...the Chicago Fire acquire Czech World Cup veteran Lubos Kubik via MLS player allocation.
Having already begun to build the basis of the 1998 double-winning squad by securing the likes of Zach Thornton, Francis Okaroh, Diego Gutierrez (1997 Expansion Draft), Peter Nowak (player allocation), Jesse Marsch (trade with D.C.), Chris Armas (trade with LA) and C.J. Brown (Supplemental Draft), the Fire made another big splash by signing the former Czech international.
Widely considered one of the best all-time defenders in MLS, Kubik would go on to be the lynchpin in the back for the early Fire squads, being named MLS Defender of the Year in 1998 and becoming a two-time choice to the league’s First XI (1998-99). He also proved vital in helping to win the club's first three domestic titles (1998 MLS Cup, 1998, 2000 U.S. Open Cups)
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Sixteen years on from his signing, Kubik remains the most offensive defender in Fire history, tallying 19 goals and 25 assists in 88 competitive matches from 1998-2002 (current Fire player Gonzalo Segares is second with 12 goals and 16 assists in 206 competitive games). He was especially instrumental in the team’s run to the double in 1998, scoring a combined four goals and one assist in nine U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup playoff matches.
In 2005, Kubik was selected as the third member of the Ring of Fire, joining Peter Nowak and Frank Klopas in the club’s Hall of Fame. As we celebrated our 15th anniversary last year, he was also an overwhelming selection to the list of the Top 15 players in Fire history, the #Fire15.
Na zdravi, Lubos!
WATCH: Lubos Kubik in the #Fire15
The Fire had a lot of youth representation in Charleston this past weekend...
Five Chicago-based Academy teams, along with three from the Indiana Fire Academy and one team from the Kentucky Fire Juniors all took part in the Carolina Challenge Academy Cup this past weekend.
The Chicago-based teams did best, going a combined 13-1-3 over the weekend and taking the tournament titles at U14, U16 and U18 level.
I took a break from first team training Monday to cover the U16 and U18 games. Read my recap here and check out select shots from their matches below...
As they have the previous two years, the Chicago Fire ventured to the Three Lions Pub inside Blackbaud Stadium for the 2013 Carolina Challenge Cup kickoff luncheon Friday afternoon. The Fire were joined by hosts the Charleston Battery and the Vancouver Whitecaps at the luncheon while Saturday's opponents Houston were set to arrive into the Palmetto State later on Friday.
As I walked around admiring the wall-to-wall memorabilia inside the pub, I realized there were more than a few reunions occuring in the room...
First off was Fire assistant coach Mike Matkovich catching up with defender Jay DeMerit. Matkovich led the Fire PDL side when DeMerit played for it in 2001 and even appeared in "Rise & Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story" to talk about his memories of Jay...
A little further down the way, I spotted a Tottenham reunion as Fire trialist Pascal Chimbonda met up with Whitecaps defender Young-Pyo Lee. The two often manned the defensive flanks together for Spurs while at White Hart Lane from 2006-2008.
Finally, just as I turned around, I spotted Fire midfielder Daniel Paladini talking to his former manager and current Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie. The Scotsman was the one that brough Paladini to the second division Carolina RailHawks from Chivas USA in 2009 where the pair would spend two seasons together.
To finish the pleasantries Rennie, Fire head coach Frank Klopas and Battery manager Mike Anhaeuser did the annual trophy photo-op.
On to Saturday's first doubleheader featuring the Chicago Fire taking on the Houston Dynamo (if they show) at 4pm CT on Chicago-Fire.com. The Battery will host the Whitecaps in the second game at 6:15pm CT.
Was nice to wake up to this news this morning that U.S. international and current Aston Villa first-choice 'keeper Brad Guzan would like to return to MLS one day and potentially suit up for his hometown Chicago Fire.
A product of Homer Glen, Ill., Guzan was quoted as saying, "Hopefully, I will get the opportunity, when I’m finished playing in Europe, to go back and play in it.
