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10 August 9:07 am

Last week, the Fire played a team with a newish coach and it’s the same with week when the Men in Red travel to Philadelphia to face a Union team headed by interim coach John Hackworth. Philly have had some ups and downs but are a very difficult team to beat on their day. Here are a few tactical things to look out for in Sunday night's game:

Freddy Adu: Jekyll and Hyde

 

COACH'S TAKE: Matko on Philly

 

Freddy Adu has a long history of inconsistency. When he is on, he can be one of the best attacking players in MLS but far too often fans haven't seen the best of him. This season has also been a mixed one for Freddy but the past two games in particular, he has failed to show up. He did score a penalty in a 2-1 win over New England but in Montreal last week he was very isolated on the right wing.

Fullback Sheanon Williams failed to get forward to support Adu on the outside and this forced him to constantly play the ball into the middle when he would get it in a wide position. He even switched wings for a time but this didn't help. Under Hackworth, Philadelphia have become an attacking force but last week the wing play of Davy Arnaud and Justin Mapp prevented their outside backs from getting forward.

The Fire should look to mimic that tactic, especially because it limits the support for young Fredua.

New Forward Taking On New Defender?

Last week, Fire Designated Player Sherjill MacDonald replaced Dominic Oduro at halftime and helped the team overturn a 1-0 deficit. MacDonald is getting back to match fitness and Sunday’s game could be a good opportunity for him to get his first start.

Oduro has struggled to find the net of late and his speed could be a game changer off the bench. If Philly are in need of a goal, Oduro is the perfect person to bring in because his “freaky fast” pace enhances the Fire's counter attacking ability ten-fold.

Whoever starts up top for the Fire Sunday could be facing a new center back paring for the Union, who may give a first start to former Fire player Bakary Soumare. The Mali international has been rehabbing a knee injury since returning to MLS from Germany side Karlsruher in June but he did play 90 minutes in a reserve game last week and could replace second-year defender Amobi Okugo at the heart of the Union defense.

New partnerships have the potential to be shaky and if Soumare does indeed start, I would look for the Fire to test out the new look back line as early and often as possible.

This, of course can also be achieved through set pieces. Philly have had a major problem this year in that department, giving up the most headed goals in the league. As we saw last week, the Fire and especially rookie-of-the-year candidate Austin Berry are a threat from corners and free kicks and this could be key to unlocking the Union.

Depth: If we need it, it’s there

With any team, having strong options off the bench is a massive bonus. It can help the coach to change his tactics but it also increases competition for the first team. After last month’s acquisitions, the Fire now have a bench that is not only stronger but has plenty of MLS experience.

Take last Saturday’s game for example: the Fire lineup card had names like Dan Gargan, Patrick Nyarko, Daniel Paladini, Alex and Sherjill MacDonald on the sub’s list. Soon enough we could be adding Cory Gibbs there.

The team's depth is going to be very important in the push to move as high up in the Conference standings as possible. If things aren't going well on Sunday, coach Klopas has tried and tested players that he can call on, something that could be the difference between one point and three.

Prediction: Chicago Fire 2, Philadelphia Union 0 behind goals from Marco Pappa and Sherjill MacDonald.

Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @Irish_Steve.

09 August 4:31 pm

#3  - Chicago Fire 3, LA Galaxy 1 - September 27, 2006  -  Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final  -  Toyota Park, Bridgeview, IL

Vying for an MLS-record fourth U.S. Open Cup trophy, the Fire put their best foot forward against the LA Galaxy when Nate Jaqua scored in the opening minutes of the game (10’). Jaqua scored off of a diving header to knock in the ball which had been pinging around the box after a free kick. Six minutes later, Andy Herron would head in a crossed ball from Justin Mapp, pushing the Fire up 2-0. To make the match more interesting, LA’s Alan Gordon pulled one back in the 51st minute. Still, the Men in Red did not back down as the game wore on. Fire winger Tony Sanneh burned down the left side and passed across the box to Thiago, who chipped the ball into the goal in front of a celebratory Section 8 at Toyota Park.

