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21 November 10:38 am

On Friday, December 6, we'll all gather at Fado's for the club's "Bracket Brunch" with great hopes and prizes on the line for the FIFA World Cup draw. 

There's plenty to get you started on your "Drawology" now, with the below graphic representing the suspected four pots that FIFA representatives (or perhaps Brazilian celebrities) will use to determine the eight groups for the tournament.

What you should know…

  • It should be noted that the only confirmed pot are the seeded teams in Pot #1, which features the hosts Brazil and the next seven best teams according to October’s FIFA Ranking.
     
  • For the second straight World Cup, FIFA has somewhat controversially gone by October’s FIFA rankings to determine seeds, rather than the previous formula which factored in both FIFA rankings along with nation’s finishes at the previous two or three tournaments.
     
  • The change wasn’t felt quite as heavily for the 2010 World Cup as traditional powers like Italy, The Netherlands and England all remained seeds. Those countries have been upended this time around in Pot #1 by the likes of Switzerland, Colombia and Belgium.
     
  • The mix of CONCACAF/AFC (Pot #2) seems likely as both confederations have four teams each to make a round group of eight.
  • The only real question seems to be around which European team would join the mixed CAF (5 teams)/CONMEBOL (2 teams) in Pot #3 . If FIFA continues to go by their ranking procedure, France would be the lowest ranking European team, which could very well push them into the mixed pot, though this is unconfirmed and might not be known until the week of the draw.
     
  • Draw Makeup: Only nations from UEFA can be grouped with each other but only two per group and you obviously can’t be draw against countries in your own pot, so U.S. dreams of getting another crack at Iran (wither 1998) will have to wait.
     
  • DOWNLOAD our tournament bracket (PDF) and begin conducting your mock draws now! The Fire's "Bracket Brunch" is just two weeks away!

So there it is… On what we know (and suspect), what’s the best case scenario for your nation of interest? What's the worst? 

18 November 11:53 am

 

We're not far off from finding out the finalists for the 2013 MLS Most Valuable Player award and the case has more than been made for Mike Magee to take that honor.

Still, MLSsoccer.com's John Bolster recommends the Fire forward for another "not yet awarded" award, that being the league's Most Improved Player.

He makes his case for Magee here...

15 November 10:01 am

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 

Sunday
Cameroon vs. Tunisia (0-0) ; 8:30am CT on beIN Sport, beIN Sport en Espanol

13 November 4:24 pm

Chicago Fire midfielder Egidio Arevalo Rios and the Uruguayan National Team are [basically] on their way to Brazil next summer after an emphatic 5-0 demolition of Jordan in the first leg of the Intercontinental Playoffs earlier today in Amman.

Rios went 90 minutes in the heart of midfield while goals from Maxi Pereira (22'), Cristian Stuani (42'), Nicolass Lodeiro (69'), Cristian Rodriguez (78') and Edinson Cavani (92+') gave Uruguay what seems to be an insurmountable lead heading into the second leg next Wednesday in Montevideo.

HIGHLIGHTS:

13 November 12:53 pm

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.

Past winners:
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)

VOTE HERE: http://www.s8c.org/2013-supporters-player-of-the-year/

12 November 2:39 pm

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. 

11 November 10:07 am

Because we love quoting what Landon Donovan says about current members of the Fire, we couldn't help ourselves when we saw his quote about his former coach with both San Jose and LA, Frank Yallop in Sunday's feature in the Chicago Tribune.

"Frank is the epitome of a players coach," Donovan said. "Every player who ever has played for him absolutely loved their time with him and would run through a wall for him. … He treats his players with respect and inspires hard work and success through calm leadership."

Landon's quote goes along with everything I've heard about the Fire's new head coach and Director of Soccer from former players and while Yallop admits he has a lot of work to do this offseason, you can't help but be excited about the first time he actually gets to coach the Fire in 2014.

Just 11 more Saturdays until the start of preseason and 15 until March...

Check out the full feature from Jack McCarthy here [+].

04 November 2:06 pm

In this business when you swear you won't use your laptop for a day, often times you miss something. Such was the case for yours truly Friday as I took a much-needed day off following 10 months of non-stop career work...

So the story goes, I missed what seems to be a pretty clear, if not indirect endorsement of Mike Magee for MVP from a former teammate and probably the greatest American soccer player of all-time, Landon Donovan.

It came in an article from Scott French on MLSsoccer.com where the veteran So-Cal writer spoke with Robbie Rogers about the trade that saw his rights traded to LA in exchange for Magee to come to Chicago.

While the article centered mainly on Rogers adjustment to LA, Donovan, who is teammates with another potential MLS MVP candidate in Robbie Keane, had this to say of his Magee's exploits this season in Chicago:

“Would we like Mike Magee here? Yes,” he said. “I think any team wants the MVP of the league on their team, so, yeah, we would like Mike here. But the reality is Mike's not here, and we're all happy for Mike, and there's no guarantee those things [Magee achieved in Chicago] would have happened had Mike stayed here."

If you know Magee, he'd traded the chance to still be playing for any individual accolade but it does seem we should add Landon to the list of MLSsoccer.com editorsWashington Post reporter Steven Goff and Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney on #MikeMageeMVP endorsements.

