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.
The trophy cases in the Chicago Fire lobby got a new addition last week, courtesy of the youngest members of the Fire organization. The Chicago Fire U-10 Academy team, playing up an age group, won the U-11 Crew Fall Classic Championship with a commanding 7-2 victory over the Crew Juniors Gold East on October 7. Before heading out to training last Thursday, the team was on hand to personally place their trophy in its place of honor.
For the young team, the Crew Fall Classic was their first opportunity to play together in a tournament.
"They really impressed me a lot over the weekend," said Head Coach Charlie Trout. "They really came together as a team and performed at a very high level. They started to build an identity as a team and as the tournament went on, their individual personalities really started to show. It was a great experience for them and I feel like they turned a big corner that weekend."
Perhaps what made the victory even sweeter was that it was against the Crew.
"A lot of the boys support the Chicago Fire," said Trout. "They know how huge the rivalry is between the Fire and the Crew, so that added a little more excitement for them."
And if displaying their trophy alongside the Alan I. Rothenberg Trophy from the Fire's historic 1998 MLS Cup victory wasn't enough excitement, the U-10s were given a special treat when Fire Head Coach Frank Klopas stopped by and addressed the team. Klopas spoke to the youngest members of the Fire family about the honor and responsibility that comes along with wearing the Fire badge.
"There have been times where Frank has come out and watched the boys train. You see the way they look over, see who he is and their excitement rises," said Trout. "For them to get the trophy that they worked so hard for and put it in the trophy cabinet that involves the whole club is fantastic for the young boys. It gives them such a confidence booster. It's great for them."
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.
Gentlemen, start your playoff beards.
The Fire’s big 2-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls Saturday afternoon combined with the 1-1 draw between the Columbus Crew and Sporting Kansas City Sunday ensured that the Men in Red would be participating in the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs.
With 56 points on the season, the Fire sit just three points behind conference-leading Sporting KC. Chicago Fire Confidential’s Guillermo Rivera took a look at the remaining schedules for each of top six teams in the Eastern Conference.
Though MacDonald’s brace Saturday afternoon played a huge part in clinching a playoff berth, the former Dutch youth international said that he had “mixed feelings” after the victory as Wednesday night’s 3-1 loss to Philadelphia still weighed on his mind. “We should have played the same the same way as today against Philadelphia, and we would have won easily.”
Now that a playoff spot has been secured, German defender Arne Friedrich can look at the losses against Sporting Kansas City and Philadelphia Union as a bit of a blessing in disguise. “I’m happy we lost before the playoffs start because in the playoffs there is no room for losing games.”
While the entire Fire squad played exceptionally well on Saturday, Friedrich and MacDonald led the team with Player Ratings of 8.
Is there a better way to celebrate the Fire’s return to post-season play than with 400 of your closest friends? The final count is in and the October 8th Anniversary Planning Committee announced that more than 400 attendees will celebrate the Fire’s 15th Anniversary at the Chicago History Museum Monday evening.
With the Chicago Fire chasing their first post-season berth since 2009, MLSsoccer.com’s Simon Borg says that the Fire vs. New York Red Bulls match on Saturday, Oct. 6 at 2:30 p.m. (NBC/97.5 ESPN Deportes) is the most meaningful match between the two clubs since 2000.
MLSsoccer.com’s Three for Thursday took a look at the top three previous matches between the Fire and New York.
Prior to Saturday’s match, Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko and defender Austin Berry took part in a Google + Hangout to discuss the match and answer some quirky fan questions.
While no one wants to dwell on the 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union Wednesday evening, it was a special night as the club celebrated its 15th Anniversary by welcoming back Fire legends Chris Armas, Peter Nowak and Cuauhtémoc Blanco, who were honored at halftime.
Armas said that under Frank Klopas’ tutelage, the Fire now seem like the Fire squads of old. “It’s an honest, hardworking, passionate group. It has team written all over it.”
In honor of the 15th Anniversary, the Fire teamed up with Bumpy Pitch, the authorities on the soccer lifestyle, to create a limited edition t-shirt that features the Municipal Device, an iconic symbol of Chicago.
