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26 September 12:42 pm

The World Champion, Judah Friedlander tells the story of the champion of third to last picked, Richard Jata.

25 September 9:28 am

Last October we noticed a spike in people tweeting at us. Most of the tweets included the keywords "hot guys", "OMG", and "love the show"

Obviously all of these people have mistakenly tweeted at @ChicagoFire when they were tweeting about the Dick Wolf television drama @NBCChicagoFire.

We felt that we would be remiss if we didn't take the time to highlight and respond to some of the best tweets.

Oh... you mean these guys?

The new guy?! Arevalo Rios is not creepy! As you can see below, he's a pretty awesome dude.

Bring your books, we promise Sparky won't eat your homework.

We didn't know that Lady Gaga was a huge soccer fan!

Yes, Dan Kelly is the best, we'll tell him to stop scaring you.

24 September 12:53 pm

Do you love playing FIFA? I know I do, and I'm pretty amazing at it. (Okay, the second part's a lie) Sean Johnson also loves FIFA, and he's pretty amazing at it (that's the truth).

If you're a fan of FIFA, and Sean Johnson (who sn't?), you can put him on the cover of your copy of FIFA 14... It's easy and simple. Just follow the steps below.

Step 1: Click on the image below
Step 2: Right or control click the awesome cover image
Step 3: Click Save Image As... and save the image onto your computer
Step 4: Open the image and print it.
Step 5: Cut it out and slip it into your FIFA 14 case.
Step 6: Hold your copy of FIFA in the air and scream... WHOSE HOUSE?!? SEAN'S HOUSE!!!
Step 7: DOMINATE AT FIFA

Now, I can't guarantee that It's going to channel Sean's FIFA playing abilites and make you better at the game, but hey... it's worth a shot, right?!

24 September 10:06 am

The Fire's dip back below the red line on Saturday night was one of two moves in the Eastern Conference playoff race. With just over a month to play, certain teams are circling in on a playoff berth while others are battling for position.

The latest edition of Playoff Math awaits you below: 

1) New York Red Bulls
Current Points: 51 (15-9-6)
Games Remaining: 4 (2 home / 2 away)
Last 5 Games: WWWWL (12pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 10-2-3 / 5-7-3
Maximum Possible Pts: 63
Average Opponents Pts: 43.0
Remaining Schedule: 9/29 @ SEA, 10/5 vs. NE, 10/20 @ HOU, 10/27 vs. CHI

Rundown: New York watched Montreal lose and Sporting KC win on Saturday, knowing a home game against FC Dallas awaited the following day. It wasn’t a great match but New York utilized a 76th minute own goal from Erick to earn another home result and somewhat quietly move into first place in the Supporters Shield race in the process.

The Red Bulls continue to benefit from the two teams chasing them having Champions League matches but a top of the conference clash awaits them Sunday night when they visit Seattle in a match that could go a long way to decide the first silverware of the season.

A New York win or tie Sunday combined with Fire and Philadelphia Union losses would see the Red Bulls become the first team to qualify for the postseason.

2) Sporting KC
Current Points: 48 (14-9-6)
Games Remaining: 5 (2 home / 3 away)
Last 5: WWWLL (9pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 8-4-3 / 6-5-3
Maximum Possible Pts: 63
Average Opponents Pts: 34.8
Remaining Schedule: 9/27 vs. PHI, 10/5 @ CLB, 10/9 at HOU, 10/18 vs. D.C., 10/23 vs. OLI**, 10/26 @ PHI

Rundown: Despite a scare, Sporting earned a point against Real Esteli in Champions League play at midweek and will just need another draw vs. Olimpia to guarantee final passage. In MLS play, they fought hard for a 2-1 win at Toronto took benefit of Montreal’s defeat to Vancouver to move into sole possession of second place in the East.

