Though he didn’t have all that much to do in the U.S. Men’s National Team’s 0-0 friendly draw vs. Canada last week, it seems clear the Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson remains in Jurgen Klinsmann’s plans after being one of three goalkeepers called in for Wednesday’s CONCACAF Final Round World Cup qualifier at Honduras (LIVE 3pm CT on beIN Sport).
The summons means Johnson will miss most of the team’s second phase of preseason camp in Ventura, Calif. but nearly a month of training with the national team won’t leave him out of shape.
Consistently called up since last August’s 1-0 friendly win at Mexico, the 90 minutes the fourth-year Fire ‘keeper earned in Wednesday’s draw seems to indicate Johnson is stating a strong case for the U.S. Men’s third goalkeeper shirt behind English Premier League veterans Tim Howard and backup Brad Guzan.
Should his form hold up and the U.S. Men navigate another difficult CONCACAF qualifying test, Johnson could find his way to Brazil next year.
There are still too many variables to allow anyone to get that far ahead and strong competition will remain from the likes of veteran Nick Rimando (injured for January camp), as well as Johnson’s friendly rival Bill Hamid.
While the trio wouldn't be expected to appear in this year's qualifying matches, with the U.S. expected to send a B-team to the this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup, the tournament will likely serve as the next indication as to who Klinsmann favors for the presumable third spot.
Even if he’s not always playing in matches, the 23-year-old's continued inclusion in camps, working with the best ‘keepers American soccer has offer, can only help with his chances and his form for the Fire.
It should be an interesting year for Sean and the U.S...
Remember the last time the U.S. went to Honduras?
Trailing 1-0 just after the break, the U.S. used a brace from Conor Casey and a Landon Donovan free kick to eventually win the match 3-2 and qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Check out highlights below:
...defender Carlos Bocanegra brings to end his four-year stay with the Chicago Fire by signing with English Premier club Fulham FC on this day in 2004.
Arguably the best defender in Chicago Fire history, Bocanegra was a two-time MLS Defender of the Year and League Best XI selection (2002, 2003) as well as being the first Fire player to claim MLS Rookie of the year in 2000 and helped the club to three domestic titles (2000, 2003 U.S. Open Cup, 2003 Supporters Shield) as well as an additional two finals appearances (2000, 2003 MLS Cup).
Bocanegra was one of just three defenders named to last year's #Fire15 player's list along with former teammats C.J. Brown and Lubos Kubik.
At the time of his Fire departure, Bocanegra had only just begun to break into Bruce Arena’s U.S. Men’s National Team squad, with the future captain scoring four goals in his first full campaign for the Stars and Stripes in 2003.
With the UCLA product proving his worth for both club and country, Fulham signed Bocanegra on a free transfer (in the same window that future Fire forward Brian McBride arrived at Craven Cottage) and the two formed the basis for a long-term American occupancy of the West London club.
He would parlay his form at Fulham into making the 2006 U.S. World Cup team and while his time there would come to an end, Bocanegra was eventually named as new U.S. captain when former Fire coach Bob Bradley took the national team reins in 2007.
Moving to a less traditional American soccer destination with French clubs Stade Rennes (2008-10), Bocanegra led the U.S. to the Round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa before moving to St. Etienne following the tournament.
A move to Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers would follow but after the side went into administration this past summer, whispers of the former Fire defender’s MLS return could be heard league-wide before he eventually went on loan to Spanish Segunda side Racing Santander.
Having now a decade of national team experience under his belt, the 33-year-old center back sits tied with Paul Caligiuri for sixth all-time on the national appeance list at 110 and is has scored more international goals (14) than any defender in U.S. history.
With his time for the national team and career winding down, a return to MLS could still be in his future. Remember, returning to Chicago for a U.S. friendly vs. Poland in October 2010, Bocanegra was quoted as saying this…
“This is my first choice. You never know how it works with (Major League Soccer) and allocations, but I love this city. For me, it would be cool to play for one team my whole career in MLS. I would like to come back to Chicago."
WATCH: Bocanegra Named to #Fire15
Ahead of the opening of the 2013 Combine on Friday, the SuperDraft “Big Boards” have begun to make their appearances.
MLSsoccer.com’s Simon Borg, Matt Doyle and Jason Saghini ran through their initial thoughts on the first 19 selections for Thursday’s SuperDraft.
