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20 June 1:32 pm

On Tuesday we began encouraging Fire fans to use the hashtag #VoteFIRE in tweets to spread awareness for the Twitter MLS All-Star vote that begins Thursday as well as have a little friendly competition with our rival and Saturday's opponent Columbus. 

As of our last tally, there have been over 1,100 tweets mentioning #VoteFIRE in the past 24 hours. Before kickoff Saturday, we will calculate the results between the two teams to determine a winner.

We certainly wish to thank the fans for their support, but the election season has just begun. Tomorrow will mark a shift in our campaign focus as we push you to the Twitter polls to vote Pappa, Pardo, Oduro, Johnson, Segares and Grazzini. 

To make it easier, we wanted to make sure everyone knew how a Twitter vote was counted.

1) Your Twitter account must be unlocked

2) You must follow @MLS

3a) You must mention the player's full name, "Marco Pappa", "Pavel Pardo", "Dominic Oduro", "Sean Johnson", "Gonzalo Segares", "Sebastian Grazzini"

3b) or you must mention the players Twitter handle. In this case, @MarcoPappas16, @FreakyFast8 or @SJohn25

4) You must include the #MLSAllStar hashtag

5) You don't need to use #VoteFire but you should as we continue our Twitter battle with Columbus!  

To push your drive to the polls on Thursday, here are some of our favorite #VoteFire tweets from the past 24 hours, via Storify.

#VoteFIRE kicks off

This week, we're encouraging fans to use the hashtag #VoteFIRE to help spread the word and get out and vote for the Men in Red for MLS All-Star on July 25th. On Saturday, June 23rd, we will calculate the results between the two teams to see who's the winner. Here are the best tweets from yesterday..

Storified by Chicago Fire Soccer Club · Wed, Jun 20 2012 13:38:33

#VoteFire because this happened @SoldierField in 1998... http://pic.twitter.com/AEy8wqsrChicago Fire
Patrick Nyarko named to MLS team of the week.....MLS editors #VoteFIREGuillermo Rivera
Because our crest doesn't feature the village people #VoteFIREJake Sweeney
HAPPY 40th BIRTHDAY BRIAN McBRIDE! #VoteFIRE because we remember our alum's birthdays... #cf97Chicago Fire
#VoteFIRE because who actually wants to live in Ohio?Ryan Sealock
#VoteFire because 4 out 5 dentists recommend itTyme4recess
I #VoteFire because Bow Wow grew up in Columbus.Dustin Simons
#VoteFire because someone actually finished designing our away jersey.Nicholas Fedora
In Soviet Russia #FireVoteU. But since you're in the States, #VoteFIREBen Burton
Based on economic policy, lowering taxes, and most importantly for me, job creation- this election year I'll have to #VoteFIREDan Farmer
Columbus... the Jar Jar Binks of #MLS #VoteFIRE #cf97August Jose
OHIO FACT: It is illegal to fish for whales on Sunday. #cf97 #VoteFIREJeff Crandall
#VoteFire because our guys leave red on the pitch, not yellow.R L Rolland
Three buildings do not make a skyline. #VoteFireNicholas Fedora
Good to see that #VoteFire is trending in Chicago. @JefeCrandall just took his shirt off Dom Oduro commercial style. #cf97 #socialmediayeahbrendan hannan
Because we don't have cheerleaders. #VOTEFIREDustin Simons
Cause my kids are way cuter than kids in Columbus #VoteFIRE http://pic.twitter.com/Icl15rG4Jake Sweeney
#VoteFire because Crew Cat has nightmares of Sparky!Matthew Steckling
Hey @ChicagoFire fans give us a #VoteFIRE to vote for the Men in Red for MLS All-Star on July 25th in Philadelphia http://ow.ly/bHLbFQuakerOats

19 June 2:32 pm

The Chicago Fire U16 and U18 U.S. Soccer Development Academy sides are good. Both sides concluded the 2011/12 regular season on Sunday at Indiana Fire Academy with the U16s taking a 2-2 draw and the U18s a 3-1 victory. 

Both results helped keep the sides first in the Great Lakes Division with the U18s going 13-0-3 (18-2-3 overall) and the U-16s going 11-1-4 (15-3-5 overall) on the campaign.
 
With the finish, the U18s also remained the number one ranked team in the country while the U16s finished fifth in the nation -- both are the top ranked MLS Academy in their age group with the next being the LA Galaxy (#4 at U18 and #8 at U16).
 
