Blog

Player

21 August 11:02 am

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. 

16 August 8:24 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 2:28 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.”

14 August 1:00 pm

Have you ever wondered what your favorite Fire players are like off the pitch? Well, we aim to please here at Always on the Inside. Each week we are going to sit down with a different player to get answers to those pesky Burning Questions.
 
In this edition we sat down with the easygoing Jay Nolly. A Littleton, Colo. native with a great head of hair, Jay had an incredible four-year goalkeeping career with the storied Indiana University soccer program, where he led the Hoosiers to back-to-back NCAA Division I National Championships in 2003 and 2004. Jay took some time to answer our Burning Questions about playing for legendary coach Jerry Yeagley, his love for the outdoors and why “Superman” just might be an appropriate nickname for the laid-back ‘keeper.

 
Always on the Inside: You’ve been living in Chicago for almost a year now. How are you liking it? Do you have a spot that you frequent enough to have a standing order?
 

Jay Nolly: My spot is actually Starbucks in the morning. There’s a little shop next to where I live. Me and my wife know all the girls that work there; we talk to them all the time. I usually have a 35 minute drive with traffic in the morning, so it’s nice to have a cup of coffee on the way. They see me walk in the door and they have it ready. I’m simple; I just get a tall, mild coffee with cream. The just know. They’re like, “Same thing? Tall?” And I’ll just say, “Yup.”
 
There’s a another place we go to once in a while; it’s called DMK, the burger bar. Whenever we go there I’ll have an Allagash White, so they’ll just ask, “Another Allagash?”
 
AOTI: You’re one of the few guys on the team that does not reside in the city. What’s the best part about living out in the ‘burbs?
 
JN: It’s easier for me and my wife. We both grew up in the suburbs. Neither of us have ever really lived in a big city; even in Vancouver we lived in the suburbs. You know, just having grocery stores and restaurants around, there’s less traffic, better parking, it was just less stress for us. We’re pretty easy going people.
 
AOTI: Do you have any pets?
 
JN: We have a dog, a Yorkshire Terrier named Hercules.
 
AOTI: You have been described as an avid fly fisherman. Have you found any good fishing holes in Illinois?
 
JN: I’ve been fishing a little bit; it’s back to my Midwest roots which is Bass fishing. I was on the IU Bass Fishing Team. I’ve gotten to Bass fish a little bit more. I’ve set up some things to meet friends once the salmon start running in the river to go fly fishing in Michigan City or down lower.  
 
AOTI: Best fishing movie?
JN: It’s got to be “A River Runs Through It.” Great actors, great place.
 
AOTI: Do you like other outdoor sports or activities in addition to fishing?

JN: Pretty much everything outdoors, I love. When I was younger we did a lot of camping, white water rafting, canoeing. I have my own one-man pontoon boat that me and a couple buddies have taken fly fishing out on the river. But I pretty much just love the outdoors. I grew up with two older brothers and we were pretty much in the mountains all the time.
 
AOTI: What was it like winning back-to-back national championships with Indiana University?
 
JN: It’s unreal. That’s just one of those things, you’re playing for a school, you’re in college. I was younger but the history that the school has to keep that tradition going, especially cause it was Jerry Yeagley’s last year and then it was Mike Freitag’s first year my last two year. It was sending Coach Yeagley out on a great note because he’s probably the iconic figure for college soccer. It’s something that I feel is so fresh even though it was eight, nine years ago.
 
AOTI: What was it like to play for Jerry Yeagley?
 
JN: It’s unreal. He respects every player and all he really asks of you is to give an honest effort. He doesn’t like people to cut corners. I think that’s why the school has done so well over the years is that they just get honest players that work hard.
 
I’d play for Yeagley over and over again. It’s just the person that he is; he still calls his players. I got a call from him last week and I’ve been out of college for nine years. He still reaches out to players; that level of respect that he has for people that he’s coached is just unreal.
 
