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01 October 9:05 am

Last week, I wrote about the backstory to why a seemingly random date in early October – the 8th – is of such importance to the city of Chicago and of even more significance for Fire fans. It is, in brief, the date the Great Chicago Fire engulfed the city in 1871 and the date the Chicago Fire Soccer Club was founded 126 years later in 1997. This week, I wanted to explain exactly what is going on this October 8th with the Fire Anniversary events celebrating the Club’s 15th birthday.

Thanks in part to the urging of effervescent head coach Frank Klopas, Fire fans, former players and other distinguished guests gather together every year on October 8th to honor the Club’s history. In recent years, Section 8 Chicago has organized a big tailgate, parties in the stadium club and welcomed several past and present players join with us on October 8th.

Everybody (Everybody! Everybody!) have been welcome at those events – the Anniversary celebration is not only for the lively young things in Section 8 with their flags and crazy chants, but for the entire Club to come together and honor the founding of the badge we cherish.

Unlike so many other teams in MLS whose insignia has changed (hi, Kansas City) or who seem to have no connection to the city they play in (hi, Chivas USA), the Fire’s identity is embedded into the epic story of Chicago’s emergence from the ashes of the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. We should all cherish and celebrate this together, and remember the team’s achievements that set it apart from others (hi, New York) along with the rebuilding of a city so many others in the Midwest can only look at with envy (hi, Columbus). So what better date to do that than October 8th itself?

For the Club’s 15th Anniversary, celebrations will be kicked off when Peter Nowak, Cuauhtémoc Blanco and Chris Armas are honored at the Fire-Union game this Wednesday, October 3rd at Toyota Park (TICKETS).

Peter and Chris – along with many of their former teammates - will then be in Chicago five days later on the Anniversary date itself, at a very special celebration on October 8th at a beautiful space in the Chicago History Museum, perched just west of Lincoln Park. This event has been organized and funded through a volunteer committee of fans who have been dedicating a lot of spare (and not-so-spare) time to create a fitting celebration for the 15th year.

The most daunting task for the committee has been tracking down and contacting former players and inviting them to join us for this reunion. While it was difficult for a fan-run committee to find everyone, those we have contacted have all been delighted to hear from Fire fans and a remarkable roster of names (see below) are currently packing their bags as word spread this was an event to be at in order to reminisce about past times, meet up with long lost buddies, and gather with fans to celebrate the Fire’s past, present and future.

So what exactly is happening at the Museum? The main event kicks off at 7pm in the Museum’s gorgeous Georgian Chicago Room. An expansive appetizer buffet from acclaimed caterer Blue Plate and a four hour open bar will be a (delightful) sideshow to the array of Fire legends and current players attending the cocktail reception. This won’t be a stilted seated affair, but instead is being arranged to encourage fans and players to mingle, swap stories and raise a glass together.

In addition, a silent auction with some one-of-a-kind items (such as a gameworn, signed Brian McBride Fire jersey) will be held to benefit the Chicago Fire Foundation and the Museum’s Chicago exhibition itself – including its extensive interactive display about the 1871 Great Fire – will also be open for the first 90 minutes of the event.

Reminders of Club history will be all around, from trophies to jerseys to supporter scarves and memorabilia – to most importantly, the players who brought home six titles to Chicago. Speeches will be made, music will be played, and the cf97 passion this unique gathering will have is likely to be savored for a long time to come.

How can you get a ticket? You can purchase yours online at www.fireanniversary.com (Move fast: they will only be available until Friday, October 5th at 2pm). The ticket costs $97: I’m aware this isn’t a cheap date night – I certainly broke open my piggy bank for this one – but the value of an unprecedented gathering at this fantastic location certainly made it worth spending the cash for me.

I personally cannot wait to honor Fire legends this October 8th as Piotr Nowak, Chris Armas, Lubos Kubik, Frank Klopas, Peter Wilt, Diego Gutierrez, Kelly Gray, Evan Whitfield, Dasan Robinson, Brian McBride, Jesse Marsch, Ante Razov and many others will be celebrating fifteen years of Fire in Chicago with fans – I hope you will be there too.

