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13 February 7:05 pm

Touching down in Charleston earlier today, the team ate lunch and took in a bit of the Real Madrid/Manchester United Champions League match before heading out to their first training session in the Palmetto State.

Due to heavy rain in the area the past few days, the team's regular spot at Charleston Southern University wasn't in shape for a session so the squad ended up at Blackbaud Stadium's Training Field.

With this being our third straight year to Blackbaud, I've often wondered about the adjacent field which has the stadium on one side and a pond on the other... I wondered because when I saw it before, it had warnings about potential alligators.

Well, today I wondered no more as one of the resident gators (lets call him Charlie) was there to greet us and watch the entire 90-minute training session from just behind one of the goals. Luckily, everyone's shots were very accurate and on frame today...

Check out this video of the players reaction to Charlie and photos from day one of training below...

PHOTOS: Day 1 of Training in Charleston, South Carolina

 

08 February 5:43 pm

After nearly a month with the U.S. Men's National Team, was good to see Sean Johnson return to Fire camp Thursday night.

This morning, he went through his first training session of 2013 with the team and got a bit of a workout from Goalkeeping Coach Aron Hyde with the reaction ball...

WATCH: Sean and the Reaction Ball

More from Sean on Saturday!

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

 

08 February 9:15 am

Earlier this week, the club released the news that Chris Rolfe would return to wearing the number 17 while Steven Kinney would fill the number 18 shirt in 2013 for the Fire. Today, we announce a few more number changes, this time with three offseason acquisitions…

A new midfield partnership for Joel Lindpere and Jeff Larentowicz in Chicago has at least in part brought along with it new numbers than those the pair have previously ever worn.

Having worn 20 during his three seasons at Red Bull, Lindpere will now suit up in the number 26 this year for the Fire. He says switching number has actually been part of the routine whenever he’s joined a new club.

“I’ve been a different number at every club I’ve been to. It’s always sort of like a new beginning for me,” he joked.

PERUSE: TrueCar Chicago Fire Player Registry

In reality, he also selected 26 out of respect for Fire players that have been with the club longer than him.

“I chose it because I knew some of the other guys that had been here for a while were choosing new numbers. I wanted to just pick a number no one else would -- it was one no one had worn in a while at the Fire and now it’s mine.”

NOTE: Previous #26s in Fire History: Mike Sorber (2000), Amos Magee (2001), Billy Walsh (2002), Denny Clanton (2004), Andy Herron (2006, 2008).

Having worn numbers 31 and 13 while with New England and number 4 while with the Colorado Rapids, Larenowicz is changing it up again by choosing the number 20.

Much like Lindpere, it was about starting a new in Chicago…

 “I think it’s a good looking number,” said Larentowicz. “I’ve never worn it before and moving to Chicago I was looking for a fresh start and I didn’t want to feel or look like I did in the past.”

NOTE: Previous #20s in Fire History: Francis Okaroh (1998-99), Jamar Beasley (2001), Sergi Daniv (2002), Orlando Perez (2003-04), Tony Sanneh (2005-06), Mike Banner (2008), Brian McBride (2008-10), Tony Walls (2012)

The more things change, the more they stay the same as Brazilian forward Maicon Santos will stick with the number 29 that he’s worn with previous MLS clubs Chivas USA, Toronto FC and D.C. United.

NOTE: Previous #29s in Fire History: Thiago (2005), Peter Lowry (2008-2009).

GALLERY: The #20s, #26s and #29s in Chicago Fire History

 

07 February 7:34 pm

Chicago Fire goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi seems to be in fine form after offseason surgery to repair his pinkie finger.

Check out this video of a drill from a few days ago where Paolo shows fine form on a few stops (special thanks to James Belshaw for stepping right in front of me there too...)

05 February 12:25 pm

What do musical acts The Talking Heads, the Rolling Stones and Paul Simon all have in common?

They’re all favorite musical stylings of Fire midfielder Jeff Larentowicz.
 
The Ginger Ninja waxes about his musical tastes with Jon Langford of The Chevin in a new piece to MLSsoccer.com called The Tuesday Top 10.

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!

 

04 February 7:09 pm

A quick update on unsigned players currently with the team in Ventura, Calif...

Unsigned holdovers from Ave Maria
James Belshaw – GK – Supplemental Draft
Alec Kann – GK – Trialist
Neal Kitson – GK – Trialist
John Gallagher – DF – Supplemental Draft
Rauwshan McKenzie – DF – Trialist
Yazid Atouba – MF – SuperDraft Pick

*Note that while not listed, forward Colin Rolfe picked up an injury during the Columbus friendly last week. The former Houston Dynamo draftee won’t be with the team in Ventura but will re-join the squad in Charleston.

Players Departed:
Rich Balchan – DF – Trialist
Caleb Konstanski – DF – Supplemental Draft Pick
Eric Robertson – DF – Trialist
Trialist #1 - MF - Trialist

New Trialists for Phase Two

Blake Brettschneider; Forward (D.C. United, New England Revolution)
If it seems like you just saw Brettschneider, that’s because he was on trial with the Crew, playing against the Fire in last Wednesday’s friendly. The South Carolina alum has made a habit of earning a spot on an MLS rosters in preseason, impressing D.C. United (2011) and New England Revolution (2012).

Like Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson, Brettschneider is also from Lilburn, Ga. and attended rival high school Parkview High School

Dailos Tejera; Forward (Conquense; Spanish Tercera Division)
A 22-year-old midfielder/forward that played in the Spanish second division with Conquense before being relegated after the 2011-12 season.

Kevin Mercado; Forward (LDU Quito; Ecuador)
One of two players on trial from LDU Quito, Mercado is an 18-year-old forward who made it into five matches during LDU’s 2012 campaign in Ecuador.

Jose Alexander Pabon Midfielder (LDU Quito; Ecuador)
The other trialist from LDU Quito, the 21-year-old Pabon has been with the club’s first team since 2010, appearing in 13 matches in midfield.

There are also two other new trialists that for discovery reasons will remain unnamed… Call them Trialist #3 and Trialist #4. 

04 February 10:40 am

Five things you should know about the newest member of the Fire, Dilly Duka.

1) He's Albanian-American and his name is short for "Dilaver".

2)  Dude's also got the Twitter machine, follow @D_Duka11.

3) A product of Montville, NJ, Duka came up in the New York Red Bulls Academy and went to Rutgers for two years before signing a Generation adidas contract and being selected eighth overall by Columbus in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft.

4) He scored a ridiculous goal from the left wing for the U.S. U-20’s in the 66th minute of the team’s 4-1 win over Cameroon at the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Championships in Egypt. (See video below, start at 2:45).

5) The trade to the Fire reunites him with U.S. U-20 teammate Sean Johnson. Check out a great flashback shot of Sean Johnson beginning at 42 seconds of at video….

WATCH: Dilly Duka Scores Impressive Goal at 2009 U-20 World Cup