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26 August 9:04 am

Lets be honest, with the Men in Red losing 4-2 at DC on Wednesday and being the only MLS team with this weekend off, you had a little bit of concern regarding where the team would be sitting come Monday morning.

Luckily for the Fire, teams from north of the border made this idle weekend a reasonably good one (if not tighter) heading into next Sunday's all-important home clash vs. Houston. 

A quick wrap up of weekend results that have to do with the Eastern Conference playoff race...

Montreal Impact 3, DC United 0

Highlights: Montreal 3, D.C. United 0

Riding off their 4-2 defeat of the Fire at midweek, DC United visited the Montreal Impact in a Saturday afternoon matinee. Despite their result on Wednesday, the game marked United's third in six days (forcing Ben Olsen to bring starters Dwayne De Rosario, Chris Pontius and Branco Boskovic off the bench) and came against an Impact side that has taken 10 of its 12 victories at home this season. 

Longtime Canadian international Patrice Bernier stole the show on the day, setting up Marco Di Vaio's 24th minute goal before talllying a 50th minute penalty and icing the match with his second goal deep into second half stoppage time.

United rarely threatened and saw their best chance come in the 78th minute when Troy Perkins thwarted Marcelo Saragosa from close range.

With the victory, Montreal (12-13-3; 39pts.) moves within one point of DC (12;9-4; 40pts.) for the final playoff spot in the East but time isn't on their side. With 28 games played, Jesse Marsch's team has taken the field more than any other MLS team this season and will likely need 12-15 points from their remaining matches, plus get a little help along the way to become just the third expansion team in league history to qualify for the playoffs in their inaugural year.

Good omen for Jesse, he was part of the first one that did it...

UP NEXT: More games with playoff implications as DC continues its torrid stretch, playing their fourth game in 10 days when they host New York on Wednesday, August 29 (7pm CT; Galavision) while Montreal visits upstart Columbus next Saturday, September 1 (6:30pm CT; MLS Live, Direct Kick)

Columbus Crew 4, New England Revolution 3

HIGHLIGHTS: Columbus 4, New England 3

This is the one that didn't go our way, though from the early-going, things looked good when some sloppy defending from the Crew saw Ryan Guy and Jerry Bengtson put the Revs up 2-0 inside 23 minutes. 

Showing the inconsistent nature of New England this season, the Crew took the lead though even before halftime as two stunning free kicks from Columbus DP Federico Higuain sandwiched around a Jairo Arrieta finish to take the home side into the half up 3-2.  Yes Fire fans, Higuain is the real deal and Crew head coach Robert Warzycha knows it.

New England stabilized at the break and would pull things level in the 81st minute when Lee Ngyuen sent substitute goalkeeper Matt Lampson the wrong way on a penalty kick. The Crew would have the last laugh minutes later as Arrieta ran onto Tony Tchani's through ball into the box and poked his second goal of the night past Matt Reis, ending a wild night of scoring at Crew Stadium.

Though there was little doubt New England's (6-14-5; 23pts.) season was over, this one hammered the coffin shut while the victory extended Columbus' (10-8-6; 36pts.) unbeaten run to four matches and kept the Crew within three points of sixth place Montreal and four behind DC for the final playoff spot in the East.

UP NEXT: Both teams are back in action Wednesday when the Crew will hope to win their third straight as they visit Philadelphia (7pm CT; MLS Live, Direct Kick) while New England will hope to snap their eight-match winless run when they welcome Chivas USA to Gillette Stadium (7pm CT; MLS Live, Direct Kick).

Houston Dynamo 1, Toronto FC1 

With Toronto well at the bottom of the East, any points they can take from higher teams helps a lot. This game marked midfielder Ricardo Clark's first appearance since returning to the Dynamo from stints in Germany and Norway and also provided a good view into the current form of the Fire's next two league opponents.

