Just eight days away from Major League Soccer's MVP announcement and Mike Magee has picked up another endorsement, this time coming from SBNation.com's merry band of soccer editors. SBNation.com is of course the parent organization of Chicago Fire-related blog, "Hot Time in Old Town".
Magee garnered 14 of the 25 available votes, doubling up on next closest candidate Robbie Keane.
The nod from SBNation.com is the latest in a series of endorsements featuring Landon Donovan (sort of), The Washington Post's Steven Goff and Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney. Let us not forget, Magee also collected Section 8 Chicago's 2013 Supporters Player of the Year Award on Saturday as well.
The MLS Best XI (which Magee is expected to be on) is set to be announced next Tuesday, December 3 while the MVP award will be doled out Thursday, December 5.
Magee would be the first player in the club's 16-year playing history to garner the league's highest individual honor.
Until then, watch the #MikeMageeMVP video one more time...
One of my favorite days of the year is the day the MLS schedule is released.
For many fans, this announcement means compiling a list of blackout days where the Fire are playing at Toyota Park. For Fire fans not residing in the Chicagoland area, it means finding out when the Men in Red will be visiting your nearest MLS team. But for someone like me who has been on quite a few road trips (over 50 but not as many as this guy), the schedule release day means not only looking at the home fixtures but also the away ones.
Questions I asked myself earlier today: Does Toronto away fall on weekend instead of a Wednesday night? How much does it cost to fly to Portland in March? These important questions get answered on this special day.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at five exciting dates in the 2014 Fire calendar:
Week 2 – Portland away – Saturday, March 15
Ever since Portland came into the league in 2011, the Fire supporters umbrella, Section 8 Chicago, has had a very good relationship with the Timbers Army, Portland’s main supporters group. The relationship is based on mutual respect and a shared “dislike” of all things Seattle.
Fire fans are always treated well in Portland and it’s not uncommon for Fire and Timbers fans to hang out before and after the games, something you would never see Fire fans doing in Columbus or Kansas City.
The atmosphere at JELD-Wen Field is also second to none. Though is certainly isn’t going to be the easiest away trip on the field or the lightest on the wallet, I think we will see quite a few Fire fans making the trip to Portland in Week 2 instead of traveling to LA to watch the Fire face Chivas in the season opener.
Week 6 & 22 – Montreal away – Saturday, April 12 and Sunday, August 16
The Fire were the Montreal Impact’s opponents in the Canadian club’s first home MLS back in 2012 and I was lucky enough to be at the game and had a great time.
That game was played indoors at the Olympic Stadium with a less than favorable playing surface – something many of the Fire fans observed firsthand the day before the game when we were invited to watch the team train (see photo above).
Now the Impact have Saputo Stadium refurbished, which provides another incentive for traveling Fire fans who may not have gotten there earlier this year.
Montreal is also a unique MLS city for a number of reasons. I can’t think of another MLS city where fans can brush up on their French by talking to the locals or take in the spectacular Notre-Dame basilica while eating some amazing poutine!
Montreal can be quite cold in April, but luckily for Fire fans, the April date is only the first time the Men in Red visit The City of Saints. I hear the weather is a lot nicer in mid-August, when the Fire visit for the second time.
Week 11 – Columbus away – Saturday, May 24
Columbus or Fire House East as many Fire fans call it is the closest away trip of the season distance wise. Due to this fact, the number of Fire fans attending this match is exponentially bigger than most other away games.
In 2001, Fire fans went to Crew Stadium in their hundreds, even when the Fire was not playing! The Fire had been knocked out in the Conference Semifinals by the Los Angeles Galaxy and many fans turned up to cheer against LA (and for the then Frank Yallop-led San Jose Earthquakes) at MLS Cup.
There have been many highs experienced in Columbus, such as Paulo Wanchope’s winning goal in a 2007 match after the game was delayed due to a torrential downpour. Fire fans were also 45 minutes away from MLS Cup in 2008 but for a Crew comeback in the second half which left Fire fans, including myself, devastated. There’s also the 2012 invasion which saw 600 Fire supporters make the trek.
The Fire only play once at Fire House East this season and I expect to see a lot of red behind the goal on May 24.
Week 16 & 32 Kansas City away –Sunday, July 6 & Friday, October 10
Kansas City is another road trip that fans have attended in large numbers throughout the years. My first trip to Kansas City was a disappointing one, with the Fire losing to the Kansas City Wizards in the final of the U.S. Open Cup in 2004.
