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15 February 5:09 pm

As they have the previous two years, the Chicago Fire ventured to the Three Lions Pub inside Blackbaud Stadium for the 2013 Carolina Challenge Cup kickoff luncheon Friday afternoon. The Fire were joined by hosts the Charleston Battery and the Vancouver Whitecaps at the luncheon while Saturday's opponents Houston were set to arrive into the Palmetto State later on Friday.

As I walked around admiring the wall-to-wall memorabilia inside the pub, I realized there were more than a few reunions occuring in the room...

First off was Fire assistant coach Mike Matkovich catching up with defender Jay DeMerit. Matkovich led the Fire PDL side when DeMerit played for it in 2001 and even appeared in "Rise & Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story" to talk about his memories of Jay...

A little further down the way, I spotted a Tottenham reunion as Fire trialist Pascal Chimbonda met up with Whitecaps defender Young-Pyo Lee. The two often manned the defensive flanks together for Spurs while at White Hart Lane from 2006-2008.

Finally, just as I turned around, I spotted Fire midfielder Daniel Paladini talking to his former manager and current Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie. The Scotsman was the one that brough Paladini to the second division Carolina RailHawks from Chivas USA in 2009 where the pair would spend two seasons together.

To finish the pleasantries Rennie, Fire head coach Frank Klopas and Battery manager Mike Anhaeuser did the annual trophy photo-op.

On to Saturday's first doubleheader featuring the Chicago Fire taking on the Houston Dynamo (if they show) at 4pm CT on Chicago-Fire.com. The Battery will host the Whitecaps in the second game at 6:15pm CT.

15 February 8:27 am

Was nice to wake up to this news this morning that U.S. international and current Aston Villa  first-choice 'keeper Brad Guzan would like to return to MLS one day and potentially suit up for his hometown Chicago Fire.

A product of Homer Glen, Ill., Guzan was quoted as saying, "Hopefully, I will get the opportunity, when I’m finished playing in Europe, to go back and play in it. 

"Especially being from Chicago, which has a team. I’d love to go back and play for the Chicago Fire in front of friends and family. That would be pretty neat.”

Guzan of course teamed with current Fire forward Chris Rolfe on the Chicago Fire PDL side that went a near perfect 17-1-0 en route to the league's regular season championship that year.

Having played two seasons at the University of South Carolina, Guzan left college to sign with MLS and was picked second overall by Chivas USA in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft.

At just 28 years old and with the Fire having a 'keeper in Sean Johnson who is nipping at his heels for the number two spot with the U.S., Guzan won't likely return stateside anytime soon but would likely be a welcome addition for many a Fire fan down the road...

 

07 February 12:56 pm

A quiet hangs over Toyota Park. A grey monochrome colors the morning sky and a slushy snow blankets the ground. It’s winter in Chicago.
 
Behind the brick façade and deep in the bowels, a solitary figure works diligently to make-ready one of Toyota Park’s most renowned features – the field. It’s been 99 days since the Toyota Park pitch saw action and Toyota Park Turf Manager Eric Adkins has #cf97withdrawals.
 
Only 30 days until Opening Night at Toyota Park.
 
Don’t worry, Eric and his crew will have the pitch ready.

07 February 10:32 am

Very few people have meant as much to the soccer scene in Chicago as Frank Klopas.

Tonight Dave Kaplan goes in depth with the Fire manager to talk how he came to The Windy City and learn more about his intertwining soccer story with the Sting, U.S. Men's National Team, AEK Athens and of course the Fire over the past 30 years "Inside Look" (7:00pm CT on CSN Chicago).

CSNChicago.com's Len Ziehm previews the show here.

 

05 February 8:03 am

Preseason is always a lot of work and a lot of fun.

One of the best parts though is the ongoing saga of number choice throughout camp as players leave, new players come in.

Last week on Twitter I alluded to the fact that more than a few new numbers would be announced in the coming days and the first two are in…

Fire forward Chris Rolfe re-launched his dormant Twitter account (aptly named @ChrisRolfe17) last week to ask Fire supporters their thoughts on his switching back to #17.

Rolfe had worn the number through his first five seasons with the Fire but when he re-joined the side last April, Mexican legend Pavel Pardo had it.

“There was no need to try and shift things around then,” Rolfe told Chicago-Fire.com. “While 18 was good for me last year I thought that it would be a good idea to switch back to 17 when it became available.”

With Pardo’s retirement announcement last month, the opportunity arose and the league recently approved Rolfe’s change back to the numerals with which he’s scored 40 of his 48 Fire goals across all competitions.

Check out the impromptu and sort of awesome video of the first new "Rolfe 17" jersey being pressed by Assistant Equipment Manager Allan Araujo below...

NOTE: All-Time Fire #17s: Andrew Lewis, (1998-2001), Aleksey Korol (2002), Dipsy Selolwane (2002-2004), Rolfe (2005-2009), Davis Paul (2011), Pavel Pardo (2011-12), Rolfe (2013- )

Kinney’s Switch

With the #18 left vacant, renaissance Fire defender Steven Kinney jumped at the opportunity to switch from #28.

“My whole life I had been #18,” said Kinney. “Coming here the first year Mike Banner had it and through all my injuries I wasn’t going to be switching numbers. Then Rolfie came in and had it last year but when I heard him talk about switching to 17 I knew it was time to make my move.

Asked why #18 had always been his number, Kinney said, “It’s always just felt lucky for me. I would have done anything to get my hands on it.”