(HIGHLIGHTS)

Houston would take the lead in the 21st minute when forward Will Bruin ran on to Boniek Garcia's ball out of midfield before chipping onrushing TFC 'keeper Freddy Hall. The Dynamo threatened for the second goal throughout and would end the game witha  14-8 shots advantage but surrendered the equalizer and two points in the 84st minute when sloppy marking at the back saw Terry Dunfield head home Darren O'Dea's cross from the right.

With the result, Houston (11-6-9; 42pts.) remains in third place, just one point ahead of the Fire, with the good guys holding one game in hand. To say next Sunday's match against the orange-clad team at Toyota Park is a pivotal one would be an understatement. The result keeps Toronto FC (5-15-6; 21pts.) in the Eastern Conference cellar but also shows a team that can't be taken lightly heading into the home stretch.

UP NEXT: Houston takes a break from MLS action as they travel back to Central America for the second time in a week to face Honduran side Olimpia in CONCACAF Champions League group play on Thursday, August 30 (Fox Soccer; 9pm CT) before heading to Chicago for next Sunday's game (6pm CT; NBC Nonstop, Galavision). Toronto FC will hope to do better in CONCACAF play when they host Santos Laguna in the Champions League on Tuesday, August, 28 (7pm CT; Fox Soccer) before continuing its spoiler bid in a visit to Sporting KC on Saturday, September 1 (7:30pm CT; MLS Live, Direct Kick).

A quick view at the Eastern Conference Standings after last night...

ON TAP TODAY...

First place in the Eastern Conference (Sporting KC) hosts the second place New York  in their first of three meetings over the next two months, live tonight at 8pm CT on ESPN2.

Fire fans holding out hope for the top seed in the East would do well to hope for a draw in the game ... 

24 August 1:05 pm

If you had a good time at last night’s Chicago Fire Foundation White Party, jump in the air.

For the second year in a row, the White Party was a big success, with nearly 700 attendees and raising over $40,000 for the Chicago Fire Foundation.

One day I hope the American travel ban to Cuba is broken. If not, I’ll always have the memory of wearing the cabana outfit I sported Thursday night. Big props to the Fire Communications and Digital Team on dressing quite well.

(PHOTO: Me, Chrissy Koob, Leo Flores, Brendan Hanna, Nick Sintich and Eunice Kim)

It was good to see Fire captain and Foundation board member Logan Pause at the event as well:

 

More props to the @MLS_Insider, Josh Whisenhunt for gracing us with his presence for the evening…

And even more to Foundation Director Jessica Yavitz (pictured below with me) and her great staff Jen Van Sparrentak, Jack Sheehan, Jamie Miller and Andrew Steffen. 

And a few more candid shots courtesy of Jordan Quinn Lukianuk.

22 August 6:35 am

The Fire head to DC (live coverage at 6pm CT on CSNChicago) on the back of three straight victories after a tough 2-1 win at home against New England on Saturday. DC are entering the game after a fiery match against Philadelphia the following day where controversy and red cards reigned. Both United and the Fire are calling this a "six pointer" and DC will be looking for revenge after last year’s incredible "Capital Comeback" at RFK Stadium. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective. 

Local Channel Listings

The Return of Pappa: Who Starts on the Left?

Marco Pappa came off the bench for the last 13 minutes (plus another questionable five minutes off stoppage time) against New England after playing longer than Frank Klopas had liked for Guatemala in a midweek friendly. Pappa's return means it’s likely that Patrick Nyarko will begin the game against DC on the bench.

WATCH: Chicago Fire vs. D.C. United Preview

Having set up Chris Rolfe’s 5th minute penalty call and assisted on Sherjill MacDonald’s eventual game-winner, Nyarko had a very productive 75 minutes before being subbed out after picking up a slight back injury.

Both players are playing well at the moment but Nyarko's slight knock combined with a well-rested Pappa makes it more likely the Guatemalan will start. Nyarko has excelled in his recent role coming off the bench and could make a big impact if called upon.