#2  - Chicago Fire 2, Columbus Crew 1 (asdet) - October 30, 1998  -  U.S. Open Cup Final  -  Soldier Field, Chicago, IL

One week prior to the Fire’s first appearance in the US Open Cup final, they had won the MLS Cup in California. With an excited 18,615 fans greeting them at Soldier Field, the Fire had reached the final game of their inaugural season. Only a minute before the end of the first half, the Columbus Crew goalkeeper Juergen Sommer gave up a penalty. Fire striker Jerzy Podbrozny calmly buried the penalty kick. The Crew, however, leveled the match in the 53rd minute with a goal from Stern John. Tied at the end of regulation, the match headed into extra time. Finally, in the 99th minute, the Fire got their chance from a corner kick. The short kick dropped to Ante Razov, who headed it downward in front of goal. Frank Klopas was there to receive the pass and lifted the ball into the upper netting to give the Fire the “double” in their first season in Major League Soccer.

#1 - Chicago Fire 2, D.C. United 1 - October 25, 1998  -  MLS Cup Final  -  Rose Bowl, California

After going 20-12 in their inaugural season (draws led to shootouts at the time), the Fire made their way to the MLS Cup Final against D.C. United, who had reigned as champions since 1996, the first two years of MLS’ existence. Goalkeeper Zach Thornton stepped up on the day, making 8 saves to keep the clean sheet. The first goal from the Fire was assisted by Peter Nowak, who drew out the goalkeeper before laying the ball to Jerzy Podbrozny to score. The second goal was also assisted by Nowak, who made a run along the edge of the box before shooting. Nowak’s shot deflected off of Diego Gutierrez, who was credited with the goal.

Stay tuned next week as we begin our #Fire15 Goals Countdown... Check out our previous Memorable Matches videos below:

Memorable Matches 4-6
Memorable Matches 7-9

Memorable Matches 10-12
Memorable Matches 13-15

09 August 12:47 pm

Have you ever wondered what your favorite Fire players are like off the pitch? Well, we aim to please here at Always on the Inside. Each week we are going to sit down with a different player to get answers to those pesky Burning Questions.

It seemed appropriate to focus the first installment on a rookie, so we sat down with defender Hunter Jumper. A native of Plano, Texas, Hunter was selected 28th overall in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft out of the University of Virginia. Hunter was kind enough to answer our Burning Questions regarding talking trash, which Olympic sport he would take on, his celebrity crush and how to get the ladies, Hunter Jumper style. 

Always on the Inside: We just endured a brutally hot July. How is your farmer’s tan coming along?

Hunter Jumper: It’s actually quite absurd because we’ve been training in sleeveless shirts. If I wear a tank top or anything else, I still have a white spot on my chest. My arms are super tan and my body is just pale, Alaskan white, so it’s quite the farmer’s tan.

AOTI: The UVA Men’s Soccer schedule was recently released. Your Cavaliers face six teams for which some of your current teammates featured (Georgetown, Duke, UNC, VCU, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech). Are you planning on talking trash?

HJ: I’m not a big trash talker but I’ve been getting into it with Gargs quite a bit because our season opener is against Georgetown. It’s definitely going to be a fun season and it’ll definitely be fun to give the ACC guys a lot of trash because I think we have a really good team this year, so I probably will talk a good amount of trash.

AOTI: What word or phrase do you use way too often?

HJ: I say “no chance” a lot. If something happens or someone asks me a question, I’ll say, “No chance!” Other than that I say “y’all” religiously.

AOTI: For which Olympic sport (besides soccer) do you think you would be a medal contender?

HJ: I’ve always been a good ping pong player until I played Pat, so that put me in my place and was a humbling experience. I’m not a big swimmer. Maybe I’d compete in some sort of equestrian event. I could own a horse like Mitt Romney and have a horse dance around.

AOTI: Current celebrity crush?

HJ: For body I’ll go with Jessica Biel. I just watched the movie “Dark Knight Rises” and I just fell in love with Anne Hathaway. I think it was the role she played; she was awesome. Probably her because I live my life, about thirty percent of who I am is the last movie I saw.

