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15 August 2:32 pm

Well, the deadline has passed and judging by the cf97thirdkit@chicago-fire.com email address, Fire supporters were heavily engaged in coming up with the club’s new jersey design.

In total, the Fire received hundreds of entries from all around Chicagoland and as far reaching as Brazil, France and the UK. Those may not be eligible but they did give us a good gauge of how expansive a contest like this can be.

So… What’s next?

According to the official contest rules, a committee composed of Chicago Fire and Quaker staff will judge all eligible entries received during the Entry Period based on "overall appearance, originality/creativity, style and quality of the Design."

READ: #cf97ThirdKit presented by Quaker

On or about August 19 (next Mondayish), the top five designs will be unveiled and will work directly with the club’s creative team to develop their design into an acceptable digital format.

Beginning around August 26, the five semi-finalists will go up for fan vote, with fans allowed to cast their ballots 10 times each day through September 6. The three designs with the most votes will go to a final round of voting which will begin around September 9, with the winning design set to be unveiled around September 23.

Stay tuned!

14 August 8:15 am

As an organization, the Fire recognizes that Twitter is one of the most import social communication platforms it can use to engage with supporters.

The official Fire account (@ChicagoFire) is used to connect with fans, generate awareness, highlight promotions, or just informing fans in a real-time manner, i.e., news, weather and traffic alerts.  To broaden the discussion around the club and create deeper engagement with supporters, Chicago Fire Chief Operating Officer Atul Khosla (AK) will be joining the conversation.

Beginning today, you’re invited to follow AK at @atulkhosla. While it will be impossible for him to engage and respond to every question (he does have a day job), you can expect AK to listen, answer questions, offer some behind-the-scenes access as well as his point of view about the business direction of the club, MLS overall, and the vision for the future. 

He can also discuss the finer intricacies of the dining in Bucktown, Badger football, and things that rhyme with coleslaw.

13 August 4:46 pm

If you saw this week's MLS save of the week nomination earler, you may have noticed something weird.

Helper to the 'keeper/forward, Chris Rolfe is up for his line clearing header that "saved the day". (VOTE HERE)

But let's not forget that "The Milkman" delivered too.

Sean Johnson made three big saves on Saturday night, and none more stellar than his point blank stop on Justin Mapp in the 39th minute of play. (watch above)

For his performance, MLSsoccer.com has named Sean to the Team of the Week, proving once again that they don't call him "The Milkman" for nothin'!

12 August 9:56 am

In the 87th minute on Saturday night at Toyota Park, the Fire were holding on to a 2-1 lead against Montreal, who were seven points and two playoff positions ahead in the table. Daniel Paladini, who had come on for Alex 25 minutes earlier, set up to take a corner, but there were just two Fire players forward against six or so in blue. Jeff Larentowicz and Quincy Amarikwa were moving around, doing their best to make space, but this was all about the chance to have the ball deep in Montreal’s half and relieve some pressure.

BTL: The Production

Paladini saw Amarikwa a half yard away from his marker at the penalty spot and floated a ball in towards him. Judging from how the ball arrived to Amarikwa at about the height of Montreal center back Hassoun Camara, and considering Camara’s listed at 6-2 and Amarikwa at 5-9, the Fire forward’s insanely acrobatic bicycle attempt got his feet up to a half-foot above his own head.

Even though Amarikwa whiffed, it was one of those athletic, confident, creative, and opportunistic moments that can define a soccer game because generally, the team that comes out the most athletic, confident, creative, and opportunistic is going to win the games. (Also, Amarikwa made up for the whiff by converting an equally impressive bike in the reserve match on Sunday morning.) It said more, too, that it was a substitute that was making this sort of tone-setting play.

Amarikwa has impressed Fire fans in his cameos this season because of his work rate, willingness to take defenders on, and his creative spontaneity on the ball (even if that means sometimes he holds onto it for a bit too long). Those were exactly the traits the Fire needed to get maximum points at home on Saturday, a critical result that leaves the team now just two points out of a playoff spot. Even though he didn’t have the impact on the game, Amarikwa's work was symbolic of that of the whole team.