AOTI: There are currently five people in the front office who also went to IU, so we have a few Hoosier-themed questions for you. First off, which pizza place do you prefer: Mother Bear’s, Mad Mushroom or Avers?

JN: Can I say Pizza Express? The Big Ten. It was a large pizza, ten breadsticks and two Cokes; that was the go to. It was $10 or $11. That was the best when you got cheese and ranch dipping sauces. That was the go to for us, we only did Pizza Express.
 
The soccer team was kind of sponsored by it but the cups were the best cups to have; they had IU Soccer on them. If you put ice and anything in them, they were just the best cups. We had like 35 of them at our house. I don’t know what it was about the cups, it was just one of those things.
 
AOTI: Best Bloomington bar: Killroy’s-Sports or Nick’s?
 
JN: That one’s tough because I knew some of the guys that worked at Nick’s and I have a jersey that’s hanging up in Nick’s. That’s the classic place. For happy hour and a college lifestyle it was Killroy’s. But now if I were to go back, it’d be Nick’s for sure.
 
AOTI: Favorite Indiana movie: “Hoosiers” or “Breaking Away”?
 
JN: “Breaking Away.” One, because I’ve jumped off those same quarries that they went to. And Little 500 is just awesome. “Hoosiers” is such a classic but I would say “Breaking Away.”
 
AOTI: Switching gears now, while you were in Vancouver you saved a young pitch invader. First, how does it feel to be a hero and second, how often do you deter pitch invaders?
 
JN: I’ve had people run across the field before but that was the first time that someone was actually close. It was just a little kid and he was running out and laughing. I think he got away from his brother or something, and just started running onto the field. Luckily the ball was on the other half. The only thing I thought about was to get him off real quick, so I picked him up and turned around but no one was there to hand him to, so I had to run over to the side. Luckily the ball never came down to our end but they kept on playing; nobody stopped the game. So it feels good to feel like a hero, to save a life.
 
AOTI: Who would you consider your celebrity doppelganger? We want to get your thoughts first because we have someone in mind.
 
JN: When I was younger, people thought I looked like Heath Ledger from “10 Things I Hate About You” because of my nose and smile or something.
 
AOTI: We think Dean Cain.
 
JN: I’ve heard that. And also the other guy that played Superman later. Brandon Roth. In Vancouver the weight trainers called me Superman; they said I looked like him but only when he was Superman. I don’t know, usually when I show up to training I have my hair done and I look presentable, so they would just always call me Superman, cause that’s just what I look like, I guess.

Follow "Superman" on twitter: @jaynolly

09 August 11:47 am

Have you ever wondered what your favorite Fire players are like off the pitch? Well, we aim to please here at Always on the Inside. Each week we are going to sit down with a different player to get answers to those pesky Burning Questions.

It seemed appropriate to focus the first installment on a rookie, so we sat down with defender Hunter Jumper. A native of Plano, Texas, Hunter was selected 28th overall in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft out of the University of Virginia. Hunter was kind enough to answer our Burning Questions regarding talking trash, which Olympic sport he would take on, his celebrity crush and how to get the ladies, Hunter Jumper style. 

Always on the Inside: We just endured a brutally hot July. How is your farmer’s tan coming along?

Hunter Jumper: It’s actually quite absurd because we’ve been training in sleeveless shirts. If I wear a tank top or anything else, I still have a white spot on my chest. My arms are super tan and my body is just pale, Alaskan white, so it’s quite the farmer’s tan.

AOTI: The UVA Men’s Soccer schedule was recently released. Your Cavaliers face six teams for which some of your current teammates featured (Georgetown, Duke, UNC, VCU, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech). Are you planning on talking trash?

HJ: I’m not a big trash talker but I’ve been getting into it with Gargs quite a bit because our season opener is against Georgetown. It’s definitely going to be a fun season and it’ll definitely be fun to give the ACC guys a lot of trash because I think we have a really good team this year, so I probably will talk a good amount of trash.

AOTI: What word or phrase do you use way too often?