AOTI: The team recently had two days off. How do you like to spend your free time?

HJ: I like to catch up on sleep because we have to wake up pretty early every day. On Tuesday me, Sean [Johnson], Austin [Berry], [Dan] Gargan and Orr [Barouch] all went and did hot yoga. It was my first experience with hot yoga. There were mirrors so that everybody could see everybody and I was shocked by how athletic these people were. We walked in and they were doing handstands and like one-armed stuff and I thought, ‘What did we get into?’

We found out that we ended up in an advanced level class and were only supposed to do beginner’s stretching. We got into the wrong class and it was the hardest thing ever. I fell like three times. But I’d absolutely do it again. We get a free month, so why not?

AOTI: There are a number of bro-mances on the team. Who is your best bud and what is your favorite thing to do together?

HJ: I get along really well with most of the guys so I can’t single anyone out. Obviously I’m with my roommates Austin and Tony [Walls] (right) a lot so most of the time we just go and watch movies and stuff together.

AOTI: You are Texan, born and bred. Have you had a chance to check out any of the barbeque places in Chicago and how do they compare?

HJ:  I haven’t had any barbeque here and I don’t really want to try it. My expectations are so high I’ll just let it be.

AOTI: You’re at a discotheque celebrating a Fire victory. Are you more likely to be in the middle of the dance floor or off to the side, surveying the scene?

HJ: It just depends. If I take my ADD medicine I’ll be more alert and I’ll probably be in the middle but if I don’t I’ll probably be on the outside. It just depends on what kind of day and how much energy I have.

AOTI: What’s your patented lady killer move?

HJ: I let girls talk most of the time. It’s pretty easy because most girls have tons of things to say. You can’t hear that well so most of the time I just nod and smile.

AOTI: What’s the theme song for the “Hunter Jumper: Rookie Year” reality show?

HJ:  I’m a big fan of Avicii so probably “Blessed” by Avicii.

AOTI: What is the best part about being a Fire rookie?

HJ: Carrying stuff, getting picked on, literally everything that you can imagine a rookie has to go to through, we have to do. 

Find out more Lady Killer moves from Hunter by following him on Twitter @HunterJumper_.

 

09 August 10:27 am

With his equalizer in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Toronto FC, Fire midfielder Marco Pappa moved into a tie for fourth on the club’s all-time regular season goals list with former captain Peter Nowak at 26.

Throughout his time with the Fire, the Guatemalan international has quietly moved up the goal chart, bagging more than half of his goals (14) in the last 18 months.

Sitting eighth at the start of 2012, Pappa began his ascendency up the chart this season by tying Nate Jaqua at 21 goals with his “Olimipico” on April 28 vs. Seattle. A week later, his late game-winner at Chivas moved him into a three-way tie for fifth with Damani Ralph and Dema Kovalenko at 22.

 

Pappa took over fifth place with another game-winner vs. Dallas on May 23 and built towards Nowak with goals vs. Columbus (June 23) at Sporting KC (June 29) before tying the former Polish international Saturday night.

Sitting six goals back of Josh Wolff at third place on the list (32), I pose this question: Can Marco pass Josh with 12 matches remaining in the 2012 campaign?

While Pappa has never scored more than eight goals in one single campaign, it’s important to also note that he’s never had six this early in a season.

History could be construed to be on Pappa’s side in this quest as well as he’s tallied 11 career goals against the team’s remaining opponents and has scored two goals each against the likes of D.C. United (who the Fire still play twice), Toronto FC, Sporting KC and Red Bull New York.

Two of those remaining 12 games also come against the two worst defenses in Major League Soccer in Montreal (43 goals conceded) and Toronto FC again (40). All he needs is six to tie…

What becomes more evident with Pappa is the team’s success rate when he finds the back of the net. Marco has tallied 26 goals in 23 matches and the team has earned points in 19 of those games, winning 13. Over the course of his time with the Men in Red, the Fire have only lost four times when he’s tallied, once in each season since 2009.

