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10 July 7:49 am

The #PickPat for #MLSAllStar Campaign got off to a successful start on Monday with a lot of great tweets appealing to Ben Olsen and Don Garber to select Patrick Nyarko to the squad that will face Chelsea FC on Wednesday, July 25 in Philadelphia. 

Our work isn't done though. Just minutes ago, I sent the below e-mail (on Fire letterhead) to MLS All-Star Head Coach Ben Olsen, drawing on the similarities between he and Patrick and asking for him to consider @PattyBerron as one of his selections for this month's All-Star game. 
 
Dear Ben,
 
I’ve been an admirer of your career for your on-the-field contributions as well as your ability to come back. I say this as someone that didn’t enjoy seeing your name on the team sheet against the Men in Red.
 
In the early days of your career, there were few others in MLS that combined the speed and attacking ability and most importantly work ethic that you provided with D.C. United. 

After experiencing a pretty devastating injury in 2001, you fought back, moved into a new position and made your way on to a U.S. World Cup team in 2006, one you would have been on four years earlier if not for said injury.
 
Meet Patrick Nyarko. 
 
I say that in jest because I know you already know him. As part of the MLS head coach’s fraternity, you certainly include him in your pre-game team talk prior to a match against the Fire. Just a guess, but you might mention that he’s a player that reminds you of well, you.
 
Pat left his family in Ghana to join Virginia Tech (don’t let your Cavalier side hold that against him) and went on to become one of the most coveted players in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft. Much like you spent your first year in D.C. living with Bruce Arena, Pat counts one of his former Hokie teammates’ families as his “American family”.
 
Similarly, Pat moved away from his normal position as a forward to play as a winger early on in his professional career. This move wasn’t forced by injury but was one to make the player more effective for the team. Over the past three seasons, Pat has used his speed, ability to change directions and skill on the ball to terrorize MLS defenses.
 
While you suffered from ankle and other issues, Pat has dealt with concussions. Despite suffering at least two during his time with the Fire, he’s continued to improve every match and played fearlessly while knowing the risk of another is there.
 
Like you, Patrick hasn’t scored a ton of goals so far but ironically, he’s just ahead of your five-year assist mark at this point in his career (23 to 24). 
 
Many in Chicago (not that you care what anyone here thinks) found it surprising that Patrick wasn’t included among the team’s six players nominated for the MLS All-Star Game considering the consensus says he’s been the team’s most consistent performer this season. 
 
I say all this in an appeal to you to name Patrick as one of your selections to the 2012 MLS All-Star Game in Philadelphia later this month. Knowing the character you’ve always shown, I know you won’t let that MLS Cup ’98 defeat sour your view of Patrick. It would have capped a nice rookie year for you but Patrick was only 13 then. 
 
Maybe a start isn’t in the cards, but can you think of many other players in the league you would want coming off the bench in a game like this? When a Chelsea team in preseason form begins to whither in the Pennsylvania heat? 
 
If not, you should #PickPat
 
Yours in Soccer,
 

Jeff Crandall
Chicago Fire Team Writer
 
Keep up the #PickPat campaign by tweeting your support for Patrick to @DCUnited and @TheSoccerDon. The remaining selections for the 2012 MLS All-Star game will be announced at halftime of Sunday's Seattle vs. New York match at 3pm CT on ESPN.
 

 

09 July 11:13 am

Full disclosure here: I saw the Twitter campaign the Chicago White Sox did to get Jake Peavy onto the American League All-Star team for tomorrow’s game.  #TakeJake made its way into the Fourth of July Parade and with Dave Kaplan on Chicago Tribune Live and I have to admit, I became a little envious.  

Though it didn’t exactly work (Peavy finished second in MLB Twitter voting to the Texas Rangers Yu Darvish), the Sox right-hander has reportedly replaced injured L.A. Angels southpaw C.J. Wilson on the All-Star team.

 

THE INVERTED WINGER: Patrick Nyarko

 
Last month Fire supporters did an amazing job in registering Twitter votes for the team’s six nominated MLS All-Stars. In a contest with Columbus, the Fire Twitter family quite frankly sent Crew fans back to the cow pasture from whence they came, outvoting them by a 3-1 margin. Though all the while, the victory seemed bittersweet as seemingly one of the team’s most deserving candidates wasn’t included.  
 
You see the journalists of North American soccer (who decided every team’s six All-Star nominees) fight the good fight, though like any other sport, they seem to recognize name a bit more than form or other contributions.
 
Cut to Patrick Nyarko, who over the past three seasons has become one of Major League Soccer’s most underrated players. Even when the side’s on-the-field play hasn’t been sub-par, the Ghanaian winger, forward (let’s just call him attacker?) has always provided danger and shown a constant threat in stretching and exposing the opposition’s defense.
 