Where: Chicago History Museum
When: 7-11pm, October 8th 2012
Who: All Fire fans
Tickets: www.fireanniversary.com/tickets
PS: There’s even a swanky after-party at the stunning Filini Bar & Restaurant (221 N. Columbus Drive)
PPS: There might also be a chance for you to play a game with a few of the legends mentioned above from the ’98 team. Stay tuned to the Fire Anniversary website, Twitter and Facebook page for details.

Tom Dunmore is a former Chair of Section 8 Chicago and is currently an editor of XI Quarterly. Follow him on Twitter @tomdunmore

27 September 1:10 pm

Since the start of the 2012 MLS season, the Fire have added six new players to the roster. With the Men in Red set to battle for first place tomorrow, Friday Sept. 28 against Sporting Kansas City at 7:30 p.m. CT on the NBC Sports Network, it’s hard to argue against the impact that the newest players have had on the team.
 
Here is a quick look at the Fire’s midseason acquisitions:
 
Chris Rolfe
Rolfe returned for his second stint with the Fire on April 16. Having suffered an ankle sprain in his first week back that kept him out commission for two months, Rolfe made his Fire “re-debut” on June 2 in a 2-0 loss to the New England Revolution. Since then, Rolfe has started 14 of 17 games and now leads the team in scoring with 8 goals. Rolfe has two multi-goal games so far this season, scoring two goals in a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union on Aug. 12 and two goals in a 2-1 win over the Columbus Crew on Sept. 22. The veteran Fire forward has five games left to hit double-digit goals, a feat he never accomplished before leaving for Denmark in 2009.
 
Alex
Brazilian attacker Alex joined the Fire from Swiss side FC Wohlen on April 26. Alex has two goals to his credit in 13 appearances. Having started five games, the Brazilian attacker has found fire of late, scoring both of his spectacular goals during the month of September in 3-1 wins over Houston (September 2) and Montreal (September 15).
 
Sherjill MacDonald

Sherjill MacDonald signed with the Fire on July 24 from Belgian club Beerschot AC. In nine games for the Men in Red, the former Dutch youth international has two goals and three assists to his name. Since earning his first start on Aug. 12 against the Philadelphia Union, MacDonald has started seven consecutive matches, helping the Men in Red to a 6-1-0 record in those matches.
 
Alvaro Fernandez
Uruguayan playmaker Alvaro Fernandez joined the Men in Red via trade from Seattle Sounders FC on July 27. Fernandez, who has made seven starts in eight games, scored his first Fire goal on Sept. 12 against Toronto FC. Just three days later, Fernandez scored his second goal of the season and added an assist in a 3-1 win over the Montreal Impact on Sept. 15.
 
Wells Thompson
Thompson joined the Fire in a trade from the Colorado Rapids on Sept. 10. Thompson, a 2010 MLS Cup winner with the Rapids, provides additional depth to a strong Fire midfield, and has made three appearances off the bench in his young Fire career.
 
Guillermo Franco
On Sept. 14, the Fire announced that the club signed two-time World Cup veteran and Mexican international forward Guillermo Franco. Franco saw his first action in a Fire shirt in MLS Reserve League action when the Fire defeated FC Dallas 2-1 on Sept. 18. Franco, who has yet to make his first team debut, is available for selection by Fire Head Coach Frank Klopas when the Men in Red take on Sporting Kansas City on Friday, Sept. 28.

24 September 8:10 am

It was good to see DaMarcus Beasley back in Chicago for Saturday night's 2-1 win over Columbus.

With the five-year Fire veteran still an active player and unable to get away from Mexican side Puebla for next month's 15th Anniversary celebrations, he took advantage of a little schedule gap after playing 90 minutes for the side in a 1-1 draw with Leon Friday night. 

Named earlier this week as one of the #Fire15 players, Beasley was welcomed to roaring applause at halftime of Saturday night's game but what was most interesting was what he said to our camera before the match.

When asked where he would want to play if he return to Major League Soccer, Beasley replied, "There's no other team I would want to play for. No other team I'd want to be a part of."

Given the swirling rumors recently about a Carlos Bocanegra return to the Fire, this response inevitably leads us to a fun poll question...

20 September 4:10 pm

Over the summer, we presented 15 memorable games and goals from the club’s first 15 seasons. We also asked you the fans who the top 15 players in club history were.

To be clear, you won’t see numbers ranking the players. That’s because this isn’t a countdown but rather a series to honor 15 great players in Fire history.