DC Defenders: Bare Bones at the Back

With a combination of injuries (Robbie Russell and Daniel Woolard) and suspensions (Emiliano Dudar), DC United are very thin at the back.

One position in particular which is a problem area for Ben Olsen is right-back. Dejan Jakovic played most of the Philadelphia game there and looked very shaky at times before being subbed out. Olsen stated that the sub was because Jakovic needed a breather in order to be ready for Wednesday's match but it is likely that he will play in the middle with Chris Korb moving to the right.

Olsen has also floated the idea of playing Andy Najar in this position but that seems unlikely Wednesday night. Pappa or Nyarko on the left, combined with Gonazlo Segares getting forward in support, has the potential to exploit this DC weakness.

Outside Backs: Beware of Runs in Behind

Though Sega and Anibaba have done a fantastic job getting forward to support in the attack, they must also beware of being caught high up the field. This happened on more that one occasion against New England last week and could cause problems Wednesday.

Fire coach Frank Klopas noted that in the New England match the team had a lot of turnovers and were sloppy at times with their passes and with Jalil and Gonzalo's eagerness to get forward, a bad pass resulting in a turnover can leave the team exposed.

Rolfe vs Kitchen: Holding Mid vs Creative Play-maker

The battle I am most looking forward to tonight is Fire PDL alum Chris Rolfe vs. a much more recent Fire PDL alum Perry Kitchen. Kitchen plays in the holding midfield role for United, sitting just in front of the back four, a position that Rolfe loves to operate in. Against New England, Rolfe was everywhere and his combination play was superb.

After seeing the performance against the Revs, it wouldn't surprise me if DC coach Ben Olsen had Kitchen man-mark Rolfe in an attempt to stop him from creating. What made Rolfe so dangerous was his movement, not only dropping behind MacDonald, but also looking to get in behind the defense. If Rolfe can create space for himself like he did on Saturday night, it could help to unlock the DC defense.

Prediction: 1-1 with Sherjill MacDonald tallying his second goal in a Fire shirt

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

21 August 3:32 pm

In this edition we sat down with midfielder Michael Videira. A Milford, Mass. native, Michael was a three-time MAC Hermann trophy semifinalist and helped the Duke Blue Devils reach the College Cup in his freshman year. Michael took the time to dispel the rumor that he is an expert sailor and answer our Burning Questions about the difference between Bostonians and Chicagoans, his favorite movies and what bugs him the most.

AOTI: Your bio lists one of your interests as boating. What is your favorite type of boating and what’s the best part about being on the water?

MV: Where did that come from? I guess sailing. I’ve only gone a couple of times. During pre-season Kwame [Watson-Siriboe] said that I was interested in boating because I had just gotten back from a trip to the British Virgin Islands. It must’ve been Kwame. I lived on a boat for like 10 days so I learned how to sail. I like boating; everyone likes going on a boat. I still get seasickness, which is really unfortunate for liking to go on boats all the time. 

AOTI: What are your top three favorite movies?

MV:  It varies every week. I usually like comedies anyways, so it's usually just the next comedy that's coming out. I'm really excited to see "The Campaign." I haven’t seen that one yet. I'm also a fan of dry humor, I like some Wes Anderson films. I've yet to see "Moonrise Kingdom," but I heard it's pretty good, which is something else I'd like to see. Those'll probably be my two favorites as soon as I see them. 

I like Wes Anderson films; I think they're hilarious, and I think Bill Murray is one of the funniest actors or comedians there are. "Caddyshack" won me over; it's up there for sure.

AOTI: You were drafted by the New England Revolution in 2008 but elected to go abroad and play for Hamilton Academical of the Scottish Premier League. What was the most unexpected thing about living in Scotland?

