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05 June 3:16 pm

In recent days Fire midfielder Daniel Paladini has been putting in some decent work to grow this handlebar mustache.... 

What's the motivation behind this new look?

"A lot of it has to go through my dad," Paladini explained "I saw a picture of him a couple weeks ago with my uncle that passed away – they used to rock the handlebar mustache so I decided I was going to try it out." While the sentimental motivation is there, the veteran also explains his more covert intentions with the team taking a few days off beginning Thursday.

"It works well because there’s a little festival we’ll be going to on this upcoming break – Bonnaroo 2012. I think I’ll fit in well there with the hippies."

Paladini will head to the music festival in Tennessee this weekend with teammates Corben Bone and Chris Rolfe  and is most looking forward to seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

As for tips for survival at Bonaroo, our resident "Always on the Inside" cameo man Orr Barouch, tells his teammate to stay away from the Sonic Forest... (props to anyone that gets that reference).

02 June 9:07 am

I've been lucky enough to travel to Boston (lets be honest, we're in Foxbrough, Mass.) for tonight's match away to New England. Be sure to catch the pre-game with Dan Kelly and Evan Whitfield at 6pm CT with continuing coverage at 6:30pm on Comcast SportsNet Chicago or listen along with Oscar Guzman and Ysaac Alvarez on 97.5FM ESPN Deportes Radio.

With that, Five Things You Should Know About Tonight's Match at New England...

1) IT'S RAINY HERE (see above)... Working on the Mexico/Bosnia Herzegovina friendly Thursday night at Soldier Field made me feel a sense of relief that soccer stats have always been in my blood. That's mainly because it meant I wouldn't have to be outside in the miserable downpour on display that night. It seems we couldn't get enough of the rain as we headed east yesterday to make sure we got to experience it again. There's no doubt there will be rain tonight which will make the ball skip a lot on the Gillette Stadium turf.

2) IN CASE YOU WERE LIVING UNDER A ROCK yesterday, Fire head coach Frank Klopas told reporters that Chris Rolfe is available for selection for tonight's game against the Revs. Last week he traveled to Columbus and Detroit but wasn't part of the 18. Tonight he is, though given the turf and the rainy conditions, it'll be interesting to see if he's used. No one goes into the gameday 18 if they can't be called upon, so tonight could be Chris Rolfe's re-debut and whenever that occurs, he'll be making his 150th competitive appearance for the Chicago Fire.

3) ONE PLAYER THE FIRE are without tonight is Marco Pappa. The midfielder joined up with the Guatemalan national team last Sunday for a pair of preparation friendlies vs. Costa Rica this week ahead of next week's World Cup qualifying matches at Jamaica (June 8) and against the United States (June 12). 

4) DEVASTATING DEFEATS... While the Fire were devastated to lose 3-2 in overtime Tuesday to the Michigan Bucks in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the Revolution had their own troubles that night.  Playing 90 minutes of scoreless soccer vs. USL-Pro's Harrisburg City Islanders, the Revs ran out to a 3-0 lead in the first 15 minutes of extra time with goals coming from Kelyn Rowe (95'), Lee Nguyen (101') and Benny Feilhaber (103'). Most surprisingly, the host side responded just before the extra time break when ironically former Bucks player Brian Ombiji made it 3-1 in the 111th minute. Their backs against the wall, Harrisburg grabbed two more goals in the second frame from Sainey Touray (117') and a 120th minute equalizer from J.T. Noone to send the match to penalties.

From there, New England saw two of their goal scorers in the match (Rowe and Feilhaber) fail to convert their kicks with former Fire goalkeeper Nick Noble making the winning save on the latter's take to send the City Islanders through to the next round with surely one of the most dramatic wins in Open Cup history.

Are there levels to devastation? Sure, but in the cases of both the Fire and Revs tonight, it will be interesting to see how much losses at midweek to lower-level sides effect psyche. 

5) UNBEATEN SINCE 2007... The Fire and Revs had played a lot over the years... MLS Regular Season, MLS Cup Playoffs, U.S. Open Cup, even the ill-fated SuperLiga have led the Fire to play the Revs more than any other MLS team. Tonight will be the two team's 60th competitive meeting. Through those matches a real rivalry, not one manufactured by a team's front office, has been built. While the dislike for each other mainly comes from heated playoff matches, the Fire have sort of a regular season hex over the Revs, holding a 10-match unbeaten run (7-0-3) since last losing to New England 3-1 on May 6, 2007.

The lone goal scorer for the Fire that day? Chris Rolfe.

PREVIEW: Oduro, Pause, Segares Preview Saturday's game at New England

01 June 12:07 pm

 

As I packed for this weekend’s trip to New England this morning, I came to the realization that I’ve never been to Boston. I decided to sit down with the Fire’s resident Boston expert, Millford Mass. Native Michael Videira to get his view of returning to his hometown, playing against his former team and learn a little bit more about our destination....