Since then, the Kansas franchise has a new name and a soccer specific stadium. You can no longer play the count the crowd game that we often did when the Wizards played at Arrowhead Stadium.
- DOWNLOAD: 2014 Home Regular Season Schedule (PDF)
Most fans travel to this game by bus thus skipping the “delights” of downtown Kansas City and the bus ride does offer one cool treat – a visit to the world’s largest truck stop in Iowa.
Though SKC are not really a Fire rival (despite efforts made by the KC front office to make it into something bigger) there is certainly a dislike between the players and fans on both sides.
With the October 11 game coming so late in the season, it may be a pivotal one in terms of Playoff positioning.
Week 23 – Toronto away – Saturday, August 23
By far my favorite MLS city to travel to is Toronto. It's roughly the same distance from Chicago as Kansas City and again many fans travel to Canada on supporter’s buses.
Each visit, Fire fans shack up at a great hostel where we run into soccer fans from all over the world. Toronto itself is a great city aside from the prohibitive drinking laws on weekends (who doesn’t want to have a pint at 10am while watching the Premier League the next morning?).
BMO Field is located right on the shores of Lake Ontario and is thus left exposed and is often windy and chilly but the warm pies served at some of the concessions stands are an excellent halftime treat.
On the field, the Fire have had some good success against a TFC team that has languished near the bottom of the MLS table since starting in 2007. Thankfully, this match is on a Saturday in August so I expect a much larger contingent of Fire fans to attend.
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @Irish_Steve.
It comes as little surprise, just a day after being named one of three finalists for the MLS Most Valuable Player award, gathered another important accolade Thursday as he was vote Section 8 Chicago’s Supporters Player of the Year.
The award comes on the heels of Magee already taking the Club’s Most Valuable Player and Golden Boot award just prior to the end of the 2013 regular season.
Mike will be on hand Saturday at A.J. Hudson’s Public House (3801 N. Ashland) to receive his award and check for $1,500 to donate to the charity of his choice. The event begins at 6pm CT with the ceremony taking place at halftime of the MLS Eastern Conference Final Leg 2 between Sporting KC and Houston Dynamo.
See you there!
On Friday, December 6, we'll all gather at Fado's for the club's "Bracket Brunch" with great hopes and prizes on the line for the FIFA World Cup draw.
There's plenty to get you started on your "Drawology" now, with the below graphic representing the suspected four pots that FIFA representatives (or perhaps Brazilian celebrities) will use to determine the eight groups for the tournament.
What you should know…
It should be noted that the only confirmed pot are the seeded teams in Pot #1, which features the hosts Brazil and the next seven best teams according to October’s FIFA Ranking.
For the second straight World Cup, FIFA has somewhat controversially gone by October’s FIFA rankings to determine seeds, rather than the previous formula which factored in both FIFA rankings along with nation’s finishes at the previous two or three tournaments.
The change wasn’t felt quite as heavily for the 2010 World Cup as traditional powers like Italy, The Netherlands and England all remained seeds. Those countries have been upended this time around in Pot #1 by the likes of Switzerland, Colombia and Belgium.
- The mix of CONCACAF/AFC (Pot #2) seems likely as both confederations have four teams each to make a round group of eight.
The only real question seems to be around which European team would join the mixed CAF (5 teams)/CONMEBOL (2 teams) in Pot #3 . If FIFA continues to go by their ranking procedure, France would be the lowest ranking European team, which could very well push them into the mixed pot, though this is unconfirmed and might not be known until the week of the draw.
Draw Makeup: Only nations from UEFA can be grouped with each other but only two per group and you obviously can’t be draw against countries in your own pot, so U.S. dreams of getting another crack at Iran (wither 1998) will have to wait.
- DOWNLOAD our tournament bracket (PDF) and begin conducting your mock draws now! The Fire's "Bracket Brunch" is just two weeks away!
So there it is… On what we know (and suspect), what’s the best case scenario for your nation of interest? What's the worst?
We're not far off from finding out the finalists for the 2013 MLS Most Valuable Player award and the case has more than been made for Mike Magee to take that honor.
Still, MLSsoccer.com's John Bolster recommends the Fire forward for another "not yet awarded" award, that being the league's Most Improved Player.