Simon and Matt both agreed on the Fire’s choice at 11th overall, saying they thought Frank Klopas and Co. would select Generation adidas signing, Gambian forward Kekuta Manneh, while Saghini differed with his pick of midfielder Erik Hurtado from Santa Clara.
Having just turned 18, Manneh seems to be a wild card in this draft. During the 2010-11 U.S. Soccer Development Academy campaign, the 5-9 forward tallied 35 goals for the Texas Rush.
The closest teammate to him goals scored was Marco Molina at seven.
Manneh didn’t play in the Academy league this past year but the then 17-year-old did suit up for the USL Premier Development League’s Austin Aztex, tying for the team lead in goals with 10 in 12 games before adding three more in two playoff matches.
Hurtado is a bit more of a known quantity. The Beaverton, Ore. product was a four-year stand-out at Santa Clara where he was actually teammates with current Fire defender Jalil Anibaba in 2009.
The attacking midfielder led the Broncos in goals all four seasons, tallying 33 to go along with 20 assists over 76 matches.
The last two summers, he’s suited up for the Portland Timbers U-23 PDL side, tallying an impressive 14 goals in 18 matches.
Elsewhere over at TopDrawerSoccer.com, J.R. Eskilson and Travis Clark projected the Fire to select Maryland midfielder John Stertzer 11th overall.
A product of Oakton, Va., Stertzer tallied 25 goals and 14 assists over 79 matches between 2009-12.
Stertzer came into his own offensively over the last two seasons, bagging 21 goals and 11 assists and helped the Terrapins in their return to the NCAA College Cup this past December but is expected to take on more of a holding role in MLS.
What do you think of the three projected players? Certainly with two offseason additions in attack, none of the three may stick out to Fire fans on paper and all would seem to be sort of project players. Of course these are just initial lists and the Combine has a lot to do with the reshuffling of the draft order.
We’ll be sure to keep up with the combine this weekend and the newest Mock Drafts to come out from it…
59 Days until Opening Night at Toyota Park
54 Days until First Kick in Los Angeles
12 Days until the First Team departs for training camp in Ave Maria, Fla.
These are important beginning of the year days but none are as close as the 2013 MLS SuperDraft in Indianapolis which is now literally right around the corner next Thursday, January 17.
With the event being so close to our fair city, Section 8 Chicago is running a bus to and from the SuperDraft for just $10 (departing Toyota Park at 7AM and returning at 9pm).
Admission to the actual draft is FREE and signups are beginning to go quickly.
So...get on the bus and you’ll be the first fans able to greet (and indoctrinate) the newest member of the Fire like these folks did with the future MLS Rookie of the Year last year in Kansas City…
Convinced yet? Sign up here and see you in Indy!
First, a warm welcome to the newest member of the Chicago Fire, midfielder Joel Lindpere.
The move to acquire the Estonian international was met with pretty high praise from yours truly, considering all that was exchanged was an international roster spot. Also consider that the guy has scored a few goals against the Fire since coming to MLS (three to be exact and four if you count a preseason goal he scored back in 2011).
That aside, here are five other reasons I can really appreciate the move for the club's latest addition...
- He’s the very definition of an iron man – In a total of 98 MLS regular season matches he’s been eligible for over the last three seasons, Lindpere has appeared in exactly 97 games, the most of any MLS player in that time span. That also includes goalkeepers.
Players on the current Fire roster with comparable MLS appearances over the last three MLS seasons: Dominic Oduro (93 with Chicago/Houston), Patrick Nyarko (91, Chicago), Logan Pause (87, Chicago) and Wells Thompson (79, Colorado/Chicago).
- There’s a certain swagger he has… He looks intimidating and the Estonian international has a certain bite that backs up the way he carries himself. His aggression and ability in the attack reminds me a bit of Dema Kovalenko, though with a few less yellow cards.…
- He has a pretty powerful left foot – Watch the video below. He’s a threat in crossing the ball but can also unleash a pretty powerful shot. Combine this acquisition with that of Maicon Santos and the power in attack has been greatly upgraded.
- Competition (and rest) in the midfield – The biggest knock against the Fire in 2012 was the perceived lack of enough squad rotation. By season’s end, the team looked a little bit tired and perhaps slightly predictable. With the likes of Nyarko, Alvaro Fernandez, Alex and the potential return of Corben Bone, the attacking midfield options available to Klopas in times of heavy fixture congestion have been upgraded as well.