Jeff Crandall: Vito, thanks for joining me here at the gate inside O’Hare Airport. In your time with the Fire, I’ve noticed that you’re usually the only one wearing short sleeves when it’s cold outside. Today, sitting at the gate, you’re the only player that has shunned the full tracksuit for the Fire-issued golf shorts. Are you trying to be different or just hot all of the time?

Michael Videira: (Laughs). Having grown up in the northeast I think I’m just conditioned for the cold. While some guys look like they’re freezing, I feel pretty normal. Maybe it’s a Boston thing.

JC: One former Fire player I remember always wearing short sleeves in the cold was Tony Sanneh. Any connection?

MV: Tony was a great player but I don’t derive any inspiration in that way from him. I remember there were a couple games at the beginning of the season where it was cold. I always want to wear short sleeves but I usually will wear them with gloves. Our equipment guy Charles [Raycroft] won’t let me do it anymore because he says it’s not a good look. I disagree.

JC: How does it feel to be going back to your hometown for a game against your former team?

MV: It’s definitely exciting. I haven’t been back there to play in a while. It’s going to be good to get back – see old teammates from my club and youth soccer days, former teammates with the Revs and a lot of friends.

JC: I had a higher than normal comp ticket request on Tuesday in Detroit. How much have you bugged [Team Administrator] Ron Stern to make sure all your friends are there on Saturday?

MV: I don’t need too many comp tickets, at least that I know of right now. I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of requests probably tonight. A couple buddies will come for sure. It’s usually a last minute thing, I’m expecting a barrage of calls the next 18 hours…

JC: You joined the Fire last year with your former Revs teammate Cory Gibbs. Another former teammate, Kheli Dube, signed with the Fire earlier this year… Do you guys ever reflect on your time in New England?

MV: It’s funny because we talk about those old, memorable locker room stories. We talk different teammates and how the organizations compare and contrast. It’s nice to have that sort of connection carry on in another club When these sort of ridiculous stories come up in a conversation with your new teammates, you have someone else to back you up with the stories you have.

JC: Could you enlighten us?

MV: I believe “Always on the Inside” should remain PG.

JC: Fair enough! What’s your favorite Boston team?

MV: The Bruins, no question. I just love watching hockey. Its hard living in Chicago when you’re rooting for a team in Boston. It was much easier there. In a lot of ways, the two cities are very much alike in the passion for their teams. You’d be hard pressed to walk into a bar in Chicago during a Blackhawks game and ask them to turn on the Bruins. It would be the same if the tables were turned in Boston.

JC: Aside from Massachusetts, you’ve lived in North Carolina, Scotland and Chicago. How’s your Boston accent doing?

MV: Not great. I don’t think I have a good Boston accent at all. I have a few words that some people would notice but it’s sort of left me over time. One thing to note is that I’ve lost the word wicked since I’ve moved to Chicago… My other buddies that live in Boston won’t stop using it and its wicked annoying.

JC: This was a wicked good interview, Mike!

MV: Oh man…

 

31 May 1:15 pm

Today is Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson's 23rd birthday! Feliz cumple amigo!

Sean John had to go to work on his birthday but received quite a wish in the form of over 700 Likes on Facebook as of 1pm this afternoon... 

He took time out (with Orr Barouch) to thank Fire fans for the well wishes!

29 May 7:55 am

We all dream of winning Open Cups! That’s right, the Fire are back in the Open Cup, looking for a return to the final and a record-tying fifth championship as they enter the tournament’s third round tonight away to the PDL’s Michigan Bucks in Pontiac, Mich. 

A live stream of the match will be carried via Chicago-Fire.com beginning at 6:30pm CT with Brendan Hannan on the call.
 
Here are five things you should know about tonight’s match vs. the Bucks…
 
1) UNAVAILABLE…Given the team’s schedule of four matches in 10 days, Fire head coach Frank Klopas has elected to rest midfielders Logan Pause, Pavel Pardo and Sebastian Grazzini for this match. Another starter, Marco Pappa, is unavailable for selection after joining up with the Guatemalan national team ahead of their friendly vs. Costa Rica on Friday.
 
2) RETURNING HOME…Former Buck Tony Walls will hope to make his Fire competitive debut upon his return to Ultimate Soccer Arenas tonight. The Wauwatosa, Wisc. product appeared in 24 matches for the Bucks during the 2009 and 2011 seasons (Walls played for the Fire PDL in 2011). Fire forward Kheli Dube, who was inducted into the Bucks Hall of Fame last season, did not travel with the team after suffering a toe injury last week.
 
