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18 February 4:41 pm

The Fire had a lot of youth representation in Charleston this past weekend...

Five Chicago-based Academy teams, along with three from the Indiana Fire Academy and one team from the Kentucky Fire Juniors all took part in the Carolina Challenge Academy Cup this past weekend.

The Chicago-based teams did best, going a combined 13-1-3 over the weekend and taking the tournament titles at U14, U16 and U18 level.

I took a break from first team training Monday to cover the U16 and U18 games. Read my recap here and check out select shots from their matches below...

15 February 5:09 pm

As they have the previous two years, the Chicago Fire ventured to the Three Lions Pub inside Blackbaud Stadium for the 2013 Carolina Challenge Cup kickoff luncheon Friday afternoon. The Fire were joined by hosts the Charleston Battery and the Vancouver Whitecaps at the luncheon while Saturday's opponents Houston were set to arrive into the Palmetto State later on Friday.

As I walked around admiring the wall-to-wall memorabilia inside the pub, I realized there were more than a few reunions occuring in the room...

First off was Fire assistant coach Mike Matkovich catching up with defender Jay DeMerit. Matkovich led the Fire PDL side when DeMerit played for it in 2001 and even appeared in "Rise & Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story" to talk about his memories of Jay...

A little further down the way, I spotted a Tottenham reunion as Fire trialist Pascal Chimbonda met up with Whitecaps defender Young-Pyo Lee. The two often manned the defensive flanks together for Spurs while at White Hart Lane from 2006-2008.

Finally, just as I turned around, I spotted Fire midfielder Daniel Paladini talking to his former manager and current Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie. The Scotsman was the one that brough Paladini to the second division Carolina RailHawks from Chivas USA in 2009 where the pair would spend two seasons together.

To finish the pleasantries Rennie, Fire head coach Frank Klopas and Battery manager Mike Anhaeuser did the annual trophy photo-op.

On to Saturday's first doubleheader featuring the Chicago Fire taking on the Houston Dynamo (if they show) at 4pm CT on Chicago-Fire.com. The Battery will host the Whitecaps in the second game at 6:15pm CT.

15 February 8:27 am

Was nice to wake up to this news this morning that U.S. international and current Aston Villa  first-choice 'keeper Brad Guzan would like to return to MLS one day and potentially suit up for his hometown Chicago Fire.

A product of Homer Glen, Ill., Guzan was quoted as saying, "Hopefully, I will get the opportunity, when I’m finished playing in Europe, to go back and play in it. 

"Especially being from Chicago, which has a team. I’d love to go back and play for the Chicago Fire in front of friends and family. That would be pretty neat.”

Guzan of course teamed with current Fire forward Chris Rolfe on the Chicago Fire PDL side that went a near perfect 17-1-0 en route to the league's regular season championship that year.

Having played two seasons at the University of South Carolina, Guzan left college to sign with MLS and was picked second overall by Chivas USA in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft.

At just 28 years old and with the Fire having a 'keeper in Sean Johnson who is nipping at his heels for the number two spot with the U.S., Guzan won't likely return stateside anytime soon but would likely be a welcome addition for many a Fire fan down the road...

 

13 February 7:05 pm

Touching down in Charleston earlier today, the team ate lunch and took in a bit of the Real Madrid/Manchester United Champions League match before heading out to their first training session in the Palmetto State.

Due to heavy rain in the area the past few days, the team's regular spot at Charleston Southern University wasn't in shape for a session so the squad ended up at Blackbaud Stadium's Training Field.

With this being our third straight year to Blackbaud, I've often wondered about the adjacent field which has the stadium on one side and a pond on the other... I wondered because when I saw it before, it had warnings about potential alligators.

Well, today I wondered no more as one of the resident gators (lets call him Charlie) was there to greet us and watch the entire 90-minute training session from just behind one of the goals. Luckily, everyone's shots were very accurate and on frame today...