In the third game in eight days, with Mike Magee and Chris Rolfe day-to-day, Patrick Nyarko out, Dilly Duka picking up a new knock every game, new DP Juan Luis Anangono acclimating to MLS, Logan Pause coming back from injury, and the pressure for points greater than it’s been all season following Wednesday’s Open Cup exit, the Fire came out on Saturday with a new look to them.

BTL: Fire 2.0 earns key point in Houston

As two deeper lying midfielders, Pause and Larentowicz haven’t found their rhythm together this season, but this time Frank Klopas put them out with Alex (who took the spot when Pause got injured) pushed forward with Anangono. The wide players were the same (Joel Lindpere and Duka), but the seemingly minor adjustment of adding Pause and pushing Alex farther forward actually provided the Fire the first fresh tactical look seen since the spring.

And it was a solid system, too, because it morphed from a 4-5-1 with Alex dropping deeper during periods of Montreal possession, into the usual Fire 4-4-2 when the Fire won the ball, with Alex pushing on into space with Anangono. They worked well together on certain fast breaks; Anangono showed that he’s not afraid to make lung-busting runs to clear out space for others. But as much as the system provided some necessary defensive support without sacrificing the slingshot counterattacking Klopas loves, the game was always going to be decided by the players stepping up into the spaces left by Nyarko, Magee, and Rolfe.

Klopas couldn't have asked for a better response from Lindpere and Duka, the two creative wide players who have fought for their playing time all season, and who scored the two goals. They took their chances (and a bit of luck), but they also held the ball, moved the team forward, tracked back, and generally kept the pace of the game far above the revolting one we saw on Wednesday night.

Saturday night showed the Fire’s depth and flexibility in personnel, tactics, and mindset, and it was Amarikwa’s bike that showed the Fire’s potential for style and spontaneity. If this team is going to complete this massive comeback into playoff contention, it’s as much the creativity as it is the grit that’s going to take them there and it’ll have to come not just from the superstars and leaders, but from everyone on the team. 

Ben Schuman-Stoler is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @bsto.

10 August 11:54 pm
Quote Sheet
Chicago Fire vs. Montreal Impact
Toyota Park – August 10, 2013
 
Frank Klopas, Chicago Fire Head Coach
 
On the win today
 
“All the credit to my players. I think everybody had written us off for the start but it’s not how you start it’s how you finish. Early on things didn’t go our way, obviously we had some injuries but this team has never given up on our goal, on our focus. This was just a massive game. We’ve been in this spot before and obviously we didn’t take advantage of it to be .500 and now you’re running out of games and they’re massive games, we need points, we are right there and I give all the credit and commitment of the group that in the difficult moments, which are always important because those are the moments that you learn not when things are going your way. It was a massive, important, huge win. Credit to my players that have never given up and that never will until the end. Now we just have to move ahead, it’s a good feeling but the commitment has to be even more from everyone in order to reach our goal.”
 
On the importance of the early goals, even with the top Fire players out
 
“If you look at the statistics, when we score first we are a difficult team. Not just us, but on the road. We are playing against a very difficult team especially defensively and I think we scored some very good goals early on but I think if we were a little bit better with the ball, because we did get in good spots, I think we could have been a little bit more dangerous. I think that in transition opportunities we needed to look to play forward. We addressed that at halftime and look, third game in 8 days. You saw the guys that a little bit maybe second half there were moments when they were running a little bit out of gas but it was their will that got them through and stuck together and being at home with our great fans obviously that was a huge help. The two goals did help for sure. Our goal was to get a clean sheet and it didn’t happen but Sean made some big saves in the end and we defended well.”
 
On the forward combo of Anangono and Alex
 
“They were very good. That’s where Alex is more comfortable playing a little bit higher up the field. Juan brought something different. I think physically he’s suited for the league. He has pace, he looks to run behind, we did a lot of stuff in the final third with him and Alex as far as the movement we needed from the forwards. We had a little bit of trouble in the midfield, they were dropping [Hernan] Bernardello deep, we had to address that issue but I thought it was good. They created chances, they were dangerous, and it’s the first game, it’s only going to get better. We have some depth there and that’s good when you miss some key players. Its’ about the team coming in and winning a massive game.”
 
