Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Sunday, April 21

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Fire Thu Dec 03 2015

On The Annual Chicago Fire Roster Rebuilding Festivities

Chicago FireThe time for Chicago Fire fans to rejoice is once again nigh, as the 2015 Major League Soccer season is but days away from drawing to a close. The playoffs are all but done and dusted, and only this Sunday's MLS Cup is in the offing. It is doubtless then that supporters of The Men In Red—like pagans gathering at Stonehenge in anticipation of the winter solstice—are feeling the frisson of excitement which signals the coming of their annual celebration of change and growth for the team: the annual roster shake-up and its attendant transfer frenzy.

Take heed, as these words do not come from a place of snark. The offseason player movements have become in many ways the most thrilling event of the year. There are many reasons for why this has become such an interesting and exciting time for the team and its fans, but it mostly boils down to the mystery of it all. Which players will find themselves suddenly on the outs? Who can Chicago manage to snag in the offseason? Might it actually be Mexican star Carlos Vela?

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Benjamin Cannon

Soccer Wed Jul 01 2015

Watching Team USA Kick Ass in the Park

By Veronica Arreola

The build-up to the Women's World Cup has been almost as much about judging the entertainment value of women's sports as it has been the quality of Team USA to win the cup. Last night US Soccer held a last minute outdoor viewing party for the semifinal match against Germany and Chicago showed up. The diversity was amazing.

As I sat on a picnic blanket with my husband and our soccer-obsessed pre-teen, I took note of many other families on their own blankets. But there were also the countless college-age students who made it clear they wanted to stand in the front row and cheer on our team. The group of people in front of us looked like they swapped meeting up at their neighborhood bar for the lawn in foggy Lincoln Park. And it should be noted that the beer garden was heartily packed.

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Feature Wed Apr 29 2015

Chicago Fire's Matt Watson on Art, Veganism & Playing for a Living

Chicago FireIt's a Monday night and I'm sitting in the Chicago Diner with Matt Watson, the English midfielder with the Chicago Fire a month or so into his second year playing for the club. We're at Chicago Diner—perhaps the city's premier meat-free eatery—because Watson is a vegan and has been meaning to try it out since arriving from Vancouver last March. But at present it seems a bit of a fool's errand, as our conversation has gotten off to a running start and Watson has hardly had a moment to pause and bite into his Buddha's Karma Burger, a curried sweet potato sandwich that captured his attention straightaway.

It seems though that whenever I let up with my questions to give him a chance to eat, Watson still has something more to say. He's a gregarious person; curious, open, funny, all in ways that one doesn't expect to find in a professional athlete. It's quite refreshing honestly, and so the conversation just keeps flowing. Before the end of the night we've covered serious ground — not unlike Watson does on the pitch — chasing topics in every direction from discussing our mutual love for "The Walking Dead," to heady talk about whether art and souls actually exist, even stopping briefly to figure out what is going on with Jay Electronica's rap career (Watson has had to give up on the underground sensation ever releasing a proper album).

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Benjamin Cannon / Comments (1)

Fire Mon Apr 06 2015

The Day the Fire Sprang to Life

Chicago FireThere should be a saying that "nothing terrible happens on a beautiful Chicago day," and if anything could attest to that, it would have been the Chicago Fire this past Saturday. They seemed to shake off the winter blues and played their most exciting game of the season in a 3-2 win against Toronto FC for their second win in a row. The real story isn't that the Fire won, its how they won it. For a team that was supposed to be one of the worst teams in the league, they played with a certain flair, heart, and pace that bottom dweller could never muster. It almost seems like this game was the Fire's coming out of the basement moment and their beginning to a streak of staying out of it.

Frank Yallop, who had to coach on his birthday, had a great present in Shaun Maloney seeming to find his ground. It could have been some confidence drawn from playing for the Scotland National Team over the international break and scoring two penalties against Gibraltar in a 6-1 trouncing, but whatever the reason is, he played like a man who realizes his role as a designated player. Not only did he score his first goal for the Fire and free up his teammates with his passing, but he also looked a lot more accurate on the eight corner kicks he took. He only took one shot, but his contribution to the team was more than just a stat line, his ability added to the completeness that was the team that game.

