

What are the strong suits of your game?

"I think my strengths are my speed, ability and technique. I feel like I have a lot to offer in those areas."

On coming from Cameroon…

"The training conditions I’ve had to play under in Cameroon aren’t as good as in Chicago where they have top facilities and a great stadium. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to play in that stadium."

On youth international experiences with Cameroon U-20's

"I feel playing with the Cameroonian team at the U-20 World Cup raised my profile a bit and gave me something more to build towards. Representing your nation in a world championship is an amazing thing and I was very proud to play a part in all four games."

On his combine performance…

"I did feel that I had a strong combine. I came in off of an 18-hour flight and felt a little tired in the second half of games but I think I did very well to prove my abilities at the combine."

16 January 7:13 pm

 

His thoughts on joining the Fire…

“I’m happy for a new challenge,” Larentowicz told Chicago-Fire.com Wednesday night. “It feels good to go to a place where you’re in the plans. Frank has been very forthright in coming after and it’s something I look forward to being a part of.”

On his contentious years against the Fire…

"In the past in my time in New England the Fire were always our biggest rivals. We were very similar, very competitive teams that were hard-nosed. Its just kind of the nature of things that both teams had wanted to win in the past but now I’m part of the Fire and I still have that same competitive spirit that’s going to come and work for Chicago."

On competition in central midfield…

"I’ll be competing for a spot and its an opportunity to come in and show that I deserve to be in the lineup and that’s what I expect. I know those guys from playing against them – they’re all good players and I look forward to competing for that spot."

On ability to stay fit throughout the years…

"The way I look at seasons and playing is the more time you can be available and give the coach the option of playing you, the better off you’re going to be and the more opportunity for good things to happen. I think over the past seven years I’ve been able to do that."

On being part of championship teams in New England and Colorado…

"On all the teams I’ve been on it was never that they depended on me but it was more of a collective thing and the way I view how I play and what I try to do. The Fire are a playoff team and always in contention. I hope to add to that and be a piece that helps take the team to the next level."

14 January 7:23 pm

About this time last year I got Patrick Nyarko's pretty clear recollections of his 2008 MLS SuperDraft experience. I followed up a year later with some more in depth (and funny) questions about how he prepared personally for the day itself.

Jeff Crandall: How did you decide what you were going to wear to the Draft?

Patrick Nyarko: (Laughs) Back in 2008 it was easy enough. I just called my mom and asked her what kind of suit I should wear and I don’t think I had any say in what it was…she picked it all out. I didn’t mind because it made it all easier.

TWEET: #SuperDraft

JC: What did you eat for breakfast that morning?

PN: I was actually supposed to get to the hotel the night before but it snowed heavily that night and so I drove up early in the morning and caught up with some of the other guys. I think I just had a regular buffet breakfast served up by the hotel – scrambled eggs, waffles, that kind of stuff.

JC: What thoughts were going through your head when your name was called eighth overall?

PN: It’s probably the same for a lot of people but my main concern was not tripping when I got to the stage like Austin Berry did last year. After that it was about who I would be shaking hands with first on the stage. But it was really just don’t do anything stupid – every step of the way I made sure I didn’t fall.

JC: What advice would you give your future teammate that gets drafted by the Fire on Thursday?

PN: The work starts right now. You’ve worked hard to get to this spot – to be invited to the draft and have your name called -- that’s a lot of fun. After that it’s a lot of hard work, moving up from the college to pro level there’s a lot more responsibility. As long as you’re willing to work hard and with the coaches, you’ll be fine.

JC: When you signed your contract with the league, what was the first thing you went out and bought?

PN: I think I bought a Mac Book. I had a regular computer before so I got a Mac. I’m not saying it was an upgrade but that’s what I got... It was great.

 

14 January 7:13 pm

On Monday I wrote a piece with Wells Thompson reflecting on his experience of getting heckled by Fire fans at the 2007 MLS SuperDraft. Perhaps more importantly, we also talked about the experience and what it meant for him to get drafted.

Wells is a talker and gave some good answers to a few other questions I couldn’t fit in the story. Those are below…

What advice would you give to the players that will be selected in Thursday’s SuperDraft?

"What’s so encouraging is when you look in the league and look at a lot of guys that have succeeded and done well – Jeff Larentowicz comes to mind because I played with him for so long in New England and Colorado. Chris Wondolowski is another name. They both came through the Supplemental Draft and have had fantastic careers. There are a lot of big names that have succeeded and done well in the league after being picked at that stage.

"When I look at my situation, I was very fortunate to be selected by New England. At the time they needed an outside midfielder and the coaches were keen on the type of player and person I was. To a certain extent, it doesn’t matter where you get selected in the draft. When you go into training camp, everyone’s pretty much starting in the same place. Everyone has a clean slate and it’s up to you to prove your worth.

"The wisdom I could give kids is no matter where you’re drafted, go in and work hard because there are so many success stories of guys that were taken very low or not taken at all that have gone on to do big things in MLS."

To go from a college player with few if any accolades to the fifth overall selection in the SuperDraft, you must have raised your stock at the MLS Combine. What are your thoughts on that event?

“Yeah I did okay but the combine is such a different thing. Guys are getting together for just a weekend without practice. It’s not the fairest assessment of a player’s talents in my opinion. Your college career is probably the best judgment still on how a player would do in the league.

"What you can take a lot from those combines is seeing guys that don’t shy away from the big stage and wanting to continue to prove to coaches and other players that they do belong in the league. For me it was a confidence thing -- I went down to the combine and realized I was as good, if not better than a lot of these players and I think that confidence showed throughout that weekend."

