Chess fans sometimes talk about how the number of possible permutations in a game outnumbers the number of atoms in the observable universe. Every game starts the same, they say, with the pieces set up exactly so, but from there on it’s almost impossible to predict. And that’s with pieces that are limited to certain movements and don’t have independent decision making capacities! Surely in soccer there are many, many more possible permutations in a game.
It seems like this Fire season is full of unexpected permutations. Shots that don’t go in, sucker punches, surprise goalscorers, the Nyarko-Rolfe partnership, 11 different starting lineups in 11 games, it goes on. And then there’s the season as a whole, which, if it were a chess game, would still be in the first stages with no clear path to victory or defeat.
Then came the news last week of two bona fide MLS starters joining the squad in Bakary Soumare and Mike Magee. In defense, where Soumare’s experience and size will fit right in, and up top, where Magee’s six goals this season matched the Fire’s entire team total until Saturday night, the Fire are hoping to take away some of the frustrating unexpectedness of the season thus far. To keep the chess analogy going, the Fire’s front office is castling 11 moves in, which makes perfect sense. They’re moving pieces into a more recognizable system, complete with pawns staggered to protect the king in defense and positioning other players to be poised in attack.
Chess fans also like to talk about the three phases to a game: the opening, middlegame, and endgame. Within individual games, everybody’s been talking about the Fire’s endgame problems in front of goal. But there’s been less discussion about middlegame and opening. How are the Fire positioned when they get the ball? How are they moving towards goalscoring positions? And so on.
After going down a goal in the second half on Saturday night in Salt Lake City, coach Frank Klopas started throwing players forward in a way we haven’t seen all season. The Klopas Gambit was bold, necessary, and ultimately successful in helping the Fire steal a point against the always well organized RSL.
Two images show the difference. First look at this shot from a Fire attack in the first half:
Some context: Soumare won the ball, it fell to Dilly Duka in the center circle, and he floated a ball forward towards Chris Rolfe. But nobody except Nyarko and Rolfe are forward, they’re surrounded by eight RSL players! Compare that to this image, after the Klopas Gambit:
This is right after Sherjill McDonald came on as the last sub, joining Quincy Amarikwa and Alex. Now it’s six attackers on seven RSLers up top. It’s no surprise that the Fire’s tying goal came just a minute later.
OK it’s not totally fair to take snapshots because so little in soccer happens in a vacuum. It makes perfect sense for the Fire not to commit too many players forward in the opening minutes of a game at the formidable Rio Tinto stadium, etc. But the point is the flexibility of the team. This team is definitely still being built. Despite having played 11 games, Klopas found success with something he hadn’t done all season, there are two new starters, and it’s clear that the Fire are still in the opening part of the season.
For the Fire this season, the board is still open. The game against RSL should allay the worst fears of Fire’s faithful: If the season’s opening is as tough as the opening at RSL on Saturday, there’s always the middlegame and endgame to come. New pieces are being introduced and mobilized, and if these images are anything to go by, there are many, many, many more permutations for this team to go through before the season’s end.
Some of the best tweets in the lead-up to, during and after Saturday's 1-0 victory over the Columbus Crew...
Last month we asked you to help us pick who our Quaker Bobblehead giveaway should be for our July 7 game against Sporting KC.
After two weeks of voting, it was clear that one player campaigned much harder than the rest of his teammates for the right to be immortalized on a Quaker Bobblehead.
The first 5,000 supporters into Toyota Park that day will receive one. Get your tickets here!
A lot of cool media around Section 8 Chicago's tifo from Saturday... One more piece is this movable GIF file done up by our web maestro Nick Sintich:
According to ISA Operations Chair Eric Kekeis, "Project Rise" took 70 hours spread over eight days and cost $2000 total.
Check out these two time lapse videos of the whole process from YouTube user qskapunk and be sure to donate to the Section 8 Chicago tifo drive to help fund further tifo and other supporter related activities.
Well done everyone!
With the recent announcement of Major League Soccer's Jersey Week, a lot has been raised regarding the club's plans for future kits as well as a potential third jersey. We at Always on the Inside caught up with the club's Chief Operating Officer Atul Khosla to shed some light on future jersey plans.
Always on the Inside: MLS announced that as part of a league initiative a number of clubs would be participating in a Jersey Week celebration kicking off on Monday, Feb. 25. What does that mean for Fire supporters?
Atul Khosla: The league is moving to a yearly jersey launch cycle, where every club will roll out a new jersey each year. It will rotate, primary/home one year, secondary/away the next year. Therefore, each jersey is in market for a total of two years. This new approach allows a fresh product in market every year. Since the Fire launched both new kits last year, we are on an off cycle this year, similar to a number of other teams. As of next year, we will be back on cycle, and we will launch a new home kit.
PERUSE: Chicago Fire Jersey History
AOTI: Can you talk about the merchandise progress the club has made in the past few years and how you see it developing further?
AK: We want to see Chicago Fire jerseys everywhere in Chicagoland. We want people to represent our club by wearing our colors in the community, at games and around town. It’s been a key for us to grow our merchandise and we’ve seen success over the past three years because of a number of factors.
First was design. We have tried to refresh the product line, bring back some original Chicago touches, and at the same time push the envelope in being edgier with our brand. As part of these strides the club has built a Fan Shop at Toyota Park, grown its online presence and built a partnership with Fanatics, Inc.. It has also been key for us to integrate merch and our products throughout our marketing efforts, on television and at the stadium. These actions have resulted in solid growth and we now have to continue to build on it.