On if the Fire are peaking at the right time
 
“We definitely have the quality and the depth in the team. I think last year, when you look at the playoff game it came down to little things and I think now all these game and the experience we got last year in those playoff games those little things really matter. Now everything gets a little bit tighter. With the addition of, Juan is going to help, but also a guy like Rios. He’s an unbelievable quality player and it speaks volumes of the commitment. Everybody can talk shit and everything about the commitment of our owner, excuse my language, to bring a guy like that at this point because this is a world class player and I can guarantee you a lot of teams, a lot of teams, would not have made that commitment but it’s all about winning. He’s been there, we haven’t always gotten it right. This guy’s a world-class player. We made the commitment we said ‘this is the guy, bring him’ and he brings depth, leadership, and all that stuff so that’s what it’s all about. We’ll see, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but we definitely have the quality right now and the depth to make a strong push. I know the group is committed and they are going to leave everything on the field, and that’s what it’s all about. At the end of it it’s a game and we have to enjoy it too.”
 
On Dilly Duka’s injury and how it affects the team out wide
 
“I think with him and Patrick [Nyarko] obviously the pace and our ability to go one-on-one just create so many opportunities because when you look at the game its basically you’re one-on-one duos. Can you create advantage? I think those guys with the ball at their feet can a lot of times create those advantages because they’re so good one-on-one, they have pace, but it’s about the depth. Joel, again, when he’s called to step in he’s done great. He scored a big goal, worked hard defensively. Look, we have to rely on everyone but the good thing everybody is healthy and is ready. I mean, not everyone is healthy and ready, but I am going and keeping my fingers crossed.”
 
On what happened to Duka’s leg
 
“It’s his ankle, we will see better tomorrow. I think he rolled it, he was icing and stuff. I don’t think it’s serious, but with the stretch of games you’ve got guys with tired legs and it is what it is. Massive win and we will deal with the injuries.”
 
On what Magee’s status is
 
“Day by day.  Day to day. I think he has a calf strain and we will see how that feels. So we will see, its day to day with him.”
 
Gonzalo Segares, Chicago Fire defender
 
On Anangono’s start:
           
“I think he was excellent today - he was putting pressure on Alessandro Nesta and [Matteo] Ferrari causing trouble and winning a lot of balls in the air, holding the ball and creating space to move the lineup.  For being his first start, I thought he was great.”
 
On all the new players coming in:
 
“Our team’s gotten a lot of new players and we need to get them acclimated to the team as soon as possible. They are quality players and they are going to help us to improve now that we are coming down the last stretch of games. We need to make a great push and it’s going to be important to take advantage of the experience that they bring.  They will be great for our team.”
 
On the defense’s performance:
 
“I think that even though we didn’t get the shutout that we wanted, the last couple of games the defense has really been holding – we bend, but we haven’t been breaking.”
 
On hitting .500:
 
“We’ve talked about that.  The main focus is putting pressure on the teams ahead of us like Houston, New England and Philadelphia.  With the win tonight we are right there and stepping on their toes.  We’re putting pressure on them but there’s still a lot of games left, but the motivation is still high and we need to keep pushing and fighting for a playoff spot.”
 
Chris Rolfe, Chicago Fire forward
 
On the result:
 
“This was a big game for us.  We were excited about the game and looking forward to getting a victory after the Open Cup memory and I think we did that.”
 
Dilly Duka, Chicago Fire midfielder
 
On his goal:
 
“I’m not sure who I received the ball from, but I was driving down the field, I was surrounded a bit and then it opened up in front of the keeper and I just slid it in.  I was a little fortunate, but it was a big play and it ended up being the game winner.”
 
On his injury:
 
“I tweaked my ankle.  I planted and he got my planted foot.  It’s just tweaked a little bit.  I normally tweak my ankles so it’s just a couple days and I’ll be back.”
 
Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire goalkeeper:
 
On the result:
 
“This is one where I was just trying to keep us in the game.  I thought we did well pushing the ball out wide and I was able to close the angle and make the plays.”
 