Yesterday, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced the draw for the 2012 Developmental Academy playoffs, set to begin Monday, June 25 in Frisco, Texas. See the results below...
 
U-18s
Group 7
Chicago Fire (Bridgeview, Ill.)
Solar Chelsea SC (Dallas, Texas)
Albertson SC (Great Neck, N.Y.)
Concorde Fire (Atlanta, Ga.)
 
U-16s
Group 4
Chicago Fire (Bridgeview, Ill.)
Real Salt Lake AZ (Casa Grande, Ariz.)
Seattle Sounders FC (Tukwila, Wash.)
Clearwater Chargers (Clearwater, Fla.)
 
Only the top team from each group will advance to the Academy Finals week, set to be held in Houston, Texas from July 16-23.
 
Earlier Tuesday, Fire Academy Director Larry Sunderland took both sides to a mini-camp in South Bend, Ind. to prepare for next week's playoffs. Joining the teams in Indiana are first teamers and Academy eligible players Victor Pineda and Kellen Gulley.
 
Check Chicago-Fire.com Wednesday for an exclusive podcast interview with Sunderland about the team's progress heading into the postseason.

 

19 June 9:06 am

 

Fire fans get ready to beat the Crew not only on the pitch this weekend but via Twitter!  

This week, we're encouraging fans to use the hashtag #VoteFIRE to help spread the word and get out and vote for the Men in Red for MLS All-Star on July 25th in Philadelphia. The Columbus Crew will be using the hashtag #VoteCREW during the same time and just before kickoff on Saturday, June 23rd we will calculate the results between the two teams to see who's the winner.   

FACT: Brian McBride likes Chicago better.
 
FACT: Yellow is a cowardly color.
 
FACT: Chris Rolfe and Austin Berry hated Ohio so much they had to leave.
 
Vote for Fire #MLSAllStar nominees Marco PAPPA, Pavel PARDO, Dominic ODURO, Sean JOHNSON, Gonzalo SEGARES and Sebastian GRAZZINI by logging onto MLSsoccer.com/AllStar or text the player’s last name only to 22442. Twitter voting begins this Thursday, June 21 at 11am CT and runs through Friday, June 22 at 11:00pm CT.
 
FINE PRINT: The tweet doesn't actually count as a vote, but the hope is that other fans will be encouraged to participate, vote and help us beat the Yellow Team.

Use the button below to Tweet your support!

 
 
 
18 June 12:54 pm

Megabandera is back! 

Nearly six years to the day (and against the same opponent) that the original giant flag debuted in Section 8 Chicago, an updated 2.0 version was unveiled in front of the NBC Sports Network cameras prior to Sunday’s 3-1 victory over Red Bull.
 
It had been a while since the entire Harlem End had been covered by such a massive display after the original Megabandera went missing. Despite the fact the display went missing prior to his purchase of the club, Fire owner Andrew Hauptman worked to replace the display, with Section 8 Chicago collaborating on the new design. 
 
The result…
 
 
 
Such a big banner can’t be unfurled without massive amounts of prep work. Check out the Storify gallery below, featuring the unpackaging and folding of the banner that took place Thursday night in the Toyota Park parking lot. 
 

The Work Behind Megabandera II

It takes time to unpackage and fold up a massive flag that can cover the entire Harlem End at Toyota Park... Here's the work put in to make sure Sunday's display came off without hitch...

Storified by Chicago Fire Soccer Club · Mon, Jun 18 2012 13:47:41

IMG_8855Chicago Fire Soccer Club
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Section 8 Chicago Megabandera II - 6/17/2012 - Proud Supporters of Chicago Fire Soccerswkfilms

 
 
17 June 11:23 am

People always tell you that life will change when you have children. What kind of change, no one tells you about. Or if they do, they tell you about the sleepless nights, the dirty diapers, or how you will never eat out again.

Though some of that may in fact be true, what people lose sight of is the inconceivable capacity to love. In a fraction of a second when I held my daughter Isla for the first time, my world and everything changed. 

I am so grateful to God for the blessing of fatherhood, because the gift of children gives us a glimpse of God's love for us.

Becoming a father has not only changed my love for my daughter and wife, it has also given me a deeper understanding for my own father's love toward me and my brother.

I am grateful that my dad has so intentionally showed me not only what it takes to be a man, but also what it takes to be a father.

So thank you dad, I couldn't do it without you.  And to all you fathers out there, Happy Father's Day and don't forget to tell your children that you love them every single day.