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Jake Payne

Fire Fri Jan 16 2015

Chicago Fire Take Two at MLS SuperDraft

Chicago FireThere was a time when the annual Major League Soccer SuperDraft meant something, to the league, to its constituent clubs, to its players. But somewhere after 2012 the wheels started to come off and things have shifted. The event had logos designed for it each year that echoed other leagues' All-Star events, and it was even broadcast on television, usually on ESPN2. Since the 2012 SuperDraft the event has been relegated in a sense, falling to ESPN News and ESPN3, with this year's being solely streamed live on YouTube; there hasn't been a new logo for the event since 2013. This is not to be construed as doomsaying, just that the event -- which took place this Thursday in Philadelphia -- felt like a labored gasp from a player allocation system wearing out its usefulness.

The prevailing wisdom regarding player development in soccer is that the academy is king, developing players fit to operate within a system that is tightly plotted from the club technical director on down. This approach is one that has born fruit in the past few years, as MLS clubs' academies have finally begun to see their products come of age and get signed to their club under the auspices of being a "homegrown" player. This gives an even greater sense of accomplishment for clubs, as they have not simply gone and bought the best players in the league, but carefully scouted and developed talent on their own.

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Benjamin Cannon

Fire Tue Dec 09 2014

Chicago Fire: Expansion Draft Uncertainty Comes To Bridgeview

Chicago FireThere is something subtly nefarious about Major League Soccer's Expansion Draft, an uneasy air that hangs like the smothering silence, perfuming the moments directly following a fight. Are these apologies sincere? Will things ever be the same? This rankness occurs because the Expansion Draft necessitates that each MLS team specify the players on their roster they wish to protect and those whom they will leave vulnerable, potentially allowing them to be snatched away at random.

These moves are part of the business, surely, as players in the professional sports are a uniquely liquid asset when contract situations do not interfere. But for the soccer players in MLS, the Expansion Draft has a potent psychological effect, essentially placing them into one camp, valuable, or the other, expendable. That there can be only 11 protected from draft consideration means that several key players find themselves momentarily separated from their home side.

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Benjamin Cannon

Fire Thu Jul 24 2014

In Battle of Disasters, Earthquakes Trump Fire

Chicago Fire soccerLast night's game was one rife with before and after. Frank Yallop, before becoming the head coach of the Chicago Fire, was the head coach of the San Jose Earthquakes. Marc Watson, before becoming the head coach of the San Jose Earthquakes, was Frank Yallop's Assistant Coach. Jon Busch, before becoming the starting goalkeeper for the Quakes, was the starting goalkeeper for the Chicago Fire. Before the game, both teams were struggling against irrelevancy in rebuilding seasons, with Chicago sitting 7th in the 10-team Eastern Conference, having managed only 20 points over 18 games; and San Jose sitting in 9th place in the 9-team Western Conference, having earned just 17 points in 17 games.

Both teams, however, have seemed not terribly concerned about the speed with which they arrive at the after of their current situation. And before tonight this game would have looked like a bit of a cakewalk for the Fire, traipsing into Buck Shaw Stadium and nabbing 3 points from a team on what had already been a 5 game winless streak. Add to that the loss of San Jose player Steven Lenhart, a late scratch from the lineup, and the team looked to be playing from the back foot even before kickoff.

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Benjamin Cannon

Fire Wed Jul 23 2014

Chicago Fire: In The Wake of the World Cup

Chicago Fire soccerThe 2014 World Cup is dead.