The shirts are available at the Chicago Fire Fan shop and on www.bumpypitch.com with $5 benefitting the Chicago Fire Foundation.
While everyone is amped for Saturday’s showdown with the Red Bulls, it will be extra special for rookie defender Austin Berry as he will celebrate his 24th birthday on Oct. 6. The club recently teamed up with Quaker Oats to create a special Life cereal box in an effort to garner attention for Berry as the chase for the 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year crown heats up.
PR and marketing guru Joe Favorito called the campaign “a great example of old school grassroots outreach, smart and effective partner activation…a great gauntlet to be thrown down for MLS best practices.”
The #Berry4ROY cereal box also made its way to the small screen, where it made its TV debut on Windy City Live (11:25 mark).
Make sure you tune in to the marquee matchup of the weekend as your Men in Red take on the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, Oct. 6 at 2:30 p.m. CT on NBC and check out this promo video to hold you over until then.
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 previous four episodes of the #Fire15 presented by TrueCar, we’ve honored Chris Armas, DaMarcus Beasley, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Carlos Bocanegra, Lubos Kubik, Jesse Marsch, Brian McBride, Logan Pause, Marco Pappa, Ante Razov, Chris Rolfe and Zach Thornton.
Today, three Ring of Fire inductees round out the list… The final three players are Frank Klopas, C.J. Brown and Peter Nowak.
Frank Klopas – Mr. Chicago. With eight goals and five assists across 50 games, it wasn’t stats but rather the heart and commitment Frank showed that got him on this list. Maybe that winner in the ’98 Open Cup final helped a bit too.
As Len Ziehm says in the video, the Fire needed someone local to help the new franchise make a connection to the city. Fans that remembered “Kid Klopas” from Chicago Sting in the 1980’s were reinvigorated by the reappearance of the city’s iconic soccer son in the club’s inaugural 1998 season.
More than that, there’s no player that has ever bled Chicago the way Klopas did in his two seasons playing for the Fire. Returning to the club as Technical Director in 2008 and now as head coach, Frank has served to remind the current crop of what it means every time they put on the shirt.
C.J. Brown – There are few players quite as deserving of being honored on such a list as C.J. Brown. The club’s all-time appearance leader at 372, Brown is one of only three Fire players to be part of all six domestic titles and was the last connection in the locker room to the 1998 double-winning team.
Learning from the likes of Peter Nowak, Lubos Kubik and Chris Armas, the 1998 season helped guide the rest of his 13-year career, carrying on and passing down the same characteristics of hard work, competitiveness and integrity to young Fire players through the years.
As I say in the video, the former Fire captain was never flashy. He played hard, he picked up cards but he was the constant rock at the back. His legacy is still carried on in the Fire locker room today.
Peter Nowak – Often mentioned as the best player to ever wear the badge, Peter Nowak set the bar as high as it could go during his five seasons with the Fire.
Nowak joined Kubik, and fellow veteran Poles Jerzy Podbrozny and Roman Kosecki as a large core of the original Fire team, captaining the side to the 1998 double and winning MLS Cup MVP honors in the process.
Having played 147 competitive matches, the first signing in Chicago Fire history tallied 29 goals and retains the Fire record for assists across all competitions (60) and in MLS play (48).
At least 11 of the #Fire15 will be present at either Wednesday night’s 15th Anniversary Match vs. Philadelphia or the October 8th Anniversary Party at the Chicago History Museum.
Also! Get your 15th Anniversary Merchandise by clicking here.
With the 15th Anniversary of the Chicago Fire coming up on Wednesday (the match) and Monday (the date proper) the Fire has collaborated with Bumpy Pitch to create a Chicago Fire themed shirt that represents the history of soccer and Chicago in a unique way. The Municipal Device shirt will retail for $30 in the Chicago Fire Fan shop and online at www.bumpypitch.com beginning Tuesday, October 2 with $5 benefitting the Chicago Fire Foundation
While the 1871 at the bottom of the shirt is an obvious nod to the Great Chicago Fire (and, well, the club’s name) not as much is known about the Y-shaped municipal device, an often overlooked and mostly forgotten piece of Chicago Civic Pride. Below I wax poetic about the municipal device and what this t-shirt means to me.