In the first installment of the series last week, we named Jesse Marsch, Logan Pause and Chris Rolfe to the #Fire15. Today,

Today, DaMarcus Beasley, Ante Razov and Chris Armas join them...

DaMarcus Beasley - The youngest player to ever appear for the Fire, DaMarcus Beasley began his very promising career as a 17-year-old in Chicago during the 2000 season.

The future U.S. international would go on to appear in 134 competitive matches, tallying 18 goals and 28 assists as he dazzled fans with his speedy and ability on the dribble.

Beasley would use his early time with the Fire to make appearances on the first of three U.S. World Cup teams in 2002 before springing to Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven midway through the 2004 season.

Ante Razov – There is no doubt and little argument about forward Ante Razov’s inclusion on the #Fire15 list. One of the all-time leading goal scorers in MLS, Razov holds the distinction by a country mile for the Fire, tallying 95 across 196 competitive games from 1998-2004. Razov’s strike rate is more impressive when you consider the next player on the list is Chris Rolfe who has 49 goals at the moment.

Razov led the team in scoring in five of his seven seasons (playing only half a season in 2001) and tallied his career high of 25 competitive goals in 2000.

QUOTABLE: “I took pride in my craft. I wasn’t the fastest guy, I wasn’t the best dribbler but I knew how to shoot and get myself in position and do the best with what your talents are. I worked at that constantly and I was never harder on anyone than myself. We had such a good group [in those early years] that everyone demanded the best from everyone.” – Ante Razov on the All-In Podcast (September 10, 2012)

Chris Armas – Much like Razov, Armas is a necessity on this list. The second captain in club history, Armas is also one of the longest tenured Fire players of all-time, playing from 1998-2007. The former U.S. international joins C.J. Brown and Zach Thornton as the only three players in club history to be part of all six domestic titles.

 The Ring of Fire honoree is one of a number of American players including Razov, Thornton and Jesse Marsch that built the core and found their career stride with the club’s early successes.

An honest, hard-working player, Armas racked up 13 goals in 272 competitive appearances. Perhaps most surprisingly, the Fire captain sits second all-time in assists with 53, behind only Peter Nowak at 60.

QUOTABLE: “I believed the little things added up to big things. I knew that on game day, I wasn’t going to be pushing magic buttons, I wasn’t that type of player.  It sounds cliché but literally, working at technique, technique and technique. Being able to execute that in games and being able to work at the craft every day. That meant coming early and staying afterwards. I felt like I had some ability but it was followed up by hard work and the mentality, staying grounded.– Chris Armas Blast from the Past Q&A (September 11, 2012)

Stay tuned to Chicago-Fire.com as we name the rest of the #Fire15 players in the month leading up to the club's Anniversary match on Wednesday, October 3 vs. Philadelphia (TICKETS) and 15th Anniversary Party to be held Monday, October 8 at the Chicago History Museum. (TICKETS).

Re-watch Episode 1 featuring Jesse Marsch, Logan Pause and Chris Rolfe

 

20 September 12:45 pm

In this edition of Burning Questions we sat down with defender Jalil Anibaba. Now in his second season with the Fire, Jalil has put together a solid sophomore season, starting 26 of his 27 appearances. An integral part of a solid Fire defense, he has also contributed on the offensive side, scoring one goal and adding one assist. A native of Davis, Calif., Jalil was selected ninth overall in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. Jalil took the time to answer our Burning Questions about his hidden talents, his favorite birthday memory and what it’s like to own canaries.
 
Always on the Inside: You were named the Gatorade California Player of the Year for Soccer in 2006-07. What’s your favorite Gatorade flavor?
 
Jalil Anibaba: Probably Glacier Freeze. Light blue.
 
AOTI: What is the most embarrassing song on your iPod?

JA: Probably a song of myself. I wouldn’t say I sing a lot but it’s a hobby of mine.

AOTI: Are you going to make us a mix tape?
 
JA: No. Definitely not. That’s why it’s one of the most embarrassing things on my iPod.

AOTI: Who plays Jalil Anibaba in the Jalil Anibaba movie?

JA: Probably one of my brothers because they know me so well, they’d be able to portray my character in the best light.
 
AOTI: Your brother Jammil and yourself look remarkably alike. How often do people confuse the two of you and have you ever used your similar looks to trick people?
 