It's the end of the road for the U.S. Men's National Team in 2013...
Qualified for next summer's FIFA World Cup for two months, Jurgen Klinsmann will take a last look at his side with a pair of European friendlies beginning this afternoon at Scotland (LIVE 2pm CT on ESPN2, UniMas & WatchESPN). They'll close out the calendar year with another friendly Tuesday at Austria (LIVE 1:45pm CT on NBC Sports Network, UniMas).
Here's hoping Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson gets some time in one of the matches over the next week.
While the USMNT can continue their prep for Brazil, a number of European and African sides are still playing for their World Cup lives this weekend.
A full schedule of the games and where you can watch them on the TV set:
Friday - (UEFA First Legs)
Iceland vs. Croatia; 1:00pm CT on ESPN3.com, WatchESPN
Portugal vs. Sweden; 1:45pm CT on ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN
Ukraine vs. France; 1:45pm CT on ESPN3.com, WatchESPN
Greece vs. Romania; 1:45pm CT on ESPN3.com, WatchESPN
Saturday - (CAF Second Legs)
Nigeria vs. Ethiopia (2-1); 9:00am CT on beIN Sport, beIN Sport en Espanol
Senegal vs. Ivory Coast (1-3); 1:00pm CT on beIN Sport, beIN Sport en Espanol
Cameroon vs. Tunisia (0-0) ; 8:30am CT on beIN Sport, beIN Sport en Espanol
Chicago Fire midfielder Egidio Arevalo Rios and the Uruguayan National Team are [basically] on their way to Brazil next summer after an emphatic 5-0 demolition of Jordan in the first leg of the Intercontinental Playoffs earlier today in Amman.
Rios went 90 minutes in the heart of midfield while goals from Maxi Pereira (22'), Cristian Stuani (42'), Nicolass Lodeiro (69'), Cristian Rodriguez (78') and Edinson Cavani (92+') gave Uruguay what seems to be an insurmountable lead heading into the second leg next Wednesday in Montevideo.
Once again, Section 8 Chicago is running their annual poll for Supporters Player of the Year!
All Chicago Fire supporters are encouraged to vote for their choice by Thursday, November 21 at noon CT. Two days later, the Independent Supporters Association will honor their Player of the Year with a gathering on Saturday, November 23, 6:00pm at A.J. Hudsons Public House (3801 N. Ashland).
The winner is also given $1500 from Section 8 Chicago to donate to the charity of their choice.
2012 - Patrick Nyarko (Charity: A Better Life For Kids)
2011 - Dominic Oduro (Nothing But Nets)
2010 - C.J. Brown (SCORES Chicago)
2009 - C.J. Brown (SCORES Chicago)
It was a balmy 32 degrees for this morning’s Toyota Park Transit Center groundbreaking and though it's not much to look at now, there's plenty of reason to be excited for the new Pace facility, scheduled to open next year, which will include an indoor waiting area.
Congressman Daniel Lipinski and Bridgeview Mayor and Illinois State Senator Steven M. Landek were on-hand to christen the new project which is expected to increase access to public transportation for the residents of Bridgeview, along with people visiting Chicago Fire soccer matches, concerts and other events.
According to Pace, there are additional plans to include the area of Harlem Avenue around Toyota Park in its Arterial Rapid Transit express bus network, and the transit center will serve as a hub for local bus routes to connect with the express service and one another.
The Toyota Park Transit Center announcement, coupled with the recent opening of the 71st Street underpass, is welcomed news for Fire supporters as both projects should facilitate travel for soccer fans to come to Toyota Park, as well as lessen the potential for traffic and parking congestion on game days.
Because we love quoting what Landon Donovan says about current members of the Fire, we couldn't help ourselves when we saw his quote about his former coach with both San Jose and LA, Frank Yallop in Sunday's feature in the Chicago Tribune.
"Frank is the epitome of a players coach," Donovan said. "Every player who ever has played for him absolutely loved their time with him and would run through a wall for him. … He treats his players with respect and inspires hard work and success through calm leadership."
Landon's quote goes along with everything I've heard about the Fire's new head coach and Director of Soccer from former players and while Yallop admits he has a lot of work to do this offseason, you can't help but be excited about the first time he actually gets to coach the Fire in 2014.
Just 11 more Saturdays until the start of preseason and 15 until March...
Check out the full feature from Jack McCarthy here [+].