One of my favorite days of the year is the day the MLS schedule is released.
For many fans, this announcement means compiling a list of blackout days where the Fire are playing at Toyota Park. For Fire fans not residing in the Chicagoland area, it means finding out when the Men in Red will be visiting your nearest MLS team. But for someone like me who has been on quite a few road trips (over 50 but not as many as this guy), the schedule release day means not only looking at the home fixtures but also the away ones.
Questions I asked myself earlier today: Does Toronto away fall on weekend instead of a Wednesday night? How much does it cost to fly to Portland in March? These important questions get answered on this special day.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at five exciting dates in the 2014 Fire calendar:
Week 2 – Portland away – Saturday, March 15
Ever since Portland came into the league in 2011, the Fire supporters umbrella, Section 8 Chicago, has had a very good relationship with the Timbers Army, Portland’s main supporters group. The relationship is based on mutual respect and a shared “dislike” of all things Seattle.
Fire fans are always treated well in Portland and it’s not uncommon for Fire and Timbers fans to hang out before and after the games, something you would never see Fire fans doing in Columbus or Kansas City.
The atmosphere at JELD-Wen Field is also second to none. Though is certainly isn’t going to be the easiest away trip on the field or the lightest on the wallet, I think we will see quite a few Fire fans making the trip to Portland in Week 2 instead of traveling to LA to watch the Fire face Chivas in the season opener.
Week 6 & 22 – Montreal away – Saturday, April 12 and Sunday, August 16
The Fire were the Montreal Impact’s opponents in the Canadian club’s first home MLS back in 2012 and I was lucky enough to be at the game and had a great time.
That game was played indoors at the Olympic Stadium with a less than favorable playing surface – something many of the Fire fans observed firsthand the day before the game when we were invited to watch the team train (see photo above).
Now the Impact have Saputo Stadium refurbished, which provides another incentive for traveling Fire fans who may not have gotten there earlier this year.
Montreal is also a unique MLS city for a number of reasons. I can’t think of another MLS city where fans can brush up on their French by talking to the locals or take in the spectacular Notre-Dame basilica while eating some amazing poutine!
Montreal can be quite cold in April, but luckily for Fire fans, the April date is only the first time the Men in Red visit The City of Saints. I hear the weather is a lot nicer in mid-August, when the Fire visit for the second time.
Week 11 – Columbus away – Saturday, May 24
Columbus or Fire House East as many Fire fans call it is the closest away trip of the season distance wise. Due to this fact, the number of Fire fans attending this match is exponentially bigger than most other away games.
In 2001, Fire fans went to Crew Stadium in their hundreds, even when the Fire was not playing! The Fire had been knocked out in the Conference Semifinals by the Los Angeles Galaxy and many fans turned up to cheer against LA (and for the then Frank Yallop-led San Jose Earthquakes) at MLS Cup.
There have been many highs experienced in Columbus, such as Paulo Wanchope’s winning goal in a 2007 match after the game was delayed due to a torrential downpour. Fire fans were also 45 minutes away from MLS Cup in 2008 but for a Crew comeback in the second half which left Fire fans, including myself, devastated. There’s also the 2012 invasion which saw 600 Fire supporters make the trek.
The Fire only play once at Fire House East this season and I expect to see a lot of red behind the goal on May 24.
Week 16 & 32 Kansas City away –Sunday, July 6 & Friday, October 10
Kansas City is another road trip that fans have attended in large numbers throughout the years. My first trip to Kansas City was a disappointing one, with the Fire losing to the Kansas City Wizards in the final of the U.S. Open Cup in 2004.
Since then, the Kansas franchise has a new name and a soccer specific stadium. You can no longer play the count the crowd game that we often did when the Wizards played at Arrowhead Stadium.
- DOWNLOAD: 2014 Home Regular Season Schedule (PDF)
Most fans travel to this game by bus thus skipping the “delights” of downtown Kansas City and the bus ride does offer one cool treat – a visit to the world’s largest truck stop in Iowa.
Though SKC are not really a Fire rival (despite efforts made by the KC front office to make it into something bigger) there is certainly a dislike between the players and fans on both sides.
With the October 11 game coming so late in the season, it may be a pivotal one in terms of Playoff positioning.
Week 23 – Toronto away – Saturday, August 23
By far my favorite MLS city to travel to is Toronto. It's roughly the same distance from Chicago as Kansas City and again many fans travel to Canada on supporter’s buses.