JA: We’ve never used our similar looks to deceive people on purpose. In Chicago we get confused for each other pretty often. It happens a lot up in the Stadium Club after games but it’s great having my brother here for support. It’s awesome.
 
AOTI: Your birthday, which is on October 19, is almost exactly one month away. What’s your favorite birthday memory?
 
JA: I would say being back in Davis when I was younger, in my teenage years and before that. My birthdays were always special because they were times when the whole family was together. My grandmother would always come and make my favorite cake, Lemon Pound Cake. We would just have dinner together, so they were great times and great experiences.
 
AOTI: Last year you put together a very solid rookie season, starting 27 of 29 matches and registering three goals (one of which became the team's Goal of the Year) and one assist. This year the Fire have another rookie defender, Austin Berry, who is putting together similar numbers. Do you consider him your protégé and have you ever called him Jalil Jr.? What do you think of him following in your footsteps?
 
JA: No, I definitely don’t think of Austin as a Jalil protégé. Simply because I’m still a young player and I’m still trying to prove myself day in and day out. I think Austin has done a tremendous job learning on the curve, and that’s part of being a rookie. His future is definitely bright.
 
AOTI: What’s a typical day like in the life of Jalil Anibaba?
 
JA: I wake up for training, come to the stadium in the morning, and put in my day’s work as far as my profession is concerned.

Once I leave the stadium, the day is pretty slow. I like to get a nap in after training and then pretty much after the nap, it’s all about getting ready for the next day, so eating well, resting, watching either a movie or a couple of TV shows and just being ready for the next day.
 
AOTI: What TV shows do you like?

JA: There are a couple series that I’ve been intrigued with lately. I’m happy that season five of “Sons of Anarchy” started again; that’s one of my top choices. I was into “Damages” but that show is done now. I’m a big fan of “Suits.” With time on my hands I like to indulge in different TV series to entertain myself.

Reality TV is something that me and my brother and some of my friends like to get into. We watch “Love & Hip Hop” and “The Voice” to keep things light hearted.”
 
AOTI: Do you have any hidden talents?
 
JA: When I was young I used to skateboard and I used to yo-yo. I’m a little rusty but maybe I could still do some tricks.
 
AOTI: Your dad raises canaries. What’s the most interesting thing about canaries?
 
JA: What’s interesting about them is that the males sing, and they sing beautifully. If you’re ever to come to my house back in Davis, you’ll definitely hear birds singing, and it’s a great, great sound.

11 September 4:54 pm

Over the summer, we presented 15 memorable games and goals from the club’s first 15 seasons. We also asked you the fans who the top 15 players in club history were.

The tallies are in and with October 8 looming now less than a month away, we’re set to begin unveiling the “#Fire15” in a new five-segment video series presented by TrueCar.

To be clear, you won’t see numbers ranking the players. That’s because this isn’t a countdown but rather a series to honor 15 great players in Fire history.

Our first three honorees are Jesse Marsch, Logan Pause and Chris Rolfe.

Jesse Marsch – While never flashy, Marsch was a near constant cleaning up messes in the Fire midfield from 1998-2005. Coming to the club after spending his first two MLS seasons with reigning champions D.C. United, Marsch would go on to appear in 259 competitive matches (fifth all-time) while tallying 23 goals and 32 assists in his eight seasons with the Fire.

As Tom Soehn points out in the video, Jesse’s lasting legacy with the Men in Red stem from the five domestic titles he won during his time in Chicago.

Logan Pause – Now into his 10th season as a member of the Chicago Fire, Logan Pause has long credited the likes of Marsch and Chris Armas as players he modeled his game after. The current Fire captain is the second longest tenured member of the club behind C.J. Brown and with 295 career appearances sits behind only the 13-year veteran (372) in games played for the club.

Not that he needed to prove he belonged on such a list but the captain’s ability to play through two broken ribs and a collapsed lungs at Philadelphia on August 12 was heroic. It was only bested by the fact that he returned to the field to help the Fire win 3-1 over Houston exactly three weeks later.

No more explanation necessary here…

Chris Rolfe – Perhaps the closest thing the Fire have had as an answer to Ante Razov, Chris Rolfe stands behind the former U.S. international at second on the club’s all-time scoring list with 45 goals across all competitions.

Rolfe would definitely have more in a Fire shirt if not for often being played on the wing during his first tenure in Chicago. There was also the two and a half years he spent away in Denmark that have his goal tally a bit lower than you would think.