HJ: I say “no chance” a lot. If something happens or someone asks me a question, I’ll say, “No chance!” Other than that I say “y’all” religiously.

AOTI: For which Olympic sport (besides soccer) do you think you would be a medal contender?

HJ: I’ve always been a good ping pong player until I played Pat, so that put me in my place and was a humbling experience. I’m not a big swimmer. Maybe I’d compete in some sort of equestrian event. I could own a horse like Mitt Romney and have a horse dance around.

AOTI: Current celebrity crush?

HJ: For body I’ll go with Jessica Biel. I just watched the movie “Dark Knight Rises” and I just fell in love with Anne Hathaway. I think it was the role she played; she was awesome. Probably her because I live my life, about thirty percent of who I am is the last movie I saw.

AOTI: The team recently had two days off. How do you like to spend your free time?

HJ: I like to catch up on sleep because we have to wake up pretty early every day. On Tuesday me, Sean [Johnson], Austin [Berry], [Dan] Gargan and Orr [Barouch] all went and did hot yoga. It was my first experience with hot yoga. There were mirrors so that everybody could see everybody and I was shocked by how athletic these people were. We walked in and they were doing handstands and like one-armed stuff and I thought, ‘What did we get into?’

We found out that we ended up in an advanced level class and were only supposed to do beginner’s stretching. We got into the wrong class and it was the hardest thing ever. I fell like three times. But I’d absolutely do it again. We get a free month, so why not?

AOTI: There are a number of bro-mances on the team. Who is your best bud and what is your favorite thing to do together?

HJ: I get along really well with most of the guys so I can’t single anyone out. Obviously I’m with my roommates Austin and Tony [Walls] (right) a lot so most of the time we just go and watch movies and stuff together.

AOTI: You are Texan, born and bred. Have you had a chance to check out any of the barbeque places in Chicago and how do they compare?

HJ:  I haven’t had any barbeque here and I don’t really want to try it. My expectations are so high I’ll just let it be.

AOTI: You’re at a discotheque celebrating a Fire victory. Are you more likely to be in the middle of the dance floor or off to the side, surveying the scene?

HJ: It just depends. If I take my ADD medicine I’ll be more alert and I’ll probably be in the middle but if I don’t I’ll probably be on the outside. It just depends on what kind of day and how much energy I have.

AOTI: What’s your patented lady killer move?

HJ: I let girls talk most of the time. It’s pretty easy because most girls have tons of things to say. You can’t hear that well so most of the time I just nod and smile.

AOTI: What’s the theme song for the “Hunter Jumper: Rookie Year” reality show?

HJ:  I’m a big fan of Avicii so probably “Blessed” by Avicii.

AOTI: What is the best part about being a Fire rookie?

HJ: Carrying stuff, getting picked on, literally everything that you can imagine a rookie has to go to through, we have to do. 

Find out more Lady Killer moves from Hunter by following him on Twitter @HunterJumper_.

 

03 August 7:22 am

The last time both teams met, Toronto were without a win all season and went on to break MLS records for all the wrong reasons. With a change in coach came a change in fortune and now TFC are looking a much better side - winning three of their last four. I will briefly examine what's changed with TFC under Paul Mariner before identifying some tactical points to look out for during tomorrow's match:

Changes Under Coach Mariner:

The major difference between Winter and Mariner is the change in formation from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 system with a few variations. The 4-4-2 has brought some major changes in player positions which has helped Toronto tremendously.

 

COACH'S TAKE: Matko on TFC

 

Starting at the back, youngster Adam Eckersley has moved to center back from his outside position under Winter. Against Houston last week, Eckersley had a brilliant game, making many last ditch tackles and stepping in to win the ball off the toes of the Houston strikers. He’s formed a good partnership at heart of the defense with rookie Logan Emory.

Eckersley's move to the middle has allowed veteran Torsten Frings to take up his more suited position in the center of midfield.

