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21 January 8:28 pm

Select shots from Monday's second day of preseason training in Ave Maria, Fla.

Stay tuned on Tuesday for the list of trialists currently in camp...

 

21 January 9:28 am

Prior to departing for Ave Maria, Fla. Fire Strength and Conditioning coach Tony Jouaux, with help from staff at the University of Illinois-Chicago's Human Performance Lab, put the team through the paces with the VO2 Max Fitness test. 

What is the VO2 Max? Well, it tests the maximum capacity of an individual's body to transport and use oxygen during incremental exercise, which reflects the physical fitness of the individual.

Tony and some of the guys explain more in this video below but if you're wondering who the fittest guy on the team is, SPOILER ALERT, its Logan Pause.

17 January 5:07 pm

 

Feelings on joining the Chicago Fire?

"I’m extremely delighted to be drafted by the Fire. I feel it’s a golden opportunity for me to play under better conditions and show what I can do in MLS."

What are the strong suits of your game?

"I think my strengths are my speed, ability and technique. I feel like I have a lot to offer in those areas."

On coming from Cameroon…

"The training conditions I’ve had to play under in Cameroon aren’t as good as in Chicago where they have top facilities and a great stadium. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to play in that stadium."

On youth international experiences with Cameroon U-20's

"I feel playing with the Cameroonian team at the U-20 World Cup raised my profile a bit and gave me something more to build towards. Representing your nation in a world championship is an amazing thing and I was very proud to play a part in all four games."

On his combine performance…

"I did feel that I had a strong combine. I came in off of an 18-hour flight and felt a little tired in the second half of games but I think I did very well to prove my abilities at the combine."

16 January 7:13 pm

 

His thoughts on joining the Fire…

“I’m happy for a new challenge,” Larentowicz told Chicago-Fire.com Wednesday night. “It feels good to go to a place where you’re in the plans. Frank has been very forthright in coming after and it’s something I look forward to being a part of.”

On his contentious years against the Fire…

"In the past in my time in New England the Fire were always our biggest rivals. We were very similar, very competitive teams that were hard-nosed. Its just kind of the nature of things that both teams had wanted to win in the past but now I’m part of the Fire and I still have that same competitive spirit that’s going to come and work for Chicago."

On competition in central midfield…

"I’ll be competing for a spot and its an opportunity to come in and show that I deserve to be in the lineup and that’s what I expect. I know those guys from playing against them – they’re all good players and I look forward to competing for that spot."

On ability to stay fit throughout the years…

"The way I look at seasons and playing is the more time you can be available and give the coach the option of playing you, the better off you’re going to be and the more opportunity for good things to happen. I think over the past seven years I’ve been able to do that."

On being part of championship teams in New England and Colorado…

"On all the teams I’ve been on it was never that they depended on me but it was more of a collective thing and the way I view how I play and what I try to do. The Fire are a playoff team and always in contention. I hope to add to that and be a piece that helps take the team to the next level."

16 January 8:01 am

In this edition of Burning Questions, we sat down with the Fire’s second year midfielder/defender Tony Walls. Hailing from Wauwatosa, Wis., Tony was selected in the third round of the 2012 MLS Supplemental Draft after an impressive collegiate career at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay where he scored 18 goals and added 11 assists over 75 appearances.

The former Fire PDL player was one of only four players to start all 10 of the Fire’s 2012 MLS Reserve League matches and featured in both of the Fire’s international friendlies in 2012 against the English Premier League’s Aston Villa FC and Liga MX side Club Santos Laguna. Tony recently took the time to answer our Burning Questions about the Walls family soccer dynasty, life in the rookie crib and his impeccable fashion sense.

Always on the Inside: Your sister Cara plays soccer at the University of Wisconsin. How do you feel about her following in your footsteps and how often do you get to see her play?

Tony Walls: It makes me really proud. I try to go up as often as I can. I think I caught about three games last year. She’s doing really well. Last season they received an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament and she got second team All-Big Ten with 10 goals, so it makes me really proud to see my little sibling doing well.

AOTI: Last season you lived with fellow rookies Hunter Jumper and Austin Berry. Did you all split the housework? Did you have a chore chart?

TW: We split it, but we didn’t have a chore chart. If something needed to be done, we just did it. We weren’t too messy, we are all pretty reasonable. They were good roommates. They were respectful of my belongings and they’re good guys, so we got along really well so it was a good situation.

AOTI: You cut off your ‘dreads. What went into the decision to make the change and how long had you been considering it?

TW: I had been considering it for about three weeks. I went back to visit school and an old teammate cuts my hair, and I just thought it was time. They were too high maintenance and I had them for about four years so I figured I could use the change.

AOTI: How does it feel?

TW: It’s a little cold. I have to get my winter hat selection out.

AOTI: Last book you read in its entirety?

TW: It’s called “The Inheritance of Loss” by Kiran Desai. I would recommend it. It’s good.

AOTI: Current celebrity crush?

TW: Alex Morgan.