MV: I know people complain about the weather in the UK in general but it was ridiculous. It started raining in August and pretty much didn't stop until spring. It was cold and rainy everyday but it was expected. People say London has bad weather but they have no idea until they go up to Glasgow. At the same time, people make the best of it. To be honest, they have such great attitudes, everyone there is nice and friendly. Which is nice; I guess you have to make up for it one way or another. And they usually drink a lot more probably because of it. 

AOTI: You hail from Milford, Mass. What's the biggest difference between Bostonians and Chicagoans?

MV: I guess Chicagoans, when they first meet a complete stranger, they’re still polite and nice to you where as in Boston, people kind of mind their own. So even here, if you’re meeting a group of friends out patio somewhere, they’re all really friendly where as Boston people keep to themselves. And of course the East Coast stigma is that everyone is pretty mean out there supposedly. I actually have to agree with that now that I moved to Chicago. I’ve noticed that when I go home people aren’t as nice; aren’t as friendly.

AOTI:  What's your biggest pet peeve?

MV: I have a couple. I don’t like leaving lights on. That’s a big one. I don’t like when people leave the lights on. And I don't like pink sporting hats. A pink Red Sox hat is my biggest pet peeve of all time. Just different colored sporting hats for a certain team; I just think they should just be the colors represented. 

AOTI: Three things you'd need on a deserted island?

MV: I would bring my iPod with probably a lot of Motown and country music. I'd definitely have to bring some sort of soccer ball or basketball, but if I'm by myself, I'd need one with a paddle or one that you could flip it into the cup, something to entertain myself. And probably just a catalog of movies. I'd just bring "Castaway" and base my life off of what Tom Hanks did in that movie. He made it out. 

Check out previous "Burning Questions" segments below...

Burning Questions with Jay  Nolly
Burning Questions with Hunter Jumper

 

21 August 12:02 pm

The long-standing rumors of Fire midfielder Marco Pappa’s move across the pond finally came true last Monday as the Fire and Dutch club SC Heerenveen jointly announced the Guatemalan international would move to the Netherlands effective January 1, 2013.

While Pappa has been a key part of the team the last four seasons, his desire to go to Europe at the end of his MLS contract was pretty well known. The Fire did right by Pappa and according to the interview to the right, the midfielder is looking to do right by the club that gave him the shop-window opportunity.

WATCH: Pappa Talks Fire Focus

“I still have a contract with the Fire,” said Pappa. “We talked about this situation. I’m going to keep doing my best like I always do and I’m happy for the opportunity but right now it would be good to get a championship [here] before going to Europe.”

While a player signing a contract with another club before the one he’s with is finished seems a little odd, it’s common practice throughout the world and is becoming more regular in MLS. For instance it was just three years ago that Fire forward Chris Rolfe signed a pre-contract with Aalborg BK in the Danish SuperLiga.

The best thing about Rolfe’s situation was that the Fire played the MLS rules well, giving the forward a “qualifying offer”, that is an offer deemed credible for his market value, before he signed with Aalborg. By doing that, the club retained his MLS rights, paving the way for his smooth return earlier this April.

Though defender Gonzalo Segares didn’t sign a pre-contract with Cypriot club Apollon Limassol during 2009, his situation is similar to that of Rolfe’s. The Costa Rican international played the first six months of 2010 in Cyprus before returning to the Fire that August, a move again made easier by the qualifying offer.

When Wilman Conde made his desire known to return to MLS from Mexican side Atlas earlier this year, the Fire cashed on the qualifying offer made to the Colombian defender at the end of 2010, earning a nice chunk of allocation money in January’s trade that sent him to New York.

Aside from doing right by a player that has performed for the club, the best part of Pappa’s move to Holland is that like in the differing case of Rolfe, Segares and Conde, the Fire have kept future options open with the player.

Most will agree that Marco has all the tools to be successful in Holland but unforeseen things can happen and though no transfer fee is being wired from The Netherlands to Chicago, it’s a sign the Fire have done some good business.

With 10 regular season matches plus a potential playoff run, Pappa still has plenty to prove before heading to Holland. 

