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12 October 10:46 pm

Select shots from the Fire's 3-2 win over FC Dallas, presented by MiAllstate.

CREDIT: USA Today Sports Images

11 October 9:34 am

Chicago Fire midfielders Joel Lindpere and Egidio Arevalo Rios won't be in Dallas this weekend as they've joined up with the Estonian and Uruguayan national teams respectively for FIFA World Cup qualifying matches.

Lindpere and Estonia have already been eliminated from contention to qualify for Brazil 2014 but coming off one of the biggest results in the nation's history last month (2-2 draw vs. Holland), they'll be looking to play spoiler as they welcome Turkey to Tallinn Friday afternoon (1:30pm CT).

On 13 points, the Turkish side sits one back of Hungary for the second place playoff spot in UEFA Group D, level with Estonia's Tuesday opponents Romania who visit lowly Andorra on Friday.

Arevalo Rios and Uruguay's position in CONMEBOL qualifying is much more intriguing. Uruguay and Ecuador sit tied on points at 22 with the two nations set to play Friday afternoon in Quito (4pm CT on beINSport Espanol). The winner of the match looks certain to have a leg up on the fourth and final automatic qualifying bid out of South America with one round of matches to play.

Getting a win in Ecuador will be most crucial for Uruguay who sit fifth because of the goal difference tie breaker and because they'll close out qualifying with a home match against group leaders Argentina while Ecuador will face Chile Tuesday in Santiago.  

11 October 8:43 am

After getting the job done in DC last Friday night, the Fire head south to take on a FC Dallas side needing a miracle to make the MLS Cup playoffs Saturday night (7pm CT My50/TWC Wisconsin). Dallas are in free fall and despite the Fire’s record in Texas, the Men in Red should be settling for nothing less than three points. Here are some things to keep an eye on from a tactical perspective.

Perez away on Panama duty

Blas Perez has all the characteristics of an elite CONCACAF striker: finishing ability, gamesmanship and non-stop focus; similar to Carlos Ruiz. So perhaps it’s a good thing that the Dallas’s leading goal scorer is away for Panama’s crucial World Cup qualifying match with Mexico this weekend.

Perez has 11 goals on the year, with his closest teammate being Kenny Cooper at four. In Perez’s absence, it’s hard to see Dallas switching way from their lone striker formation and Cooper would seem the likely candidate to slot in after ending his nearly five-month goal scoring drought last weekend vs. RSL.

Cooper is a powerful forward that has historically done well against the Fire, tallying six goals in 12 career matches. With a goal last weekend under his belt and Dallas fighting for their playoff lives, he won’t be one to take lightly.

Focusing on Jackson – the Brazilian is instrumental in the Hoops’ attack

Jackson has impressed me in Dallas’s most recent matches against Columbus and RSL. He normally operates on the right wing, trying to get the ball inside to Perez or a midfield runner. In the last match against RSL, Jackson drifted inside more often.

This was in part due to the fact that RSL had a man sent off early after a disgraceful tackle on the Brazilian. He also showed that he can be a threat in the box, forcing Nick Rimando into a brilliant 1v1 save after an attempted flick over the keeper with the outside of his foot.

In last week’s match against DC, the Fire played a very open style of play in the first half, attacking in numbers. If you only looked at the score line, you would think that this tactic was a success but it could’ve been a lot different if it wasn’t for Sean Johnson. He bailed his team out with some brilliant saves after DC caught the Fire out with too many players forward.

It is understandable that the Fire will play in a similar fashion against Dallas due to the need for three points but allowing a player like Jackson time and space on a counter attack can be very dangerous.

Singling out Kellyn Acosta – targeting the Homegrown wingback

In their most recent home loss to Columbus, FC Dallas were exposed on the wings, most notably on the left where Dominic Oduro torched Zach Loyd. On the right, FC Dallas Homegrown player Kellyn Acosta also looked vulnerable. His distribution out of the back was poor; with the 18-year-old trying to play one-touch passes too often.

Columbus clearly targeted Acosta, with players such as Federico Higuain running at the defender whenever possible. A tactic that I would like to see on Saturday night is a constant switching of the Fire wide players so that Acosta is never comfortable.

If Fire wingers Nyarko, Duka, Alex and Co. can get into 1v1 or 2v1 situations with Acosta, it could pay dividends for the Men in Red.

Prediction: The Fire won’t play as open as last weekend but score early and late. 2-0 Fire with goals from Magee and Alex 

09 October 11:49 am

Freddie Christiano has been a Fire fan since the club’s inaugural 1998 season and counts Piotr Nowak, Zach Thornton and Sean Johnson as his favorite Fire players of all-time.

