MLS Regular Season
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...
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.
LIke hearing from Commissioner Garber in ways outside a normal conference call? Good, so do I.
We're both in luck as The Soccer Don will be doing a live address regarding the start of the MLS season this weekend on YouTube today at 5pm CT.
Just 14 days until Opening Night at Toyota Park and today we feature the Fire's #14 Patrick Nyarko.
One of the most underrated players in Major League Soccer, Nyarko has been a terror for full backs throughout MLS since coming into the league in 2008. Even when it seems like a play is lost, his the Ghanaian attacker's quick feet aid in keeping things alive for the Fire.
Nyarko has led the team in assists each of the past three seasons, tallying 26 since 2010, while his goal-scoring prowess also improved last season, with a career high four goals from out wide.
With 130 regular season appearances to his name, Nyarko broke into the club's top 15 list last season and having made 64 appearances the last two seasons, seems a good bet to go as high as eighth by the end of 2013.
Get tickets to see Pat begin his sixth season in Chicago when the Fire welcome the New England Revolution to Toyota Park on Saturday, March 9 at 6:30pm.
WATCH: Patrick Nyarko Highlights
On last week’s All-In Podcast, Eunice Kim and I talked about the launch of the 2013 Fire Fantasy League through MLSsoccer.com’s Fantasy Manager.
I'm happy to say Commissioner Kim has the league up and running at http://fantasy.mlssoccer.com
Vie for bragging rights with myself, Eunice and and other Fire fans in the Official Fire Fantasy League this year where we’ll have prizes every month for the squad with the most points and an overall prize for the winner at the end other 2013 season!
We’ll even recognize the league’s highest point earner every week on the podcast (we might also talk trash to each other...)
Head to http://fantasy.mlssoccer.com, pick your team, check out the scoring system and rules and then join our Private League using code: 7609-1547
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
...the Chicago Fire acquire Czech World Cup veteran Lubos Kubik via MLS player allocation.
Having already begun to build the basis of the 1998 double-winning squad by securing the likes of Zach Thornton, Francis Okaroh, Diego Gutierrez (1997 Expansion Draft), Peter Nowak (player allocation), Jesse Marsch (trade with D.C.), Chris Armas (trade with LA) and C.J. Brown (Supplemental Draft), the Fire made another big splash by signing the former Czech international.
Widely considered one of the best all-time defenders in MLS, Kubik would go on to be the lynchpin in the back for the early Fire squads, being named MLS Defender of the Year in 1998 and becoming a two-time choice to the league’s First XI (1998-99). He also proved vital in helping to win the club's first three domestic titles (1998 MLS Cup, 1998, 2000 U.S. Open Cups)
PERUSE: TrueCar Player Registry
Sixteen years on from his signing, Kubik remains the most offensive defender in Fire history, tallying 19 goals and 25 assists in 88 competitive matches from 1998-2002 (current Fire player Gonzalo Segares is second with 12 goals and 16 assists in 206 competitive games). He was especially instrumental in the team’s run to the double in 1998, scoring a combined four goals and one assist in nine U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup playoff matches.
In 2005, Kubik was selected as the third member of the Ring of Fire, joining Peter Nowak and Frank Klopas in the club’s Hall of Fame. As we celebrated our 15th anniversary last year, he was also an overwhelming selection to the list of the Top 15 players in Fire history, the #Fire15.
Na zdravi, Lubos!
WATCH: Lubos Kubik in the #Fire15
Though he didn’t have all that much to do in the U.S. Men’s National Team’s 0-0 friendly draw vs. Canada last week, it seems clear the Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson remains in Jurgen Klinsmann’s plans after being one of three goalkeepers called in for Wednesday’s CONCACAF Final Round World Cup qualifier at Honduras (LIVE 3pm CT on beIN Sport).
The summons means Johnson will miss most of the team’s second phase of preseason camp in Ventura, Calif. but nearly a month of training with the national team won’t leave him out of shape.
Consistently called up since last August’s 1-0 friendly win at Mexico, the 90 minutes the fourth-year Fire ‘keeper earned in Wednesday’s draw seems to indicate Johnson is stating a strong case for the U.S. Men’s third goalkeeper shirt behind English Premier League veterans Tim Howard and backup Brad Guzan.