However, Rolfe’s return to the club back in April was one of the most welcome acquisitions the club has made in recent years and now a few years older, the striker will look to continue to chip away at Razov’s goal record.

Stay tuned to Chicago-Fire.com as we name the rest of the #Fire15 players in the month leading up to the club's Anniversary match on Wednesday, October 3 vs. Philadelphia (TICKETS) and 15th Anniversary Party to be held Monday, October 8 at the Chicago History Museum. (TICKETS).

11 September 8:31 am

After a massive home win against Houston and a morale boosting come-from-behind draw against Santos Laguna in an exhibition match, the Fire travel to Toronto full of confidence for Wednesday night's game at BMO Field. In contrast, Toronto are missing some key players through a combination of injury, suspension and international call-ups. Here are a few things to look out for in Wednesday night's match:

Terry Dunfield - how to replace a missing captain

The Fire lost captain fantastic Logan Pause due to lung and rib injuries against Philadelphia on August 12. Fortunately, the Fire had strength in depth with Alvaro Fernandez and Daniel Paladini filling the central role in Logan’s absence. Toronto do not have the luxury of a Paladini or Fernandez to replace their missing captain Terry Dunfield who, like Pause, is the heart and soul of the team.

Dunfield, like Pavel Pardo covers a lot of ground in the center of midfield and is essential to breaking up opponents attacks but also starting them for TFC. He has also scored some big goals this season including one in a recent away draw with Houston. Dunfield's absence is good news for Chris Rolfe who will look to exploit the more inexperienced potential replacements for Dunfield, namely Aaron Maund and Matt Stinson.

Long balls - TFC's bread and butter

Toronto have found some success in the long ball tactic, often bypassing the midfield altogether and looking for a flick on or knock down from Ryan Johnson and co. Johnson will be missing on Wednesday night but this will not stop TFC looking to kick it long at every possible opportunity.

The Fire back line will need to keep a close eye on TFC striker Eric Hassli who is always on the shoulder of the last defender looking for a ball over the top or a flick on. The long ball tactic also put a heavy emphasis on winning second balls. Stopping TFC from getting scoring chances from second balls is essential.

Possession - looking for more of the ball vs. TFC

In the Fire’s last game against Houston, their opponents had more than double the amount of possession. Though the Fire set up to play that way, I think we will see a much different game plan Wednesday night. The Fire will look to possess the ball for long stretches, looking do draw out TFC and create space for the attacking players to move into.

Kansas City held over 70% of the possession against TFC on September 1 and eventually broke them down, coming behind to win 2-1. The Fire will need to be patient, but their constant pressure should lead to goals.

When broken into 15 minute intervals, TFC have allowed the most goals this season from the 75th to 90th minute - another reason for the Fire to stay patient on Wednesday night.

Darren O'Dea - potential weak link in the back

In an interview on Monday night, TFC center back Darren O'Dea looked exhausted, and who could blame him? O'Dea had just returned from Kazakhstan where he played the full 90 minutes for the Republic of Ireland in their 2-1 victory on Friday. O'Dea also admitted that he was battling a cold but said he would be ready for Wednesday night.

Though very good in the air, O'Dea lacks pace and his partnership with Richard Eckersley is in its infancy. The Fire should be looking to get in 1v1 situations with O'Dea as often as possible bearing in mind his transatlantic excursions and illness. The Fire have managed to do this in the recent past, most notably when Sherjill MacDonald was able to turn Bakary Soumare and set up Chris Rolfe for an easy finish against Philadelphia.

The TFC coaching staff have been singing the praises of O'Dea since he joined the team but Wednesday's match is a potential banana skin for the Irishman .

Prediction: If the Fire stay patient, the goals will inevitably come. 2-0 Fire with goals from Chris Rolfe and Austin Berry.

06 September 1:32 pm

In this edition of Burning Questions we sat down with midfielder Patrick Nyarko. Now in his fifth season with the Fire, Patrick has scored three goals and leads the team with six assists. A native of Kumasi, Ghana, Patrick was a standout at Virginia Tech before he was drafted in the first round (7th overall) of the 2008 MLS SuperDraft. Patrick took the time to answer our Burning Questions about his table tennis prowess, his sneaker collection and what a typical day entails for him.