A goal scorer he is not… Nyarko has only hit the back of the net nine times in his MLS career but he has found his role as a set up man providing 22 of his 24 league assists in the past three seasons. On top of that, Nyarko finished in the  Top 5 in the league in Big Chances Created (7) and Chances from the run of play (56) in 2011 and is currently tied with Javier Morales for Big Chances (7) and behind only Landon Donovan in Chances Created from the Run of Play (30 to 36). 
 
While speed is one of his best attributes, the most impressive quality that he’s gained over the past 12 months has been his ability to navigate through defenses, maintaining possession of the ball almost as if it never leaves his foot. 
 
Those qualities combined with the fact that Nyarko is fouled a lot (he’s been Top 10 in fouls suffered each of the past two seasons) and still finds a way to get back up is impressive and draws a lot of comparisons to former Fire winger DaMarcus Beasley. Moreover, he currently sits behind only countryman Dominic Oduro for consecutive league appearances at 41.
 
The Ghanaian national team recognized Nyarko’s effort earlier this year when he received his first call-up for the Black Stars in a 1-1 friendly draw with Chile back in February. Coming on as a second-half sub in that match, by all accounts Ghana could have easily won if only they’d found a way to finish one of the many chances created by Nyarko.
 
So while there is no Twitter vote left for the #MLSAllStar’s game vs. Chelsea, there is a chance to make an appeal to the two men who will decide the remaining players to fill out the league squad.
 
Over the next few days I’ll post my open letters to MLS All-Star Head Coach Ben Olsen and League Commissioner Don Garber, laying out the case for a player that has often been overlooked but is deserving of such an honor this season. 
 
Knowing how active Fire fans are in the Twitter-verse, I call on all of Fire nation to send your #PickPat messages to @DCUnited and @TheSoccerDon. Heck, send them over to @MLS_Insider and all your friends too. 
 

Spread the word,
 

 

05 July 11:37 am

One-named players in the game of soccer are almost exclusively Brazilian. Going by a single name is almost a rite of passage for anyone that learned to play “joga bonito” growing up and its no different for new Fire arrival Alex who didn’t take long to put the Brazilian flare on display in last Friday’s 1-0 victory at Sporting KC.

While Alex shows promise, I thought it a smart exercise to detail the other Major League Soccer’s other one-named players that Alex  should look to as an example.

The Good 

Welton (New England, 1996; LA Galaxy, 1997-99; Miami 1999-00) - One of my sentimental favorites, Welton (pictured right) never really won a title in MLS and but #OldSchoolMLSFans will remember him as one of the most successful one-namers in league history (as well as a constant on my early MLS Fantasy team).

A traveling man of sorts, the Rio native would tally 43 goals and 34 assists over 144 career matches for New England, LA and Miami. He twice hit for double-digit goals in a season, scoring 11 goals in 1997 and 17 goals in 1998 for the Galaxy.

Fire fans will probably remember him best for ruining Zach Thornton’s shutout bid in the 2000 U.S. Open Cup Final with his 90th minute strike, which was the last goal he would score for an MLS side.

Camilo (Vancouver, 2011-present) – The midfielder led the Whitecaps with 12 goals and three assists over 32 matches in the club’s inaugural MLS campaign last season. His scoring pace is slightly slower this season with only three goals and two assists but he’s aided Vancouver to third place in the West at the half way point.

Preki (Kansas City 1996-2000, 2002-05; Miami 2001) – The best one-namer in league history isn’t even Brazilian. Preki’s (right) story is well known… a Yugoslavian indoor star who made his way back to Europe to play for Everton and Portsmouth before returning stateside to carve out one of the top careers in MLS history.

Spending all but one of his 10 MLS seasons in Kansas City, Preki amassed 79 goals and 112 assists in 242 games from 1996-2005, winning one MLS Cup (2000), two Supporters Shields (2000 KC; 2001 Miami) and one U.S. Open Cup (2004). He was twice named MLS Most Valuable Player in 1997 and 2003 and had four seasons in which he hit double-digit goals (scoring 18 in 1996).

Oh he also scored the United States’ only game-winning goal against Brazil.

Preki was good, that’s all. 

Juninho (LA Galaxy, 2010-present) – There have been more than a few Juninho’s before the Galaxy’s Juninho Paulista came onto the MLS scene but the central midfielder has proven to be one of the best one-namers ever in MLS. Since coming to the Galaxy on loan from Sao Paulo in 2010, Juninho has appeared in 72 matches, tallying seven goals and five assists while helping the Gals to a Supporters Shield and the team’s third MLS Cup last season.

Thiago (Chicago Fire, 2005-2007) – No Fire list of one-name players could ever be complete without Alex’s precursor at the club, Thiago (photo right). After impressing on a trial in 2004, the Porto Alegre product joined the Fire in 2005 and would go on to tally six goals and seven assists during his first season in Chicago.