20 August 1:16 pm

There was a point Sunday afternoon in which things were looking pretty good for the Fire’s positioning in the East. DC United had just suffered a somewhat controversial 1-1 draw at home to Philadelphia while due north Bright Dike and Darlington Nagbe had put the West’s bottom team Portland up 2-0 at New York.

Of course Kenny Cooper and Tim Cahill had pulled the home side back level before halftime, the Timbers flubbed two breakaway chances and Heath Pearce headed home the winner in the 83rd minute to push New York back into sole possession of second place in the East.

Later on Sunday night, Columbus used goals from Cole Grossman and Eddie Gaven to erase a 1-0 deficit but had to settle for a 2-2 draw when Andy Gruenebaum muffed Adam Moffat’s 82nd minute equalizer.

WATCH: Red Bull 3, Timbers 2

The result meant that the Top 5 in the Eastern Conference closed the weekend the same way they entered it, effectively pushing the Fire back down to fourth place (losing the goals scored tie breaker to Houston).

All this is by way of saying its going to be a scrap or as Brendan Hannan put it this morning, a “real dog fight” the rest of the way in the Eastern Conference. With 10 matches remaining and five of them against the other four in the Top Five, the Fire control their playoff destiny and seeding perhaps just as much as anyone in the East.

"[Playoff qualification] is in our hands," head coach Frank Klopas told Chicago-Fire.com Monday. "They’re all obviously difficult matches because most of the games we play are going to be against teams that are going to be right there until the end. Its exciting but I think we feel good about having those games at home and having the opportunity to control our own destiny." 

While Montreal and Columbus still have a shot at the postseason, popular opinion has the top five now remaining the top five come October 28 making a “mini-league” of sorts the rest of the way for the Fire, Sporting KC, Red Bull, the Dynamo and United.

See below the “mini-league” grid of remaining matches between the East’s top 5 teams.

  SKC NYRB HOU CHI DCU
SKC x vs. 8/26
@ 9/19
@ 10/20
vs. 9/14 vs. 9/28 -
NYRB @ 8/26
vs. 9/19
vs. 10/20
x - vs. 10/6 @ 8/29
HOU @ 9/14 - x @ 9/2  -
CHI @ 9/28 @ 10/6 vs. 9/2 x @ 8/22
vs. 10/27
DCU - vs. 8/29 - vs. 8/22
@ 10/27
x

When looking at the chart, two things undoubtedly stick out...

1) No that's not a mistake, the East's top two teams Sporting KC and New York, will play eachother three more times through the end of the season. Depending on how their other matches go (something that will continue to be a common theme), the Conference's top seeds could well be decided in those three games.

2)  The Fire are the only team in the Top 5 that will play everyone around them and have two games against D.C., meaning the team seems to have the best shot of controlling it's own destiny in the tight playoff race. With 15 points available in these matches, if the Men in Red can take anywhere around 11 or 12, they could be in very good shape for a top two finish.

Either way, the Fire manager reiterated the game of most importance is the one upcoming.

"It’s up to us," continued Klopas. "We don’t have to rely on other teams like we did last year but the most important thing is to not look too far down the road and so our next game against D.C. is what we have to hone in on right now."  

17 August 8:27 am

The Fire face yet another Eastern Conference foe at home this week: New England. The clubs appear to be heading in opposite directions with Frank Klopas’ side only losing one of their last five while the Revs have lost four out of five but the Men in Red can’t overlook this one. Here are a few things to watch out for from a tactical standpoint.

Who will replace the captain? Logan out 4-6 weeks

Last week’s 3-1 win in Philly was very costly, namely because of the injury to captain Logan Pause who, to date, has had yet another stellar year. With Logan out for at least a month, two major questions arise – who should replace him in the lineup and should his injury force the Fire to change their tactics? The answer to the second question is almost certainly no. The tactic of two holding midfielders has served the Fire well this season and there is no need to change it.