To be fair, he didn’t have to do too much.

NOTE: All-Time Fire #18s: Zach Thornton (1998-2004), Matt Pickens, (2005-2007), Mike Banner (2008-2010), Gaston Puerari (2011), Chris Rolfe (2012)

Stay tuned later this week for more updates on Fire squad numbers heading into 2013. 

WATCH: Rolfe #17 is BACK!

 

04 February 7:09 pm

A quick update on unsigned players currently with the team in Ventura, Calif...

Unsigned holdovers from Ave Maria
James Belshaw – GK – Supplemental Draft
Alec Kann – GK – Trialist
Neal Kitson – GK – Trialist
John Gallagher – DF – Supplemental Draft
Rauwshan McKenzie – DF – Trialist
Yazid Atouba – MF – SuperDraft Pick

*Note that while not listed, forward Colin Rolfe picked up an injury during the Columbus friendly last week. The former Houston Dynamo draftee won’t be with the team in Ventura but will re-join the squad in Charleston.

Players Departed:
Rich Balchan – DF – Trialist
Caleb Konstanski – DF – Supplemental Draft Pick
Eric Robertson – DF – Trialist
Trialist #1 - MF - Trialist

New Trialists for Phase Two

Blake Brettschneider; Forward (D.C. United, New England Revolution)
If it seems like you just saw Brettschneider, that’s because he was on trial with the Crew, playing against the Fire in last Wednesday’s friendly. The South Carolina alum has made a habit of earning a spot on an MLS rosters in preseason, impressing D.C. United (2011) and New England Revolution (2012).

Like Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson, Brettschneider is also from Lilburn, Ga. and attended rival high school Parkview High School

Dailos Tejera; Forward (Conquense; Spanish Tercera Division)
A 22-year-old midfielder/forward that played in the Spanish second division with Conquense before being relegated after the 2011-12 season.

Kevin Mercado; Forward (LDU Quito; Ecuador)
One of two players on trial from LDU Quito, Mercado is an 18-year-old forward who made it into five matches during LDU’s 2012 campaign in Ecuador.

Jose Alexander Pabon Midfielder (LDU Quito; Ecuador)
The other trialist from LDU Quito, the 21-year-old Pabon has been with the club’s first team since 2010, appearing in 13 matches in midfield.

There are also two other new trialists that for discovery reasons will remain unnamed… Call them Trialist #3 and Trialist #4. 

02 February 9:40 pm

Good evening from Ventura, Calif. where the first team escaped the snow of Chicago Saturday morning to begin Phase Two of 2013 Training Camp.

After arriving at our beach-side hotel, the team quickly ate and changed before heading to Oxnard Community College for a little over an hour long training session.

Notes from today: 

- The long-rumored trade that would send forward Dominic Oduro to Columbus in exchange for Dilly Duka seems to have happened according to both players Twitter accounts and multiple reports. Oduro is not in Fire camp and Duka tweeted Saturday that he was headed to join the team in California. Expect an official announcement Monday.

- The Daily Herald's Orrin Schwarz also added a significant rub to the trade: the Fire will also reportedly gain the MLS rights to out-of-contract U.S. international Robbie Rogers.

- 2012 Fire Defender of the Year Arne Friedrich trained with the team for the first time after being allowed to take extra time off while the side was in Ave Maria, Fla.

- After flying from Norway all day Friday, new signing Brendan King also trained for the first time. 

- It was good to see midfielder Patrick Nyarko do some light ball work off to the side as he continues his comeback following a grueling 2012 campaign.

- Defender Hunter Jumper and forward Maicon Santos did not train with the team Saturday. Jumper pulled up lame in Wednesday's friendly vs. Columbus while Santos was unavailable for selection in the match after suffering an injury in the days leading up to the game.

- New trialists have arrive in camp. A full list will be published on Chicago-Fire.com in the coming days. 

That's it for Saturday's notes... Take in some photos from training: 

29 January 4:29 pm

Throughout preseason, your favorite Fire players will give you a first-hand, behind the scenes look at what actually goes down at training camp. This installment is brought to you by Fire defender Gonzalo Segares. Now entering his ninth season with the Fire, Segares shares his veteran methods of handling the inevitable downtime that comes with preseason training camp. Make sure to check www.Chicago-Fire.com for all the action as the Fire kick off their 16th season.
 
Hello my amigos from the Chicago Fire. It’s now time for me to tell you guys a little of what’s happening on and off the field for me and my teammates.
 
We had our first preseason match on Sunday and the atmosphere was great. After a long time without competing in a game, it was great to get back on the field and kick some people. It’s been quite a while since I’ve played against someone other than my teammates, so it was good to get in some tackles and battles.


It’s been good to see the new faces working hard, competing and adapting well with the group.
 
Off the field there has been a lot of down time so I have been playing a lot of Halo in between practices. I’m trying not to nap during the day so I can go to bed early, so I’m usually on the computer, on the phone or transformed as a soldier, killing aliens on Halo.
 
It’s been nice here in Florida but I’m excited to go back to Chicago for a few days and spend the days off with my wife (it’s weird to say wife but I guess I have to get used to it) and have a nice romantic dinner and maybe watch a movie with her. I don’t think I’ll enjoy the cold weather but at least I will be at home with my family.
 
See you all soon and go Fire!
 
Gonzalo Segares

25 January 11:07 am

A nice little recap from Thursday's trip to the beach in Naples. This one is for the ladies...