With the team already losing a match in which he’s scored this season, you can tie a lot to wanting to see Marco hit at least for six more goals before the end of the campaign.

So what do you think, can Marco do it? Vote to the right and comment below to give me your thoughts...

 

06 August 7:16 am

#6 - Chicago Fire 2, Tampa Bay Mutiny 0 -  April 4, 1998  -  MLS Regular Season Match  -  Soldier Field, Chicago, IL

In their first home match in Major League Soccer history, the Fire were taking on the now-defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny at Soldier Field. With a hearty crowd of 36,444, the Fire would deliver results on this spring night. Frank Klopas got the first goal of the match in the 43rd minute, with an assist from Zak Ibsen. Klopas would score again in the 88th to secure a brace and lead the Fire to their first home victory. The total combination of the inaugural home game, a 2-0 win, and two goals from the Fire’s future coach would make this a match to be remembered.

#5 - Chicago Fire 1, New England Revolution 0 - November 14, 2003  -  Eastern Conference Final  -  Soldier Field, Chicago, IL

The Fire outshot rivals New England Revolution 20 to 7 in this physical Eastern Conference Final. With neither side scoring in regular time, the match went into extra time. It took until the 101st minute for the Fire to score, off the back of a run from substitute Justin Mapp toward the goal line. Mapp cut the ball back, passing to the center of the six-yard box. Damani Ralph then attempted a weak shot, but it surely would have been saved without captain Chris Armas there to finish it off. At the time, the golden goal rule applied, meaning that the game was complete and the Fire were Eastern Conference champions.

#4  - Chicago Fire 2, Miami Fusion 1 -  October 21, 2000  -  Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final  -  Soldier Field, Chicago, IL

In the 44th minute, Fire legend Ante Razov broke past the Miami Fusion defense on a breakaway. After drawing out the goalkeeper and dribbling past him to the side of the six-yard box, Razov centered the ball to Hristo Stoitchkov. Soitchkov easily slid the ball past one defender to score the first goal of the match. Later, Fire favorite DaMarcus Beasley streamed down the left wing, beating his defender. Beasley put a low cross into the dangerous area in front of goal and Fusion defender Tyrone Marshall mistakenly knocked the ball into the net for an own goal. While the Fusion would grab a goal through Welton once before the match was finished, the Fire had put in enough effort to win the match, counting them as US Open Cup champions for the second time.

Stay tuned later this week for the final three matches in our #Fire15 Countdown... Check out our previous countdown videos below:

Memorable Matches 7-9
Memorable Matches 10-12
Memorable Matches 13-15

03 August 8:22 am

The last time both teams met, Toronto were without a win all season and went on to break MLS records for all the wrong reasons. With a change in coach came a change in fortune and now TFC are looking a much better side - winning three of their last four. I will briefly examine what's changed with TFC under Paul Mariner before identifying some tactical points to look out for during tomorrow's match:

Changes Under Coach Mariner:

The major difference between Winter and Mariner is the change in formation from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 system with a few variations. The 4-4-2 has brought some major changes in player positions which has helped Toronto tremendously.

 

COACH'S TAKE: Matko on TFC

 

Starting at the back, youngster Adam Eckersley has moved to center back from his outside position under Winter. Against Houston last week, Eckersley had a brilliant game, making many last ditch tackles and stepping in to win the ball off the toes of the Houston strikers. He’s formed a good partnership at heart of the defense with rookie Logan Emory.

Eckersley's move to the middle has allowed veteran Torsten Frings to take up his more suited position in the center of midfield.

In attack, former Fire player Ryan Johnson has moved from his wide position into a more central role. Johnson plays very well with his back to goal and is a lot better suited to a physical battle with a center back rather than trying to take on a defender on the outside. Johnson's form has softened the loss of Danny Koevermans to an ACL tear and his potential partnership with new striker Eric Hassli has the potential to make TFC's attack one of the most feared in MLS.

