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27 June 9:51 am

You ever watch our weekly web shot "The Centerback" and say to yourself, "Wow Brendan and Jeff nail it every time!"

No, you don't? Well you'd be right. Usually "The Centerback" takes us a little to get just right but that also means we can put together a pretty awesome blooper reel as well...

26 June 10:35 pm

Select shots from the Fire's 5-1 win over Orlando City SC

Credit: Brian Kersey, Chicago Fire

25 June 12:46 pm

With Arne Friedrich making a reported $300,000 for the Fire in 2013, how much does the former German international’s retirement on Sunday affect the team’s salary budget?

 

Yamith Cuesta after a Fire win in 2011

It no doubt frees up some room but according to Frank Klopas on Tuesday, there was already space there to work with.

We had planned on giving ourselves an opportunity to bring someone in even with keeping Arne. I think with Arne, we brought Baky [Soumare] in because we need to get another quality player there.

“You look at it now and it’s a long season so our ability to add depth is something we’re looking at. Regardless if this had happened or not, we’d given ourselves the opportunity to make a move if we find the right player.”

Klopas, along with Fire owner Andrew Hauptman and President of Soccer Operations Javier Leon have made no secret that they’re looking to land a significant summer signing when the transfer window opens up next month.

But along the lines of depth in the back, with only five natural defenders on the current Fire roster, perhaps Klopas is referring to former Fire defender Yamith Cuesta who began a trial with the club on Tuesday.

Having appeared in 20 regular season matches for the Fire in 2011, the 24-year-old Colombian center back has since spent his time with Spanish lower-league Conquense, Colombian Primera club America de Cali and Brazilian side Paulista.

24 June 2:03 pm

The Fire start sluggishly and give up an early goal thanks to some sloppiness. The first half runs its course with a series of dreary long balls, and very little else worth mentioning. The second half begins, the Fire come out a totally different team. They move the ball quicker. They even the game. They continue pressing. They take the lead. The second half develops into a series of counter attacks on one end and dramatic blocks, saves, and misses on the other. The game ends, the Fire players celebrate.

Sound familiar? After almost carbon copy games against Colorado and in Columbus last week (not to mention similar feeling games against Portland and RSL), the Fire games are becoming something like the works of one of those airport authors - the characters change and the setting is different, but the arc remains the same.

Not that we’re lacking any drama. These comebacks are scintillating, and we deserve it after those early games that were, frankly, difficult to watch. Now Fire games are chaotic, fun spectacles.

I was pining for a hockey-like empty netter on Saturday when all possible counterattacks flamed out and, yet again, we never got the insurance goal that would let us relax and enjoy the last few minutes of the game. Just like Wednesday against Colorado, the Fire survived Columbus thanks to some great work by Sean Johnson in goal, some miscues, and a few fortunate bounces.

Of course, every comeback is different, and this time there was no Klopas Gambit. There weren’t major changes in shape or personnel. What was different was who stepped up to change the game.

Last week we talked about Jeff Larentowicz really driving the Fire upwards, and literally the first play of the second half, the play that set the tone for the ensuing comeback, was of Larentowicz tackling Oduro hard at midfield.

But all of a sudden it looks like the Fire have depth all over the place. Players that struggled to make an impact at the beginning of the season are proving their worth. Joel Lindpere had two beautiful assists, Dilly Duka was arguably player of the game Saturday against his old team, and with Magee about as hot as a player can get, it’s no surprise the Fire are charging up the table.

VOTE: Dilly Duka for MLS Goal of the Week!

The attitude in the locker room has to be refreshing. After the game on Saturday, Magee said, “We know we can battle and we fight for each other, that’s the hardest thing in soccer.” Despite the slow starts and the stressful endings, the Fire are building something.

Let’s enjoy it with another look at Duka skinning and megging Chad Barson.

24 June 12:53 pm

What Blackhawks game?

The Chicago and Indiana Fire U-18 Academy sides kickoff the 2013 USSFDA National Playoffs Monday night at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas. @ChiFireMatch will carry live coverage of the Chicago Fire U-18s match against fellow MLS Academy Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-18s beginning at 7pm CT.

Additionally, @ChiFireMatch will live tweet all Chicago Fire Academy matches through the tournament this week.

A full schedule:

Monday, June 24
Vancouver Whitecaps U-18s 3, Chicago Fire U-18s 0
Indiana Fire U-18s 2, Chivas USA U-18s 0

Tuesday, June 25
Chicago Fire U-16s vs. Georgia United U-16s - 5:15pm CT; LIVE on @ChiFireMatch
Chicago Fire U-18s vs. PA Classics U-18s - 7:15pm CT; LIVE on @ChiFireMatch
Indiana Fire U-18s vs. De Anza Force U-18s - 9:30pm CT

Wednesday, June 26
Chicago Fire U-16s vs. Arsenal FC U-16s - 7:00pm CT; LIVE on @ChiFireMatch

Thursday, June 27
Chicago Fire U-18s vs. Houston Dynamo U-18s - 9:00am CT; LIVE on @ChiFireMatch
Indiana Fire U-18s vs. Baltimore Bays Chelsea U-18s - 11:00am CT

Friday, June 28
Chicago Fire U-16s vs. De Anza Force U-16s - 9:00am CT; LIVE on @ChiFireMatch
 

24 June 10:36 am

Sunday's announcement of Arne Friedrich's retirement was a tough one to take but the Twitterverse did a great job to pay tribute to the two-time German World Cup veteran's illustrious career.