Sporting holds a game in hand over Red Bull but faces three matches against teams fighting for their playoff fate over the next two and a half weeks. Though their remaining schedule is easiest in the East, it will be a battle to stay in second and potentially push for the top spot.

3) Montreal Impact
Current Points: 45 (13-9-6)
Games Remaining: 6 (2 home/ 4 away)
Last 5 Games: LLWDW (7pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 9-3-3 / 4-6-3
Maximum Possible Pts: 63
Average Opponents Pts: 38.2
Remaining Schedule:  9/24 vs. HER** 9/28 @ CHI, 10/4 @ HOU, 10/12 vs. NE, 10/16 @ LA, 10/19 vs. PHI, 10/26 @ TFC

Rundown: So what’s going on with Montreal? Their 3-0 loss to Vancouver marked their third straight across all competitions and second straight at home in MLS. Like their performances this season, the Impact have a mixed bag through the end of the year. On one hand they hold two games in hand over New York and one over Sporting but face a crucial Champions League match against Heredia on Tuesday night ahead of Saturday’s game vs. the Fire.

Montreal still has a shot in the Champions League but not a great one… Will they turn their complete focus on the Fire and playoff race or try to double-dip this week?

4) Houston Dynamo
Current Points: 43 (12-10-7)
Games Remaining: 5 (3 home / 2 away)
Last 5 Games: WWLDL (7pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 8-3-3 / 4-6-4
Maximum Possible Points: 58
Average Opponents Pts: 39.8
Remaining Schedule: 9/25 vs. WC**, 9/28 @ NE, 10/4 vs. MTL, 10/9 vs. SKC, 10/20 vs. NY, 10/24 @ AU**, 10/27 @ D.C.

Rundown:  After going on an end of summer slump, Houston has run off two straight wins the past two weeks to move firmly into fourth place in the East. They play a crucial Champions League home match Wednesday night vs. W. Connection before opening up a four-game stretch all against teams in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Three of those four matches are at home so after weathering a pretty difficult storm, its safe to say more than anyone, the Dynamo control their own fate in terms of being able to move up into one of the top three spots.

5) New England Revolution
Current Points: 40 (11-11-7)
Games Remaining: 5 (2 home / 3 away)
Last 5 Games: WLLDW (7pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 7-5-3 / 4-6-4
Maximum Possible Points: 55
Average Opponents Pts: 43.0
Remaining Schedule: 9/28 vs. HOU, 10/5 @ NY, 10/12 @ MTL, 10/19 vs. CLB, 10/27 @ CLB

Rundown: One week New England is complaining about an offside goal being called back, the next they’re benefiting from it and not saying a peep. This was the case on Diego Fagundez’s tying goal in their 2-1 win over D.C. United. By virtue of that victory and the Fire’s defeat at Columbus, the two sides traded places in the East race this weekend.

The good news for the Fire is that New England has the toughest remaining schedule in the East, with a huge showdown vs. streaking Houston on the horizon this weekend. Back-to-back trips to New York and Montreal follow that clash and could define the Revs season if they don’t manage it the right way.

6) Chicago Fire
Current Points: 39 (11-12-6)
Games Remaining: 5 (2 home / 3 away)
Last 5 Games: LWDLD (5pts)
2013 Home / Away Record: 9-4-2 / 2-7-4
Maximum Possible Pts: 54
Average Opponents Pts: 34.8
Remaining Schedule: 9/28 vs. MTL, 10/4 @ D.C., 10/12 @ FCD, 10/19 vs. TFC, 10/27 @ NY

Rundown:  The Fire lost a tough 3-0 result at Columbus on Saturday. It was a game the team went in with the mindset of taking three points and even after going down 1-0, they looked able to do it. Bakary Soumare’s red card made that hope near impossible and as the Fire pushed forward they got caught out twice more.

They now welcome a struggling Montreal side to Toyota Park Saturday and should remember the situation they faced the Impact in back in August -- days after a disappointing U.S. Open Cup defeat to D.C. United, the Fire rebounded with a 2-1 win, a game that stands as one of the team’s biggest results of the season.