The following year, he would bag just three goals and two assists in the league but wrote his name into Fire lore for his late-game, close-range tap-in to send Toyota Park into pandemonium as the Fire clinched their MLS-record fourth U.S. Open Cup title with a 3-1 victory over the LA Galaxy on September 23, 2006.

With diminished playing time in 2007, Thiago was released by the Fire that September. Now 30, he’s bounced around Brazil’s lower leagues, winning the Campeanato Gaucho Segunda Divisao with hometown club Porto Alegre in 2009 and currently plays for Sao Luiz de Ijui. 

 

27 June 3:49 pm

Daniel Paladini and defender Hunter Jumper took time out last week to answer questions for the Chicago Fire Kids Club newsletter, powered by American Family Insurance.

Check out their interesting answers to Kids Club member questions below and be sure to sign your young Fire fan up for the Kids Club for awesome giveaways at home matches, exclusive player autograph sessions and much more! Best part is it's FREE! Register here.

21 June 8:24 am

Buon compleanno to the Fire’s resident Italian goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi!

In case Paolo was feeling a bit homesick on his birthday, we at “Always on the Inside” decided to bring a little bit of Italy to him.

Make sure you wish Paolo a Happy 24th Birthday today by commenting and liking this post on Facebook or Tweeting to him @PaulTornaghi!

21 June 7:27 am

"Soccer is a game about goals. It's a low scoring sport. We love it dearly -- when goals are scored, they need to be given." - NBC Sports Play-by-Play Announcer Arlo White's immediate comments following the above instance from Sunday's match vs. New York.

The idea of goalline technology has likely been floated since Geoff Hurst's "not-so hat-trick performance" for England in the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final but that was the 60's and this is now.

The above photo clearly shows former Fire defender and current Red Bull player Wilman Conde working to deny Dominic Oduro's 64th minute strike in Sunday's 3-1 victory over Red Bull. It was just the first instance this week of a ball clearly crossing the line without a goal being given (see also Ukraine vs. England on Tuesday). 

"That’s never happened to me," said Oduro this week. "Obviously I think they missed the whole thing. I thought it was a goal, everyone thought it was a goal except for the two officials. Its my first time having a goal that was so obvious be disallowed."

Had it stood, it would have given the Fire a 2-1 lead as well as counted as the Oduro's fifth of the MLS campaign and first since a 2-1 victory over Sporting KC on May 12.

After the ball crossed the line, the Fire striker's celebration quickly turned to disbelief as the farside linesman denied the goal.

"It was a little heartbreaking for me," he continued. "I needed that going forward, just getting back on track scoring goals and it didn’t happen. My emotions were really high and I got a yellow card. It was all in the heat of the moment." 

You might say that the missed call helped rile the team up more as four minutes later Gonzalo Segares slammed home what would be the go-ahead goal after Oduro dug a ball out in the box from Red Bull 'keeper Ryan Meara. In the 81st minute, substitute forward Chris Rolfe iced the match with a tap-in off a beautiful run up the right from Patrick Nyarko.

"At the end of the day, I’m glad we were able to pull it back, score two and get the win."

 Having gone through the whole experience, the Ghanaian attacker sees the addition of goal-line technology, which MLS Commissioner Don Garber has shown an interest in for the league, would be a good move. 

"I think implementing goal line technology would be the best course going forward. I’m not saying we should stop the whole game and have a replay but to just have something that tells you right away whether or not the ball crossed the line would be a positive. We’re all humans, sometimes referees get it wrong. Sometimes the line of sight is blocked. I don’t think any soccer player would disagree on that.”

Except maybe Wilman Conde...?

05 June 2:16 pm

In recent days Fire midfielder Daniel Paladini has been putting in some decent work to grow this handlebar mustache.... 

What's the motivation behind this new look?

"A lot of it has to go through my dad," Paladini explained "I saw a picture of him a couple weeks ago with my uncle that passed away – they used to rock the handlebar mustache so I decided I was going to try it out." While the sentimental motivation is there, the veteran also explains his more covert intentions with the team taking a few days off beginning Thursday.

"It works well because there’s a little festival we’ll be going to on this upcoming break – Bonnaroo 2012. I think I’ll fit in well there with the hippies."

Paladini will head to the music festival in Tennessee this weekend with teammates Corben Bone and Chris Rolfe  and is most looking forward to seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

As for tips for survival at Bonaroo, our resident "Always on the Inside" cameo man Orr Barouch, tells his teammate to stay away from the Sonic Forest... (props to anyone that gets that reference).

24 May 11:03 am

Second in the series of "Always on the Inside" promos... This time I dip in the cold tub with Dan Gargan. 

For those wondering, it was a shivering 46 degrees and as Dan suggests, I couldn't nail my lines... We shifted to having the old pro speak and me just give the high-brow that I'm so well known for...

Can't wait for the bonus features DVD to come out! Make sure to follow Dan on Twitter @RealDanGargan!