AOTI: What fashion trend did you rock back in the day that you’d be embarrassed to wear now?

TW: Nothing. I’ve always been fashionable.

AOTI: What was the best part of being a Fire rookie?

TW: I think the team in general is a pretty tight-knit group. The older guys are really professional but at the same time they actually care about us as people, and we get along very well.

AOTI: [Tony was rockin’ a UVA soccer shirt during the interview] You and Hunter recently traded T-shirts. Was it a two-way trade or was it a three-way trade with Austin? How did it go down?

TW: It was just the two of us. I think Austin was out of time at the time but we’re definitely going to have to get him involved. I think I just said, “Yo, you want to trade T-shirts? I’ll give you one of my Green Bay ones for one of your Virginia ones,” and Hunter said, “Sure.”

14 January 7:23 pm

About this time last year I got Patrick Nyarko's pretty clear recollections of his 2008 MLS SuperDraft experience. I followed up a year later with some more in depth (and funny) questions about how he prepared personally for the day itself.

Jeff Crandall: How did you decide what you were going to wear to the Draft?

Patrick Nyarko: (Laughs) Back in 2008 it was easy enough. I just called my mom and asked her what kind of suit I should wear and I don’t think I had any say in what it was…she picked it all out. I didn’t mind because it made it all easier.

TWEET: #SuperDraft

JC: What did you eat for breakfast that morning?

PN: I was actually supposed to get to the hotel the night before but it snowed heavily that night and so I drove up early in the morning and caught up with some of the other guys. I think I just had a regular buffet breakfast served up by the hotel – scrambled eggs, waffles, that kind of stuff.

JC: What thoughts were going through your head when your name was called eighth overall?

PN: It’s probably the same for a lot of people but my main concern was not tripping when I got to the stage like Austin Berry did last year. After that it was about who I would be shaking hands with first on the stage. But it was really just don’t do anything stupid – every step of the way I made sure I didn’t fall.

JC: What advice would you give your future teammate that gets drafted by the Fire on Thursday?

PN: The work starts right now. You’ve worked hard to get to this spot – to be invited to the draft and have your name called -- that’s a lot of fun. After that it’s a lot of hard work, moving up from the college to pro level there’s a lot more responsibility. As long as you’re willing to work hard and with the coaches, you’ll be fine.

JC: When you signed your contract with the league, what was the first thing you went out and bought?

PN: I think I bought a Mac Book. I had a regular computer before so I got a Mac. I’m not saying it was an upgrade but that’s what I got... It was great.

 

14 January 7:13 pm

On Monday I wrote a piece with Wells Thompson reflecting on his experience of getting heckled by Fire fans at the 2007 MLS SuperDraft. Perhaps more importantly, we also talked about the experience and what it meant for him to get drafted.

Wells is a talker and gave some good answers to a few other questions I couldn’t fit in the story. Those are below…

What advice would you give to the players that will be selected in Thursday’s SuperDraft?

"What’s so encouraging is when you look in the league and look at a lot of guys that have succeeded and done well – Jeff Larentowicz comes to mind because I played with him for so long in New England and Colorado. Chris Wondolowski is another name. They both came through the Supplemental Draft and have had fantastic careers. There are a lot of big names that have succeeded and done well in the league after being picked at that stage.

"When I look at my situation, I was very fortunate to be selected by New England. At the time they needed an outside midfielder and the coaches were keen on the type of player and person I was. To a certain extent, it doesn’t matter where you get selected in the draft. When you go into training camp, everyone’s pretty much starting in the same place. Everyone has a clean slate and it’s up to you to prove your worth.

"The wisdom I could give kids is no matter where you’re drafted, go in and work hard because there are so many success stories of guys that were taken very low or not taken at all that have gone on to do big things in MLS."

To go from a college player with few if any accolades to the fifth overall selection in the SuperDraft, you must have raised your stock at the MLS Combine. What are your thoughts on that event?

“Yeah I did okay but the combine is such a different thing. Guys are getting together for just a weekend without practice. It’s not the fairest assessment of a player’s talents in my opinion. Your college career is probably the best judgment still on how a player would do in the league.

"What you can take a lot from those combines is seeing guys that don’t shy away from the big stage and wanting to continue to prove to coaches and other players that they do belong in the league. For me it was a confidence thing -- I went down to the combine and realized I was as good, if not better than a lot of these players and I think that confidence showed throughout that weekend."

13 January 1:20 pm

...defender Carlos Bocanegra brings to end his four-year stay with the Chicago Fire by signing with English Premier club Fulham FC on this day in 2004.

Arguably the best defender in Chicago Fire history, Bocanegra was a two-time MLS Defender of the Year and League Best XI selection (2002, 2003) as well as being the first Fire player to claim MLS Rookie of the year in 2000 and helped the club to three domestic titles (2000, 2003 U.S. Open Cup, 2003 Supporters Shield) as well as an additional two finals appearances (2000, 2003 MLS Cup).

