MLS Regular Season
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
So the Fire’s 2013 regular season schedule OFFICIALLY came out earlier today and while I’m crushed that the league didn’t go for my MLS Cup re-match on October 25 idea, there are still some dates beyond the three we already knew about that I’m looking forward to.
As always, there are also some things I dislike about the schedule…
DOWNLOAD PRINTABLE SCHEDULE (PDF)
Four games I’m looking forward to…
April 14 at Houston – A rematch of the Fire’s 2012 MLS Cup playoff defeat. Houston outplayed the Fire back on Halloween and though they were a #5 seed went all the way to the final. I’d hope that every player that went through that defeat has the game circled.
April 27 at Montreal – What can I say except that I’m a sucker for French Canada? The trip to Montreal to begin the 2012 season was one of my favorite Fire memories and now with the Impact back into Stade Saputo, I have something else to look forward to.
June 2 vs. D.C. United – Though I’d prefer this game to be played on October 25, the first game against United should be another one Fire players mark on their calendar after drawing with them 1-1 at home to end the 2012 season. Despite an onslaught at the end of the match, the team couldn’t find a second goal to avoid the knockout playoff match. The addition of Maicon Santos also makes this one more interesting
- September 7 at Seattle – I put in my Fire New Year’s Resolutions that whenever the team traveled to Qwest Field, the goal should be to come away with three points. Having gone 0-5-3 against the Sounders since 2009, its time to put that winless streak to bed.
Things I don’t like…
I love Montreal so I don’t like that though the Fire play the Impact three times this season, the only trip to Quebec will come on April 27. There’s always 2014 I suppose…
Though a common occurrence in the old days of MLS when there were 10-12 teams, that odd back-to-back home and home series in mid-May with Philadelphia just feels strange…
The Fire only play Toronto FC twice and the away game is on a Wednesday, making away supporters travel difficult. The two teams met on the same Wednesday the year before and I believe the combination of TFC’s poor form and the midweek match were at fault for really poor attendance.
For the second straight year, the Fire will have to venture to Houston in the dead heat of summer for their fixture on July 27… Is there any way BBVA Compass can build a dome for the summer months?
- Down the home stretch, only one of the team’s last four matches is being played at Toyota Park (October 19 vs. Toronto FC). If the playoff race is as tight as it was last season, this could be difficult.
On Monday, I rang up the Fire's latest addition midfielder Joel Lindpere.
While you should definitely read this story talking about his desire to move from New York to Chicago, I've also included some other quotes below...
What are your thoughts on the Chicago Fire coming off of last year?
"I think the team is getting stronger day-by-day and I’m just pleased to see it. They have a good crowd, good coach and good team so it wasn’t difficult to make my choice. I’m happy to join the club and I’d like to give something more to it.
"I think every player is capable of making their team stronger and so I want to give something towards the team’s improvement. They have guys in the club that have been in the U.S. National team and it shows in the quality they had last season."
With 97 out of a possible 98 MLS regular season appearances for New York, you've played in more games than any other MLS player the last three seasons. What do you have to say about your health and consistency to see the field?
"I’ve really been trying to be smart so I’ve had injury issues and I’m really trying to avoid hard fields and artificial grounds but I’m trying to take part in every training session, it doesn’t matter how.
"For every player the most important thing is to play games. To be fit you need to practice but sometimes you need to be smart to avoid all these injuries and happenings. I don’t know how its been possible but the last two seasons I took part in every single MLS game. Last year I was the only one to take part in 37 games [regular season and playoffs] and it was the same in 2011. Nobody can say I'm not giving my all to be on the field every game.
"The thing is, I just want to be useful for the team and if I can give even just a couple minutes for the team rather than push too hard and be injured, then I think its smarter to be fit and give something to the team. I think I’ve been good at it and that’s the way I should continue."
You tallied three goals in your first four matches against the Fire... I think we're all glad you're now on our side...
"(Laughs) It doesn’t matter where or who you score against so long as you score. I’ve scored some important goals and one of them was against Chicago in the opening of Red Bull Arena [in 2010].
"I’ve been scoring goals against different teams and then its good now I can try to score for them. This must be part of the reason for my move."
What have you taken away in your early discussions with Frank Klopas?
"My aim in leaving Red Bull was to play centrally and I know that I have a partner in the midfield that I would love to play with and if we find communication, I know I can play really well in the heart of midfield.
"I really think Frank welcomes me to the club as a central midfielder and that’s my wish and reason to join the club. That’s the thing I was missing at Red Bull and I’m so happy that if the coach sees me in this position that I’m ready to take the challenge."
WATCH: Lindpere scores first MLS goal vs. Fire at Red Bull Arena – 3/27/2010
First, a warm welcome to the newest member of the Chicago Fire, midfielder Joel Lindpere.
The move to acquire the Estonian international was met with pretty high praise from yours truly, considering all that was exchanged was an international roster spot. Also consider that the guy has scored a few goals against the Fire since coming to MLS (three to be exact and four if you count a preseason goal he scored back in 2011).
That aside, here are five other reasons I can really appreciate the move for the club's latest addition...
