As we get set to complete yet another regular season, it donned on me yesterday to look back at this masterpiece that Fire defender Dan Gargan captured and put together with the help of MLS videographers Scott Riddell and Albert Lanzillo.
Shot throughout preseason and the team’s opening day 1-1 draw at Montreal’s nearly sold-out Olympic Stadium, Dan’s video showcased the preparation and work the team went through to get to that very monumental game back in March.
Looking back on it now, one of the most striking things is seeing how much the Fire have changed since January as you see a number of faces that are no longer with the club while also being reminded of just how many new faces have been added over the course of the year.
More than that though, this beautiful video reminds me as a fan and a writer of the cautious optimism we all had going into the year. Back then, if you’d have told Fire fans that had experienced the previous two years the team would be playing for second place in the East on the final day of the, everyone would have taken it.
Flash forward to today and that’s exactly where we are and yet we know the opportunities were there to go even higher.
Still, today the Fire play arguably the most important game at Toyota Park since the last time the team was in the postseason.
And so, re-watching this inspiring video is special to me for multiple reasons, but the most important is that it serves to remind how far this team has come in the three years I’ve been here but also the hard work that was put it back in January to get to this point.
Before heading out to Toyota Park today, take 2 minutes and 23 seconds out of your regular pre-game ritual, watch this video, and soak in how far this team has come in 2012.
It all comes down to Saturday. With one game remaining in the 2012 MLS Regular Season, the Fire host D.C. United Saturday, Oct. 27 at 3:00 p.m. CT (NBC Sports Network), the meat of the tripleheader sandwich.
While the Fire have clinched a spot in the post season, Saturday’s match is crucial for seeding purposes. With a victory, the Men in Red, currently in third place, will take sole possession of second place. With a loss, the Fire could find themselves as low as fifth place.
Though two-time German World Cup veteran Arne Friedrich is experiencing playoff soccer for the first time in his career, he understands the implications of Saturday’s match.
“Our one goal is to win the game,” said Friedrich.
One of the keys to victory for the Fire will be making sure to get the ball to forward Chris Rolfe. With teams now choosing to man-mark Rolfe, he told MLSsoccer.com that “It’s been a little bit more of a challenge finding the ball.”
Another key storyline for Saturday will be the battle between the Fire’s Austin Berry and D.C. United’s Nick DeLeon, two of the front-runners for the Rookie of the Year race. The former college teammates have been enjoying the campaigns put together by their respective clubs.
“I was dying laughing,” said Berry about D.C. United’s video in which DeLeon says, “I eat defenders for breakfast.”
Berry and his centerback partner Arne Friedrich both made Brian Straus and the Sporting News’ short list for the highly-anticipated year end awards.
With both head coach Frank Klopas and striker Sherjill MacDonald imploring fans to get in the stands early Saturday, ‘keeper Sean Johnson stopped by WGN Wednesday morning to discuss the importance of home field advantage at Toyota Park, so make sure to get in early and spur your Men in Red on to victory.
Coming within a Golden Goal of advancement to MLS Cup 2001, the Chicago Fire suffered untimely injuries to the likes of Chris Armas and Josh Wolff, falling in four of their final five regular season matches to limp into the club’s fifth consecutive postseason in 2002.
WATCH: 2002: MLS Cup Quarterfinals
Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution – MLS Cup quarterfinals (first to five points)
New England Revolution 2, Chicago Fire 0
Gillette Stadium, Foxbrough, Mass.
September 26, 2002
The regular season’s Eastern Conference champions would go ahead early in the 13th minute when Joey Franchino’s free kick from the left out picked out Taylor Twellman in the box who nodded past Zach Thornton for his first career MLS Cup playoff goal.
The Fire nearly equalized minutes later when Jesse Marsch’s skipping shot was turned away by Revs goalkeeper Adin Brown, marking the Men in Red’s only shot on goal in the match.
The halftime insertions of Hristo Stoitchkov and Dipsy Selolwane to aid Ante Razov and DaMarcus Beasley in attack came to little avail as New England iced the game on 60 minutes when Daniel Hernandez buried a long-distance blast, rebounding off of Zach Thornton’s punched clearance.