It has been nearly a fortnight since Germany's triumph over Argentina in Brazil, where they claimed their fourth title, their first as a unified nation, and became the first European team to win a Cup in South America. For those who followed the tournament closely this past month and a half consumed most, if not all, waking life, often stealing into the land of dreams along the way. Time seemingly slipped out of gear, running in slow motion for the length of the tournament, causing 30 days to feel easily 2-3 times as long. This can be chalked up to the volume of games played, which at one point was as high as four matches in a single day, but is also attributable to a phenomenon known as stress-induced slow motion perception. This persistent action and observation has had an effect not unlike that of being in a near-miss accident, or partaking in any other such adrenaline-surging activity.

The aforementioned phenomenon is one that we've heard countless times, where individuals recount that, during a time when their fight-or-flight instincts kick in, they experience the sensation that time has slowed down, whereby affording them the clarity that they would otherwise lack in an everyday situation. It has been debunked, alas, by Baylor neuroscientist David Eagleman through some very interesting science involving devices known as perceptual chronometers and participants being dropped in free-fall from 150 ft. The basic idea behind the feeling of slow-motion lies in the amygdala, which ends up gathering much more information about the situation than usual. When the event is over the recollection of how time passed turns out to be skewed. Just as increasing the film speed on a camera causes the images to play back in slow motion, so too does the storing of these extra memories, rendering the recollection to last longer, each detail more pronounced.

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Benjamin Cannon

Soccer Wed Jun 11 2014

The World Cup Comes to Chicago

ussoccer.jpgIt is upon us.

The worldwide spectacle of the FIFA World Cup, the quadrennial celebration of the beautiful game of soccer is just days away. And while the sport is often dismissed here at home it is unavoidably growing in popularity in the past years. It has progressed from snaky, grasping tendrils seeking purchase at the start of the century to now, where networks are spending nearly triple what they had in years past to secure broadcast rights. The domestic game has never been stronger as it prepares to enter what analysts are anticipating to be its golden year in 2015, when it will debut its 20th and 21st teams in New York and Orlando, and begin its largest ever television deal with ESPN, Fox Sports 1 and Univision all broadcasting weekly matches.

But this is not just about the state of soccer in America, this is about the World Cup, the planet's largest sporting event. It is about the coming together of people from all nations to watch the biggest stars in the game, to gorge on the smörgåsbord of abundant narrative and intrigue. It is a time when the hopes of nations ride on the backs of just 23 men, and spirits rise and fall with their undulations. The World Cup is simply a month-long festival of the theatrics of sports, played on an incredibly macro level, soundtracked by the fierce tattoo of thudding hearts around the globe.

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Benjamin Cannon / Comments (1)

Fire Tue May 13 2014

Fire Notch First Win in Double Hat Trick Thriller

Chicago Fire soccerAmong the evergreen criticisms one continually hears levied against soccer are those of scores being too low and that play on the field is slow. These concerns are usually largely superficial, dismissing the nuances of the game. It must be a similar subset of individuals who deride symphonic music as being a soporific affair, little more than an expensive lullaby in a well appointed sitting room. One is surely allowed their own tastes, though there are times when these sorts of decisions are rooted in one-off encounters or a general distaste for the unfamiliar. Put another way, I have loathed olives since the first moment I popped one in my mouth in 6th grade during an interactive segment on Homer's Odyssey, but of late I am want to order dishes in which they will be found in hopes that I will come to appreciate their characteristics.

And what characteristics there were on display this past Saturday when the Fire traveled to Harrison, New Jersey to take on the New York Red Bulls in an absolutely stunning game of soccer which saw both teams leave absolutely everything they had on the field. Sometimes the game rises to meet its detractors face to face, showing its speed and ability to devolve into a flurry of goals that is both exciting and stressful in equal measure.

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Benjamin Cannon

Fire Sun Jun 23 2013

New Signings Resurrect Fire Playoff Hopes

After winning only two of their first ten game, the Chicago Fire have been quietly turning their season around with a 5-0-2 undefeated stretch. While 8th place in the Eastern Conference isn't where anyone thought this team would be during the offseason, the team has done extremely well to get back into playoff contention. Just as the disastrous start could be attributed to the loss of a couple of key players through injury, the turnaround started with two new signings: Bakary Soumare and Mike Magee. Both have ties to the Chicago area.