Check out this video of the players reaction to Charlie and photos from day one of training below...

PHOTOS: Day 1 of Training in Charleston, South Carolina

 

08 February 5:43 pm

After nearly a month with the U.S. Men's National Team, was good to see Sean Johnson return to Fire camp Thursday night.

This morning, he went through his first training session of 2013 with the team and got a bit of a workout from Goalkeeping Coach Aron Hyde with the reaction ball...

WATCH: Sean and the Reaction Ball

More from Sean on Saturday!

08 February 12:46 pm

Miss Fire head coach Frank Klopas' in-depth chat with Dave Kaplan last night?

Our friends at CSNChicago.com have the interview archived in four parts here:

Klopas Inside Look: Part 1

Klopas Inside Look: Part 2

Klopas Inside Look: Part 3

Klopas Inside Look: Part 4

 

08 February 9:15 am

Earlier this week, the club released the news that Chris Rolfe would return to wearing the number 17 while Steven Kinney would fill the number 18 shirt in 2013 for the Fire. Today, we announce a few more number changes, this time with three offseason acquisitions…

A new midfield partnership for Joel Lindpere and Jeff Larentowicz in Chicago has at least in part brought along with it new numbers than those the pair have previously ever worn.

Having worn 20 during his three seasons at Red Bull, Lindpere will now suit up in the number 26 this year for the Fire. He says switching number has actually been part of the routine whenever he’s joined a new club.

“I’ve been a different number at every club I’ve been to. It’s always sort of like a new beginning for me,” he joked.

PERUSE: TrueCar Chicago Fire Player Registry

In reality, he also selected 26 out of respect for Fire players that have been with the club longer than him.

“I chose it because I knew some of the other guys that had been here for a while were choosing new numbers. I wanted to just pick a number no one else would -- it was one no one had worn in a while at the Fire and now it’s mine.”

NOTE: Previous #26s in Fire History: Mike Sorber (2000), Amos Magee (2001), Billy Walsh (2002), Denny Clanton (2004), Andy Herron (2006, 2008).

Having worn numbers 31 and 13 while with New England and number 4 while with the Colorado Rapids, Larenowicz is changing it up again by choosing the number 20.

Much like Lindpere, it was about starting a new in Chicago…

 “I think it’s a good looking number,” said Larentowicz. “I’ve never worn it before and moving to Chicago I was looking for a fresh start and I didn’t want to feel or look like I did in the past.”

NOTE: Previous #20s in Fire History: Francis Okaroh (1998-99), Jamar Beasley (2001), Sergi Daniv (2002), Orlando Perez (2003-04), Tony Sanneh (2005-06), Mike Banner (2008), Brian McBride (2008-10), Tony Walls (2012)

The more things change, the more they stay the same as Brazilian forward Maicon Santos will stick with the number 29 that he’s worn with previous MLS clubs Chivas USA, Toronto FC and D.C. United.

NOTE: Previous #29s in Fire History: Thiago (2005), Peter Lowry (2008-2009).

GALLERY: The #20s, #26s and #29s in Chicago Fire History

 

07 February 7:34 pm

Chicago Fire goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi seems to be in fine form after offseason surgery to repair his pinkie finger.

Check out this video of a drill from a few days ago where Paolo shows fine form on a few stops (special thanks to James Belshaw for stepping right in front of me there too...)

07 February 12:56 pm

A quiet hangs over Toyota Park. A grey monochrome colors the morning sky and a slushy snow blankets the ground. It’s winter in Chicago.
 
Behind the brick façade and deep in the bowels, a solitary figure works diligently to make-ready one of Toyota Park’s most renowned features – the field. It’s been 99 days since the Toyota Park pitch saw action and Toyota Park Turf Manager Eric Adkins has #cf97withdrawals.
 
Only 30 days until Opening Night at Toyota Park.
 
Don’t worry, Eric and his crew will have the pitch ready.