1) FRIENDLY RECORDS…It’s the friendly time of the year again as the Chicago Fire welcome English Premier League side Aston Villa to Toyota Park Saturday night. The Fire are 6-10-3 all-time in international friendlies against clubs from England, Mexico, Scotland, Germany, Italy, France and Poland since first defeating UNAM Pumas 1-0 on July 15 at Soldier Field.
Aston Villa Press Conference
Though in the midst of its longest friendly losing streak (seven consecutive matches), tonight’s exhibition comes just nine days shy of the four-year anniversary of the team’s 2-0 victory over fellow EPL side Everton FC.
2) RECORD AGAINST ENGLISH CLUBS… Aston Villa marks the fourth English Premier League club the Chicago Fire have faced since 1998. Most will remember Cory Gibbs’ 13th minute header that put the Fire up 1-0 for 53 minutes on Manchester United before succumbing to a 3-1 defeat at Soldier Field last season.
There’s the aforementioned Everton friendly from 2008 in which Chris Rolfe tallied in the 42nd minute while Tomasz Frankowski iced the game in the 70th.
But the first match against an EPL side came 13 years ago yesterday when the Men in Red used Ante Razov’s 24th minute goal to defeat Derby County 1-0 at Soldier Field on July 20, 1999.
3) RETURN OF TWO CHICAGOANS… What are the chances that an EPL side would have two alumni from the club’s PDL team on it at the same time? That’s what happened with Aston Villa who’ve made this trip a bit of a homecoming for Brad Guzan (Homer Glen; PDL 2004) and Eric Lichaj (Downers Grove; PDL 2006).
Guzan nearly didn’t come over after leaving the club in June in search of more regular playing time. At Friday’s news conference, new Villa manager Paul Lambert explained how Guzan came back to Villa Park just days before the side made its trip to the States
"The story behind that was that I never knew Brad was away, because I just came to the club. And then I get told that he was virtually leaving. I had a chat with him, he came back over, and I'm delighted he stayed, that's for sure. Every time I saw him play, he was excellent... he's probably been unfortunate that [Villa starting goalkeeper] Shay Given has been a fantastic goalkeeper. But I think preseason, everybody starts very even. And whoever performs well, come the start of the season, then that's who will play. But he's done great, Brad, really, really pleased with him. I'm looking forward to working with him, to be honest."
4) A TEAMMATE OF GUZAN’S on the 2004 Chicago Fire PDL side, forward Chris Rolfe is the club’s all-time leading goal scorer in international friendlies, having tallied three goals in three separate matches vs. AC Milan in 2005 (3-1 L), Everton FC in 2008 (2-0 W) and Club America in 2009 (2-0 W).
5) CAN’T MAKE THE MATCH…? Be sure to catch the exclusive LIVE stream presented by TrueCar with Dan Kelly and Brendan Hannan on the call at Chicago-Fire.com and CSNChicago.com beginning at 7:30pm CT.