The Chicago River weaves along the wings of the urban landscape, dodging the looming steel towers and keeping composure as it splits to hug both sides of Goose Island. The deft waters feint past defending bridges, quickening pace when the terrain declines. The North Branch does not hesitate as it approaches the Loop, diving headfirst into the westward Main Stem of the river, deflecting south, flowing as one.\
In commemoration of the iconic river intersection, Chicago created the municipal device - a Y-shaped symbol representing the three branches converging at Wolf Point. The mark, embedded throughout the architecture of Chicago, is subtly engrained throughout the city – on the cornerstones of civic buildings, the undersides of bridges and etched into the consciousness along Navy Pier. Although it began as a simple show of two waterways uniting, its meaning has transformed in today’s Chicago.
Over the last 200 years, waves of immigrants have splashed upon the shores inhabiting Chicago’s many neighborhoods. On summer evenings, communities spread cultural pride as street festivals fill the lakefront air. Just as two branches of the river come from wide expanses to join together, the citizens of this city, representing four stars and one badge, become one under the Chicago name.
Below, the Fire coaching staff, captain Logan Pause and forward Chris Rolfe model the new t-shirts in front of the "Tradition. Honor. Passion." taglines in the Fire locker room...
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
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.
When the Chicago Fire take on Sporting Kansas City on Friday night at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park at 7:30 p.m. CT (NBC Sports Network/97.5 ESPN Deportes), the Men in Red will not only be playing for the club’s first playoff spot in three seasons, they will also be fighting for first place in the highly-competitive Eastern Conference. CSNChicago.com’s Len Ziehm breaks down the Fire’s most important Major League Soccer game in “nearly five years.”
Yet as one of the few players with MLS playoff experience, forward Chris Rolfe as been trying to keep the team level headed. “You can’t get emotional about these games,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Since the start of the 2012 season, Fire Head Coach Frank Klopas and his technical staff have added seven new players. While all have played a significant part in the run to the post-season, perhaps none have been as influential as Rolfe. In his second stint with the Fire, Rolfe now leads the team with eight goals and two assists. In an in-depth piece interview by The Sporting News’ Brian Straus, Rolfe discusses his stint in Denmark and how returning to Chicago was a seamless transition. Straus perhaps puts it best when he says, “Rolfe needed Chicago, and Chicago needed Rolfe.”
Another midseason acquisition that has panned out for the Fire is Brazilian midfielder Alex, who hasn’t missed a beat since stepping in for the injured Pavel Pardo, and brings “a little bit of unpredictability” to the Fire midfield.
On the flip side, the success of Rolfe and his strike partner Sherjill MacDonald has relegated speedy Ghanaian forward Dominic Oduro to a reserve role. While Oduro may be a little disappointed with his lack of playing time, he told the Chicago Tribune that he respects the coach’s decision and just has to “be as professional as possible about it and keep [his] head up.”
Along with the offensive success, the Fire surely wouldn’t be up for the Eastern Conference crown without the solid play of the defensive unit. Since his debut on May 4, Austin Berry has been a constant, steady presence along the Fire’s backline and NBC Sports’ Steve Davis says that he is “almost ready to call” Berry as the winner of the 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year crown.
Davis isn’t the only person to notice that Berry has put together an impressive season. In the latest edition of MLSsoccer.com’s Rookie Rankings, Berry once again reigned supreme and lead the pack as the top rookie in the league.
Before tonight’s match, check out MLSsoccer.com’s Three for Thursday for a look at the battle off the pitch between Chicago and Kansas City.
So don’t miss the marquee matchup of the season and tune-in to the NBC Sports Network tonight at 7:30 p.m. CT to see if your Men in Red can overtake Sporting Kansas City for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.