Fans spoke loud and clear to determine the winning design and Christiano became more than just a fan on Tuesday night as his design, which garnered a majority of the fan vote, was unveiled as the #cf97ThirdKit winner at the club’s 16th Anniversary Party at Toyota Park. I caught up with Freddie on Wednesday to get the lowdown on how it felt to see his design become a part of club history.

JC: You probably had a little tension going to the party last night. How did you approach the announcement?

FC: I was really nervous because I was up against quality designs – one being the [light blue] kit that I know a lot of fans really wanted to see and the white one which definitely would have fit in with what the Fire have going on with their home and away kits right now.

JC: So, Logan Pause and Gonzalo Segares lift the drape over the design and you see it’s yours… Describe the euphoria.

FC: At that moment I didn’t even know what I was thinking. I was super relieved that it was over and that my jersey was up there. It meant a lot because I worked hard on it and knowing that it got chosen against those other two quality designs meant the Fire community really dug it. Playing soccer and following the Fire – when you can’t be out on the field as a player, I think this might be the next best thing to be a part of the team forever.

JC: While your design isn’t straight up “Municipal Chicago” it does have some more subtle marks to pay homage to the city. One mark is the skyline element on the back of the shirt… Explain it for more clarity.

FC: The stripe on the front was a representation of the Chicago flag colors with the blue and white stripes and when it wraps around it makes a silhouette of the Sears [Willis] Tower.

JC: How much has your phone been buzzing since the announcement?

FC: Friends and family that voted, I got a million text messages from them. A lot of tweets and new followers on my Twitter account, random Facebook friends – it was a cool feeling to get that response from people.

JC: Along with the prize of having your design chosen, you’ve also won a trip to Portland to see the Fire play the Timbers in 2014, as well as a shopping spree at the adidas store out there. I hear you’re getting married in June, what if the game clashes with the wedding date?

FC:  I don’t really know what I’d choose there! I’m taking my fiancé to Portland with me but if they’re on the same weekend, that’d be a tough one. I don’t know how that’d work. If it does clash, maybe I’ll alternate and go to the All-Star Game instead. 

09 October 10:23 am

Select shots from the club's 16th anniversary party and #cf97ThirdKit unveiling.

CREDIT: Nick Sintich, Chicago Fire

08 October 2:28 pm

When the Chicago History Museum reached out to the Fire to take part in an even commemorating the "Great Chicago Fire" of 1871 Tuesday, I thought it was a great idea.

Even better was when I was asked to join Fire midfielder Brendan King (who is currently on the mend with a hamstring injury) to take part and tell why October 8 is not only significant to the city of Chicago but also to our club.

So there I was, notes prepared to discuss the events of 1871 and 1997 with the assembled group of third and fourth graders. Brendan, the professional soccer player, was there to field the tougher questions about you know being a professional soccer player but not before this fantastic photo-op with Mrs. O'Leary's Cow...

Joined by a representative from the Chicago Fire Department, we stepped to the stage in front of the mass of elementary school children and the first question went to us...

Was it about the history of the Fire? 

No. Rather it was, "How many games have you won this year?"

Both Brendan and I couldn't get the words out fast enough to say, "We've won 12 so far and we just beat D.C. United 3-0 on Friday!"

A loud applause emanated from the crowd! 

But then something happened. Husky looking men dressed in black and yellow regalia strolled up the aisle way. Were they members of the Columbus Crew coming to crash the party?

A closer look saw them carrying axes and other tools... Ah shoot, they must be actual firemen...

These guys were dressed in their full uniform and you could tell they've carried a room before... I leaned to Brendan and said, "I wonder if we get another question this entire panel?" 

After about 26 questions relating to smoke inhalation and whether you should run or crawl out of a fire, Sparky, who was late arriving to one of two Sweet 16 parties for himself today, finally showed up and regained the room for the club! Way to go Sparky!

With some attention back on the club, Brendan and I finally received the question we'd been waiting for from an astute child in the front row: "Why do you call yourselves the Fire?"

Let's just say we hit it out of the park, mesmerizing the gathered youths with the story of our launch on this day 16 years ago at Navy Pier and telling them how our club tied itself to the city's history from day one. 

Of course, young children have short attention spans so we got asked the question a few more times but it was all to drive the message of the Fire's tie to the city of Chicago home.

What a great event! Thanks to the Chicago History Museum for asking us to take part!