3) DON’T TAKE THEM LIGHTLY… While the Bucks are a Premier Development League side, the Fire’s less memorable history in this tournament should serve as good reason not to take them lightly. When the Fire have played a third round match in the U.S. Open Cup, they’ve gone 5-4-1, with all four defeats coming against lower league opposition. 
 
I wrote yesterday about the Bucks making their name in this tournament by being the first PDL team to knock off an MLS side with a 1-0 victory over New England in the 2000 edition of the tournament. Times have changed since then – MLS rosters are deeper and feature better players. Even without their starting midfield, the Fire are favorites and should be expected to put their stamp on a game against a team made up of mostly college players.
 
4) LEADING GOAL SCORER AND WHO TO WATCH… File this one under “facts you get from someone that used to work for the team”, but Bucks forward Kenny Uzoigwe is the USL Premier Development League’s all-time leading goal scorer. Now into his seventh season with the Bucks, the 33-year-old target man earned the distinction by tallying seven goals last season to take his career tally to 83. A long-time symbol of the team, Uzoigwe has started off the 2012 campaign where he left off last year, tallying two more through the team’s first two league matches (both wins).
 
With PDL rosters turning over a lot from year-to-year, its not always easy to know how a team is playing.... A few notes though: 2007 Chicago Fire fourth round SuperDraft selection Simon Omekanda is back with the Bucks after stints in the lower leagues of Sweden and France. Most of the attack should be spear-headed through Omekanda, Trinidadian striker Stefan St. Louis and Uzoigwe at the top.  In the middle of the park, the Bucks have received a combined four goals and two assists from Oakland Unviersity midfielder Tommy Catalano and Butler's Zach Steinberger.
 
Defensively, out-of-college players Sebbe Harris (who spent time as a forward for English side Northampton Town), Stew Givens and former Fire PDL player Kevin Cope should be shoring up the backline. 
 
5) MY MISTAKE…I wrote in yesterday’s “Knowing Your Opposition” Blog that Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup match at Ultimate Soccer Arenas would be the first-ever Fire match indoors. That would have been true had the team not played at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal to start the season...
 
I should have known that one. I was there and I remember it quite well. I suppose I’ll chalk it up to the heat wave… Sorry about that!
 
Aside from being indoors, the two venues are still quite different. The now four-year old indoor soccer facility is expected to provide a capacity crowd of 2,000, providing the Detroit soccer community with a much more intimate MLS experience tonight. See photo below...
 
 
28 May 9:11 am
Ever since the possibility of the Fire taking on the Bucks came into play about two weeks ago, my mouth has sort of been watering for Tuesday night’s match-up.
 
For those that haven’t heard my story before, it was with the Bucks that I got my first gig in soccer as an intern in 2007. Standing as the highest level of outdoor soccer in the Detroit area, the Bucks actually made their name early on as the Mid-Michigan Bucks, playing mostly out of White Pine Stadium in Saginaw from 1996-2003. 
 
While they’re a Premier Development League side (fourth division), it would be a mistake to take them lightly. Along with qualifying for the playoffs and looking to earn a North American championship (as they did in 2006), the Bucks, much like the Fire, put a high priority on the tournament. The 2012 season marks the ninth time in their 17-year history that the team has taken part in the competition.

 
In all, the team has hosted three of its six matches against MLS teams in the state of Michigan. But perhaps the game they’re known best for, was their 1-0 defeat of the New England Revolution on June 27, 2000 at Foxboro Stadium. The first time a PDL team would defeat an MLS side in the Open Cup, the  fourth division team came just short of the quarterfinals that year after a 10-man Bucks side would draw 3-3 at the Miami Fusion before falling 6-5 in the shootout.
 
“Obviously we’re very excited about Tuesday,” said Michigan Bucks chairman Dan Duggan. “We’re disappointed that we haven’t been able to bring an MLS team here for the tournament the last six years but we’ve worked hard and this year things came together. To have the Chicago Fire come into Detroit is absolutely a great matchup that the fans will enjoy. Detroit and Chicago are two of the greatest sports towns in America and it has the makings of something special again here Tuesday night.”
 
While the Fire first team has never played the Bucks, the Pontiac-based side has long held a rivalry with the club’s PDL team since they first entered the league in 2001. Current Fire assistant coach Mike Matkovich was the head coach of the PDL side that often thwarted the Bucks in the early part of the last decade, though the series has certainly evened out more recently.
 
Along with that connection, the Fire currently have two players on its roster that can count themselves amongst the Bucks alumni playing in Major League Soccer. Fire forward Kheli Dube tallied 25 goals in 41 appearances for the team from 2005-2007, while helping the Bucks to the 2006 North American title and back to the championship match the following season. In recognition for his on-field performance and the character he showed during his three seasons in Detroit, Dube was inducted into the Bucks Hall of Fame last year.
 