"Especially being from Chicago, which has a team. I’d love to go back and play for the Chicago Fire in front of friends and family. That would be pretty neat.”
Guzan of course teamed with current Fire forward Chris Rolfe on the Chicago Fire PDL side that went a near perfect 17-1-0 en route to the league's regular season championship that year.
Having played two seasons at the University of South Carolina, Guzan left college to sign with MLS and was picked second overall by Chivas USA in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft.
At just 28 years old and with the Fire having a 'keeper in Sean Johnson who is nipping at his heels for the number two spot with the U.S., Guzan won't likely return stateside anytime soon but would likely be a welcome addition for many a Fire fan down the road...
Touching down in Charleston earlier today, the team ate lunch and took in a bit of the Real Madrid/Manchester United Champions League match before heading out to their first training session in the Palmetto State.
Due to heavy rain in the area the past few days, the team's regular spot at Charleston Southern University wasn't in shape for a session so the squad ended up at Blackbaud Stadium's Training Field.
With this being our third straight year to Blackbaud, I've often wondered about the adjacent field which has the stadium on one side and a pond on the other... I wondered because when I saw it before, it had warnings about potential alligators.
Well, today I wondered no more as one of the resident gators (lets call him Charlie) was there to greet us and watch the entire 90-minute training session from just behind one of the goals. Luckily, everyone's shots were very accurate and on frame today...
Check out this video of the players reaction to Charlie and photos from day one of training below...
PHOTOS: Day 1 of Training in Charleston, South Carolina
After nearly a month with the U.S. Men's National Team, was good to see Sean Johnson return to Fire camp Thursday night.
This morning, he went through his first training session of 2013 with the team and got a bit of a workout from Goalkeeping Coach Aron Hyde with the reaction ball...
WATCH: Sean and the Reaction Ball
More from Sean on Saturday!
Earlier this week, the club released the news that Chris Rolfe would return to wearing the number 17 while Steven Kinney would fill the number 18 shirt in 2013 for the Fire. Today, we announce a few more number changes, this time with three offseason acquisitions…
Having worn 20 during his three seasons at Red Bull, Lindpere will now suit up in the number 26 this year for the Fire. He says switching number has actually been part of the routine whenever he’s joined a new club.
“I’ve been a different number at every club I’ve been to. It’s always sort of like a new beginning for me,” he joked.
In reality, he also selected 26 out of respect for Fire players that have been with the club longer than him.
“I chose it because I knew some of the other guys that had been here for a while were choosing new numbers. I wanted to just pick a number no one else would -- it was one no one had worn in a while at the Fire and now it’s mine.”
NOTE: Previous #26s in Fire History: Mike Sorber (2000), Amos Magee (2001), Billy Walsh (2002), Denny Clanton (2004), Andy Herron (2006, 2008).
Having worn numbers 31 and 13 while with New England and number 4 while with the Colorado Rapids, Larenowicz is changing it up again by choosing the number 20.
Much like Lindpere, it was about starting a new in Chicago…
“I think it’s a good looking number,” said Larentowicz. “I’ve never worn it before and moving to Chicago I was looking for a fresh start and I didn’t want to feel or look like I did in the past.”
NOTE: Previous #20s in Fire History: Francis Okaroh (1998-99), Jamar Beasley (2001), Sergi Daniv (2002), Orlando Perez (2003-04), Tony Sanneh (2005-06), Mike Banner (2008), Brian McBride (2008-10), Tony Walls (2012)
The more things change, the more they stay the same as Brazilian forward Maicon Santos will stick with the number 29 that he’s worn with previous MLS clubs Chivas USA, Toronto FC and D.C. United.
NOTE: Previous #29s in Fire History: Thiago (2005), Peter Lowry (2008-2009).
GALLERY: The #20s, #26s and #29s in Chicago Fire History
Chicago Fire goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi seems to be in fine form after offseason surgery to repair his pinkie finger.
Check out this video of a drill from a few days ago where Paolo shows fine form on a few stops (special thanks to James Belshaw for stepping right in front of me there too...)