Each visit, Fire fans shack up at a great hostel where we run into soccer fans from all over the world. Toronto itself is a great city aside from the prohibitive drinking laws on weekends (who doesn’t want to have a pint at 10am while watching the Premier League the next morning?).
BMO Field is located right on the shores of Lake Ontario and is thus left exposed and is often windy and chilly but the warm pies served at some of the concessions stands are an excellent halftime treat.
On the field, the Fire have had some good success against a TFC team that has languished near the bottom of the MLS table since starting in 2007. Thankfully, this match is on a Saturday in August so I expect a much larger contingent of Fire fans to attend.
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @Irish_Steve.
It comes as little surprise, just a day after being named one of three finalists for the MLS Most Valuable Player award, gathered another important accolade Thursday as he was vote Section 8 Chicago’s Supporters Player of the Year.
The award comes on the heels of Magee already taking the Club’s Most Valuable Player and Golden Boot award just prior to the end of the 2013 regular season.
Mike will be on hand Saturday at A.J. Hudson’s Public House (3801 N. Ashland) to receive his award and check for $1,500 to donate to the charity of his choice. The event begins at 6pm CT with the ceremony taking place at halftime of the MLS Eastern Conference Final Leg 2 between Sporting KC and Houston Dynamo.
See you there!
It's the end of the road for the U.S. Men's National Team in 2013...
Qualified for next summer's FIFA World Cup for two months, Jurgen Klinsmann will take a last look at his side with a pair of European friendlies beginning this afternoon at Scotland (LIVE 2pm CT on ESPN2, UniMas & WatchESPN). They'll close out the calendar year with another friendly Tuesday at Austria (LIVE 1:45pm CT on NBC Sports Network, UniMas).
Here's hoping Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson gets some time in one of the matches over the next week.
While the USMNT can continue their prep for Brazil, a number of European and African sides are still playing for their World Cup lives this weekend.
A full schedule of the games and where you can watch them on the TV set:
Friday - (UEFA First Legs)
Iceland vs. Croatia; 1:00pm CT on ESPN3.com, WatchESPN
Portugal vs. Sweden; 1:45pm CT on ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN
Ukraine vs. France; 1:45pm CT on ESPN3.com, WatchESPN
Greece vs. Romania; 1:45pm CT on ESPN3.com, WatchESPN
Saturday - (CAF Second Legs)
Nigeria vs. Ethiopia (2-1); 9:00am CT on beIN Sport, beIN Sport en Espanol
Senegal vs. Ivory Coast (1-3); 1:00pm CT on beIN Sport, beIN Sport en Espanol
Cameroon vs. Tunisia (0-0) ; 8:30am CT on beIN Sport, beIN Sport en Espanol
Once again, Section 8 Chicago is running their annual poll for Supporters Player of the Year!
All Chicago Fire supporters are encouraged to vote for their choice by Thursday, November 21 at noon CT. Two days later, the Independent Supporters Association will honor their Player of the Year with a gathering on Saturday, November 23, 6:00pm at A.J. Hudsons Public House (3801 N. Ashland).
The winner is also given $1500 from Section 8 Chicago to donate to the charity of their choice.
2012 - Patrick Nyarko (Charity: A Better Life For Kids)
2011 - Dominic Oduro (Nothing But Nets)
2010 - C.J. Brown (SCORES Chicago)
2009 - C.J. Brown (SCORES Chicago)
It was a balmy 32 degrees for this morning’s Toyota Park Transit Center groundbreaking and though it's not much to look at now, there's plenty of reason to be excited for the new Pace facility, scheduled to open next year, which will include an indoor waiting area.
Congressman Daniel Lipinski and Bridgeview Mayor and Illinois State Senator Steven M. Landek were on-hand to christen the new project which is expected to increase access to public transportation for the residents of Bridgeview, along with people visiting Chicago Fire soccer matches, concerts and other events.
According to Pace, there are additional plans to include the area of Harlem Avenue around Toyota Park in its Arterial Rapid Transit express bus network, and the transit center will serve as a hub for local bus routes to connect with the express service and one another.
The Toyota Park Transit Center announcement, coupled with the recent opening of the 71st Street underpass, is welcomed news for Fire supporters as both projects should facilitate travel for soccer fans to come to Toyota Park, as well as lessen the potential for traffic and parking congestion on game days.
Chicago Fire Season Ticket Holders,
As a token of our appreciation for your loyal support in 2013, Toyota Park will be honoring ALL Season Ticket Holder discounts on concessions for Saturday's home regular season finale vs. Toronto FC.
