March to the Cup Days 4 and 5 Blog

Hello from several feet in the air.  I’m currently experiencing the joys of traveling as an MLS Team Writer as I have the honor of being sandwiched between Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas and Goalkeeping Coach Aron Hyde on our flight from Houston to Seattle.

In this instance, I find it necessary to point out that the luxury and spaciousness of commercial air travel cannot be overstated. The way MLS teams travel is almost an indirect marketing tool for the clubs, it makes us a team of the people and I like that about it.

From my experience, fellow air travelers fawn over getting to say, “I traveled with a professional athlete, his name was Jeff Crandall, the fourth string goalkeeper for the Chicago Fire.”

I promise I’ve never used that line.

With all of that, I’ll just be thankful I’m not the size of Jon Conway or Alec Dufty at this moment.

As we make our way to Seattle for Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup Final, it seems fitting that I’m sitting next to the man that began our club’s legacy in the tournament. It was the guy who I’m literally rubbing my right elbow with  that scored the 99th minute Golden Goal vs. Columbus to seal the Dewar Trophy in 1998.

<SIDEBAR>He’s currently delving pretty deep into a book about the Lincoln Assassination</SIDEBAR>

Over the past month, I’ve probably seen that highlight clip 100 times. I can quote the exact goal call and see Frank’s jump over the end boards before Zak Ibsen catches up to him in my dreams.

Obviously I know what Tuesday’s final and the significance of a victory would mean to tie the tournament record with five championships. The depth of it all sunk in just before take off as the guy to my right tapped Logan Pause (one row ahead) and said, “Kid, let’s go to Seattle and win the Open Cup.”

“Let’s do it,” the team captain said back…

Observations in Seattle

Coming off our flight at Seattle Tacoma International airport Sunday afternoon, we were met by a malaise of Sounders supporters that somehow made their way through security.

No that’s not true… It was a much more laid back affair, just like everything in this city seems to be.

With this being my first-ever trip to Seattle, I was shocked to see that all the stereotypes of the northwest city were true. Hipsters running rampant, rivaling Starbucks coffee shops right across from each other (including Starbucks inside of Starbucks) and yeah, this city is pretty green. Not really “Rave Green”, more of what I like to think of as “real green”.

Credit to them, it is a beautiful place.

Lost Luggage and Raining at Training

Traveling with a squad of 20 players requires a lot of luggage and sometimes as anyone that has flown in their life can attest, bags get lost. Unfortunately it was Josip Mikulic's turn as we gathered all the team luggage and discovered #23’s bag wasn’t there… Josip handled things well, even if the 6-2 defender had to wear slightly shorter pants to training Sunday afternoon…

After a quick stop at the hotel, the guys headed to Starfire Sports Complex for their first training session in Seattle. About five minutes into the journey, another obligatory Seattle thing happened…  rain.

Even still, the full squad trained for a short time, mainly doing regeneration work following Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Houston. (See photos of the soggy session here).

The birth of a nephew

Another fitting storyline to come out of this road trip is much more personal.

Along with my travel this weekend to Houston, I was able to take some time to meet the newest addition to the family, my nephew Blaise Crandall, for the first time Friday night.

<SIDE BAR> Before you think of it, no he was not named after the former Sounders FC Designated Player Blaise Nkufo…I made sure as much when I was first told the name choice… </SIDE BAR>

As I said hello, I was reminded of the day of his birth earlier this year. I sat in a hotel room in Peoria prepping to call a U.S. Open Cup qualifier with my co-hort Brendan Hannan when my mom called to tell me the new addition had arrived.

The special feeling I had with his birth, coupled with the “improbable, impossible” goal from Jalil Anibaba that put us past Colorado that night will always make March 30 a date to remember for me.

Just by his last name it’s a given that this is a special baby. Having now met him, things have come full circle. I head to Seattle with the blessing from Blaise, the baby who came into the world when some thought taking the U.S. Open Cup seriously seemed to be just talk.

I hope just over six months later on Tuesday, his mom and dad will let him stay up late to watch the Fire in the final.

Jeff Crandall is the Team Writer for the Chicago Fire. Follow him on Twitter @JefeCrandall