17 June 6:40 am

If it seems like it’s been ages since one of these, that’s because it’s been 15 days since the last time the Fire played. A 2-0 loss in New England combined with a two-week break from action left the team as well as yours truly antsy. Lucky for us, the Fire are back this afternoon as they welcome the New York Red Bulls to Toyota Park at 4pm CT (LIVE on NBC Sports Network).

With that, five things to know about today’s match vs. Energy Drink FC.

1) LACKING IN THE STARS… Excitement at having the Fire back is one thing but if you were hoping to see the stars come out of the woodwork for Red Bull this afternoon, you’ll be sorely disappointed as both Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez didn’t make the trip due to injury.

On the Fire side, the long-term projection was to have Arne Friedrich back from a hamstring injury that’s kept him out of the team’s past four league matches. It appears the decision on whether or not he'll play will be of the gametime variety. 

2) NO HENRY, FORMATION SHAKEUP… The strike partnership of Henry and forward Kenny Cooper has been deadly for Red Bull this season with the two combining for 20 goals in 22 joint appearances so far. When Henry has been out, Red Bull has moved to a 4-5-1 with Cooper alone up top and the likes of Joel Lindpere and Dane Richards providing support.

Still, it will be Cooper that is the focal point of Red Bull’s attack Sunday. The former FC Dallas striker is tied with San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski in the MLS Golden Boot Race at 11 and has tallied in each of the team’s last four matches.

3) COOPER, LINDPERE: GOAL SCORING HISTORY… Both players have histories of scoring against the Fire, with Cooper tallying six goals (all with Dallas) in nine career matches against the Men in Red while Lindpere has bagged three goals in four appearances since joining Red Bull in 2010.

Conversely, Fire forward Chris Rolfe, who looks set to make his first appearance at Toyota Park since re-joining the club in April has tallied six of his 36 career MLS goals against Red Bull.

4) LAST TIME PAPPA RETURNED  IN SUMMER… Fire midfielder Marco Pappa returned to the team on Thursday after being away with the Guatemalan national side for friendlies and two FIFA World Cup qualifiers, culminating in his 82nd minute free kick to earn a 1-1 draw with the United States on Tuesday.

It reminded me of last year when Pappa returned from competitive June matches with Guatemala at the CONCACAF Gold Cup…In his first game back, he hit a bouncing 58th minute effort to draw a Sunday afternoon affair level at 1-1. The day, June 26, 2011. The opponent, Red Bull New York.

5) A RUBBER MATCH… Since a 2-0 win in the the Grand Opening match at Toyota Park on June 25, 2006, the Fire have never lost to Red Bull at the team’s soccer-specific stadium, going 5-0-3 in eight regular season matches.

On the flip, Red Bull comes into the game riding a six match unbeaten run, going 5-0-1 since dropping a 4-1 defeat at Eastern Conference leaders D.C. United on April 22…

6) HAPPY FATHER'S (and Mother's) DAY... Both my parents are awesome. I didn't have a Five Things to write on Mother's Day last month so I'll use this opportunity to wish my Dad Happy Father's Day and my Mom a Happy belated online Mother's Day wish. Both of my parents didn't always understand the obsession I had with soccer but they were always supportive and have been there for me throughout. Thank you both, sorry I can't be home today!

PREVIEW: Fire vs. Red Bulls

14 June 12:25 pm

I've sat in a cold tub with Dan Gargan. Stood in a wall with Kheli Dube, Kwame Watson-Siriboe and Tony Walls. Check out my latest attempt to be "Always on the Inside"... 

13 June 9:23 am

"Win at home, draw on the road.", "World Cup Qualifying can often be ugly and is rarely easy."

These are the old adages that U.S. Men's National Team fans hate hearing but time and again they remain true. While Tuesday night's 1-1 draw will leave a conflicted, sour taste in a Fire and USMNT fan’s mouth, the sky isn't close to falling.

Newish fans of the U.S. will look at a nation like Guatemala and ask why the U.S. couldn’t win there. It’s a fair question, though understanding historical context is important -- the U.S.is now 1-0-4 all-time at Guatemala in World Cup Qualifying with the only victory coming with an ugly 1-0 win there in 2008.

In his first true, competitive test as U.S. Men’s National Team coach, Jurgen Klinsmann had his side well prepared going in as the Guatemalans pushed the U.S. to a furious pace for much of the first half. The team moved the ball well and as we’ve seen in the past few matches, did well to create chances, though conversion still remains an issue.

