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11 June 11:03 am

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 9:44 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!

07 June 8:56 am

Tonight is every Fire and Soccer nerd's dream in Chicago. On the eve of Euro 2012 and the U.S. opening up CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, your's truly will be co-hosting Fire Team Trivia Night at Halsted Harp (2138 N. Halsted) at 7:30pm. 

Since joining the Fire almost two and a half years ago, I've written a lot of trivia for social media, in-stadium and other types of assets but as a longtime bar trivia enthusiast, I've always wanted to do a live trivia game for the club's die-hards and other soccer-loving folks in our fair city. This dream became a reality when Chicago Fire Season Ticket Account Executive Drew Eiden (better known as @ChiFireDrew) approached me with the idea.

The questions will range from easy to difficult. Fire to European Championships and some other world soccer mixed in.  Top 3 teams win great prizes!

Click here for more information on tonight's event.

06 June 12:40 pm

Marco Pappa has a new team but don't pull out your "Jump to Conclusions" mat just yet...

Before prepping for Guatemala's upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Jamaica and the United States, Marco joined up with world soccer stars Lionel Messi, Didier Drogba, Sergio Aguero and Fernando Torres just to name a few in this new Pepsi commercial, "Donde hay Pepsi, hay fútbol" (Where there's Pepsi, there's futbol").

 

06 June 7:44 am

Not to get all bookish on you when you’re trying to get your blog on, but the definition of art (when you Google it, we couldn’t find a dictionary lying around) is stated as – the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination. Or, works produced by such skill and imagination. 

When evaluating the above definition it is easy to find the same beauty in a darting off-ball run to the near post as Boticelli’s Birth of Venus. Skill and imagination (and teamwork) are ever-present in a Diego Rivera mural as they are in a series of combination passes that lead to a goal. A well-struck, perfectly placed goal can evoke a similar reaction to seeing van Gogh’s Starry Night for the first time.   
 
For the second consecutive year, the Chicago Fire teamed with Arte y Vida to put together an event combining art and soccer with the proceeds benefiting the Chicago Fire Foundation. Fire defenders Dan Gargan and Gonzalo Segares and 20 others displayed original works proving that soccer permeates all aspects of our city, encompassing varied views and opposing opinions. 
 
Touchline TV caught up with Gargan, Segares and Chicagoland artists to get an (Always on the) inside look at the art, the inspiration and Bob Ross.  
 

05 June 2:16 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 8:07 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 11:07 am

 

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 12:15 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 6:55 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...