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24 February 2:26 pm

With the recent announcement of Major League Soccer's Jersey Week, a lot has been raised regarding the club's plans for future kits as well as a potential third jersey. We at Always on the Inside caught up with the club's Chief Operating Officer Atul Khosla to shed some light on future jersey plans. 

Always on the Inside: MLS announced that as part of a league initiative a number of clubs would be participating in a Jersey Week celebration kicking off on Monday, Feb. 25. What does that mean for Fire supporters?

Atul Khosla: The league is moving to a yearly jersey launch cycle, where every club will roll out a new jersey each year.  It will rotate, primary/home one year, secondary/away the next year.  Therefore, each jersey is in market for a total of two years. This new approach allows a fresh product in market every year. Since the Fire launched both new kits last year, we are on an off cycle this year, similar to a number of other teams. As of next year, we will be back on cycle, and we will launch a new home kit.

PERUSE: Chicago Fire Jersey History

AOTI: Can you talk about the merchandise progress the club has made in the past few years and how you see it developing further?

AK: We want to see Chicago Fire jerseys everywhere in Chicagoland. We want people to represent our club by wearing our colors in the community, at games and around town.  It’s been a key for us to grow our merchandise and we’ve seen success over the past three years because of a number of factors.  

First was design. We have tried to refresh the product line, bring back some original Chicago touches, and at the same time push the envelope in being edgier with our brand. As part of these strides the club has built a Fan Shop at Toyota Park, grown its online presence and built a partnership with Fanatics, Inc.. It has also been key for us to integrate merch and our products throughout our marketing efforts, on television and at the stadium. These actions have resulted in solid growth and we now have to continue to build on it.

AOTI: It’s a question that is raised from time to time from some Fire supporters, what’s going on with the Chicago Fire flag third kit?

AK: We hear and understand the request from some of our supporter base for a third Fire kit, especially one that from a design standpoint has strong ties to the city of Chicago. This is precisely why over the past few years we have added key Chicago elements to our uniforms. Starting in 2010 the club worked closely with adidas to have the four, six-sided stars of the Chicago flag adorn the bottom left of the white secondary/away tops.

The current secondary/away kit includes a number of elements from the Chicago flag including horizontal lines that are created by using the stripes and four stars from the civic flag representing Fort Dearborn, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 and the Century of Progress Exposition of 1933. These details  were created to pay homage to the city and the club’s origins. I believe it’s the first time outside of a third kit that our jerseys have ever had the municipal flag woven into the design.There is tremendous and deep civic pride, and the Club will continue to build on the traditions of soccer, our supporters, our club and Chicago.  

AOTI: With that said, are you saying that Fire doesn't need a third kit?

AK: No. What I am saying is that the primary reason for creating a third kit would be to engage our fans in a unique way.  Also, we need to take into account the practical considerations of the true demand for this product so we can meet the minimum requirements from adidas before we place the order.  Since we just released new kits last year, we wanted to focus on our new designs and pace things appropriately to avoid flooding the market. 

The most successful way to create a third kit, is for us to collaborate with our supporters, get everyone energized, and create the demand.  In order to initiate this movement, in the coming weeks we will be launching a social campaign asking supporters to help us design a potential third kit, vote for their favorites, and then rally each other to make a commitment by putting a deposit down.  

Stay tuned to Chicago-Fire.com and our social channels.  We need everyone's support to make this happen and are excited to collaborate with you and create something we can all be proud of. 

23 February 11:51 am

Just 14 days until Opening Night at Toyota Park and today we feature the Fire's #14 Patrick Nyarko.

One of the most underrated players in Major League Soccer, Nyarko has been a terror for full backs throughout MLS since coming into the league in 2008. Even when it seems like a play is lost, his the Ghanaian attacker's quick feet aid in keeping things alive for the Fire.

Nyarko has led the team in assists each of the past three seasons, tallying 26 since 2010, while his goal-scoring prowess also improved last season, with a career high four goals from out wide.