While a 3-0 loss at this point in the season can be discouraging, perspective is important as the Fire remain just one point out of the top five. It is imperative for the team to take their remaining two home matches and find a way to get two results on the road to ensure they won't have to depend on other teams for a postseason berth.

7) Philadelphia Union
Current Points: 39 (10-10-9)
Games Remaining: 5 (2 home  / 3 away)
Last 5 Games: LLDLD (2pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 6-4-5 / 4-6-4
Maximum Possible Points: 54
Average Opponents Pts: 32.8
Remaining Schedule: 9/27 @ SKC, 10/5 vs. TFC, 10/12 @ D.C., 10/19 @ MTL, 10/26 vs. SKC

Rundown: The Union were idle this past weekend and will hope to have worked out the kinks that have him on the poorest form out of any team in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Unfortunately for them, they face a huge match Friday night away to a Sporting side that can put themselves on the brink of a postseason berth with a win.

A loss in this match would be devastating to the team’s chances but six points from their following two matches vs. Toronto and D.C. would certainly keep them afloat going into the final two weeks of the season.

8) Columbus Crew
Current Points: 35 (11-14-5)
Games Remaining: 4 (2 home / 2 away)
Last 5 Games: WWLWL (9pts)
2013 Home / Away Record: 7-5-3 / 4-9-2
Maximum Possible Points: 50
Average Opponents Pts: 42
Remaining Schedule: 9/29 @ FCD, 10/5 vs. SKC, 10/19 @ NE, 10/27 vs. NE

Rundown: The Crew continued their late-season run under interim head man Brian Bliss with a resounding 3-0 win over the Fire on Saturday. There’s no doubt that the Crew need help from other teams but their attitude is in the right place to make a late-season run.

Every game is a must-win for the Crew from here on out and they’ll shift their focus to a visit to FC Dallas where they haven’t won since their MLS Cup championship season in 2008.

23 September 5:05 pm

It's good to get an idea of why things happened in a game and there's no better match to start with then to break down the events that saw the Fire lose 3-0 at Columbus on Saturday.

I asked Fire assistant coach Leo Percovich to give tactical explanations on three specific instances in the match... Below are his answers.

Jeff Crandall: The team started off the game well, carrying possession before Dominic Oduro's 15th minute goal... What was the game plan to open up the match? How did it change after going down 1-0?

Leo Percovich: We knew the Crew would come with high pressure on us because they were at home desperate to get three points. We opted the first 15 minutes to play long balls from the back, fight to get possession in midfield and from there build our attacking plays.

This high pressure would create spaces behind their lines and we would look to exploit that. We created three chances and earned two corner kicks in the first 12 minutes – a great start for a team playing on the road.

The Crew’s first goal was unlucky for us. Two times a rebound came for them, under a bad defensive position from our left side instead of a product of a buildup or good playmaking for Columbus which means our plan was working.

After going down 1-0 we had to keep the same idea and style of play: the whole defensive block was still playing well. Chicago is a team that is characterized by recovery after conceding a goal, the consequence was to keep the style under pressure even with a goal down.

JC: Explain the play the led to Bakary Soumare's sending off... (what went wrong?)

LP: We were attacking from our left side with Dilly Duka who tried to connect a pass to Alex, but Chad Marshall intercepted and cleared away with a lucky ball that caught us off guard.

It deflected off of Jeff Larentowicz’s head, and went over Austin Berry who was tight with Jairo Arrieta at the midfield line. Jalil Anibaba was supporting the attack so he couldn’t cover the ball and Sean Johnson wasn’t far enough up to clear it.

This led to Baky taking the diagonal run and the risk to stop the play, and before Arrieta came into the box, he decided to committed the foul and was sent off.

JC: Talk about the difficulties of playing a man down on the road and what was the thinking behind pushing Larentowicz to center back rather than making a defensive substitution when Soumare exited?

