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20 March 8:01 am

If It seems like its Goalkeeper Week here on Chicago-Fire.com, well maybe it is... Sean Johnson is with the U.S. Men's National Team, meaning Paolo Tornaghi is the starter on Sunday, making way for Alec Kann to officially sign with the club on Tuesday in order to back him up.

I got a lot of quotes from goalkeepers (and their coach) the past few days... It'd be a shame if they went to waste so I've included some of the more interesting ones here...

Chicago FIre goalkeeping coach Aron Hyde

On having two returning goalkeepers for the first time since 2009

"Its never easy in MLS with the salary cap to maintain players year-to-year. In previous years we’ve looked to experienced guys to guide Sean along in his development and this year we didn’t need that. We’ve got a very young goalkeeping group – its probably the youngest in the league. Sean’s not a young goalkeeper anymore –he’s at nearly 80 games in his career. We don’t have any issues there anymore. Obviously he can get a little more continuity in the group and Paolo is a good goalkeeper and is more than capable of stepping in. He didn’t let the side down last year and we’re positive and optimistic he’ll do the same on Sunday."

On Alec Kann's attitude as the third goalkeeper

"He’s coming in willing to learn. He has a good attitude, he works hard – you can’t fault him for anything there. He’s a good guy to work with. He’s been good with the other two and you hope he realizes he’s here to push and he wants to play as well. He has to be ready."

Chicago Fire goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi

On communicating with a changing backline

"Its important when everyone steps on the field to have a positive performance. I thought our defensive line was very good on Saturday. We work together every day so to me it doesn’t matter who the first 11 are, all the players train and stay focused to be ready for Sunday."

19 March 4:03 pm

So if you're like me, you were watching Sunday's SuperClasico between LA and Chivas to get a better understanding of the Fire's upcoming opponents.

Around the 40th minute, you were sort of shocked to see the Goats Joaquin Velazquez sent off by referee Ricardo Salazar for this play…

If anything, Colin Clark could have received a card on the play but nonetheless, Chivas was forced to play the remaining 50 minutes a man down and still found away to earn a 1-1 draw against the reigning MLS Cup champs. 

Flash forward to today and an Independent Review panel has rightly rescinded the red card and the one-game suspension that came along with it for this Sunday's match vs. the Fire.

This is the second time in MLS history that a red card has been rescinded. The New England Revolution's Fernando Cardenas saw his red card taken away after he was sent off in a 2-1 loss to Seattle last May.

What do you think? Is it good that the league is willing to rescind red cards when obvious mistakes are being made? Chime in below. 

18 March 8:43 am

Twitter is great for many reasons. Today's its awesome because we got an update on how the team's star center back is doing on his hamstring rehab in Germany...

See you next Tuesday, Arne!

14 March 9:37 am

We're having a lot of fun with GIFs lately. Since its #RivalryWeek in MLS, we thought we'd do one on Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes being mad. 

Also, props to @ricecakeonfire for tweeting me his compilation of the many faces of Peter Vermes:
 

11 March 11:04 am

A stroll through my Google Alerts this morning leads me to wish a big congrats to former Fire captain Chris Armas on his induction with the inaugural class into the Long Island Soccer Hall of Fame this past Saturday.

The second captain in club history, the Brentwood, N.Y. product racked up 273 competitve appearances (4th all-time) along with 12 goals and 50 assists (2nd all-time) in his 10 seasons in Chicago. He joins C.J. Brown and Zach Thornton as the only three players in club history to be part of all six domestic championships and is one of seven men enshrined in the Ring of Fire.

PERUSE: TrueCar Player Registry

I did some further digging and found out that although he was unable to be in attendance at Saturday's ceremony, Fire owner and Long Island native Andrew Hautpman helped support the event by purchasing a table at the dinner and had this letter read to honor Armas' career achievements and contributions to the Chicago Fire Soccer Club:

Greetings Fellow Long Islanders –

I wanted to extend heartfelt congratulations to Shep Messing, Paul LeSueur, Kim Wyant and Chris Armas for your induction into the Long Island Soccer Player Hall of Fame. Your contributions to the sport of soccer and to Long Island have helped shape the game and our community in positive and powerful ways.

I apologize for not being able to attend tonight’s event (ironically, it's the home opener for my beloved Chicago Fire!).  Speaking of which, I would especially like to acknowledge and thank the 'one and only' Chris Armas for his efforts with the Chicago Fire Soccer Club. Chris is the type of individual who has always done things the right way. His industriousness, talent, attention to detail and spirit has always separated him from his competitors on-and-off-the-field.

Having also grown up playing soccer on Long Island (in Smithtown where my mother designed all of the patches for the Smithtown Traveling Soccer Club), I immediately bonded and felt a closeness with Chris, not to mention having also admired his approach to the game. Chris is as hard working a player you will ever encounter and is perhaps the best holding midfielder of his generation. Despite winning five domestic trophies, being a five-time Best XI midfielder and earning 66 appearances with the U.S. Men’s National Team, Chris remains humble and true to his Long Island roots.

Before owning the Fire, I always looked at Chris as someone who exemplified all of the characteristics I valued in a soccer player.  Once I was leading the club, I realized that Chris exemplifies all of the characteristics I value in a person. Chris is a trusting and caring individual who treats everyone with the utmost respect and tries to do the right thing...always. Above all, he is a committed family man and a wonderful human being.

Chris, thanks for your spectacular contributions to the game of soccer, to Long Island and to the Chicago Fire Soccer Club. I’m am truly honored to have gotten to know you and consider you a trusted colleague and a friend.

Again, congratulations to all of those being honored tonight  -- I look forward to seeing the Hall of Fame grow from strength to strength.

Best regards,

Andrew Hauptman 

Hopefully Saturday's recognition for Chris isn't the only Hall of Fame he enters in 2013. Armas, who made 66 appearances and scored two goals for the U.S. Men's National team, was once again on the ballot for the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame this year.

The announcement on the 2013 class is set to come later this month...

11 March 9:17 am

Fire Homegrown forward Kellen Gulley has headed to Georgia to begin training with the NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks this week.

Fire head coach Frank Klopas mentioned throughout preseason that the team was looking to send the 18-year-old forward out on loan this year and it appears that the club is working towards an agreement with the second division side.

Signed from the Mississippi Fire Juniors in August 2011, Gulley has yet to make his competitive debut for the club. The potential move should serve him well in gaining playing time as he continues to develop. 

Coached by former FC Dallas head coach Brian Haynes, the Silverbacks open their 2013 NASL Spring campaign vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers on April 13 at Silverbacks Park. 

10 March 10:42 am

Klopas on 1-0 Loss to New England

 

Nyarko reacts to 1-0 loss to New England

 

Austin Berry on 1-0 loss to New England

 

Gonzalo Segares on 1-0 loss to New England

09 March 2:04 pm

Select shots from Saturday's match vs. New England

 

officialfiresoccer's 3-9-13 Chicago Fire vs New England Revolution album on Photobucket

 

 

08 March 8:50 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.

08 March 7:38 am

You may want to pick up a copy of RedEye today... 

Sean Johnson's on the cover and featured in a story about how amazing he is... Also check out page 16 where Chris Rolfe takes part in the Five on Five!