Bocanegra was one of just three defenders named to last year's #Fire15 player's list along with former teammats C.J. Brown and Lubos Kubik. 

At the time of his Fire departure, Bocanegra had only just begun to break into Bruce Arena’s U.S. Men’s National Team squad, with the future captain scoring four goals in his first full campaign for the Stars and Stripes in 2003.

With the UCLA product proving his worth for both club and country, Fulham signed Bocanegra on a free transfer (in the same window that future Fire forward Brian McBride arrived at Craven Cottage) and the two formed the basis for a long-term American occupancy of the West London club.

He would parlay his form at Fulham into making the 2006 U.S. World Cup team and while his time there would come to an end, Bocanegra was eventually named as new U.S. captain when former Fire coach Bob Bradley took the national team reins in 2007.

Moving to a less traditional American soccer destination with French clubs Stade Rennes (2008-10), Bocanegra led the U.S. to the Round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa before moving to St. Etienne following the tournament.

A move to Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers would follow but after the side went into administration this past summer, whispers of the former Fire defender’s MLS return could be heard league-wide before he eventually went on loan to Spanish Segunda side Racing Santander.

Having now a decade of national team experience under his belt, the 33-year-old center back sits tied with Paul Caligiuri for sixth all-time on the national appeance list at 110 and is has scored more international goals (14) than any defender in U.S. history.

With his time for the national team and career winding down, a return to MLS could still be in his future. Remember, returning to Chicago for a U.S. friendly vs. Poland in October 2010, Bocanegra was quoted as saying this

This is my first choice. You never know how it works with (Major League Soccer) and allocations, but I love this city. For me, it would be cool to play for one team my whole career in MLS. I would like to come back to Chicago."

WATCH: Bocanegra Named to #Fire15

11 January 12:33 pm

This day in Fire history, the Men in Red reacquired midfielder Diego Gutierrez from the Kansas City Wizards in exchange for Will John.

Having already helped the club to three domestic titles (even scoring in MLS Cup '98), Gutierrez returned to the Fire in time to aid the team in winning its MLS-record fourth Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title later that season.

In contrast, John, who had only apppeared in nine competitive matches only played four more games for Kansas City that year. 

Perhaps fittingly, the Colombian born midfielder sits eighth on the club's all competitions appearance list with 197 games played and fifth all-time in assists with 34 over his two stints (1998-2001, 2006-2008)

It was in his second tenure with the Fire where his for off-the-field contributions with the "Nothing but Nets" charity garnered him three straight Fire Humanitarian of the Year awards as well as the MLS award in 2007.

WATCH: Run to the 1998 MLS Cup 

10 January 11:11 am

Ahead of the opening of the 2013 Combine on Friday, the SuperDraft “Big Boards” have begun to make their appearances.

MLSsoccer.com’s Simon Borg, Matt Doyle and Jason Saghini ran through their initial thoughts on the first 19 selections for Thursday’s SuperDraft.


Manneh (L) or  Hurtado (R) could make for
interesting offensive projects

Simon and Matt both agreed on the Fire’s choice at 11th overall, saying they thought Frank Klopas and Co. would select Generation adidas signing, Gambian forward  Kekuta Manneh, while Saghini differed with his pick of midfielder Erik Hurtado from Santa Clara.

Having just turned 18, Manneh seems to be a wild card in this draft. During the 2010-11 U.S. Soccer Development Academy campaign, the 5-9 forward tallied 35 goals for the Texas Rush.

The closest teammate to him goals scored was Marco Molina at seven.

Manneh didn’t play in the Academy league this past year but the then 17-year-old did suit up for the USL Premier Development League’s Austin Aztex, tying for the team lead in goals with 10 in 12 games before adding three more in two playoff matches.

Hurtado is a bit more of a known quantity.  The Beaverton, Ore. product was a four-year stand-out at Santa Clara where he was actually teammates with current Fire defender Jalil Anibaba in 2009.

The attacking midfielder led the Broncos in goals all four seasons, tallying 33 to go along with 20 assists over 76 matches.

The last two summers, he’s suited up for the Portland Timbers U-23 PDL side, tallying an impressive 14 goals in 18 matches.   

Elsewhere over at TopDrawerSoccer.com, J.R. Eskilson and Travis Clark projected the Fire to select Maryland midfielder John Stertzer 11th overall.


Maryland's Stertzer is another name in the Fire mix

A product of Oakton, Va., Stertzer tallied 25 goals and 14 assists over 79 matches between 2009-12.

Stertzer came into his own offensively over the last two seasons, bagging 21 goals and 11 assists and helped the Terrapins in their return to the NCAA College Cup this past December but is expected to take on more of a holding role in MLS.

What do you think of the three projected players? Certainly with two offseason additions in attack, none of the three may stick out to Fire fans on paper and all would seem to be sort of project players. Of course these are just initial lists and the Combine has a lot to do with the reshuffling of the draft order.

We’ll be sure to keep up with the combine this weekend and the newest Mock Drafts to come out from it…