With 130 regular season appearances to his name, Nyarko broke into the club's top 15 list last season and having made 64 appearances the last two seasons, seems a good bet to go as high as eighth by the end of 2013.

Get tickets to see Pat begin his sixth season in Chicago when the Fire welcome the New England Revolution to Toyota Park on Saturday, March 9 at 6:30pm.

WATCH: Patrick Nyarko Highlights

22 February 12:43 pm

On last week’s All-In Podcast, Eunice Kim and I talked about the launch of the 2013 Fire Fantasy League through MLSsoccer.com’s Fantasy Manager.

I'm happy to say Commissioner Kim has the league up and running at http://fantasy.mlssoccer.com

Vie for bragging rights with myself, Eunice and  and other Fire fans in the Official Fire Fantasy League this year where we’ll have prizes every month for the squad with the most points and an overall prize for the winner at the end other 2013 season!

We’ll even recognize the league’s highest point earner every week on the podcast (we might also talk trash to each other...)

Head to http://fantasy.mlssoccer.com, pick your team, check out the scoring system and rules and then join our Private League using code: 7609-1547

22 February 8:15 am

Even if its a preseason tournament, its nice to see the Fire atop these standings:

 

Team GP W L D Pts. GF GA GD
Chicago Fire 2 2 0 0 6 5 3 +2
Houston Dynamo 2 1 1 0 3 4 4 0
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 1 1 0 3 4 4 0
Charleston Battery 2 0 2 0 0 3 5 -2

 

But as I spoke to Chicago-Fire.com contributor Irish Steve Thursday about the scenarios for the team to clinch the Carolina Challenge Cup Saturday, one potential scenario had my head spinning.

To be clear, with two wins in their pocket, a draw or win in Saturday's first game vs. Vancouver (live at 4:00pm on Chicago-Fire.com) would give the Fire their first Challenge Cup title.

But should the team lose, say 1-0 to Vancouver and Houston beat Charleston by the same score in the tournament finale, the Fire, Dynamo and Whitecaps would then be tied not only on points, goal difference (first tie breaker), goals scored (second tie breaker) and goals against (third tie breaker). 

Under that scenario, the table would look like this:

 

Team GP W L D Pts. GF GA GD
Chicago Fire 3 2 1 0 6 5 4 +1
Houston Dynamo 3 2 1 0 6 5 4 +1
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 3 2 1 0 6 5 4 +1
Charleston Battery 3 0 3 0 0 3 6 -3

 

Head-to-head would be next best solution, right?

Well consider in that circumstance the Fire beat the Dynamo (3-2 win), the Dynamo beat Whitecaps FC (2-1 win) and potentially Whitecaps FC would have beaten the Fire (1-0 win), i.e., they would all share three points in the mini-group between the three MLS teams.

With the results of each matchday pairing with each other, the goal difference in the mini-group would be even but then, the next most logical tie-breaker (what I would call the seventh tie breaker) would be goals scored in the mini-group, which would potentially give Houston the title. 

 

Team GP W L D Pts. GF GA GD
Houston Dynamo 2 1 1 0 3 5 5 0
Chicago Fire 2 1 1 0 3 3 3 0
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 1 1 0 3 2 2 0

However, after speaking to Battery President Andrew Bell post-game Wednesday, it seems the tie-breaking procedures beyond goals against are pretty fuzzy...

Good reason for the Fire to take care of business against Vancouver Saturday afternoon, though I hear Frank Klopas is pretty lucky in coin flips!