PHOTO CREDIT: Chicago History Museum/James Warden

08 October 1:54 pm

 

The big stories of Friday night’s win at DC United have to be the Fire staying in the playoff hunt (now two points behind Philly for the East’s fifth and final spot) and Sean Johnson’s saves that helped procure an invaluable clean sheet. But a closer look finds a Fire team with an ignominious away record finally succeeding away from Toyota Park with the help of a new approach that could propel them into the playoffs: a high defensive line.
 
To get the qualifiers out of the way, yes, DCU was playing a little hungover after their incredible U.S. Open Cup win at Salt Lake on Tuesday night, and yes, they were playing some young guns. But these are professionals playing for their jobs and for their pride. With some better finishing they could have made this night super awkward.
But that said, the Fire managed to not only keep a clean sheet en route to a comfortable seeming 3-0 win, they did so with a super high defensive line. It had some hiccups but, like the Fire coaches have been clamoring for the past few weeks, they finally found themselves with an advantage of at least two goals. It gave them a little bit of emotional space to play in, a little bit of confidence, and those are the things that the Fire need to succeed away from home.
 
It’s important to acknowledge that the Fire’s three goals came for the most part against the run of play. DCU held a lot of possession, something the Fire are OK with, but they soaked up the pressure and hit DCU back efficiently, repeatedly, and without mercy, exactly what Frank Klopas envisioned for a tricky away game.
 
They did so by pushing Bakary Soumare and Austin Berry way up the field. Along with Jeff Larentowicz and Arevalo Rios scrambling in midfield, that scrunched the amount of space DCU’s midfielders had to play in. With less room to play, they were more likely to lose the ball gifted the Fire playmakers with chances here and there throughout the game. It was Patrick Nyarko stepping up in the sixth minute which led to Mike Magee’s shot that was saved by Joe Willis. The foul that led to the Fire’s second goal came after another giveaway gave the Fire possession in the 25th
 
With two more away games left, it’s enticing to think that this high line and high pressure approach is the Fire’s ticket to the playoffs, but we saw on Friday how the high line invites its own risks. Leaving so much space behind the defense means that balls between or around the defenders can pose serious threats to a backpedaling line. The best way to counter that is to constantly pressure the ball so that whoever’s on it never has the time to look up and find the pass behind the defenders. There was a 10 minute period after the Fire’s first two goals when DCU was creating chances and Klopas appeared on the bottom of the TV feed, screaming at his midfielders to apply more pressure on the ball.
 
 
It’s reassuring to see Klopas continually tweaking the tactics, even so late in the season, because we’ve seen that this team needs those sort of adjustments to continue gelling into this final phase. But considering his allegiance to the traditional 4-4-2, it’s also interesting to see Klopas take on the trendy defensive high line. It’s the high line that Pep Guardiola has rode at Barcelona and now Bayern Munich, and the Fire share with Guardiola’s teams the characteristic of being most dangerous on the counterattack, right after the high line wins the ball.
But with so much space behind the defenders, any mistake can be costly. A quick jaunt through tactics guru Michael Cox’s articles shows exactly how scary it can be. It’s a high risk sort of approach, one that requires the entire team defending as one unit, always pressuring the ball, always keeping neat straight lines in the back, and always having faith that your teammates are pressuring as hard as you are.
 
 
The Fire came out needing three points to stay in the playoff race and they managed to put a solid game together that was marked more by game management and efficiency than halftime adjustments and inconsistent focus. With just nine regular season points left to play for, it was refreshing, and much needed. The Fire will take those risks in the next three games. The only question is whether when Philly slip up, they can keep the focus and confidence and squeeze into the playoffs.

 

08 October 6:52 am

On this day 142 years ago, the Great Chicago Fire began in our city. Long after the rebuilding had been finished, on this day 16 years ago, the Chicago Fire Soccer Club (NOT the Chicago Rhythm) was founded at iconic Navy Pier, immediately tying the newest MLS franchise to one of the city’s most defining historical events.

Today, as we do every year, we recognize the legacy not only of the city of Chicago but of the 16 years of our club and we hope you'll join us tonight at the Toyota Park Stadium Club to do so.

Until then, here are a few Fire related 16s…

The men who wore 16...

Josh Wolff (1998-2002), Andy Williams (2003-2004), Will John (2005), Brian Plotkin (2006-2007), Marco Pappa (2008-2012), Brendan King (2013- )

Not only...

…did Williams and Pappa wear #16 throughout their Fire tenures, both also racked up 16 regular season assists in their time with the club.

Did you know...?

Neither Fire legends Lubos Kubik (1998-2000) and Cuauhtemoc Blanco (2007-2009) wore 16 but both scored 16 MLS regular season goals and it was the attacker Blanco who tallied more from the spot?