AOTI: It’s a question that is raised from time to time from some Fire supporters, what’s going on with the Chicago Fire flag third kit?
AK: We hear and understand the request from some of our supporter base for a third Fire kit, especially one that from a design standpoint has strong ties to the city of Chicago. This is precisely why over the past few years we have added key Chicago elements to our uniforms. Starting in 2010 the club worked closely with adidas to have the four, six-sided stars of the Chicago flag adorn the bottom left of the white secondary/away tops.
The current secondary/away kit includes a number of elements from the Chicago flag including horizontal lines that are created by using the stripes and four stars from the civic flag representing Fort Dearborn, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 and the Century of Progress Exposition of 1933. These details were created to pay homage to the city and the club’s origins. I believe it’s the first time outside of a third kit that our jerseys have ever had the municipal flag woven into the design.There is tremendous and deep civic pride, and the Club will continue to build on the traditions of soccer, our supporters, our club and Chicago.
AOTI: With that said, are you saying that Fire doesn't need a third kit?
AK: No. What I am saying is that the primary reason for creating a third kit would be to engage our fans in a unique way. Also, we need to take into account the practical considerations of the true demand for this product so we can meet the minimum requirements from adidas before we place the order. Since we just released new kits last year, we wanted to focus on our new designs and pace things appropriately to avoid flooding the market.
The most successful way to create a third kit, is for us to collaborate with our supporters, get everyone energized, and create the demand. In order to initiate this movement, in the coming weeks we will be launching a social campaign asking supporters to help us design a potential third kit, vote for their favorites, and then rally each other to make a commitment by putting a deposit down.
Stay tuned to Chicago-Fire.com and our social channels. We need everyone's support to make this happen and are excited to collaborate with you and create something we can all be proud of.
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!
Over the last few years, tifo displays have become a rather large part of showcasing the vibrancy of a club’s supporters.
Long before tifo became the backdrop for so many wire photos and national broadcasts, it was Section 8 Chicago that helped to pioneer the movement in MLS circles.
It’s hard to forget some of the very memorable displays the ISA has come up with over the years: Super Mario Bros., “La Vida es un Carnivale”, “Tonight, We Reignite the Fire” and the Diversity display are just a few.
While all of those are very elaborate displays that take months of planning and work, much more simple displays (referred to as two-poles for the mechanisms that hold them in the air) have also become staples of the Harlem End.
Personal favorites of mine are the Stewie Griffin (right), The Blues Brothers and even my own special display that made its way into the Section earlier this year.
As we head towards the 2013 season, Section 8 is holding a Tifo Workshop this Sunday, December 16 from noon to 7pm at ChiTown Futbol (2255 S. Throop) in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.
The workshop is open to all Fire fans who wish to create where their own two-pole or wall banner to hang at Fire matches. Folks that come out can also learn more about the work involved in creating the larger, aforementioned tifo displays that decorate the stadium from time to time.
The Banner Workshop will run from 12 noon until 7PM, and Tifo Crew members will be on hand to help you with your project. Bring your design on a USB flash drive or on a computer that has an HDMI output. Supplies will be provided by Section 8 Chicago.
Check out this video from the Tifo Crew Workshop held at ChiTown in Feburary…
See you Sunday!
While the Chicago Fire are out of action for a bit, we thought it appropriate to check in to see how the club’s worldwide Alliance Partners are doing in their current campaigns. Here’s a quick update on their recent results…
With Fire defenders Austin Berry and Jalil Anibaba in attendance, Atletico defeated Sevilla 4-0 on Sunday, with Colombian superstar Falcao scoring his 11th goal in 12 matches. They currently sit second in La Liga with 34 points, three behind league leaders Barcelona.
Atletico take the field again Wednesday in a Copa Del Rey match against Real Jaen and return to league action this weekend for a derby match against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Sport Club Internacional
Sport Club Internacional fell 2-0 to Portuguesa in Campeanto Brasileiro action Sunday. Currently ninth in the Serie A table, Internacional head into their final match of the season with a chance to finish as high as seventh as they visit Gremio on Sunday.
As Internacional look to build for next season, it seems they could do so with Dunga at the helm as the former Brazilian national team captain and head coach reportedly held a meeting with club President Giovanni Luigi Tuesday morning.
After falling 2-0 in the first leg of the Liga MX Apertura semifinals against Toluca last Wednesday, goals from Miguel Layun and Daniel Montenegro brought Club America level on aggregate at halftime of Sunday’s second leg at the Estado Nemesio Diez.
With all to play for in the second half though, Toluca’s Edgar Benitez tallied the lone goal in the 59th minute to regain the aggregate lead and eventually send the home side on to the Liga MX final with Club Tijuana.
Nine matches into the Emirates Pro-League season, powerhouse Al Ain sit top of the table with 22 points from nine matches. Last Frieday the side received braces from Ghanaian international Asamoah Gyan and Omar Abdulrahman to earn a 5-2 decision away to Dubai Cultural Sports Club.
Currently sitting with a +26 goal differential, Al Ain welcome 12th places Al Shaab to the Tahnoun Bin Mohamed Stadium on Friday afternoon.
After seeing Saturday’s encounter at FAR Rabat postponed, fourth place Raja Casablanca will hope to move further up the Moroccan Botola Pro league table as they welcome 13th place Khourigba to the Stade Mohamed V on Saturday.