Set Pieces: New Coach, Same Old Threat

For all the changes that Paul Mariner has brought to TFC, one stalwart is the team's reliance of set pieces to create scoring chances.

Every time a TFC player is fouled within 50 meters of the opponent’s goal, the same thing happens: Torsten Frings will pick up the ball while the big boys trudge up from the back to take up a position in the opponent’s box. Frings's deliveries can be hit or miss but more often than not, he puts it in a dangerous area.

Frings also takes all of TFC's corners which also have a habit of wrecking havoc in the six-yard box. In Toronto's 5-1 win over Aguila Wednesday night in the CONCACAF Champions League, they scored one goal from a corner kick and had another goal called offside from a Frings free kick that was put in on a rebound.

The Fire back line and Sean Johnson have been criticized in the past for not dealing well with set pieces and though they have been defensively sound for most of the season, Toronto’s skill in dead ball situations will remain a major threat Saturday night.

Lack of Pace in the Middle: Take Advantage

Similar to the Fire, TFC has two defensive-minded central midfielders in Frings and Terry Dunfield. Their job is to sit in front of the back four but also provide support in attack whenever they can.

As mentioned earlier, Frings is often dragged forward to take set-pieces and this can be where TFC are most vulnerable.

Against Houston last week, TFC were caught multiple times on the counter attack, either from giving the ball away in the midfield or after an attacking set piece. Dunfield and Frings make up for their lack of pace by reading the game expertly - (similar to what Pavel Pardo does for the Fire) but unlike Pardo and Logan Pause, Dunfield and Frings have a tendency to get too far apart from each other on the pitch - something the Fire could exploit on Saturday night. 

Prediction: Chicago Fire 2, Toronto FC 0 with goals from Chris Rolfe and Patrick Nyarko

Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @Irish_Steve.

02 August 4:40 pm

Here at Always on the Inside we get a ton of fan mail (feel free to send some over! – 7000 S. Harlem Ave. Bridgeview, IL 60455) with all sorts of content ideas and things we can do to improve our fair blog. We recently got this piece of fan mail from a Sandy Hannan in Denver, CO:
 
Dear Jeff,
 
Love the blog. Long time listener and a huge fan of your work.
 
Thanks for always keeping us informed about everything happening in Chicago. I think of everyone who writes for Always on the Inside, you provide the most insight and really help us get to know the team.
 
I’m a big music fan and would love to know more about the players musical interest. What kind of stuff are they listening to right now? Can I find the tunes anywhere?
 
Hope all is well. I’ll send some snacks your way soon.
 
Toodles,
Sandy
 

Wait? Was that a letter from my Mom? Since Jeff is busy with some #Fire15 stuff, I thought I’d take a crack at putting together a music series. Each week Always on the Inside is going to focus on three tracks/albums that a #cf97 player is listening to currently. Put the tracks between your headphones with Muve Music, if you’re so inclined. For the first addition we caught up with aspiring rap lyricist and resident beat-bopper Tony Walls. Without further ado, here’s Between the Headphones:
 

Always on the Inside: What type of stuff are you listening to right now?
 
Tony Walls: The first album is "Self Made Vol. 2" which is by Maybach Music Group which is headed by Rick Ross and two of his most popular artists -Meek Mill and Wale.

Overall, it's up tempo with really nice beats, something to bob your head to and stuff that you can play not only before training but also before games. They're really clever and good with wordplay.

 Another track is "Take Care" by Drake, even though it is older. I would have to say Drake is one of my favorite artists right now. He does a really good job, I know it sounds corny, painting a mental picture and an image in your head when he's rapping. A lot of the situations he talks about, I can relate to actually. Not just with women, but with growing up.

He does a really good job of talking about his childhood and struggles he went through with his parents. I can relate to his music and he can sing. He has a really good voice.
 
I'm also listening to Meek Mill, who I mentioned before. His mixtape is called "Dreamchasers 2". I like Meek Mill because, similar to Drake, he raps about a lot of day-to-day situations. He's all about motivation and staying focused toward the goals you want reach in life, which is important to me and relevant to where I am right now.