“He helped us out a lot, he’s a terrific young man,” Duggan said of Dube. “If you’re taking a prototype for what an MLS player should strive to be, he would be my guy -- just a consummate professional in every way.” 
 
While a member of the Fire PDL team in 2010, converted defender Tony Walls spent the surrounding summers of 2009 and 2011 in Detroit, helping the team to the Great Lakes Division crown last season.
 
“Tony I think is one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen,” he continued. “We expected he would get drafted and play in MLS because of his athletic ability and he’s obviously a great soccer player. We’re very proud of both Kheli and Tony’s success.”
 
While the game is the Fire’s first ever in the Great Lakes state, it will also hold the distinction of being the team’s first-ever indoor game. How fitting that the venue, Ultimate Soccer Arenas stands just a mile south of the Pontiac Silverdome, the site of the first-ever indoor World Cup game. A much more intimate venue, Ultimate Soccer’s permanent seating can hold 1,600 people and with an expected sellout, temporary bleachers are being added for Tuesday’s match. 
 
27 May 1:21 pm

May 27, 2012 – Byhalia, Ohio

The fields of Ohio roll as American flags ripple from front porches.

Farm houses adorn the road where silos stand as markers in the distance and a bus filled with soccer players and coaches from 12 countries chug along the two lane highway past Range’s Belly Acre and the Mt. Victory Drive through.

You can practically taste the tangy-sweet of street-side lemonade and imagine the yard sale bargains spelled upon the underside of card board boxes.
 
It’s fitting, that as the Fire begin its foray into the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the nation’s longest standing team tournament, that the team does so by traversing US-23 N and the nooks and crannies of America’s Midwest. Teams from Chicago have captured the U.S. Open Cup nine times collectively, with the Fire at the top of the list with four.
 
One can imagine a bus, not too dissimilar from this one, carrying a group of immigrant Czechs through the dairy farms and corn fields of the Midwest as Chicago Sparta captured the 1938 U.S. Open Cup (or as it was called then, the National Challenge Cup).
 
The A.A.C Eagles, a club of Polish immigrants, found early success making deep tournament runs while riding buses across a post-World War II America, and finally captured the crown in 1990, beating the Brooklyn Italians in Indianapolis. You’d have to suspect bus rides home for both sides were joyous ones.
 
And here we sit, Beats headphones on and decorated in adidas gear working our way to one of the bedrocks of the American Midwest - Detroit, for a Tuesday Open Cup match against the PDL's Michigan Bucks. 
 
Fire Head Coach Frank Klopas looks back at the group and remarks, “I like these small towns, they have character."

 

26 May 2:00 pm

The MatchBook Zine is an incredible publication that Section 8 Chicago puts out on most home games. Given the masses that are descending on Columbus, a special edition has been written for today's match.

Make sure to find one at the tailgate and do the crossword on the back before heading inside!

26 May 12:36 pm

A token of our appreciation to the traveling support heading to Columbus today...

 

This isn't the exact keg, but it does the trick. Thanks for your support!

 

 

26 May 10:40 am

If you're following me on Twitter, you might have seen a mention of a Siberian Tiger on the bus to Columbus.

No worries, it isn't a live Siberian Tiger. It's a stuffed creature and this isn't his first Section 8 Chicago road trip. You see, he's sort of become a mascot, for the ISA. 

Meet Phillip...

Since we still have a ways to go, I caught up with Phillip to gather his interesting story...

Jeff Crandall: Phillip, how did you come to join up with Section 8 Chicago?

Philip the Tiger: It's actually quite a long story. I'm not from this country but found my way to Chicago sometime last year. Everything is sort of a blur but if I'm being honest, I was deported from the UK. 

JC: What caused the deportation?

PtP: Well, some folks played a funny prank in England. Basically I was set up as a potsie to fuel a prank on the good people of Southampton. I'm a Siberian Tiger but I do have my limitations.

JC: What are those?

PtP: Well, I'm not able to move on my own free-will.

JC: Right, so what happened?

PtP: It was a long night... Who can really remember? Those guys "Ted" and "Matthew", who I counted as my friends, left me in a grassy field in Southampton. The next thing I knew, police helicopters were flying overhead.

JC (Diane Sawyer voice): Yes, Phillip, I believe you're talking about this video...

PtP: It hurts to watch it again. 

JC: So you were deported and you ended up in Chicago of all places?

PtP: Yes.

JC: What happened next?

PtP: Some folks on the northside took me in. Soon they introduced me to Section 8 Chicago. I've been to many a Fire home game and am currently talking to you on my second road trip.  

JC: Phillip, you truly have a heroic story. Thank you for joining us on the road to Columbus...One last thing, could you give us a song?

PtP: Roar.

Follow Phillip on Twitter @SnakePitPhillip.