18 December 12:11 pm

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.
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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.
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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. 
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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. 
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Cuauhtemoc Blanco celebrates his stoppage time equalizer in the Fire's 1-1 away draw at Real Salt Lake in First Kick 2008.
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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.
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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.
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Section 8 Chicago tifo ahead of the sold-out Opening Night match vs. San Jose Earthquakes on April 10, 2010.
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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.
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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 5:34 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

 

07 December 11:04 am

Despite going into its third-year of existence, the MLS Re-Entry process still leaves plenty of folks scratching their heads every December. I'll try to explain the ins and outs ahead of today's Stage One Draft...

What is it? 

The Re-Entry Process is confusing because its also unique in terms of North American sport. The idea came as a compromise to help settle the latest Collect Bargaining Agreement in early 2010. 

In essence, the Re-Entry Process is Major League Soccer's form of free agency, allowing players that meet certain requirements the opportunity to test the waters of moving to another team. Prior to the signing of the current CBA, teams still held league rights to players that were out of contract, meaning that in order for a player to move, a team would need to waive his rights or a trade would have to occur.

Under the new terms, players that have played a minimum of three years in MLS and are at least 23 years of age are eligible for the annual Re-Entry process should their current team decline their option or if they're out of contract. Full eligibility requirements for players can be found in Section II.G here.

There are two stages to the Re-Entry Process, each with different caveats...

Explaining Stage One

Thursday night MLS released the final list of players eligible for Stage One of the 2012 Re-Entry Process set for Friday at 2 p.m. CT. Prior to the release, players had up until 4 p.m. CT Thursday to opt out of the draft.

This was the case for Gonzalo Segares, who re-signed with the club on Thursday. With that transaction, two Fire players, midfielder Corben Bone and goalkeeper Jay Nolly, remained on the list of 52 players eligible for selection.

UPDATE: As of 1:30 p.m. CT, Fire defender Dan Gargan was added to the Stage One Re-Entry list by the league.

Teams that pick players at Stage One on Friday must exercise the option (pick up the player's salary), or in the case of out of contract players, extend a Bona Fide Offer to, the player. If the player rejects the offer, the drafting club will hold the right of first refusal for that player in MLS (the player's league rights). Teams may not select their own players in Stage One of the Re-Entry Draft.

Held via conference call, generally Stage One of the Re-Entry Process is a quick affair, with only five players having been selected in the previous two stages combined. This is generally because of the first caveat above, by which a team must pick up the salary of a player's whose option hae been declined (the majority of players available fall under this category). 

Players that are not selected in Stage One are then able to come back to the table with their club and negotiate up until a second blackout period begins on Thursday, December 13 at 4 p.m. CT. 

After passing through the first stage of Re-Entry in 2010, Jovan Kirovski re-negotiated his contract to stay with the LA Galaxy another season, prior to Stage Two.

Expaining Stage Two

This is where the magic happens as Stage Two of the Re-Entry Process is one of the biggest days of player movement within the league every year. 

In 2010, 11 players were chosen in Stage Two while 10 were take in 2011. 

Set for next Friday, December 14 at 2 p.m. CT, players that are selected in Stage Two can negotiate a new salary with the team that has chosen them. As long as that salary is deemed as a genuine offer by MLS, the team retains the player's league rights.

A genuine offer must be placed within seven days of selection, though a signing doesn't necessarily need to happen in that time as negotiations can continue.

A team is eliminated from Stage Two once they pass on their turn. A team can only select it's own player once all other clubs have passed on that player. 

Players that pass through both stages of the Re-Entry process are deemed free agents and available on a first-come, first-served basis to all MLS teams.

Fire History in the Re-Entry Process

The Fire have selected two players through the Re-Entry Process and both had different cases.

In 2010, the team selected recently retired defender Cory Gibbs (right) from New England and immediately announced his signing. This was able to happen as the team and player had already agreed to terms in the case that Gibbs was selected to come to Chicago.

In 2011, the Fire picked forward Kheli Dube, also from New England but the Zimbabwean forward didn't sign a contract with the club until late January as the two parties negotiated terms of the deal.

The team has also had two players selected from it in the Re-Entry Process.

In 2011, the Fire saw midfielder Baggio Husidic and goalkeeper Jon Conway chosen in Stage Two by the Colorado Rapids and LA Galaxy respectively. Neither player signed with those clubs as Husidic elected to sign for Swedish side Hammarby while Conway announced his retirement. 

 

27 October 7:44 am

As we get set to complete yet another regular season, it donned on me yesterday to look back at this masterpiece that Fire defender Dan Gargan captured and put together with the help of MLS videographers Scott Riddell and Albert Lanzillo.

Shot throughout preseason and the team’s opening day 1-1 draw at Montreal’s nearly sold-out Olympic Stadium, Dan’s video showcased the preparation and work the team went through to get to that very monumental game back in March.

Looking back on it now, one of the most striking things is seeing how much the Fire have changed since January as you see a number of faces that are no longer with the club while also being reminded of just how many new faces have been added over the course of the year.

More than that though, this beautiful video reminds me as a fan and a writer of the cautious optimism we all had going into the year. Back then, if you’d have told Fire fans that had experienced the previous two years  the team would be playing for second place in the East on the final day of the, everyone would have taken it.

Flash forward to today and that’s exactly where we are and yet we know the opportunities were there to go even higher.

Still, today the Fire play arguably the most important game at Toyota Park since the last time the team was in the postseason.

And so, re-watching this inspiring video is special to me for multiple reasons, but the most important is that it serves to remind how far this team has come in the three years I’ve been here but also the hard work that was put it back in January to get to this point.

Before heading out to Toyota Park today, take 2 minutes and 23 seconds out of your regular pre-game ritual, watch this video, and soak in how far this team has come in 2012.