That mixtape is one of my favorites right now. The lyrics are easy to listen to and he has a smooth flow.
 
AOTI: What do you get out of listening to music, especially these albums?
 
It's not necessarily to escape reality. It's something to get you amped up, pumped up before a game. I think that's why a lot of people listen to music. You do get lost in the music. A lot of music paints a mental image.
 
AOTI: What did you listen to growing up?
 
TW: I've always been into rap music. My neighbors, who were like older brothers to me got me listening to it. I've always liked Biggie, he's one of my favorite artists. I've always been surrounded by it growing up. 
I'm not close-minded to other music, though.

I listen to a little bit of Gavin DeGraw, a little bit of Lauryn Hill. My little sister is really musically diverse so she got me on a little Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber. So I try to stay open-minded, but rap is my first choice for sure.

 

 

02 August 10:26 am

When I think of Gonzalo Segares, the first thing that comes to mind is a tough tackle followed by a yellow card. The Costa Rican international has definitely done well to carry on the tradition of hard-nosed Fire defenders like C.J. Brown, Lubos Kubik and Francis Okaroh.

Deep down though, Gonzalo is one of the classiest guys on the team and one with a definite sweet tooth. In that spirit we took him on a field trip to Molly’s Cupcakes in Lincoln Park (2536 N. Clark) to get a feel for what it takes to make one of life’s fine delicacies.

Watch his escapade below and be sure to visit Molly’s this month to purchase the Chicago Fire Velvet Swirl cupcake. When you do, one dollar from every purchase goes to benefit the Chicago Fire Foundation!

 

31 July 10:23 am

As I’m sure you’ve come to realize the last week, picking a Top 15 list for this club is a daunting task. Weighing personal accomplishments along with how the team did during a players tenure and how that player represented the badge – let’s just say you can enter everything you want into an Excel Spreadsheet and you’ll still change your mind 43 different times.

Luckily for everyone else voting, your ballot is private, so you don’t have to worry about excluding someone very deserving, or even someone you see on a daily basis.

After much deliberation, here are my public picks for the Top 15 Fire players of all time.

DISCLAIMER – These are my own picks and do not necessarily reflect voting trends or the ballots of other voters.

#15 Frank Klopas (1998-99) – Though Frank played only two seasons for the Fire, he was part of the original group that wore the badge with pride. His “Golden Goal” in the 1998 U.S. Open Cup Final started the club’s tradition of success in the tournament and few players have meant as much to the club as Frank as reflected by being chosen second into the Ring of Fire back in 2004.

#14 Hristo Stoitchkov (2000-02) – Stoitchkov only won one trophy in Chicago, following up Frank’s ’98 Golden Goal with the game-winner in the 2000 U.S. Open Cup Final. A world renowned star, when the Mad Bulgarian came to Chicago, he reinforced the spirit of the hardworking, win-at-all cost teams that the Fire became known for early on in the league. With 24 goals and 22 assists in just 70 competitive matches, Stoitchkov was on the score sheet in some form 66% of the time during his Fire stay.

#13 Gonzalo Segares (2005-present) - Segares is one of the few true left backs the Fire have ever had and most of the reason for that is the fact that he's locked down the position for half the club's existence. One of only three players on the current roster to win a trophy with the club, Segares sits behind only Lubos Kubik for most offense produced by a defender and seems destined to become just the eighth player in club history to hit 200 competitive appearances before season's end.

#12 Logan Pause (2003-present) – The current club captain, Logan Pause stands as the club’s connection to the near treble winning year of 2003. A hard-working midfielder that’s modeled himself after the likes of Chris Armas and Jesse Marsch, Pause has been a constant in the Fire lineup the past 10 seasons, even going to play at right back when needed. Though lacking in offensive achievements, Pause has been a part of three title winning teams and sits second behind only C.J. Brown on the club’s all-time appearance list at 291 games played.