03 November 8:45 am

There's a decent chance if you were coming to Toyota Park from the south, west or even sometimes the north prior to 2011, you played a game called 71st Street Train Roulette.

You know what I'm talking about. 71st Street would provide great access to Toyota Park if only one of those long freight trains wasn't crawling through at the time. If you got past the train tracks, it was a cool final breeze to the stadium.

If you got stopped by the train (especially close to kickoff) it was gut wrenching to have to sit and watch as it slowly passed by or even stop on the tracks as the game began in earnest inside Toyota Park.

At the end of 2011 access to the stadium from north-bound 71st Street was shutdown in order to build an underpass that would eliminate the need for 71st Street Train Roulette. Of course this didn’t make things easier for those coming from any of the above mentioned directions as you simply couldn’t gain access to the stadium. 

It was a two-year headache that made entering and exiting from Toyota Park difficult.

All for the greater good though as the project was completed this past week and a ceremony held Saturday morning featuring Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to open the 71st Street Bridge.

It’s been a long wait and we’re glad it’s over…

 

28 October 3:29 pm
Wait. What just happened? The Fire were up 1-0 with just over one hour left in their season. The first 25 minutes were insanely fast, yes, but the Fire were creating chances and were up a goal. Dilly Duka in particular looked menacing, and Mike Magee had got his 21st to lead the league in goals! The Fire only needed a draw and there was one hour left!
 
Then Anangono lost the ball at the NYRB box. They made one, two passes and boom. This ridiculous goal from Thierry Henry sent the Fire reeling.
 
 
What can you do? Henry didn’t even see the ball coming until it was basically on his chest. His volley was so powerful it was in the net before Sean Johnson could move his feet.
 
Suddenly the Red Bulls had not only recovered, they were growing, and the first half turned into one of the best the MLS had this year. Top quality superstars playing like it. MLS playoffs, Supporters’ Shield, and Golden Boot on the line. Red Bull Arena was the loudest it’s ever been. Things got hectic. The players were all over the field like a game of Benzedrine capture the flag. Johnson saved from Peguy Luyindola. Duka hit the side netting. Tackles were coming in from everywhere, and the only time to breathe came at the whistle for halftime.
 
So it was 1-1 and the Fire were still in the playoffs. A draw was all they needed. But we know what happened next. NYRB came out of halftime like a pack of wild dogs. They overran the Fire, starting with their hyena pack second goal, then their third, and so on and so on until five-two. Five-two - a result we’ll all remember.
 
But what happened?! How can NYRB have just three more wins than the Fire and be the best team of the regular season while the Fire are done? Whither the knife’s edge?!
 
After some time to digest, you could say the Fire just ran up against a team that simply wasn’t going to be beaten - or tied - on Sunday. NYRB was a hot team that hadn’t lost since August 25, playing in front of the best crowd most of them had ever seen at home, with a long tortured fan base poised to lift the organization’s first ever trophy. Their superstars (Henry, Tim Cahill) were inspired, the team was clicking all fall, and nobody was beating them that night.
 
So then we can ask how the Fire ended up having to play the best team in MLS with the season on the line, but we know that story. We know about the crazy ride that was the 2013 Chicago Fire. 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, etc. The pre-Magee era, the hot June, the U.S. Open Cup semifinal loss, the Anangono-Rios era, the late burst into playoff contention. Despite it all, they needed just one more point. It’s easy to look for it in games like the draw in Toronto, the blown lead against Montreal, gut punch games against Houston and Philly. The points don’t lie.
 
No, what we saw on Sunday night was what we’ve seen in parts all year. We saw a first half with some of the most entertaining footy you’ll see, and then the second half was so brutal that, to paraphrase Richard Jeni, you’d rather give birth to a porcupine that is on fire than watch it again.
 
But it wasn’t totally unexpected. That two-faced nature has been as much a part of the Fire as anything else this year. It’s just too bad it resurfaced when it did. Maybe Magee was hobbled from rolling his ankle early in the game. Maybe the Fire missed Jeff Larentowicz after accumulating too many yellows. Either way, this was the evil inconsistent side of the 2013 Fire. It’s the team that can make a 4-4-2 look like the most advanced formation around only to deteriorate into a side with little shape, leaving mismatches and wide open space all over the field.
 
After the two quick go ahead goals, NYRB was able to sit back and pick their spots. The Fire reverted to some ugly and desperate long balls that never quite came off and the second half raced to its depressing conclusion.
 
We have all fall and winter to think about what happened. How the Fire went, in 60 minutes, from one of the hottest teams heading into the playoffs to going home, season over. But personally I won’t only think about 5-2. I’ll think about Magee Face, Larentowicz Face, Duka’s megs, Chris Rolfe’s megs, all the megs!, Jalil Anibaba’s swing and miss in the wind against Philadelphia and his rocket against Dallas, Magee’s spike, the blue kit, the third kit, Joel Lindpere’s crosses, assistant coach Leo Percovich’s hair, the way Dan Kelly uses “class” as an adjective, the #cf97 moodswings, the drama, and the totally unpredictable energy that was the 2013 Chicago Fire.