Despite that, Clint Dempsey’s goal five minutes from the half was a perfect blow to the home side who looked ready to go into the locker room. Though after the break, Marco Pappa’s insertion into the game seemed to spark Guatemala and while the U.S. still created, los Chapines put Klinsmann’s side under threat via counter attack throughout the second half.

U.S. fans may look to referee Joel Aguilar’s failure to allow play to continue after a foul on Dempsey just outside of the box in the 79th minute as a source of frustration. Feeling the pressure from Pappa and Guatemala, it would be a fair point to say the play shouldn’t have been blown dead, this is qualifying in CONCACAF…this is sometimes how it is.

And as you go back to the final 10 minutes of the match – seeing Fabian Johnson whistled for a foul about five yards outside the U.S. box – you were likely on the edge of your seat. As a Fire and U.S. fan, you might have cringed when you saw Pappa stand over the ball with Carlos Ruiz. As he struck it, you sort of knew it was going in – 1-1.

It’s alright to feel conflicted this morning. Marco’s goal came at a time when his country was facing having zero points from two matches. Like he has a few times this year, he struck late to help his team and he did it with the skill that all Fire fans know he has in him.

In the end, the U.S. scrambled to defend and earn the point and that’s fine. It may not “progress” on paper but there is something to be said for the fact that the team is playing much more attractively than previous years.

Having admitted that, attractive soccer isn’t always going to get results and those all that matter in World Cup Qualifying. Klinsmann still hasn’t been on the job a year and has had some good ones. The team is still in a bit of transition and the biggest issue from the past three U.S. matches shows a team that can attack but hasn’t yet figured out how to play a complete 90 minutes.

Looking at the big picture, that’s sort of okay.

Earning a point in Guatemala is still nothing to shake a stick at, with most considering the match the most difficult of the six semifinal games.

By virtue of Jamaica and Antigua drawing 0-0 Tuesday, the U.S. sits alone atop the group and in the driver’s seat heading into their September home and home series with the Reggae Boyz – one that could potentially see the U.S. into the next round inside four games. Even sticking with the win at home, draw on the road mantra, the U.S. would still have eight points and need just a win from their final two games to go through.

In the end, playing beautifully is great as long as you’re getting the results. In CONCACAF, drawing on the road in a place like Guatemala City is a result…not what you want, not necessarily what could have happened but also not a disaster.
 

11 June 12:03 pm

Poland 1-1 Greece • June 8, 2012

The first match of the 2012 Euros featured Greece taking on hosts Poland in Warsaw. Polish Borussia Dortmund star Robert Lewandowski wasted no time getting the first goal of the tournament hammering down a cross from Jakub Błaszczykowski with his head. Although it would be difficult to top the bizarre opening ceremony, the referee did his best to become the focal point in the match due to several controversial calls, which were later described by some Greek supporters as “ridiculopoulous.”

Greek Sokratis Papastathopoulos received a debatable red card for a push and the Greeks headed into halftime down a man and down a goal. At this point, I like to imagine that Greek captain Gorgios Karagounis gave a rousing locker-room speech reminding his men of Spartan King Leonidas from the film 300; “No retreat, no surrender!”

With this call to arms, his men responded though a goal from Dimitris Salpingidis to even the battle. Later, the match reached its apex following Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny’s foul to give a penalty to Greece. Replacement goalkeeper Przemysław Tytoń made a diving save to keep the score tied at 1-1 with ten men on each side.

Ultimately, the result of this exciting inaugural match felt fair as both sides headed home with a point.
 

Russia 4-1 Czech Republic • June 8, 2012

Russia got on the board quickly with a goal from Alan Dzagoev in the 14th minute. Soon after, play was stopped due to a flare thrown on the field, used as a sort of makeshift firework celebration. On Sunday, the Russian Football Federation warned its fans to “Respect yourself, your home, and your team.” Despite the interruption, Russia would continue to score fairly consistently throughout the match with later goals from Roman Shirokov, Dzagoev, and Roman Pavlyuchenko.

The Czech Republic was not silent though, with a lone goal from Vaclav Pilar. The high-scoring affair ended a superb first day of action in a group that was predicted to be lackluster.

As analyst Alexi Lalas has pointed out, the fascination of Group A comes from the idea that each team in the group truly has the belief that they can advance.
 