Those are (and where you can find them...)
Miller Lite Party Deck
Stadium Fare (behind Sections 102, 126)
Fan Favorites (behind Section 110)
Village Grill (behind Section 134)
$2 Hot Dogs
Miller Lite Party Deck
Stadium Fare (behind Sections 102, 126)
Extreme Signature Dogs (behind Section 108)
Fan Favorites (behind Section 110)
Chicago Stop (behind Section 118)
Corner Kickin' Chicken (behind Section 122)
Sold at ALL concession stands
Plus complimentary hot chocolate, coffee and cider for premium seat holders (Club, Fieldside, Suites) and 10% off the pre-game buffet in the Stadium Club!
Freddie Christiano has been a Fire fan since the club’s inaugural 1998 season and counts Piotr Nowak, Zach Thornton and Sean Johnson as his favorite Fire players of all-time.
Fans spoke loud and clear to determine the winning design and Christiano became more than just a fan on Tuesday night as his design, which garnered a majority of the fan vote, was unveiled as the #cf97ThirdKit winner at the club’s 16th Anniversary Party at Toyota Park. I caught up with Freddie on Wednesday to get the lowdown on how it felt to see his design become a part of club history.
JC: You probably had a little tension going to the party last night. How did you approach the announcement?
FC: I was really nervous because I was up against quality designs – one being the [light blue] kit that I know a lot of fans really wanted to see and the white one which definitely would have fit in with what the Fire have going on with their home and away kits right now.
JC: So, Logan Pause and Gonzalo Segares lift the drape over the design and you see it’s yours… Describe the euphoria.
FC: At that moment I didn’t even know what I was thinking. I was super relieved that it was over and that my jersey was up there. It meant a lot because I worked hard on it and knowing that it got chosen against those other two quality designs meant the Fire community really dug it. Playing soccer and following the Fire – when you can’t be out on the field as a player, I think this might be the next best thing to be a part of the team forever.
JC: While your design isn’t straight up “Municipal Chicago” it does have some more subtle marks to pay homage to the city. One mark is the skyline element on the back of the shirt… Explain it for more clarity.
FC: The stripe on the front was a representation of the Chicago flag colors with the blue and white stripes and when it wraps around it makes a silhouette of the Sears [Willis] Tower.
JC: How much has your phone been buzzing since the announcement?
FC: Friends and family that voted, I got a million text messages from them. A lot of tweets and new followers on my Twitter account, random Facebook friends – it was a cool feeling to get that response from people.
JC: Along with the prize of having your design chosen, you’ve also won a trip to Portland to see the Fire play the Timbers in 2014, as well as a shopping spree at the adidas store out there. I hear you’re getting married in June, what if the game clashes with the wedding date?
FC: I don’t really know what I’d choose there! I’m taking my fiancé to Portland with me but if they’re on the same weekend, that’d be a tough one. I don’t know how that’d work. If it does clash, maybe I’ll alternate and go to the All-Star Game instead.
Select shots from the club's 16th anniversary party and #cf97ThirdKit unveiling.
CREDIT: Nick Sintich, Chicago Fire
Get out to A.J. Hudsons (3801 N. Ashland) for Section 8 Chicago's viewing party for Friday night's crucial match vs. D.C. United (LIVE 7pm CT on NBC Sports Network)!
Turn around Saturday morning and get out to Fado's Irish Pub (100 W. Grand Ave.) for Chicago Fire Rec Soccer's English Premier League Viewing Party.
We'll be holding a raffle to benefit the Chicago Fire Foundation, with prizes including...
- Team autographed Chicago Fire jersey
- Team autographed Chicago Fire ball
- Fire Fan MLPD Experience - The winner will receive five (5) MLPD tickets ($175 value)
- Bus-On-Us Experience - Two winners will receive four (4) round-trip bus rides to the and general admission tickets. (2x $120 value)
- Fado's happy hour party for up to 25 guests ($360 value)
- Wine tasting outing for group of 10
- Gift Certificate(s)
- Fire Fan Packs
Raffle Ticket Prices: 1 for $3, 2 for $5, 7 for $10
DRINK SPECIALS on Mimosas and Black Velvets. Also, 20% of all money spent on food will go toward the Foundation.
7am - Everton vs Manchester City
9am - Liverpool vs Crystal Palace
11:30am - Sunderland vs Manchester United