- Good Results from transactions with Red Bull – Back in 2007 when Fire owner Andrew Hauptman filed tampering charges with New York relating to the Juan Carlos Osorio affair, the team received the Red Bulls’ first round selection in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft which the team used to select the-ever dangerous Patrick Nyarko.
Just about a year ago, the Fire traded the rights of defender Wilman Conde to Red Bull in exchanged for an undisclosed, but rumored to be high amount of allocation money that presumably went towards the acquisitions of defender Arne Friedrich and forward Chris Rolfe.
Not a bad track record…
WATCH: Joel Lindpere Highlights
In this edition of Burning Questions, we sat down with Fire left back Gonzalo Segares. A native of San Jose, Costa Rica, Gonzalo has been capped 19 times for Los Ticos. The club's Defender of the Year in 2007, Gonzalo returns in 2013 for his ninth season with the Men in Red. The newlywed took the time to answer our Burning Questions about wedding themed movies, his infamous sweet tooth and the worst actor in Hollywood.
Always on the Inside: You got married this past December. What is the best movie that features a wedding: “Wedding Crashers”, “The Wedding Singer”, “The Hangover” or “Bridesmaids”?
Gonzalo Segares: Definitely the first “Hangover”.
AOTI: It’s pretty well documented that you’re a fan of baked goods. If you could only choose to have one pastry for the rest of your life, what would you pick?
GS: Can it be chocolate? Chocolate bars. Like Crunch, Kit Kat or Snickers. I like chocolate with stuff in it, especially almonds or any kind of nut, except for peanuts.
AOTI: What do you miss most about Costa Rica?
GS: The weather. I love it here in Chicago during the summer but in the winter, I just hate the cold weather. Back home we only have two seasons, which is summer and winter, and the winter is only rainy. The temperature doesn’t change that much. The average is usually in the 70s or 80s.
AOTI: How often do you use the phrase “pura vida?”
GS: I use it a lot if I’m talking to Costa Ricans when I’m home. I don’t use it that often in Chicago because when the guys speak Spanish, it’s not part of their slang.
AOTI: You attended Virginia Commonwealth University with current Fire teammate Dominic Oduro. What’s one thing that people don’t know about Dom?
GS: He was very, very, very shy. And now all of a sudden, he’s not shy.
AOTI: Do you have any phobias?
GS: When it starts shaking on the plane, I definitely get nervous.
AOTI: Who is the worst actor in Hollywood?
GS: There are a lot of them. I would say maybe the guy that’s in movies with Will Ferrell. He usually has a mustache. He’s in the cartoon movie where he doesn’t want to be a bad guy anymore, “Wreck it Ralph”. In “Talladega Nights” he’s the friend and he’s also in “Step Brothers” with Will Ferrell. I think he’s very, very bad.
Editors Note: As Gonzalo provides very good clues, we have deducted that he is referring to John C. Reilly.
AOTI: You can invite any three people to dinner. Who receives an exclusive invitation?
GS: I would definitely invite Messi. And also Michael Jordan and President Obama.
The beginning of MLS scheduling season came and went today with the announcement of all team’s First Kick and Home Opening matches for the 2013 campaign.
Praise to the heavens, for the first time in four years, the Fire won’t be charged with opening up a new stadium but that’s likely only because no new MLS grounds are set to open until 2014. See you then, San Jose.
In case you missed it, the Fire open up at two-time defending MLS Cup champions on Sunday, March 3 before returning home to host the New England Revolution for Opening Day at Toyota Park on Saturday, March 9.
Because Sporting KC opens up their first two matches on the road, we also found out that the Fire will be their opponent when they open their third season at LiveStrong Sporting Park on March 16.
Some interesting things you should know about the team’s first three games and opponents…
· If you felt a slight frost come over you with today’s announcement, it’s because both the March 3 First Kick match and March 9 Opening Day game will be the earliest competitive matches in club history.
· The earliest game in Fire history came in a CONCACAF Champions Cup match on March 16, 2002 at Guatemalan side CSD Municipal as the Men in Red used a 55th minute goal from Dema Kovalenko to take the first leg 1-0.
· The earliest home game in Fire history also came in the return leg four days later when Ante Razov and Carlos Bocanegra scored to give the Fire a 3-0 aggregate win and push them to the next round of the tournament.