VOTE FOR YOUR #FIRE15 PLAYERS BY CLICKING HERE

#11 Jesse Marsch (1998-05) – Like Gutierrez, Marsch combined with Armas, Pause and others throughout the years to make the Fire midfield an undesirable place for opponents. Never accuse of being the most skilled, Marsch was always smart on the ball while quietly tallying 23 goals (9th all-time) and 32 assists (6th all-time) on his way to winning five of six of the club’s domestic titles.

#10 Chris Rolfe (2005-09; 2012-present) – The highest on the list of the current Fire roster, Rolfe became the club’s second all-time leading goal scorer before leaving for Denmark at the end of 2009. That feat is even more impressive when you consider a lot of games saw him playing out of position on the right wing and he never tallied 10 goals in a season.  The two goals since his return have him at 41 but it will take a while for him to catch Ante Razov at 95…

#9 DaMarcus Beasley (2000-04) – One of the most fouled players in MLS during four and a half seasons in Chicago, Beasley provided speed and constant danger to aid the likes of Razov, Peter Nowak, Josh Wolff and Damani Ralph. A winner of three domestic titles with the Fire, his stats (134 GP, 18 goals, 28 assists) would be much higher had he not left for PSV Eindhoven midway through 2004.

#8 Cuauhtemoc Blanco (2007-09) – The only player on my Top 15 list that never won a trophy in Chicago, Blanco proved those wrong that anticipated him viewing MLS as a retirement league. The legendary Mexican midfielder tallied 19 goals and 28 assists in his 77 appearances for the Fire (61% conversion rate) and led the team to three consecutive Eastern Conference finals as well as the 2009 SuperLiga championship match.

#7 Carlos Bocanegra (2000-03) – Boca’s case is very similar to that of Beasley’s in that his stats and accomplishments would likely be much greater if he hadn’t left for Fulham after 2003. Still, Boca was the 2000 Rookie of the Year, two-time MLS Defender of the Year and Best XI selections (2002-03) along with three domestic titles. There are few defenders all-time in MLS that have been quite as dominant as Carlos Bocanegra was in his time with the Fire.

VOTE FOR YOUR #FIRE15 PLAYERS BY CLICKING HERE

#6 Lubos Kubik (1998-00) – The backbone of the 1998 double-winning team, Kubik won MLS Defender of the Year that season and was likely one of the few MLS defenders more dominant than Bocanegra during his three seasons in Chicago. The third inductee into the Ring of Fire, Kubik also holds the distinction of being the most offensive defender in club history, tallying 19 goals and 25 assists in 88 matches.

#5 Zach Thornton (1998-2006) – One of only three players to be part of all six domestic championship teams, Thornton beat out Jorge Campos to win the starting job during his first season in Chicago. He holds the distinction of holding most of the club’s goalkeeping records and is one of Major League Soccer’s top goalkeepers of all-time.

#4 C.J. Brown (1998-2010) – The club’s all-time longest serving player, C.J. Brown’s heaviest stats come in the form of being the Fire’s  leader in appearances (372 competitive, 296 MLS) and yellow cards (62). A former club captain, Brown joins Thornton as one of the three Fire players to be part of all six domestic titles, while carrying on the tradition of hard-nosed soccer in Chicago. Brown was the most recent inductee into the Ring of Fire.

#3 Ante Razov (1998-2004) – What can you say about a guy that nearly scored 100 goals in a Fire uniform? Having tallied double-digit goals in five of his seven seasons in Chicago, Razov’s offensive achievements with the Fire (95 goals, 51 assists in 196 games) match up with anyone else’s in Major League Soccer. Despite his incredible scoring record, Razov was just once named to the MLS Best XI (2003) and All-Star Game (2000).

#2 Chris Armas (1998-2007) – A revelation of sorts when he joined Chicago via trade from LA in 1998, Armas epitomized the work ethic and attitude that would come to be known from Fire teams in years to come. His play in Chicago helped him carve out a place with the U.S. Men’s National Team and if not for a devastating injury, would have taken part in at least one FIFA World Cup.  Despite being known as the ultimate destroyer in midfield, Armas quietly racked up 53 assists, good enough for second on the club’s all-time list. The club’s second captain, Armas was a five-time MLS Best XI selection, four-time all-star and is one of seven members of the Ring of Fire.