In attack, former Fire player Ryan Johnson has moved from his wide position into a more central role. Johnson plays very well with his back to goal and is a lot better suited to a physical battle with a center back rather than trying to take on a defender on the outside. Johnson's form has softened the loss of Danny Koevermans to an ACL tear and his potential partnership with new striker Eric Hassli has the potential to make TFC's attack one of the most feared in MLS.

Set Pieces: New Coach, Same Old Threat

For all the changes that Paul Mariner has brought to TFC, one stalwart is the team's reliance of set pieces to create scoring chances.

Every time a TFC player is fouled within 50 meters of the opponent’s goal, the same thing happens: Torsten Frings will pick up the ball while the big boys trudge up from the back to take up a position in the opponent’s box. Frings's deliveries can be hit or miss but more often than not, he puts it in a dangerous area.

Frings also takes all of TFC's corners which also have a habit of wrecking havoc in the six-yard box. In Toronto's 5-1 win over Aguila Wednesday night in the CONCACAF Champions League, they scored one goal from a corner kick and had another goal called offside from a Frings free kick that was put in on a rebound.

The Fire back line and Sean Johnson have been criticized in the past for not dealing well with set pieces and though they have been defensively sound for most of the season, Toronto’s skill in dead ball situations will remain a major threat Saturday night.

Lack of Pace in the Middle: Take Advantage

Similar to the Fire, TFC has two defensive-minded central midfielders in Frings and Terry Dunfield. Their job is to sit in front of the back four but also provide support in attack whenever they can.

As mentioned earlier, Frings is often dragged forward to take set-pieces and this can be where TFC are most vulnerable.

Against Houston last week, TFC were caught multiple times on the counter attack, either from giving the ball away in the midfield or after an attacking set piece. Dunfield and Frings make up for their lack of pace by reading the game expertly - (similar to what Pavel Pardo does for the Fire) but unlike Pardo and Logan Pause, Dunfield and Frings have a tendency to get too far apart from each other on the pitch - something the Fire could exploit on Saturday night. 

Prediction: Chicago Fire 2, Toronto FC 0 with goals from Chris Rolfe and Patrick Nyarko

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

02 August 9:26 am

When I think of Gonzalo Segares, the first thing that comes to mind is a tough tackle followed by a yellow card. The Costa Rican international has definitely done well to carry on the tradition of hard-nosed Fire defenders like C.J. Brown, Lubos Kubik and Francis Okaroh.

Deep down though, Gonzalo is one of the classiest guys on the team and one with a definite sweet tooth. In that spirit we took him on a field trip to Molly’s Cupcakes in Lincoln Park (2536 N. Clark) to get a feel for what it takes to make one of life’s fine delicacies.

Watch his escapade below and be sure to visit Molly’s this month to purchase the Chicago Fire Velvet Swirl cupcake. When you do, one dollar from every purchase goes to benefit the Chicago Fire Foundation!

 

31 July 9:23 am

As I’m sure you’ve come to realize the last week, picking a Top 15 list for this club is a daunting task. Weighing personal accomplishments along with how the team did during a players tenure and how that player represented the badge – let’s just say you can enter everything you want into an Excel Spreadsheet and you’ll still change your mind 43 different times.

Luckily for everyone else voting, your ballot is private, so you don’t have to worry about excluding someone very deserving, or even someone you see on a daily basis.

After much deliberation, here are my public picks for the Top 15 Fire players of all time.

DISCLAIMER – These are my own picks and do not necessarily reflect voting trends or the ballots of other voters.

#15 Frank Klopas (1998-99) – Though Frank played only two seasons for the Fire, he was part of the original group that wore the badge with pride. His “Golden Goal” in the 1998 U.S. Open Cup Final started the club’s tradition of success in the tournament and few players have meant as much to the club as Frank as reflected by being chosen second into the Ring of Fire back in 2004.