Replacing Logan is a difficult task but the Fire certainly to have options. Fernandez slotted in for Logan in the second half against Philly but players like Corben Bone, Mike Videira, Daniel Paladini and Victor Pineda can all play in the center of midfield.

Having this many options is a luxury for coach Klopas but the obvious candidate in my eyes is Fernandez. He is the most experienced MLS midfielder and did a fine job in that position last week. Fernandez also didn’t play in Wednesday’s reserve game which could be another indication that he will be getting the start alongside Pardo.

Shots from Distance: Be Wary

Though New England haven't scored too many goals of late, its not for lack of trying. Midfielders, Lee Nguyen, Saër Sène (sometimes a striker) and Benny Feilhaber are all not afraid to pull the trigger from distance. Just a few weeks ago, Sène scored an absolutely brilliant goal against the Union, cutting in from the right before blasting it past Zack MacMath.

 

PREVIEW: Fire vs. NE

 

Nguyen scored a goal-of-the-season candidate earlier this season when he volleyed the ball from outside the box into the top corner. The Fire cannot allow the Revs' midfielders space to shoot from the outside. New England will also have target man Jerry Bengtson back from international duty and will be looking to him to provide layoffs for shots from the outside. 

 

Chris Tierney: A Threat from the Left

New England have deployed different formations in its past two games but one thing that hasn't changed is the team’s reliance on left back Chris Tierney to get forward to provide crosses into the box. Against KC, Nguyen constantly pushed inside to allow space for Tierney to move into on the left.

Against Montreal last week, New England played with one striker but again the Revs made room for Tierney on the outside to get the ball in the box. The players pushing inside also meant that New England had numerous players waiting to attack Tierney's crosses instead of just the forwards. In both of the past two games, the Revs have pushed Tierney up in advanced positions while keeping the outside right defender on more a leash.

If the Fire do indeed bring Fernandez into the middle it will be up to his replacement (presumably Nyarko) to track back and help either Jalil Anibaba or Dan Gargan when Tierney gets pushes forward into the attack.

PREDICTION: Chicago Fire 2, New England Revolution 0 with goals from Chris Rolfe and Sherjill MacDonald

Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com, follow him on Twitter @Irish_Steve.

16 August 2:10 pm

We pride ourselves as pretty snappy dressers here at Always on the Inside. With the Second Annual White Party just one week away, we thought it would be a good time for the Always on the Inside fashonistas to give the world the dos and don’ts on what to wear to the White Party.

DO: Rachel Bilson looks happy as a clam in a breezy white sundress (shopping bag full of groceries optional, but the event is for charity, we’d find something to do with it):

 

DO: Looking for something a little sassier? Check out the Belted Open Back Romper from AKIRA:

 

DO: Don’t worry gents, even you can look great clad in all white. This male model looks hot, even while rocking a fanny pack and croakies:

 

Just remember that while it’s a great idea to add color through your accessories, even Lindsay Lohan knows that a dress splashed (okay, it’s a multi-colored dream coat) with multiple colors is not the way to go for the White Party. Definitely a don’t.

 

As an added bonus, if you purchase a ticket to the White Party, you can print out your confirmation email and receive 20% off all full-priced items at any AKIRA Women’s, Men’s or Footwear boutique.

This is definitely a party you don’t want to miss out on so make sure to buy your ticket and join us on Thursday, Aug. 23 from 7:30 – 11:30 p.m. CT at the MCA Warehouse (1747 W. Hubbard). Get to know the Fire and the Chicago Fire Foundation off the pitch while enjoying a premium open bar, live DJ, hors d’oeuvres and a gift bag (who doesn’t love a goody bag?!), so dress in some stylish white attire and come party with us!

 

 

16 August 9:24 am

A quick round up of how Fire first teamers Marco Pappa, Orr Barouch, Sean Johnson and U18 Youth Academy product Reid Strain fared for their countries in Wednesday's FIFA international date...