Netherlands 0-1 Denmark • June 9, 2012

Group B’s first goal came from Denmark with a nutmeg from Michael Krohn-Dehli in the 24th minute.  Krohn-Dehli has been marked in the media as a possible star of the tournament and could have transfer offers to leave his current side, Brøndby IF.

In the 88th minute, Denmark’s Lars Jacobsen contacted the ball twice with his arm in the box, but the referee controversially let play continue. The Netherlands would end the match with 28 shots to Denmark’s eight. Ultimately, the Oranje suffered the first upset of the tournament due to failure to finish chances.
 

Germany 1-0 Portugal • June 9, 2012

The second match on Friday featured the first meeting of giants, with Die Mannschaft facing off against Os Navegadores. Portugal set themselves up to absorb pressure for the majority of the match, in a Chelsea-esque manner.

In the 72nd minute, German Mario Gómez leapt into the air, heading down a cross from Khedira into goal. It should be noted that the cross actually deflected off of the back of a Portuguese player before making its way into the box.

Nonetheless, Germany capitalized on a created chance. In the end, it was all that they would need to assert early dominance in the tournament.
 

Spain 1-1 Italy • June 10, 2012

Saturday’s matches in the “Group of Debt” began with Spain and Italy, the last two World Cup champions. The feared Chelsea goal scorer Fernando Torres began this match starting in his natural position, on the bench. Meanwhile, much of the commentator’s attention throughout the game was directed at the holy terror Mario Balotelli. The Manchester City villain highlighted his performance on a breakaway where he choked by simply failing to kick the ball. Personally, I believe that he was trying to think of a fancy way to get by the goalkeeper and was unable to choose which trick on FIFA 12 he was going to try.

Luckily for the Italians, Balotelli’s ineptitude was negated by Andrea Pirlo’s class performance. His searing passes and assist on Antonio Di Natale’s 61st minute goal were truly enjoyable to take in. Spain would not be outdone, however, responding three minutes later with a typical passing display that led to a slotted goal by Cesc Fábregas.

After the match, Spanish players complained to the media that the conditions of the playing surface made their usual, quick passing impossible.

According to Xavi, “It was super dry and that makes passing the ball difficult.” Talk about first-world problems.
 

Republic of Ireland 1-3 Croatia • June 10, 2012

Saturday’s battles between failing economies continued as the Boys in Green tried to hold their own against the Vatreni (that’s “The Blazers,” for any non-Croats out there). I’ll forego the generic witty headline about the “bad luck of the Irish” and instead remember the tried and true virtue...you create your own luck in life.

The Irish failed to defend well, allowing goals that were softer than my new kitten. At some points it was difficult to differentiate whether Ireland was bad or if Croatia was good. Croatia’s goals came courtesy of Mario Mandzukic (3’, 48’) and Nikica Jelavic (43’).

Ireland did get a goal from Sean St. Ledger in the 19th minute, but certainly fell to a stronger side. That being said, some of my Irish friends insist that their side was just using this match to lull Italy and Spain into a false sense of security.

07 June 10:44 am

We're all soccerphyles in this office so the kickoff of Euro 2012 tomorrow has a lot of people excited. Having said that, most of us don't have a first-generation tie to any of the 16 teams that will play over the next month in Poland and Ukraine. 

The Solution? Do a European Championships office pool! Earlier this week, our own curtain raiser for Euro 2012 was held in the break room at Toyota Park where 16 members of staff drew at random the team they'll be pulling for beginning tomorrow.

Some of the draw results and reactions in photo form...

Chicago Fire Juniors Manager Brian Roberts, the Portuguese Leprechaun...

Marketing intern Mario Gonzalez offends Germans everywhere...

 

Communications Coordinator Eunice Kim smiles with her choice of Holland...

Director of First Team Operations Ron Stern pulls Poland...

Communications Director Brendan Hannan shouts, "ALLEZ LES BLEUS!"

Operations Specialist Erin Kwiatkowski doesn't seem pleased about her choice of Russia

Erin seems happy for Season Ticket Services Rep Neil Desmond's choice of Croatia

Director of Player Personnel Mike Jeffries pulls Greece... Frank Klopas rejoices!
 

With the last pick out of the hat, I drew co-hosting nation UKRAINE! Lets just say I'm hopeful the hosts can pull a Denmark '92 or Greece 2004.

The complete draw whipped up by our Creative Services Manager, Kayser dos Reis... Enjoy the Euros everyone!