Always on the Inside: You’re often regarded as one of the best table tennis players on the team. How did you get to be so good?

Patrick Nyarko: I put in the work while I was growing up. It was such that if you played a game, it was a commercial table tennis table, so you  had to pay if you lost; you didn’t want to waste your lunch money. So you had to win by all means. If you didn’t get good you were going to lose all of your money.
 

 

WATCH: Nyarko Scores in the 1st minute vs. HOU

 

AOTI: Your bio in the media guide says your favorite thing to eat is soup. What kind of soup and where’s the best place to find it in Chicago?

PN: Peanut Butter soup. I’ve not found the best in Chicago. For really authentic soup you have to go back to Ghana so I haven’t really found anything close. I don’t really eat it. I don’t want to offend my mom.

AOTI: One of your strengths as a player is your speed. Are you fast in other aspects of life?

PN: I do eat pretty quickly. I’ve been in cars with some pretty crazy drivers like Dominic [Oduro], and I don’t think I drive as fast as him but I don’t like to drive slow.

I like to get things done quickly, if I have to. If you go in my apartment it’s really not clean because I don’t have to because I live alone, but if I actually have to I’ll get it done quickly.

AOTI: As a professional athlete you have a bit of a non-traditional schedule. What’s a typical day like for you after you leave Toyota Park?

PN: Once I go sit on my couch I’m stuck for the rest of the day. If I have to run errands and stuff I do it all before I go home. Even if it takes six hours, I’d like to get it done before I sit on the couch. I don’t know what’s wrong with the couch or where it came from, but I just cannot get off of it.

I usually watch a little TV, catch up on shows and world news. I like Tyler Perry shows like “Meet the Browns” and “House of Payne.” And I love “Two and a Half Men.” I’ve started watching every season.

AOTI: Are there other soccer teams or leagues that you follow?

PN: I’m a huge fan of Manchester United. I don’t miss an EPL game if I don’t have to. I’m really not huge into other leagues. I’ll watch Barcelona and I’ll watch Real Madrid play but I don’t watch the Italian league or Bundesliga. It’s very limited. I love the EPL.

AOTI: You’re a bit of a sneaker head. What got you interested in shoes and what’s your favorite pair that you own?

PN: As a kid I always loved sneakers but growing up in Africa we weren’t that well-off to get enough sneakers. I had one pair per year. When I came to the States for school and I got two pairs in college, it was like Christmas for me. I signed with adidas and I started getting all these sneakers. The love of sneakers grew after I signed with them. They make some great shoes.

The best pair I have are from adidas; they’re called Ransoms.

AOTI: You currently have three goals on the season. This is only your second multi-goal season after 2009 in which you scored four goals. To what do you attribute your offensive output this season?

PN: I think I’ve always had adequate offensive production, not in terms of goals but I led the team in assists for the last couple of years. I think this year I’m more comfortable. I’ve been working a lot with the coaching staff in terms of confidence in front of the goal and stuff like that. I know I still have a ways to go but I’m happy it’s imporving and hopefully by the end of the year I can have a couple more goals.

AOTI: Do you have any pre-game rituals?
PN: Not really. I just show up and I’m good to go.

AOTI: What is the best advice you have ever received?

PN: Always persevere. If you try once and you don’t succeed that doesn’t mean it’s the end. Just keep persisting. I’m very persistent in more ways than one.
 

 

28 August 10:13 am

Have you ever wondered what your favorite Fire players are like off the pitch? Well, we aim to please here at Always on the Inside. Each week we are going to sit down with a different player to get answers to those pesky Burning Questions.

In this edition we sat down with forward Chris Rolfe. After returning to the Fire in April for his second stint with the Men in Red, Chris has made an immediate impact, scoring five goals and adding one assist in 13 games. An Ohio native, Chris was a standout at the University of Dayton before he was drafted in the third round of the 2005 MLS SuperDraft by the Fire. Chris took the time to answer our Burning Questions about armrest etiquette, the best bowl cut on the team and what he enjoys most about Chicago.
 
Always on the Inside: What is the origin of your goal celebration?
 
Chris Rolfe:
I’m from Dayton, Ohio. The Wright Brothers are from Dayton; first in flight and all, so I’m representing the hometown.
 
AOTI: Best part about being back in Chicago?
 