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Steve Gillies

Soccer Sun Mar 03 2013

Chicago Soul Nab Playoff Berth in Inaugural Season

ChicagoSoul.pngIn its first ever season, the Chicago Soul (11-15) have clinched a playoff birth in the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) tournament after defeating the Syracuse Silver Knights (8-18) by the final of 17-6. Carlos Munoz notched a hat trick in front of a cheering crowd at Sears Centre Arena.

The Soul got the scoring started early and often with a goal by Alex Megson at the 5:52 mark. Four other players found the back of the net throughout the match, which gave the Soul all the confidence it needed to slay the Silver Knights.

"This is the first time in a long time that an expansion team has gone to the playoffs in the first year," Head Coach Novi Marojevic said. "I'm extremely proud."

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Jim Crago / Comments (1)

Soccer Thu Nov 01 2012

Playoff Loss To Dynamo Ends Fire Season

The Fire's return to the MLS playoffs lasted only a little more than 90 minutes. Wednesday night, in front of a home crowd, they lost 2-1 to the Houston Dynamo in a single elimination game to finish their season. It's a very disappointing end to a season that was so full of promise that it was easy to forget it was actually a rebuilding year. The focus of the off-season should be to keep the core of players together and get them a little more prepared for playoff soccer.

The playoffs are about peaking at the right time and the Fire didn't do that. I'm not sure if the Fire went winless in three games all season, but 2012 ended with a loss to New England, a tie against DC, and the loss to Houston. In the opening 20 minutes against Houston, they didn't quite look sharp enough for the playoffs. Goalkeeper Sean Johnson had too many nervy moments, they weren't as quick in the tackle as Houston, and though they managed to get behind Houston's fullbacks, they were too hesitant in executing their chances.

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Steve Gillies / Comments (1)

Fire Mon Oct 29 2012

Fire Face Elimination Game With Houston

While they spent most of the season at the top end of the Eastern Conference, a poor finish to the regular season saw the Fire back into the playoffs with a fourth place finish. The team now hosts a tricky single elimination game against 5th seed Houston Dynamo on Wednesday night at Toyota Park.

While Houston hasn't exactly lit up MLS this season, it is a tough playoff draw. They made a run to the MLS Cup Final last year, and have a squad full of players that know what they are doing in the playoffs. Their manager, Dom Kinnear, has coached in big games and knows what it takes to win in a one-off occasion. Another advantage they have: when they played this weekend they already knew they'd finish in fifth place. They didn't care about winning, rested some starters, and aren't coming off the same kind of disappointment as the Fire.

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Steve Gillies

Fire Sun Oct 07 2012

Fire Celebrate Anniversary and Prepare for Playoffs

For a minute, it looked like the sky was falling. A tough loss against Kansas City, followed by a demoralizing home loss to the Philadelphia Union had the Fire looking over their shoulders, in danger of missing out on a third consecutive playoff birth. The Fire responded by rolling up their sleeves and putting on a perfect road performance with a 2-0 win against a star-studded New York Red Bull team to clinch a playoff spot just in time for their 15th anniversary celebration.

The theme from the players going into the game was "back to basics" and it certainly showed on the field. The Fire closed down space on New York quickly, chased every loose ball, and defended from every position with an intensity that was only matched by coach Frank Klopas, who might have covered as much ground in the coach's box as the players did on the field - an impressive feat considering Frankie was wearing dress shoes.

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Steve Gillies

Fire Thu Oct 04 2012

15 Great Moments as the Fire Turns 15

While the Chicago Fire didn't necessarily celebrate its 15th anniversary in style this week by slumping to a 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union, the Fire website has been running an excellent series of vides on the top 15 goals, players and games. You can check it out here. It got me reminiscing and I thought I'd chime in with my own Top 15 games as a fan. I should warn you, it's totally subjective.