· The Fire have actually played four of the team’s previous 15 home openers against New England, going 3-0-1 against the Revolution (2003: 1-1 draw, 2006: 3-3 draw, 2007: 1-0 win, 2008: 4-0 win)
· The Fire have faced at least one of their three opening opponents in 2013 in their first three matches 10 times out of 15 seasons.
· Much like the team opened up at home three years in a row against New England, they also had a spell between 1998-2000 that saw them face Kansas City in one of their first three matches of the year. In total, they’ve played Kansas City six times (1998, '99, '00, '03, '04, '11) inside their first three games of the season, going 3-2-1 in those instances.
· The First Kick match on March 3 marks the first time the Fire will open up a season against the LA Galaxy. It also marks the first time in club history the Fire will kickoff against the previous season’s MLS Cup champion.
· Overall, the Fire are a combined 5-3-4 when facing the three sides in their first three regular season matches of a campaign.
So what do you think of the first three matchups? What date are you picking in the “Full Schedule Release” pool?
While the MLS offseason continues to grow shorter and shorter, at times it can be slightly boring compared to the fast-paced nature of what comes from January to October (and hopefully November).
With #cf97withdrawals inhabiting my brain as I await the very big schedule announcement that will allow me to figure out what away cities I’d like to visit, I did have one thought and request from Major League Soccer…
WATCH: Nyarko's Blast from Distance (10/27/2012)
Over the last three seasons, MLS has found a way to schedule a match between the Fire and D.C. United in October and whether deserved or not, to their credit those games have always been memorable…
In 2010, the Fire’s last home game came against United, with perhaps the 0-0 draw being overshadowed by American soccer legend Brian McBride taking his final bow in his hometown of Chicago.
In 2011, who could forget the Fire’s incredible, “Capitol Comeback” which saw the team score two stoppage time goals to win the match after just conceding a Dwayne DeRosario penalty kick at RFK?
The 1-1 draw between the teams this past October was less memorable because of the result but still provided some excellent moments. Among them, Patrick Nyarko’s stunning goal from distance in the first half as well as the Fire’s late barrage on United goalkeeper Bill Hamid with playoff positioning on the line.
Maybe it’s just dumb luck or the MLS scheduling computer has psychic powers but each instance has provided moments that fans of at least one team won’t forget.
With that in mind, my request to the MLS league office as well as United:
Keep things going for 2013 and have the Fire host D.C. on Friday, October 25 to mark the 15 year anniversary of MLS Cup 1998. Why not package it as one of NBC Sports Network’s Friday night broadcasts?
With both teams showing reinvigorated form this past season, coupled with the famous Austin Berry/Nick DeLeon Rookie of the Year battle, perhaps the flames of rivalry that waned over recent years have been fanned once again.
Even better, Frank Klopas and Ben Olsen both played against each other in the match as did Josh Wolff who now serves as an assistant in D.C.
The storylines going in would be as good as any and if there’s as much to play for as when the two sides met this past October, it would have all the makings of being another memorable game, one that the Fire would hopefully win 2-0.
The openers are set to be announced any day now but there's plenty of time to make something like this happen before the full schedule release.
Hopefully we can see it happen.
WATCH: The Run to MLS Cup '98
What better way to celebrate the day then by taking a look back at the men who have worn 12 for the Chicago Fire Soccer Club…
Ante Razov (#12 from 1998-99)
Ante began what would go on to be an illustrious club goal-scoring record wearing 12 in his first two seasons in Chicago. As he did almost every season he was with the Fire, the young striker led the team in goals across all competitions both years he wore the number, tallying 11 to go with an apt 12 assists in 1998 before bagging 18 and seven assists the following season.
In all, Razov wore the number 12 in 75 competitive matches over the two seasons before Jerzy Podbrozny’s departure allowed him to switch to the number 9 for the 2000 seaosn.
Carlos Bocanegra (#12 in 2000)
Many forget that the future U.S. Men’s National Team captain, who came to wear lower defensive numbers later in his career, began his rookie season in 2000 with the number 12.
It would suit Boca well, as he tallied one goal and one assist in 39 competitive matches, en route to helping the Fire to the 2000 U.S. Open Cup title, an MLS Cup final appearance and that season’s Rookie of the Year honors.