LP: Playing with 10 forced us to stay more compact to fill and close spaces quicker, which demanded an extra effort from every player. The transition needs to be done with more precision because you have only one man as target and the rest of the players need to move forward quick to support him around the ball.

The expulsion came early in the game so we opted to keep the same 10 players, adjust them on a new tactical position and hold to the first half to see how we were doing.

We went from 4-4-2 to 4-4-1 moving Larentowicz from center mid to center back, Alex from right mid to center mid, and Mike Magee from forward to a wide midfielder, leaving just Juan Luis Anangono up top.

Not only did the tactical position need to change but also the attitude and mentality too -- you have to be more focused to attend your man and the space created for your man down.

You still have to believe you are going to find the way to come back and score the goal. 

23 September 12:38 pm

"…In most places in the country, voting is looked upon as a right and a duty, but in Chicago it’s a sport.” – Dick Gregory

The #cf97ThirdKit polls are officially closed.  While we are busy tallying the votes, here’s a quick reminder of what will happen next:

Once the winning design is announced, the Club will work with Quaker and adidas to prepare a prototype for early 2014. After the prototype is reviewed and approved, the actual third kit will go into the adidas production cycle and is scheduled to make its debut for the Fire’s Anniversary game in the fall of 2014. 

23 September 9:54 am

We knew it was too early to get cocky. Although the Fire managed to overcome, at least in a cathartic sort of way, all the season’s travails in the dramatic comeback-into-playoff-spot win last week against New England, we knew there were six games left to hold onto, improve upon, or lose playoff position.

At that point, four of the six remaining games were away from Toyota Park, which was a scary prospect for the Fire. Like the rest of MLS, the Fire are much worse away from home, and one couldn’t shake the feeling that the Fire would play drug smuggler, in and out of safety every week.

Saturday’s thumping in Columbus didn’t make fans feel any better, and still, three of the five remaining games are away from Toyota Park. But why are the Fire playing worse away from home? A quick run through the stats:

- Overall record: 11-12-6
- Away record: 2-8-4
- Home record: 9-4-2
- Overall goal differential: -7 (36 for, 43 against)
- Away goal differential: -14 (10 for, 24 against)
- Home goal differential: 7 (26 for, 19 against)

Not sterling, it’s true. Goal differential in soccer can be a little overblown as a telling statistic but since it could count in playoff contention it's worth paying attention to. And one thing it shows is that all of MLS is struggling away from home this year. Every team except Kansas City (+1) and Real Salt Lake (0) have road goal differences in the negatives. Seventeen teams are shipping goals away from home!

It’s a strange phenomenon in MLS, and seems to go against the general feeling that, with MLS parity so prevalent, there would be less domination, more draws, etc. Not so, at least not anymore. According to some numbers crunched over at SBN, “MLS has become a league were the home team wins about 50 percent of the time and the road team pulls out three points somewhere around 25 percent.”

But why? There are a few explanations in other American leagues. Grueling travel in the NBA, noise in the NFL, explicit rule advantages in MLB and the NHL - but those factors aren’t so relevant in MLS.

There’s the harder to calculate factor of home vs. away referee decisions, or momentum, or what at least one writer calls the “best sports fans in America,” which, I mean, great, but even if there was a way to prove that, it would be hard to connect fans’ performance with players’.

So let’s accept the mystery for a second. Let’s chalk it up to some combination of discomfort or unfamiliarity with playing surfaces (hi Revs), climates (hola Houston), atmosphere (ok Seattle, we see you), various travel and hotel-related distractions and fatigue (seems like a cop out but ok), refereeing decisions (impossible to prove), and the elusive, metaphysical effects of momentum.

The thing is that MLS is not alone in home team dominance. England has it too. Maybe the issue has less to do with American this-or-that than soccer itself. I would love to find data showing that home team dominance comes from the non-physical aspects of the game. I think something about the invisible, spontaneous, and rapid morphic connections between teammates (the connections that translate into the action we see) make them occur in a smoother way at “home.”