Here are some of our favorite tweets from Sunday:

24 June 8:21 am
Get in on some small-sided soccer action on July 20 as the 3v3 LIVE tournament comes to Berens Park in Elmhurst.
 
- Teams are guaranteed a minimum of four games
- All registered players receive a 3v3 LIVE t-shirt as well as a ticket to the Chicago Fire vs. D.C. United match that night
- All championship games are to be played on the Toyota Park main field before the Fire/D.C. United game
- All additional tickets can be bought at a discounted rate at www.chicago-fire.com/3v3.
 
Registration is $240 and ends July 14! To register your team, click here.
 
 
22 June 10:54 pm

Select shots from the Fire's 2-1 win over the Crew.

Credit: USA Today Sports Images

21 June 9:01 am

If you've paid attention to Victor Pineda's story over the last year, you'll know that just making the U.S. U-20 roster was a challenge.

The Fire's original Homegrown player came close to making his competitive debut at the end of 2012 before a meniscus injury sidelined him through much of this year's preseason.

Ever resilient, Pineda recovered in time to join the U.S. U-20s and will hopefully take the field when Tab Ramos' side opens up the FIFA World Youth Championships Friday vs. Spain in Istanbul, Turkey (LIVE 1pm CT on ESPN2).

Yanks Abroad's Brian Sciaretta wrote this excellent piece on Pineda's road to Turkey.

21 June 7:54 am

The Men in Red extended their unbeaten streak to six games across all competitions on Wednesday night (4-0-2), coming behind to defeat the Colorado Rapids 2-1. Columbus notched a big win against Montreal last time out and face difficult trips to Kansas City and LA after the Saturday’s home game against the Fire.

Here are some things to keep an eye on from a tactical perspective in this big match for both teams (LIVE Saturday 6:30pm CT on My50).

The turnover game - both teams will look to pressure each other’s back line

In the Crew’s most recent loss to the Union earlier this month, the Ohio team had major problems retaining possession when put under pressure. The Union forwards, especially Jack McInerny, did not allow Columbus time on the ball and the pressure led to Philly getting on the score sheet.

Johnson, Rolfe Preview Columbus

As we know, players like Mike Magee, Chris Rolfe and Patrick Nyarko are excellent at putting pressure on the opponent’s defense and this will be important on Saturday night.

On the other side of the coin, the Crew like to deploy the high pressure tactic too, with former Fire player Dominic Oduro often hunting down defenders and not allowing them time on the ball.

READ: Berry recovers from blunder with winning goal vs. Rapids

In the Crew's 2-0 win over the Montreal Impact last weekend, Oduro stole the ball from a Montreal defender before slotting home the Crew's second goal in the 22nd minute.

Fire defender Austin Berry had an unfortunate incident in Wednesday's match against Colorado where he was stripped of the ball allowing rookie Deshorn Brown to give Colorado the lead.

In a game that is expected to be very tight, the team making the least mental mistakes could end up on top.

The battle on the left side - Duka/Lindpere vs Anor

Columbus winger Bernardo Anor won many plaudits for his performance against Montreal last week on his first start back from a horrible ACL injury.

The left-footed Venezuelan started on the right against the Impact and will be looking to build on that performance against the Fire Saturday night.

On the same side of the field, coach Frank Klopas will be choosing between former Crew winger Dilly Duka and veteran Joel Lindpere for the start.

Dan and Kevin Talk Crew

Duka played his best game for the Men in Red against Colorado on Wednesday night as he was able to get in 1v1 situations on numerous occasions and earned the penalty that equalized the match.

Lindpere has yet to fully live up to the high expectations put on him by Fire fans after his move from New York this offseason.

With the team in the middle of a 4 games in 11 day stretch, a start for Lindpere seems plausible.

Getting back into the stating XI in a huge Eastern Conference showdown could be the perfect motivation for Lindpere to put in a man of the match performance on Saturday night.

Dominic Oduro - A striker with a point to prove

With seven goals to his name this season, Dominic Oduro has landed on his feet in Columbus after his trade away from the Windy City. Oduro also seems to have developed into a more complete striker since his move.

The speedy Ghanaian’s patience on the ball has resulted in him making better decisions and linking with his midfielders more instead of going alone and trying to score.

What has impressed me about Oduro since the trade is his move away from a reliance on his right foot to a player that is comfortable shooting with both.

READ: The Influence of Jeff Larentowicz

Fire fans will remember Oduro's hot and cold finishing but on his day, he can be unstoppable. The Fire have held Oduro scoreless in two matches already this season but at home, the Ghanaian will be aiming to prove a point and it is up to the Fire defenders to keep him quiet on Saturday night.

Prediction: 2-1 Fire with a brace from midfielder Alex

Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @irish_steve.