#1 Peter Nowak (1998-02) – I hope there was little doubt that Nowak would always be the number one choice. The first captain in club history, it was the former Polish international that often times put the team on his shoulders during the early seasons. The only player in Fire history that can claim an MLS Cup MVP award, Nowak is the club’s all-time leader in assists with 60, a three-time Chicago Fire MVP and MLS Best XI selection and the original inductee in the club’s Ring of Fire.

Flame away or continue to vote for your #Fire15 players through August 1 by clicking here.

 

 

 

27 July 9:58 am

The Fire play the Supporters Shield leaders San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night at Buck Shaw Stadium. Here are a few things to look out for from a tactical standpoint…

Outside Backs: San Jose’s Biggest Threat?

 

COACH'S TAKE: Matko on Quakes

 

When people think of the ‘Quakes, everyone’s mind wanders straight to 17-goal striker Chris Wondolowski. Unfortunately for the Fire, San Jose is far from a one-trick pony. Saturday night the team has another date with a league-leading side in the Golden State but they’ll head north of Carson to take on the high-flying San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium.
 
Two of the Earthquakes biggest threats come in the form of their wingbacks, Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow. Beitashour, who has six assists this year, is suspended for Saturday’s match but this will not stop the ‘Quakes from pushing their full backs forward at every opportunity. They look to get in 2v1 situations which allow them space to cross into the middle for the ever-dangerous trifecta of Wondowski Steven Leinhart and Alan Gordon.  
 
Last week, Vancouver allowed Morrow and Beitashour to get behind on too many occasions with Morrow in particular causing problems down the left wing. Marco Pappa’s suspension means we will likely see Chris Rolfe and Patrick Nyarko playing in the wide positions for the Fire. Both Rolfe andNyarko are very good at tracking back and helping out the wide defenders – something that will be essential in thwarting San Jose on Saturday.
 
Outside Backs: San Jose’s Biggest Weakness?

With six more goals scored than any other team in the league this season and two in-form strikers, San Jose just can’t stop scoring. That being said, the team’s 44 goals eclipse the fact that they have given up 27. Of the teams currently in playoff positions, only New York and the Galaxy have given up more. 

Last week’s loss to Vancouver exposed one of San Jose’s biggest weaknesses which also happens to be one of Fire’s greatest strengths: speed. Though Morrow had a good game on the attacking side, he was punished time after time by Dane Richards whose goal came directly from a Morrow error.

On the right hand side, San Jose will be without Beitashour for the first time all season which could pay dividends for the Men in Red. The pace of the Fire’s Ghanaian duo of Nyarko and Oduro could cause San Jose some major problems on the outside. Because the outside backs push up so much, there is plenty of room behind them for Oduro to run into. When he does go wide however, it requires the other attack-minded players Rolfe, Alex and Nyarko to get into the box in support.

Wondo and Gordon: Stay Tight

A major reason San Jose is sitting at the top of MLS this season are the goals from Wondolowski (17), Gordon (9) and Lenhart (6). The Quakes don’t  set up their strikes the traditional way, with one on the shoulder off the last defender looking for flick-ons from the target man. Wondolowski and Gordon/Lenhart are constantly switching positions; dropping back into midfield and drifting wide. The interchanging of positions causes major problems for defenders and is one reason why you see Wondolowski score so many simple goals (think Fire vs. San Jose last season) - even though he is the obvious danger man, his movement makes him so difficult to pick up.

The other reason is that San Jose attack in such great numbers that it allows Wondo to go undetected. It sounds simple to say “stay with your man” or “keep your eye on the man and not the ball” but that’s exactly what the Fire need to do. 

Using last week’s game as an example again, Jay DeMerit didn't let him out of his sight for almost the entire match to great effect. The Fire's defensive performances have been stellar this season we and should expect nothing less from Austin Berry and co on Saturday night.
 
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @Irish_Steve.