At the very least, it's an apt way to think about the Fire’s away form this year, where even after a dominant home game they can leave town and look like they’ve never played with each other before. Saturday night in Columbus, for example, it seems they left whatever elixir Jeff Larentowicz passed around at half time back in the locker room at Toyota Park. But we’ve seen the Fire turn it the other way around too, as in July, when they lost 3-1 in Vancouver only to beat DC 4-1 at home the next week.

Obviously the Fire will be looking to do the same against the suddenly beatable Montreal at TP on Saturday. Here’s to the morphic energy going as smoothly as possible.

23 September 9:20 am

The first-ever Soccer & Style event benefitting the Chicago Fire Foundation was a great success at ROOF on the Wit last Thursday night.

Fire players Jalil Anibaba, Michael Videira, Hunter Jumper, Sean Johnson, Austin Berry, Gonzalo Segares, Quincy Amarikwa Daniel Paladini and goalkeeping coach Aron Hyde all did their best jaunt down the runway for a good cause.

True to form, it was Jumper that stole the show. Watch to find out...

21 September 10:46 pm
Quote Sheet
Chicago Fire at Columbus Crew
Crew Stadium – Sept. 21, 2013
 
Chicago Fire head coach Frank Klopas

On whether, with all of the chances and the red card, it still seemed like a 3-0 game:

No, not at all. We give up the red card and then playing shorthanded, and the first goal was soft. We were coming from behind. Really, we pushed the game. We had chances to tie the game and it doesn’t go your way and then they got a PK. For me, it’s all questionable, but regardless, the team left everything on the field. I feel good about the group. We have to regroup and get ready for next week.

On whether, down 1-0 at half, Chicago was trying to tie the game or still get three points:

You just have to be smart. We had our chances. I think if we would have scored, they would have been under pressure, but we hit the post, we had some good opportunities in the final third and sometimes it just isn’t your night.

On trying to beat a team four times in a season:


It isn’t easy to beat a team four times in one season, but it’s very difficult when you’re playing shorthanded also. We played for the majority of the game, almost 60 minutes, shorthanded, and the guys competed and left it all on the field. We pushed the game. We took risks because what’s the point? 1-0 or 2-0 you still lose, for me it doesn’t matter at that point. We had the chances and we didn’t get [the goal]. The second goal really kills us, the PK shorthanded, questionable but whatever. It is what it is. We’ve just got to move on.

Chicago Fire midfielder Dilly Duka

On the loss:

We have played this team four times this year – you can’t win them all. This is MLS. They scored an early goal, they played well, and we were a little unlucky. I thought I was fouled in the first 25 minutes in the box. I clearly got pushed. The guy didn’t even touch the ball, but that’s how it goes sometimes. Can’t look back – got to look forward.

On the second half:

We definitely believed we could come back and tie, maybe even win the game. There was no doubt in that locker room at halftime about coming out of this game with a loss.

On ‘new-look’ Crew under Bliss:

I thought they were a good team with Robert [Warzycha]. I think they have good personnel and players, but it was just their day.


Chicago Fire midfielder Jeff Larentowicz

On the loss:

We hit the posts, we hit the crossbar, we got opportunities – overall though we were just not good enough. But in the end we have five more games left and we’re right there. We have been in this spot before. We knew it was going to be a tough road game coming in, but we have games to play and there is going to be more opportunities.

On impact of second goal:

The next goal was going to be big. We knew that if we could keep it at one to nothing we could probably develop opportunities and create chances. The second goal was one that put the game out of reach.

On difficulty of beating teams four times a season:

We knew that coming in, but at the same time we were focused on the end result. This is a tough part of the year. We are a team that knows we can do things on the road, but tonight it wasn’t our best and when you’re not on your best you get beat.