On the defense:
 
“The defense was fantastic tonight limiting chances; not only the back line but Rolfe [Chris] clearing on the line was huge, Austin [Berry] making a play sliding in closing out the ball, Baky [Soumare] biking the ball out.  I think everyone contributed tonight and that’s why we came away with three points.”
 
On being fouled by Paponi:
 
“I think it was an extremely dirty play by Paponi.  I made a good read on his touch, I got to the ball and he just went two feet into me – into my knees.  I wasn’t very happy about it, but I was able to come away and finish the play.”
 
Logan Pause, Chicago Fire midfielder
 
Thoughts on getting his first start since June 22…
 
“It feels great to be back and on the field but most importantly getting three points tonight at home, getting to .500 and continuing to climb up the ladder is the most important thing.”
 
On the work of the team missing Mike Magee and Patrick Nyarko…
 
“I think what tonight shows is the depth and quality we have in this locker room and on our roster. The guys stepped up. When guys have been called upon, you see it time and time again and they continue to step up. I’m just proud of the guys and the guys that are shifted around and maybe in different roles. We’re all in it to continue to move things forward and get wins to climb up the ladder.”
 
On coming back from his back injury…
 
“My back – there’s no issue there. Towards the end of the game of course I was a little tired. That’s to be expected and I got through it and I think it’ll just continue to build the more minutes I play.”
 
On the amount of depth the Fire currently have on their roster…
 
“It’s one of the advantages that we have with a deep roster. We sometimes joke we have two starting teams. You look around the locker room at guys that aren’t playing and there are a lot of guys that would be playing on other teams. I think it’s a good thing, it’s a good problem to have for the staff and down the road as we’re going to make a push it’s going to be important.”
 
Montreal Impact Head Coach Marco Schallibaum
 
On putting more pressure on the Fire in the second half:
 
“Yes, but the result is the most important, and we lost the game.  I think the first half wasn’t too bad but we weren’t good in the offensive part.  We played good second half ball.  We needed to get the ball in their box.  The second half was good, we scored and we had a lot of chances.  The second half was very good, but we left with zero points, and that’s disappointing.”
 
On why Di Vaio didn’t get the start:
 
“No, he played Saturday, Wednesday, and I spoke to him yesterday and this morning and he was tired.  He’s not the youngest player.  It’s better than this because I don’t want to lose him because he has a problem.  He was just out because he was tired.”
 
On being frustrated only having one win in 8 games:
 
“It’s not easy to win away.  Chicago is a good team.  But we believe we can win until the end and at every game that we can come away with points to make the playoffs.  We have a good position but we needed more points today.  That’s a good thing; we have enough games to make this game up.”
 
Montreal Impact Goalkeeper Troy Perkins

On the match:
 
“A tale of two halves, really.  Almost with two teams.  We came out in the first half a little flat.  They came out and pressed us and got two goals, a little bit fortunate for them.  We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities.  The second half was the way we should have come out to begin with.”
 
On the impact of Di Vaio and Martins in the second half:
 
“We definitely went more attacking in the second half.  We have to.  You’re down 2-0 on the road, and you throw caution to the wind a little bit.  It definitely changed the game for us and we were much more effective I think.”
 
On what was said at halftime:
 
“That it just wasn’t good enough for us.  We know it wasn’t good enough for us.  That’s basically what was said.  We had to come out and we had 45 minutes to make up for it.”
 
On feeling like the team could have equalized in the second half:
 
“I think we deserve a point from it.  I think we are a little unfortunate not to as well.  That’s the way this league is.  In five minutes, it makes a game.”
 
Montreal Impact Midfielder Justin Mapp
 
On the differences between the first and second halves:
 
“We came out a little flat, I think.  We gave up two kind of soft goals.  We were behind the eight ball.  I still thought we have some decent possession in the first half.  But in second half we had the possession [of the match].  Plus we were dangerous.  We pulled a goal closer, but we couldn’t quite get the second one to tie it up.  The guys battled.  I thought we were the better team.  Unfortunately points wise, it didn’t indicate that.”
 