Following Sam George’s retirement in early November 2000, Bocanegra would switch to the number 4, wearing it until his departure for Fulham following the 2003 MLS season.
Justin Evans (#12 in 2001)
In 2000, midfielder Justin Evans had been a Fire call-up from the A-League’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds when national team commitments left Bob Bradley with a thin lineup. The following season, the Fire actually selected Evans in the MLS SuperDraft with the defensive midfielder appearing in seven competitive matches wearing the number 12 that year.
In July 2001, he was traded to Dallas for future considerations and would go on to have a fruitful career in USL and indoor leagues. Evans has been the head coach of the Riverhounds since 2010.
Logan Pause (#12 from 2003-06, 2010-present)
After the 12 shirt sat vacant during the 2002 season, Fire rookie midfielder Logan Pause would begin occupying it the following season. In his first stint with the number, the defensive midfielder and sometimes right back would make 117 appearances, tallying five assists and would go on to win the 2003 and 2006 U.S. Open Cups as well as the 2003 MLS Supporters Shield.
Sometime between the end of 2006 and start of 2007, Pause switched to the number 7, wearing it for three seasons before switching back to 12 in 2010.
I asked Logan about the reasons behind the switch earlier this year and perhaps channeling Yogi Berra just a tad he responded saying, “At the time I felt more like a number seven and around 2010 I felt like a number 12 again.”
Pause has worn the number each of the last three seasons, scoring two of his three career goals while in it. Much like he’s one of the longest all-time tenured members of the club, Pause has occupied the 12 longer than any other Fire player, wearing it in 211 competitive matches across seven seasons.
Paulo Wanchope (#12 in 2007)
The legendary Costa Rican striker joined the Fire from FC Tokyo midway through 2007 and wore the 12 shirt in 13 matches that season, scoring two goals before bringing an end to his illustrious career.
Patrick Nyarko (#12 in 2008)
Much like forgetting Bocanegra wore the shirt, I’d forgotten Patrick Nyarko briefly suited up as #12 during his rookie year of 2008. This is perhaps because Nyarko didn’t play for the Fire in the first half of the season as he finished his degree at Virginia Tech.
Before moving to the number 14 the following season, Nyarko tallied his first-ever goal in the 12 shirt, scoring the lone strike in a 1-0 home win over Chivas USA on August 2, 2008.
When we unveiled the #Fire15 players list in conjunction with the club’s 15th anniversary earlier this year, I spoke about how spectacular most of the goals Marco Pappa scored in a Fire uniform were. Off the top of my head, I can think of only three that the Guatemalan scored from inside of the box in his five seasons in Chicago.
Since the Fire Goal of the Year tournament began in 2010, Pappa has always had at least one entry make the final four with the current Heerenveen midfielder getting there with high margin defeats of his early-round opponents.
Ironically enough though, that support seems to wane in later rounds.
In 2010, Pappa's bending strike against San Jose (which went on to win MLS Goal of the Year) was narrowly defeated in the final by Logan Pause's equally stunning long-distance bomb at Toronto.
Last year, Pappa's hat trick clincher at Real Salt Lake (one of his four entries in the tournament that year) fell at the semi-final stage to the now legendary long-distance blast "through the guise of smoke" from Jalil Anibaba in an early round U.S. Open Cup qualifier vs. Colorado.
At the very least, it’s an interesting phenomenon.
I say that because having managed the Fire Facebook and Twitter accounts for nearly three years, there is no player that evoked as much consistent response in terms of Likes, Retweets and web traffic then Marco. An update on his play in a friendly with Guatemala, a photo of him from training or even a post about another player would even bring a comment or six about “El Chapin del Fuego”.
With Pappa no longer a member of the Fire, this has all died down a bit but how ironic when you consider that his latest defeat came against a player that could take on the mantel of sentimental popularity in 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year Austin Berry.
Berry has barnstormed to today’s final, where he’s facing down another fan favorite in the team’s 2012 MVP Chris Rolfe and his stunning quick kick in little space (9/22 vs. Columbus).
While Rolfe’s goal could have been a number one seed (his strike vs. San Jose was), neither of today’s finalists were top seeds in their respective brackets. As we learn every November, anyone can win.
As we have when deciding the top 15 players, goals and matches in Fire history or just putting fans on season tickets, we at Chicago-Fire.com feel it most important to utilize fan input and engagement in determining valuable pieces of our club.
Happy voting everyone!