#14 Hristo Stoitchkov (2000-02) – Stoitchkov only won one trophy in Chicago, following up Frank’s ’98 Golden Goal with the game-winner in the 2000 U.S. Open Cup Final. A world renowned star, when the Mad Bulgarian came to Chicago, he reinforced the spirit of the hardworking, win-at-all cost teams that the Fire became known for early on in the league. With 24 goals and 22 assists in just 70 competitive matches, Stoitchkov was on the score sheet in some form 66% of the time during his Fire stay.

#13 Gonzalo Segares (2005-present) - Segares is one of the few true left backs the Fire have ever had and most of the reason for that is the fact that he's locked down the position for half the club's existence. One of only three players on the current roster to win a trophy with the club, Segares sits behind only Lubos Kubik for most offense produced by a defender and seems destined to become just the eighth player in club history to hit 200 competitive appearances before season's end.

#12 Logan Pause (2003-present) – The current club captain, Logan Pause stands as the club’s connection to the near treble winning year of 2003. A hard-working midfielder that’s modeled himself after the likes of Chris Armas and Jesse Marsch, Pause has been a constant in the Fire lineup the past 10 seasons, even going to play at right back when needed. Though lacking in offensive achievements, Pause has been a part of three title winning teams and sits second behind only C.J. Brown on the club’s all-time appearance list at 291 games played.

VOTE FOR YOUR #FIRE15 PLAYERS BY CLICKING HERE

#11 Jesse Marsch (1998-05) – Like Gutierrez, Marsch combined with Armas, Pause and others throughout the years to make the Fire midfield an undesirable place for opponents. Never accuse of being the most skilled, Marsch was always smart on the ball while quietly tallying 23 goals (9th all-time) and 32 assists (6th all-time) on his way to winning five of six of the club’s domestic titles.

#10 Chris Rolfe (2005-09; 2012-present) – The highest on the list of the current Fire roster, Rolfe became the club’s second all-time leading goal scorer before leaving for Denmark at the end of 2009. That feat is even more impressive when you consider a lot of games saw him playing out of position on the right wing and he never tallied 10 goals in a season.  The two goals since his return have him at 41 but it will take a while for him to catch Ante Razov at 95…

#9 DaMarcus Beasley (2000-04) – One of the most fouled players in MLS during four and a half seasons in Chicago, Beasley provided speed and constant danger to aid the likes of Razov, Peter Nowak, Josh Wolff and Damani Ralph. A winner of three domestic titles with the Fire, his stats (134 GP, 18 goals, 28 assists) would be much higher had he not left for PSV Eindhoven midway through 2004.

#8 Cuauhtemoc Blanco (2007-09) – The only player on my Top 15 list that never won a trophy in Chicago, Blanco proved those wrong that anticipated him viewing MLS as a retirement league. The legendary Mexican midfielder tallied 19 goals and 28 assists in his 77 appearances for the Fire (61% conversion rate) and led the team to three consecutive Eastern Conference finals as well as the 2009 SuperLiga championship match.

#7 Carlos Bocanegra (2000-03) – Boca’s case is very similar to that of Beasley’s in that his stats and accomplishments would likely be much greater if he hadn’t left for Fulham after 2003. Still, Boca was the 2000 Rookie of the Year, two-time MLS Defender of the Year and Best XI selections (2002-03) along with three domestic titles. There are few defenders all-time in MLS that have been quite as dominant as Carlos Bocanegra was in his time with the Fire.

VOTE FOR YOUR #FIRE15 PLAYERS BY CLICKING HERE

#6 Lubos Kubik (1998-00) – The backbone of the 1998 double-winning team, Kubik won MLS Defender of the Year that season and was likely one of the few MLS defenders more dominant than Bocanegra during his three seasons in Chicago. The third inductee into the Ring of Fire, Kubik also holds the distinction of being the most offensive defender in club history, tallying 19 goals and 25 assists in 88 matches.

#5 Zach Thornton (1998-2006) – One of only three players to be part of all six domestic championship teams, Thornton beat out Jorge Campos to win the starting job during his first season in Chicago. He holds the distinction of holding most of the club’s goalkeeping records and is one of Major League Soccer’s top goalkeepers of all-time.