The Mexican World Cup veteran edged Kubik 7-5 in penalty kicks converted for the Fire.

Former Fire goalkeeper Matt Pickens racked up 16 wins with the Fire between 2004-2007. The tally his fourth most among Fire goalkeepers behind Zach Thornton (109), Sean Johnson (39) and Jon Busch (25).

Also…

When he appears on Saturday, Sean Johnson will tie DaMarcus Beasley for 16th on the club’s all-time MLS appearance list at 98 games played.

Current Fire defender Gonzalo Segares sits seventh on the club’s all-time U.S. Open Cup appearance list with 16 games played while…

former Fire defender C.J. Brown holds the record for most international appearances (CONCACAF & SuperLiga) with 16.

It's been an honor to be part of this club for four of its historic 16 seasons. Here's to many more. See everyone tonight and HAPPY SWEET 16 FIRE!

07 October 6:18 pm

The Chicago Fire Soccer Club and Fire Foundation are happy to support the Chicago Department of Public Health in encouraging residents to get a flu shot and stay healthy this winter. 

On Monday morning, Chicago Fire defender Gonzalo Segares joined Dr. Bechara Choucair, CDPH Commissioner, and Anna Esquivel, CDPH RN, at the Little Village Community Council for a press event unveiling CDPH billboard, print and CTA flu shot awareness ads featuring Segares and other prominent Chicago sports figures including Mike Ditka, and Elena Delle Donne and Sylvia Fowles, both from the Chicago Sky.

Segares received his annual flu shot from CDPH Immunization Medical Director Julie Morita, M.D and the Department also administered free flu shots at the event for Little Village Community members. 

Gonzalo was interviewed by FOX 32 and Univision telling reporters that – "I’ve got to stay healthy for my long season, and I always get my shot once a year. It’s definitely encouraging for people to come over and get theirs."

Gonzalo wasn’t the only celebrity at the event as the Fire’s mascot Sparky also “received” his flu shot.

The annual shot is the best protection against influenza and we want all our fans to be safe, especially during the colder off season. Check out the photos for more and keep an eye out for the ads throughout Chicagoland!   

For more information on the flu vaccine, please click here.

07 October 8:34 am

The Fire and a few other results went their way this weekend. Still, the Men in Red remain just below the red line, two points back of the final playoff spot in the East with three matches left to play.

A breakdown of the weekend and what it means for the current Eastern Conference playoff picture…

x - 1) New York Red Bulls
Current Points: 53 (15-9-8)
Games Remaining: 2 (1 home / 1 away)
Last 5 Games: DDWWW (11pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 10-2-4 / 5-7-4
Maximum Possible Pts: 59
Average Opponents Pts: 45.0
Remaining Schedule: 10/20 @ HOU, 10/27 vs. CHI

Rundown: New York held a long lead, controversy ensued, New England went up 2-1 late only to see Tim Cahill bag an incredible header to see Red Bull walk away with a 2-2 draw and eventually become the first team in MLS to clinch a playoff berth.

Still, the game will feel like a missed opportunity at home for a team still hoping to win the Supporters Shield and lock down the Eastern Conference top seed. The result is disappointing from a Fire perspective for two reasons: 1) It gives New England an extra point and 2) It almost assuredly makes Red Bull’s home game vs. the Fire on October 27 all the more meaningful.

New York will take a break off this week before visiting high-flying Houston on October 20.

2) Sporting KC
Current Points: 51 (15-10-6)
Games Remaining: 3 (1 home / 2 away)
Last 5: WLWWW (9pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 8-5-3 / 7-5-3
Maximum Possible Pts: 60
Average Opponents Pts: 35.6
Remaining Schedule: 10/9 at HOU, 10/18 vs. D.C., 10/23 vs. OLI**, 10/26 @ PHI

Rundown: Sporting KC did exactly what they needed to do, getting a well-earned 1-0 victory at Columbus Saturday night. The result means Sporting has earned just three points less on the road than they have at home this season – a somewhat incredible away record in MLS terms.

KC controls their own destiny for Eastern Conference top spot but faces a very tough test Wednesday vs. a Dynamo side that jumped up to third this weekend. A Sporting win in that match automatically puts them into the playoffs but they can also make it with a combination draw and Fire draw or loss would also do the trick.

3) Houston Dynamo
Current Points: 47 (13-10-8)
Games Remaining: 3 (2 home / 1 away)
Last 5 Games: WWWLD (10pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 9-3-3 / 4-6-4
Maximum Possible Points: 58
Average Opponents Pts: 39.7
Remaining Schedule: 10/9 vs. SKC, 10/20 vs. NY, 10/24 @ AU**, 10/27 @ D.C.