- He’s the very definition of an iron man – In a total of 98 MLS regular season matches he’s been eligible for over the last three seasons, Lindpere has appeared in exactly 97 games, the most of any MLS player in that time span. That also includes goalkeepers.
Players on the current Fire roster with comparable MLS appearances over the last three MLS seasons: Dominic Oduro (93 with Chicago/Houston), Patrick Nyarko (91, Chicago), Logan Pause (87, Chicago) and Wells Thompson (79, Colorado/Chicago).
- There’s a certain swagger he has… He looks intimidating and the Estonian international has a certain bite that backs up the way he carries himself. His aggression and ability in the attack reminds me a bit of Dema Kovalenko, though with a few less yellow cards.…
- He has a pretty powerful left foot – Watch the video below. He’s a threat in crossing the ball but can also unleash a pretty powerful shot. Combine this acquisition with that of Maicon Santos and the power in attack has been greatly upgraded.
- Competition (and rest) in the midfield – The biggest knock against the Fire in 2012 was the perceived lack of enough squad rotation. By season’s end, the team looked a little bit tired and perhaps slightly predictable. With the likes of Nyarko, Alvaro Fernandez, Alex and the potential return of Corben Bone, the attacking midfield options available to Klopas in times of heavy fixture congestion have been upgraded as well.
- Good Results from transactions with Red Bull – Back in 2007 when Fire owner Andrew Hauptman filed tampering charges with New York relating to the Juan Carlos Osorio affair, the team received the Red Bulls’ first round selection in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft which the team used to select the-ever dangerous Patrick Nyarko.
Just about a year ago, the Fire traded the rights of defender Wilman Conde to Red Bull in exchanged for an undisclosed, but rumored to be high amount of allocation money that presumably went towards the acquisitions of defender Arne Friedrich and forward Chris Rolfe.
Not a bad track record…
WATCH: Joel Lindpere Highlights
Happy 100th birthday to U.S. Soccer!
Those cats downtown at Soccer House have begun a major undertaking in celebrating the Federation's Centennial this year with loads of interesting stuff built around the growth of the National Teams since 1913.
In this blog, they speak to legendary Fire striker Ante Razov to discuss his time and important contributions to the U.S. Men's National side as well as his fruitful years in Chicago. Even Ring of Fire member and orignal Fire head coach Bob Bradley chimes in...
Also check out this intriguing piece on LA Galaxy and former national team boss Bruce Arena's solitary cap for the U.S. written by Section 8 Chicago's own Tom Dunmore.
Well its the last day of the year and we're aptly left remembering all that went down in the Fire world during 2012.
A new jersey sponsor, a Ring of Fire induction, a 15th Anniversary, playoff qualification and a Rookie of the Year winner are just some of the highlights.
Take a photographic look back on the club's memorable 15th season:
Stay tuned on Tuesday as I give my New Year's Resolutions for the Fire in 2013!
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?
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...
While the MLS offseason continues to grow shorter and shorter, at times it can be slightly boring compared to the fast-paced nature of what comes from January to October (and hopefully November).
With #cf97withdrawals inhabiting my brain as I await the very big schedule announcement that will allow me to figure out what away cities I’d like to visit, I did have one thought and request from Major League Soccer…
WATCH: Nyarko's Blast from Distance (10/27/2012)
Over the last three seasons, MLS has found a way to schedule a match between the Fire and D.C. United in October and whether deserved or not, to their credit those games have always been memorable…
In 2010, the Fire’s last home game came against United, with perhaps the 0-0 draw being overshadowed by American soccer legend Brian McBride taking his final bow in his hometown of Chicago.
In 2011, who could forget the Fire’s incredible, “Capitol Comeback” which saw the team score two stoppage time goals to win the match after just conceding a Dwayne DeRosario penalty kick at RFK?
The 1-1 draw between the teams this past October was less memorable because of the result but still provided some excellent moments. Among them, Patrick Nyarko’s stunning goal from distance in the first half as well as the Fire’s late barrage on United goalkeeper Bill Hamid with playoff positioning on the line.
Maybe it’s just dumb luck or the MLS scheduling computer has psychic powers but each instance has provided moments that fans of at least one team won’t forget.
With that in mind, my request to the MLS league office as well as United:
Keep things going for 2013 and have the Fire host D.C. on Friday, October 25 to mark the 15 year anniversary of MLS Cup 1998. Why not package it as one of NBC Sports Network’s Friday night broadcasts?
With both teams showing reinvigorated form this past season, coupled with the famous Austin Berry/Nick DeLeon Rookie of the Year battle, perhaps the flames of rivalry that waned over recent years have been fanned once again.
Even better, Frank Klopas and Ben Olsen both played against each other in the match as did Josh Wolff who now serves as an assistant in D.C.
The storylines going in would be as good as any and if there’s as much to play for as when the two sides met this past October, it would have all the makings of being another memorable game, one that the Fire would hopefully win 2-0.
The openers are set to be announced any day now but there's plenty of time to make something like this happen before the full schedule release.
Hopefully we can see it happen.
WATCH: The Run to MLS Cup '98