On Montreal controlling the possession of the game:
 
“Yeah, sometimes possession doesn’t necessarily get you goals, which is ultimately what you need.  On the score sheet, they scored two and whether or not we had possession, that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
 
On feeling like they deserve to get a point:
 
“I think we definitely deserved it.  Like I said, I thought we were the better team on the night.  But on the score sheet, they scored two and we only got one, so it’s frustrating and it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.  The guys played hard and I thought we played some good soccer at times.”
10 August 11:25 pm

Select shots from the Fire's 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact

CREDIT: Brian Kersey Chicago Fire

09 August 9:42 am

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The #cf97 hashtag exploded on Twitter Thursday night with news that Uruguayan international midfielder Arévalo Rios was headed to the Chicago Fire.

Though no official annoucement has been made, Rios arrived to Toyota Park for training Friday morning and is expected to officially be added to the team once the Fire clear an international roster spot.

Where would the international spot come from? 

Fire President of Soccer Operations Javier Leon has been public about the club seeking a loan for Dutch forward Sherjill MacDonald.

Italian back-up goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi is reportedly close to securing a green card

Should those two moves occur, the Fire would free up two of their six current international spots, making way for the veteran of Uruguay's 2010 World Cup squad to be added to the roster.

More to come on Rios' Windy City arrival later on Chicago-Fire.com.

 

09 August 8:38 am

After a lackluster performance in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal loss earlier this week, the Fire must pick themselves up for Saturday’s crucial Eastern Conference match against Montreal on Saturday evening at Toyota Park (LIVE 7pm CT on My50). The Impact are still sitting pretty in third place in the East and also played at midweek, beating San Jose 1-0 in CONCACAF Champions League play.

Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective.

Starting stronger – better tempo from the Fire

Jeff Larentowicz summed up the game against D.C. well when asked how it compared to the 4-1 loss against the same opponent just weeks ago. He astutely observed, “The difference between this game and the last time we played them is that we scored early.”

This might sound overly simplistic, but an early goal and a good start is extremely important.

In Wednesday’s match, the team were positive in the opening exchanges but then allowed D.C. to set the tempo. Against Montreal this weekend, the Fire must come out of the gates quickly and play a very high-tempo game.

READ: NYARKO UNAVAILABLE FOR SATURDAY'S MATCH VS. MONTREAL

In Montreal’s last game against D.C., the Red and Black had a very good opening 30 minutes and created a lot of chances. D.C.’s high-tempo start clearly caught Montreal off guard and it took the Canadian team a while to find their rhythm.

The Fire had a great start against Philly last weekend, scoring in the ninth minute. A repeat of that could put the Fire on course to picking up three more precious points Saturday night.

Attacking Montreal on the outside – wide play important

Against D.C. last weekend, Montreal looked vulnerable in the wide areas, especially when United got their wingbacks forward.

WATCH: Athletico Coaching Corner

The Fire are very good at allowing Gonzalo Segares and Jalil Anibaba to get forward and help in the attack, especially at home. I look for this to happen as often as possible against the Impact.

The advancement of the wing-backs also allows the Fire wingers to come into the middle and provide support to the strikers.

With the potential absence to Patrick Nyarko after Wednesday’s head injury, the team will be relying on Joel Lindpere and Dilly Duka to have big games Saturday night.

Keeping an eye on Justin Mapp – former Fire player finding his groove in Canada

Like Dominic Oduro, many Chicago Fire fans are torn over former winger Justin Mapp. He is certainly one of the most frustrating players to ever wear the badge but his skill and talent was there for all to see.

After leaving the Fire, Mapp had two quiet years in Philly but has flourished in Montreal’s 4-3-3 system, playing in one of the advanced wide positions, tallying two goals and four assists for the Impact this season.

Mapp is comfortable on both wings and is a very good crosser of the ball. He also likes to cut inside from the wing and combine with Patrice Bernier, Davy Arnaud and Felipe.  

BUY TICKETS FOR SATURDAY'S MATCH VS. MONTREAL

Though he might not be the fastest player on the field, Mapp is also very dangerous in the open field, often starting counter attacks for the Impact or looking for through balls to Marco Di Vaio.