Rundown: Houston continued their climb up the table with their third straight win Friday vs. Montreal. Things looked bleak for the Dynamo in early September but the side now seems destined to once again reach the playoffs and with back-to-back matches vs. Sporting KC and New York, their ascent might not stop at third place.

All we can say is, typical Houston Dynamo…

4) Montreal Impact
Current Points: 46 (13-10-7)
Games Remaining: 4 (2 home/ 2 away)
Last 5 Games: LDLLW (4pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 9-3-3 / 4-7-4
Maximum Possible Pts: 58
Average Opponents Pts: 39.5
Remaining Schedule: 10/12 vs. NE, 10/16 @ LA, 10/19 vs. PHI, 10/26 @ TFC

Rundown: Montreal fell again 1-0 at Houston Friday night, moving the side that spent much of the regular season at the top of the East all the way down to fourth place. The Impact still hold a game in hand on everyone and both of their remaining home matches are six-pointers against New England (this week) and Philadelphia (October 19). If they can recover from their down form and win those games, they should still be in the playoffs.

5) Philadelphia Union
Current Points: 45 (12-10-9)
Games Remaining: 3 (1 home  / 2 away)
Last 5 Games: WWLLD (7pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 7-4-5 / 5-6-4
Maximum Possible Points: 54
Average Opponents Pts: 37.3
Remaining Schedule: 10/12 @ D.C., 10/19 @ MTL, 10/26 vs. SKC

Rundown: There was a point Saturday night in which it looked like all three Eastern Conference games would go the Fire’s way, then Kleberson’s 96th minute free kick happened, giving Philadelphia a crucial 1-0 home win over Toronto FC.

With that win, the Union stayed above the red line, two points ahead of the Fire with three matches remaining. Philly will look to take advantage of Saturday’s game at lowly D.C. before having to close with tough matches at Montreal and vs. Sporting KC.

6) Chicago Fire
Current Points: 43 (12-12-7)
Games Remaining: 3 (1 home / 2 away)
Last 5 Games: WDLWD (7pts)
2013 Home / Away Record: 9-4-3 / 3-7-4
Maximum Possible Pts: 52
Average Opponents Pts: 40
Remaining Schedule: 10/12 @ FCD, 10/19 vs. TFC, 10/27 @ NY

Rundown: The Fire did the business with a 3-0 win at D.C. on Friday night and if not for Kleberson’s late free kick in Philly, would have sat in fifth place to end the weekend.

The Fire visit FC Dallas who kept their quite slim Western Conference playoff hopes alive with a 1-1 draw vs. Real Salt Lake Saturday. With the Galaxy destroying Chivas USA and even Vancouver picking up a point vs. Portland Sunday, it doesn’t look good for Dallas, who are seven points out of the final playoff spot with three games to go, meaning a loss Saturday would officially be there end of the season.

On the other hand, the Fire are 3-12-2 all-time in Dallas and will go for their second straight away win on Saturday – a feat the team has achieved just once in the past four seasons. A win in Frisco will put the Fire in prime position with a home match vs. Toronto looming.

7) New England Revolution
Current Points: 42 (11-11-9)
Games Remaining: 3 (1 home / 2 away)
Last 5 Games: DDWLL (5pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 7-5-4 / 4-7-4
Maximum Possible Points: 51
Average Opponents Pts: 42.6
Remaining Schedule: 10/12 @ MTL, 10/19 vs. CLB, 10/27 @ CLB

Rundown: New England were no doubt the biggest losers from this weekend’s results, scoring two goals to go up 2-1 late only to have Cahill’s 96th minute header serve as a huge gut punch. A visit to Montreal, who are also coming off a loss at Houston, looms quite large and defeat in Quebec could do serious damage to the Revs’ playoff hopes.

Still, the home-and-home vs. Columbus to close the season will keep things interesting for the Revolution and at the very least, likely keep them in the mix until the final weekend.

8) Columbus Crew
Current Points: 41 (12-15-5)
Games Remaining: 2 (1 home / 1 away)
Last 5 Games: LWWWL (9pts)
2013 Home / Away Record: 7-6-3 / 5-9-2
Maximum Possible Points: 47
Average Opponents Pts: 42
Remaining Schedule: 10/19 @ NE, 10/27 vs. NE

Rundown: As great as the Crew’s run under interim head man Brian Bliss was, all it would take was another loss to deal a horrible blow to their playoff hopes. The Crew will now take their bye week but they need to win their remaining two matches and hope for major help around the East in order to make the playoffs.

There’s still a chance but it’s just not very good.