Carolina Challenge Cup Results/Fixtures

Date Team Score Team
2/16/2013 Chicago Fire  3:2 Houston Dynamo
2/16/2013 Vancouver Whitecaps FC 3:2 Charleston Battery
2/20/2013 Houston Dynamo 2:1 Vancouver Whitecaps FC
2/20/2013 Chicago Fire  2:1 Charleston Battery
2/23/2013 Chicago Fire vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC
2/23/2013 Houston Dynamo vs. Charleston Battery

 

21 February 12:43 pm

Fire Preseason Check List: 

* Some good wins
* Very few injuries
* Plenty of seafood
* Seeing team bond
* A trip to the adidas outlet for some new kicks
* A new found appreciation for salad

These have all been accomplished. Though as we come to the end of preseason, it occurred to me that not one prank has taken place.

Thankfully, Wells Thompson came through after last night's game and Michael Videira was there to capture it for us...

Sega assures me he's planning his revenge. Stay tuned, our last days in Charleston could be interesting...

21 February 12:07 pm

Last August I wrote about Reid Strain, a forward out of the Fire U18 Youth Academy team who earned the chance of a lifetime when he was called up for the Puerto Rican senior team in their 2-1 friendly loss to World and European champions Spain.

Though he didn't play in that match, Strain appears to be a budding star in the Puerto Rican setup and tallied another goal for the nation's U-20 side this week during CONCACAF World Cup qualifying in Puebla, Mexico.

Trailing 1-0 to Jamaica on Tuesday, Strain tallied the 22nd minute equalizer below before the Reggae Boyz hit back with three second half goals to win 4-1. 

WATCH: Reid Strain tallies for Puerto Rico U-20s

21 February 7:32 am

Now just 16 days away from Opening Night vs. the New England Revolution at Toyota Park, today we look at #16 Marco Pappa's first goal in a Fire shirt which came on Opening Day 2009.

Pappa of course joined the Fire on loan from Gutemalan side Muncipal in July 2008 but didn't make much of an impact as he adjusted to MLS in his first season.

With a new season ahead of him on this rainy and cold day at Toyota Park, Pappa warmed up Fire fans by taking advantage of Luke Sassano's misplayed header to first-time his volley off both posts before being ruled a goal in a 1-0 victory over New York.

Little did we know that the first goal of his Fire career would be a sign of things to come with his next 25...

Watch below and make sure to get your tickets to Opening Night on March 9 when the Chicago Fire welcome the New England Revolution to Toyota Park. 

WATCH: Marco Pappa's Debut Goal for the Fire

20 February 11:23 pm
Select shots from Wednesday's 2-1 victory over the Charleston Battery...
 

19 February 7:29 am

...the Chicago Fire acquire Czech World Cup veteran Lubos Kubik via MLS player allocation.

Having already begun to build the basis of the 1998 double-winning squad by securing the likes of Zach Thornton, Francis Okaroh, Diego Gutierrez (1997 Expansion Draft), Peter Nowak (player allocation), Jesse Marsch (trade with D.C.), Chris Armas (trade with LA) and C.J. Brown (Supplemental Draft), the Fire made another big splash by signing the former Czech international.

Widely considered one of the best all-time defenders in MLS, Kubik would go on to be the lynchpin in the back for the early Fire squads, being named MLS Defender of the Year in 1998 and becoming a two-time choice to the league’s First XI (1998-99). He also proved vital in helping to win the club's first three domestic titles (1998 MLS Cup, 1998, 2000 U.S. Open Cups)

PERUSE: TrueCar Player Registry

Sixteen years on from his signing, Kubik remains the most offensive defender in Fire history, tallying 19 goals and 25 assists in 88 competitive matches from 1998-2002 (current Fire player Gonzalo Segares is second with 12 goals and 16 assists in 206 competitive games). He was especially instrumental in the team’s run to the double in 1998, scoring a combined four goals and one assist in nine U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup playoff matches.

In 2005, Kubik was selected as the third member of the Ring of Fire, joining Peter Nowak and Frank Klopas in the club’s Hall of Fame. As we celebrated our 15th anniversary last year, he was also an overwhelming selection to the list of the Top 15 players in Fire history, the #Fire15.

Na zdravi, Lubos!

WATCH: Lubos Kubik in the #Fire15

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...