#4 C.J. Brown (1998-2010) – The club’s all-time longest serving player, C.J. Brown’s heaviest stats come in the form of being the Fire’s  leader in appearances (372 competitive, 296 MLS) and yellow cards (62). A former club captain, Brown joins Thornton as one of the three Fire players to be part of all six domestic titles, while carrying on the tradition of hard-nosed soccer in Chicago. Brown was the most recent inductee into the Ring of Fire.

#3 Ante Razov (1998-2004) – What can you say about a guy that nearly scored 100 goals in a Fire uniform? Having tallied double-digit goals in five of his seven seasons in Chicago, Razov’s offensive achievements with the Fire (95 goals, 51 assists in 196 games) match up with anyone else’s in Major League Soccer. Despite his incredible scoring record, Razov was just once named to the MLS Best XI (2003) and All-Star Game (2000).

#2 Chris Armas (1998-2007) – A revelation of sorts when he joined Chicago via trade from LA in 1998, Armas epitomized the work ethic and attitude that would come to be known from Fire teams in years to come. His play in Chicago helped him carve out a place with the U.S. Men’s National Team and if not for a devastating injury, would have taken part in at least one FIFA World Cup.  Despite being known as the ultimate destroyer in midfield, Armas quietly racked up 53 assists, good enough for second on the club’s all-time list. The club’s second captain, Armas was a five-time MLS Best XI selection, four-time all-star and is one of seven members of the Ring of Fire.

#1 Peter Nowak (1998-02) – I hope there was little doubt that Nowak would always be the number one choice. The first captain in club history, it was the former Polish international that often times put the team on his shoulders during the early seasons. The only player in Fire history that can claim an MLS Cup MVP award, Nowak is the club’s all-time leader in assists with 60, a three-time Chicago Fire MVP and MLS Best XI selection and the original inductee in the club’s Ring of Fire.

Flame away or continue to vote for your #Fire15 players through August 1 by clicking here.

 

 

 

26 July 3:03 pm

Soccer and fashion have long been intertwined. 

It’s the application of creative expression – a darting run through three defenders on the way to goal or a bespoken three-piece suit and snappy pair of socks. 
 
The list of sartorialists has ranged from the free-wheeling, large collars of George Best, the measured dapperness of David Beckham and Pep Guardiola’s mastery of the sweater, skinny tie combo. 
 
Perhaps the intersection of soccer and style can be attributed to the fact that soccer jerseys can be worn out and about and not just on the field of play. The effervescence of canary yellow against the background of caipirinhas and drum circles, the stark white simplicity of the Three Lions in the corner of a dingy pub or the brightness of the Oranje walking along a path of the Vondelpark in Amsterdam.  (Note: I’ve tried to rock my 1995 purple Damon Stoudamire Toronto Raptors jersey in public – not a good look). 
 
In what other sport are Cristiano Ronaldo’s short shorts so widely revered (see www.kickette.com) and detested? Who but Gigi Buffon, an Italian goalkeeper, could make a snood (fancy word for neck scarf) a fashion statement? 
 
In this edition of Touchline TV, we tag along with Fire midfielders Corben Bone and Daniel Paladini to Chicago’s Trunk Club (www.trunkclub.com) to see how style takes shape and pick up a few helpful hints on how to match our shirts and trousers. 
 
Hopefully this helps us at Always on the Inside become cool (er, cooler?).

TOUCHLINE TV: Daniel and Corben's Summer Style
 
 
 
 
 
26 July 9:24 am

Happy birthday to Fire midfielder Pavel Pardo who's still going strong in the middle of the park for the Chicago Fire. Today also happens to be the one-year anniversary of el Presidente joining the club.

Coming off the heels of the succesful canoli for Paolo Tornaghi's birthday last month, we at the Fire presented Pavel with a piñata before training this morning.

Always the professional, the longtime Mexican international looked at the gift, smiled and said, "I'll take it home for the kids."

Win-win for everyone!

¡Feliz cumpleaños Pavel!