Should his form hold up and the U.S. Men navigate another difficult CONCACAF qualifying test, Johnson could find his way to Brazil next year.
There are still too many variables to allow anyone to get that far ahead and strong competition will remain from the likes of veteran Nick Rimando (injured for January camp), as well as Johnson’s friendly rival Bill Hamid.
While the trio wouldn't be expected to appear in this year's qualifying matches, with the U.S. expected to send a B-team to the this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup, the tournament will likely serve as the next indication as to who Klinsmann favors for the presumable third spot.
Even if he’s not always playing in matches, the 23-year-old's continued inclusion in camps, working with the best ‘keepers American soccer has offer, can only help with his chances and his form for the Fire.
It should be an interesting year for Sean and the U.S...
Remember the last time the U.S. went to Honduras?
Trailing 1-0 just after the break, the U.S. used a brace from Conor Casey and a Landon Donovan free kick to eventually win the match 3-2 and qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Check out highlights below:
On this day 15 years ago, the Chicago Fire selected defender C.J. Brown first overall in the 1998 MLS Supplemental Draft.
Having spent the 1997 season with the San Francisco Bay Seals in the USISL D3 Pro League, Brown impressed then D.C. United head coach Bob Bradley as the Seals fell to the defending MLS Cup champions at the tournament’s semifinal stage.
Brown would of course go on to be part of all six of the club’s domestic titles and currently holds the Fire record for most competitive (372), regular season (296), playoff (25) and U.S. Open Cup appearances (25) amassed over his 13-year career in Chicago.
Last season, Brown forever wrote his name into Fire history as he became the seventh member of the Ring of Fire, joining Bradley, Piotr Nowak, Frank Klopas, Lubos Kubik, Peter Wilt and Chris Armas in the club’s Hall of Fame.
...defender Carlos Bocanegra brings to end his four-year stay with the Chicago Fire by signing with English Premier club Fulham FC on this day in 2004.
Arguably the best defender in Chicago Fire history, Bocanegra was a two-time MLS Defender of the Year and League Best XI selection (2002, 2003) as well as being the first Fire player to claim MLS Rookie of the year in 2000 and helped the club to three domestic titles (2000, 2003 U.S. Open Cup, 2003 Supporters Shield) as well as an additional two finals appearances (2000, 2003 MLS Cup).
Bocanegra was one of just three defenders named to last year's #Fire15 player's list along with former teammats C.J. Brown and Lubos Kubik.
At the time of his Fire departure, Bocanegra had only just begun to break into Bruce Arena’s U.S. Men’s National Team squad, with the future captain scoring four goals in his first full campaign for the Stars and Stripes in 2003.
With the UCLA product proving his worth for both club and country, Fulham signed Bocanegra on a free transfer (in the same window that future Fire forward Brian McBride arrived at Craven Cottage) and the two formed the basis for a long-term American occupancy of the West London club.
He would parlay his form at Fulham into making the 2006 U.S. World Cup team and while his time there would come to an end, Bocanegra was eventually named as new U.S. captain when former Fire coach Bob Bradley took the national team reins in 2007.
Moving to a less traditional American soccer destination with French clubs Stade Rennes (2008-10), Bocanegra led the U.S. to the Round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa before moving to St. Etienne following the tournament.
A move to Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers would follow but after the side went into administration this past summer, whispers of the former Fire defender’s MLS return could be heard league-wide before he eventually went on loan to Spanish Segunda side Racing Santander.
Having now a decade of national team experience under his belt, the 33-year-old center back sits tied with Paul Caligiuri for sixth all-time on the national appeance list at 110 and is has scored more international goals (14) than any defender in U.S. history.
With his time for the national team and career winding down, a return to MLS could still be in his future. Remember, returning to Chicago for a U.S. friendly vs. Poland in October 2010, Bocanegra was quoted as saying this…
“This is my first choice. You never know how it works with (Major League Soccer) and allocations, but I love this city. For me, it would be cool to play for one team my whole career in MLS. I would like to come back to Chicago."
WATCH: Bocanegra Named to #Fire15