Guatemala 3, Paraguay 3 - RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.

Guatemalan midfielder Marco Pappa received the call up for los Chapines’ friendly against Paraguay. Pappa played for 77 minutes in the 3-3 draw, scoring a penalty that Carlos Ruiz drew. Pappa later set up Manuel Leon for Guatemala’s second goal on the night. Guatemala gave up the two goal lead, conceding three goals to Paraguay before former MLS star Carlos Ruiz tied the match from the penalty spot.

Israel U-21 2,  Russia U-21 2 at Arena Khimki in Khimki, Russia

Making his fifth appearance for the Israeli U-21's, Orr Barouch logged 84 minutes and would tally his second international goal for the visitors in the 36th minute. Barouch’s shot, struck with his left foot from outside the box, hit the left post before going in the back of the net. Russia struck back, tying the game in the 56th. Israel took the lead again in the 71st when Mohamed Kalebat scored. Russia would not be outdone, and tied the match six minutes later in the 77th. See highlights of the match below...

USA 1, Mexico 0 - Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, Mexico

Goalkeeper Sean Johnson was called up by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann for the United States Men’s National Team’s friendly match against Mexico Wednesday night. Johnson didn’t see any time in the match, but was able to be a part of the history that was made when the US defeated Mexico at the Azteca for the first time in the 75 year history between the two sides. 

Spain 2, Puerto Rico 1 - Bayamon, Puerto Rico

Chicago Fire U18 Youth Academy product Reid Strain was an unused substitute in Puerto Rico’s 2-1 loss to Spain. The result was considered positive for the Puerto Rican side and was a valuable experience for Strain.

WATCH: Barouch Scores in Israel U-21's 2-2 Draw at Russia

14 August 3:28 pm

While Fire first teamers Sean Johnson, Marco Pappa and Orr Barouch all take to the field for their national sides Wednesday, another player in the club will be part of an international friendly as well.

Meet Reid Strain. A member of the 2012 Chicago Fire U18 Youth Academy side that went 26-1-1 en route to the 2012 U.S. Club Soccer National Championship, the Barrington, Ill. product has joined the Puerto Rican national team for Wednesday’s friendly against Spain in Bayamon.

Eligible for Puerto Rico through his mother, Strain missed the U18 Youth Academy’s run at last month’s U.S. Club Soccer National championships after being called up for the territory’s U-20 CONCACAF World Championship qualifying matches.

“He was very reluctant to play for the U-20 Puerto Rican national team when he got the call up last month,” said Chicago Fire U18 Youth Academy head coach Paul Cadwell. “He didn’t want to miss the national championships with his Fire team so it took some talking to him from his parents and from myself to encourage him to not miss such an opportunity.”

In those games, the forward tallied two goals, both game winners, in 2-0 victories over Barbados and Bermuda. A 0-0 draw in the group finale vs. Haiti pushed Puerto Rico to a second-place finish on goal difference but advanced the side to the final round of CONCACAF’s Caribbean U-20 Finals – the first time a Puerto Rican team has made it out of its qualifying group in and youth tournament.

The finals will be played November 3-11 in Jamaica and with his role in the previous matches as well as being the only uncapped player called up for Wednesday’s friendly vs. Spain, it’s a good bet Strain will play a part.

Why haven’t we heard more of Strain until now?

“Unfortunately, Reid has been plagued by an ankle injury the last 18 months,” said U18 Youth Academy Head Coach Paul Cadwell. It’s one of the reasons he didn’t make our Fall [U.S. Soccer Development] Academy team. We didn’t get the ability to get a good look at him but he’s a great youth player for us this season. He has shown the ability to score a variety of goals.”

I’m very proud of Reid at having the opportunity to play against the world’s number one team is a dream. Whether he sees the field or not, just the fact that he is going be listed in a squad that plays the current world and European champions is something that he will never forget.”