CR: The summer. The summer is great, with the beaches and all of the other things to do.
 

AOTI: The team had a rare weekend off. What’d you do?
 
CR: I went back to Ohio to see my family. I also caught the Dayton vs. Ohio State soccer game, which they won 3-2.
 
AOTI: What was the last movie you watched in theaters? When you're in a theater, which armrests are yours?
 
CR: It was "Dark Knight Rises" at the IMAX. We didn't go on opening day, we waited until we could get into the IMAX. If I'm sitting in the middle of Corben [Bone] and Steven [Kinney] than both armrests are mine. If I'm sitting by a stranger, I'm pretty good at sitting with my arms crossed. I'm kind of a smaller gentleman, so I can manage without using the armrests. I'll let my friend use it; I want them to be comfortable.
 
AOTI: If you could live in one TV show, which one would it be?
 
CR: "Friday Night Lights." I don't know who I'd be but Matt Saracen is a great guy, taking care of his grandma like that. Landry's a good guy too. Would I be in Coach Taylor's family? I don't think so but he's a good coach.

AOTI: You have previously stated, "I'm just a kid." Do you use this excuse often and who had a better bowl cut as a kid, yourself or Hunter Jumper?
 
CR: I’m sure I’ve said it before when I was younger. That’s my way to get out of situations that I get myself into. And I had the better bowl cut; mine for sure. Look how sharp mine is. It so straight. My hair is straighter than his, and I've got a nicer face.

AOTI: What is the last book you read in its entirety?
 
CR:Wild at Heart,” by John Eldridge. It’s more of a spiritual book, talking about society and the need for real men in society. I’ve read it like four times.
 
AOTI: You're a country music fan. Who is your favorite country artist and what's the best concert you've ever seen?
 
CR: Right now it's Jason Aldean. I've lived a great life; I've gone to a lot of great concerts. I'm going to go old school and say Garth Brooks, with back to back concerts at the Staples Center.
 
AOTI: Do you have any bad habits that you just can’t break?
 
CR: I tend to still chew on my nails once in a while. That’s about it.

21 August 12:02 pm

The long-standing rumors of Fire midfielder Marco Pappa’s move across the pond finally came true last Monday as the Fire and Dutch club SC Heerenveen jointly announced the Guatemalan international would move to the Netherlands effective January 1, 2013.

While Pappa has been a key part of the team the last four seasons, his desire to go to Europe at the end of his MLS contract was pretty well known. The Fire did right by Pappa and according to the interview to the right, the midfielder is looking to do right by the club that gave him the shop-window opportunity.

WATCH: Pappa Talks Fire Focus

“I still have a contract with the Fire,” said Pappa. “We talked about this situation. I’m going to keep doing my best like I always do and I’m happy for the opportunity but right now it would be good to get a championship [here] before going to Europe.”

While a player signing a contract with another club before the one he’s with is finished seems a little odd, it’s common practice throughout the world and is becoming more regular in MLS. For instance it was just three years ago that Fire forward Chris Rolfe signed a pre-contract with Aalborg BK in the Danish SuperLiga.

The best thing about Rolfe’s situation was that the Fire played the MLS rules well, giving the forward a “qualifying offer”, that is an offer deemed credible for his market value, before he signed with Aalborg. By doing that, the club retained his MLS rights, paving the way for his smooth return earlier this April.

Though defender Gonzalo Segares didn’t sign a pre-contract with Cypriot club Apollon Limassol during 2009, his situation is similar to that of Rolfe’s. The Costa Rican international played the first six months of 2010 in Cyprus before returning to the Fire that August, a move again made easier by the qualifying offer.

When Wilman Conde made his desire known to return to MLS from Mexican side Atlas earlier this year, the Fire cashed on the qualifying offer made to the Colombian defender at the end of 2010, earning a nice chunk of allocation money in January’s trade that sent him to New York.

Aside from doing right by a player that has performed for the club, the best part of Pappa’s move to Holland is that like in the differing case of Rolfe, Segares and Conde, the Fire have kept future options open with the player.

Most will agree that Marco has all the tools to be successful in Holland but unforeseen things can happen and though no transfer fee is being wired from The Netherlands to Chicago, it’s a sign the Fire have done some good business.

With 10 regular season matches plus a potential playoff run, Pappa still has plenty to prove before heading to Holland.