The result gave New England plenty of wind in its sails heading back to Chicago for Game 2.
Chicago Fire 2, New England Revolution 1
Cardinal Stadium in Naperville, Ill.
September 29, 2002
New England would take the early lead in Game 2 as well when Jesse Marsch’s header at midfield bounced into the path of Brian Kamler who calmly one-time a low effort past Zach Thornton in the 18th minute.
The Fire would equalize just before the half when Revs defender Jay Heaps collided with Ante Razov in the area, forcing referee Ricardo Valenzuela to point to the spot. On the ensuing spot kick, Razov tucked his left-footed take inside the right post to equalize before the break.
Into the 76th minute, Carlos Bocanegra fed Kelly Gray in midfield where the young Fire utility player strolled towards the box before playing a beautiful through ball that Razov poked past Adin Brown to give the Fire a 2-1 victory and tie the series at 3-3.
New England Revolution 2, Chicago Fire 0
Gillette Stadium, Foxbrough, Mass.
October 2, 2002
New England would prove too powerful in the rubber match back at Gillette Stadium.
For the second straight match, Brian Kamler would tally the first goal when he took a feed from Leo Cullen before beating Dema Kovalenko down the left wing and CJ Brown in the box to finish past Thornton in the 13th minute.
Despite outshooting the Revolution 17-11 on the night, the Fire couldn’t beat Adin Brown and would have their first round elimination confirmed when Daniel Hernandez slipped between DaMarcus Beasley and Jim Curtin before sending a cross to find Twellman in the box. The MLS newcomer half-volleyed his effort past Thornton for his second of the playoffs, giving the Revs their first ever postseason series victory on the way to a spot in the MLS Cup finals.
In this edition of Burning Questions we sat down with German World Cup veteran Arne Friedrich. This season, Arne has commanded the rock solid Fire defense in 22 matches, holding opponents to 40 goals. A native of Bad Oeynhausen, Germany, Arne has been capped 82 times for Germany, helping Die Mannschaft to matching third place finishes in the 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cups. Arne took the time to answer our Burning Questions about his newfound cooking skills, what music he prefers and how often he throws a handstand.
Always on the Inside: You often talk about how much you like Chicago. Is there something you haven’t yet experienced?
Arne Friedrich: I’ve never been to a Bulls game. That’s what I’ve missed so far. I’m hoping I can see a game when the new season starts. So for me, there is so much exciting stuff to do in Chicago and I just recommend people to come here and visit the town. Especially in Europe and German, nobody knows about Chicago that much. The city doesn’t have the same reputation as New York, and it’s fantastic.
AOTI: Is there anything that Chicagoans do differently?
AF: Not really; when I came here, I didn’t expect that the city would be so clean. That was the first thing I noticed compared to New York because they’re always rivals. The city is so clean and there are so many parks, we have trees, so much stuff going on during the summer. We have the beach and downtown. Everything you need.
AOTI: There is a video from the German Women’s National Team’s recent visit to Toyota Park in which you do a handstand. Do you often do handstands?
AF: This is very nice! It’s good posture. I don’t know why I did that. I guess it’s the first time. I don’t know, it was just a joke and everybody is watching me. Nice! It’s not bad. I didn’t know that I could do that.
AOTI: So do you do yoga?
AF: I did it in Germany. But I guess everyone can do that. It’s a one-time thing.
AOTI: What are you going to be for Halloween?
AF: It's my first Halloween. We don't celebrate it in Germany, especially not in Berlin where I used to live. I'm absolutely excited. I saw that so many people dress their yard up and it looks so funny with the pumpkins and all the stuff. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing all the stuff.
AOTI: Are you planning on dressing up?
AF: I’m not sure, it depends on what my teammates are going to do. We’re going to talk about that.
AOTI: The number 23 is a big deal in Chicago. Who is better, Michael Jordan at soccer or Arne Friedrich at basketball?
AF: We should come together and try to prove it because I don’t know how he plays soccer. My basketball skills are, I don’t know, maybe average. Definitely we should try it.