Fire fans will also remember that the 28-year-old is very good in 1v1 situations and it will be up to players like Alex and Larentowicz to support the outside defenders and double team him whenever possible.

Mapp is not a physical player and can sometimes be “kicked” out of a game. Limiting the amount of time he has on the ball will be important for the Fire and a physical approach might be the answer.

Prediction: 1-0 Fire with a goal from Joel Lindpere.

08 August 12:19 am
Frank Klopas, Chicago Fire Head Coach
 
On the game today
 
“I don’t think the team was that different but it’s a tough loss. Obviously, a great opportunity at home Wednesday night playing at home, the fan support was fantastic. Sometimes it’s one of those games where those little things don’t go our way. Obviously the goals given up late and then the start…but we pushed and we had some chances that didn’t go in but what are you going to do. Definitely it’s going to hurt us tonight and for tomorrow we have to regroup and now really focus on the league because we’re right there and some big games are coming up to put ourselves in a spot in the playoffs.”
 
On what D.C. did differently today
 
“I don’t think they were that different. Pretty much their back line was the same other than Jakovic. We played this team before the way they were. I just think the little things went our way [in the last game vs. D.C.]. Obviously this was their whole season they put into this.  I think our guys were ready, we competed, for sure Patrick [Nyarko] coming out I think at that moment with his head injury had a little bit of effect with his ability with pace to stretch the team. We were a little bit different [after he came out]. Look, we had chances and sometimes it doesn’t go your way but I am proud of the group. It’s disappointing right now, obviously a great opportunity one more game to go to the final. We talked about it, we put a lot into it, and it’s going to be a hard night but tomorrow it’s a new day and we have to move on and get ready for Montreal.”
 
Gonzalo Segares, Chicago Fire defender
 
On D.C.’s first goal:
           
“The goal they scored was unfortunate, then we were fighting from 1-0 behind to get back into the game.”
 
On Pat Nyarko coming off early:
 
“I think that was key.  Patrick [Nyarko]was creating a lot of danger over there, he and Dilly [Duka] are very dangerous players – we had a lot of opportunity on the flanks, and having Patrick come off was one the keys for them, even for us.  Losing a guy like Patrick is definitely a tough situation and made a difference, that’s for sure.”
 
On D.C.’s motivation to win this game:
 
“Every game is different, because their season has gone so badly, so they have extra motivation to get into the Finals.  Today they were the better team and took advantage of their chances and that’s what made the difference.”
 
On putting the loss behind them to prepare for Saturday:
 
“It’s always tough to lose in the semifinals, we always take this seriously.  From the first game we played we used the starting line-up, and every single game had the starting line-up so that shows how seriously we take it.  We were pretty excited to come out today to try and get a win and go on to the Final.  Unfortunately, it didn’t happen and now we have to turn around, lift up our heads and tomorrow get ready for Montreal.  We are still in the hunt for the playoffs and we have a key game on Saturday on short rest and we have to be mentally ready for sure.
 
Jeff Larentowicz, Chicago Fire midfielder
 
On the difference in D.C.’s play from the last time they played each other:
 
“The difference between this game and the last time we played them is that we scored early.  It was a tight half – this is a different game, it’s a cup game, so it’s probably going to be tighter. I thought it was even in the first half, they scored on a mistake.  Then in the second half I don’t know how we don’t score.  They scored on a deflected shot, I thought they were a little fortunate tonight, but overall I thought it was fairly even.”
 
On Nyarko’s injury:
 
“Pat’s [Nyarko] a dangerous player. Even in the period he was on the field he was dangerous. Joel’s a very good player and a dangerous player, a different type of player, but I don’t think it was a big difference.”
 
Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire goalkeeper:
 
On the first goal and contact:
 
“Yes [there was contact], I think he did a good job getting in position where he could challenge.  Looking back, I should have probably just punched through it.  I thought I could have collected it, I thought I got a good jump, but there was a little bit of contact between me and the ball at the same time.  Credit to him, I should have just punched it away, I should have done better.”
07 August 11:08 pm

Select shots from the Fire's 2-0 loss to D.C. United

CREDIT: Brian Kersey Chicago Fire