AOTI: You gave Austin Berry the nickname “Jerry Berry”. Have you given anyone else a nickname? Do you have any nicknames yourself?
AF: I don’t have any nicknames. It’s always funny, I just call people something different. It’s always funny but I don’t want to tell that.
AOTI: In my Google search, I found that the ladies often refer to you as a prince. Do you know where that originated?
AF: What? No! Not even once! I’ve never seen that. Really? Wow. I didn’t know that.
AOTI: Your favorite musical genres are Pop and R&B. Who are your top three musical artists?
AF: I like Eminem. Not his nature maybe but I like his music. There’s so much good stuff. I usually like R&B. I like the group Hurts. And T.I., Papa Trey. There’s so much nice stuff. Music is nice. It’s good that we have music.
AOTI: What is your favorite food and what is your favorite restaurant?
AF: My favorite food is definitely the Italian cuisine. I also started to cook a little bit for myself. I’m a very bad cook, I have to concede that. But I just try to practice every day. Normally, two or three times a week, I go to Vapiano on Clark Street.
AOTI: What’s the one thing you want to be good at cooking? Is there a specialty you want to have?
AF: Not really. My problem is that I don’t work with spices. And this is the problem, it always tastes very plain. It might be healthy but it doesn't taste good.
AOTI: You have a time machine. Which era would you like to visit?
AF: I would like to go in the past when Jesus lived.
After taking a weekend off from MLS play, the Men in Red return to action when they head to Bean Town for their third match of the season against the New England Revolution on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 6:30 p.m. CT (NBC5.2/97.5 ESPN Deportes). With just two games remaining in the regular season, the Fire are still within reach of the Eastern Conference crown.
Midfielder Patrick Nyarko said that now that the Fire have officially clinched a spot in the playoffs, the focus will be on gaining the top seed in the conference. Missing the playoffs the past two seasons was “frustrating,” said Nyarko. “We should be a perennial playoff team.”
Dutch striker Sherjill MacDonald, who joined the team at the end of July, is destined to be a huge part of the Fire’s post-season run. Now that he has had time to settle in and get acclimated to the team and to the city, MacDonald says, “I’m very comfortable with this group. I’m very happy.”
One player who missed the dreary Chicago weather this weekend was Alvaro Fernadnez, who is with Uruguay for two World Cup Qualifiers. Flaco and Uruguay fell 3-0 to Argentina behind a Lionel Messi brace, and one writer finally put the Diego Maradona-Lionel Messi debate to bed. “Lionel Messi is not Diego Maradona,” said Zach Woosley. “In fact, he’s better…much better.”
Flaco and Uruguay have one more match this week when they take on Bolivia at Estadio Hernando Siles in La Paz, Bolivia on Oct. 16.
We pride ourselves as pretty snappy dressers here at Always on the Inside. With the Second Annual White Party just one week away, we thought it would be a good time for the Always on the Inside fashonistas to give the world the dos and don’ts on what to wear to the White Party.
DO: Rachel Bilson looks happy as a clam in a breezy white sundress (shopping bag full of groceries optional, but the event is for charity, we’d find something to do with it):
DO: Don’t worry gents, even you can look great clad in all white. This male model looks hot, even while rocking a fanny pack and croakies:
Just remember that while it’s a great idea to add color through your accessories, even Lindsay Lohan knows that a dress splashed (okay, it’s a multi-colored dream coat) with multiple colors is not the way to go for the White Party. Definitely a don’t.
As an added bonus, if you purchase a ticket to the White Party, you can print out your confirmation email and receive 20% off all full-priced items at any AKIRA Women’s, Men’s or Footwear boutique.
This is definitely a party you don’t want to miss out on so make sure to buy your ticket and join us on Thursday, Aug. 23 from 7:30 – 11:30 p.m. CT at the MCA Warehouse (1747 W. Hubbard). Get to know the Fire and the Chicago Fire Foundation off the pitch while enjoying a premium open bar, live DJ, hors d’oeuvres and a gift bag (who doesn’t love a goody bag?!), so dress in some stylish white attire and come party with us!
Soccer and fashion have long been intertwined.
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