15. Chicago 6 New England 0; September 22, 2000
This was the first Fire game I ever attended in person so I thought it might be best to start with. It was a cold, rainy, fairly miserable day, which might explain the playoff attendance of just under 6,000. Six thousand people at Soldier Field is a pretty depressing sight. But we got a treat, with a spectacular performance from what may still be the strongest team in the history of MLS. Practically everybody on the field was already a legend, or destined to become one. (Except Tenywa Bonseu, but he filled in OK for Lubos Kubic that day). New England right back, John Harkes, had a particularly miserable time dealing with a 33-year-old Hristo Stoichkov and a 17-year-old DaMarcus Beasley.

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Steve Gillies / Comments (2)

Fire Mon Oct 01 2012

Weekend Results Drop Fire to Third Place

After a tough 2-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City SC on Friday, the Fire spent the rest of the weekend watching their nearest rivals make up ground on them as New York, Houston and Columbus all won and DC United tied.

The results leave Chicago in 3rd place in the East, though they can climb back to second with a win against the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night. Winning the conference is out of reach unless Kansas City really drops the ball, so the Fire will be looking to shore up a playoff spot in their remaining four games.

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Steve Gillies

Fire Tue Sep 25 2012

Forwards Lead Fire to Brink of First Place

For most of the season, it looked like the Fire would be trying to hold onto a playoff spot at this late point in the season. Instead, after winning 7 out of their last 8 games, they have a shot of winning the Eastern Conference and could qualify for the playoffs as early as this weekend.

It all comes down to a showdown away to Eastern Conference leaders Kansas City FC on Friday night. At the moment the Fire are 2 points away from Kansas City and they've played one game less than them. That means a win or a draw will put the destiny of the Eastern Conference title in the Fire's hands. Why have they been playing so well lately? In a word, forwards.

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Steve Gillies

Fire Thu Sep 13 2012

Canadian Double Tests Fire's Depth

After last night's 2-1 victory over Toronto FC sent them to 2nd place, the Fire have a chance to shore up a top spot in the Eastern conference against the rapidly improving expansion team, Montreal Impact. In order to do that, they something they haven't done all season: win twice in a week.

Throughout the season, coach Frank Klopas has been hesitant to go deep into his bench and the team has suffered when they've had a quick turnover. Tired performances against Columbus and New York spring to mind.

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Steve Gillies

Fire Wed Sep 05 2012

Fire Climb Into 3rd With Weekend Win

With a 3-1 win over the Houston Dynamo Sunday night at Toyota Park the Fire jumped up to third place in the Eastern Conference. The win came thanks to a quick start and a couple of gifts from the Dynamo.

Many fans hadn't taken their seats when Patrick Nyarko picked off a sloppy Houston pass and ran the ball in for a 1st minute goal. If the fans missed the first goal, Houston gave the fans a virtual instant replay 18 minutes later. This time they gave the ball away to Alvaro Fernandez, who played a pass to Sherjill MacDonald who found Daniel Paladini breaking from midfield to put the Fire 2-0 up.

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Steve Gillies

Fire Fri Aug 31 2012

Fire Loses Guatemalan Midfielder Early After All

In a surprising turn of events, the Chicago Fire announced that midfielder Marco Pappa will be transferring to Heerenveen SC immediately. It's a direct U-Turn from the previous announcement that he would be finishing out the Fire's season before his departure to the Dutch club.

This isn't the first confusing personnel move from the Fire this season. No sooner had they announced that they had extended midfielder Sebastien Grazzini's contract through the 2012 season than he packed his bags and went home to Argentina. So, the question does have to be asked, what's up with the Fire and these player contracts?

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Steve Gillies

Red Stars Tue Aug 14 2012

Red Stars Lead Push For New Women's Soccer League

red stars.jpgAfter watching the U.S. Women's National Team win soccer gold in London, you might be wondering whatever happened to professional women's soccer here in Chicago.

Despite several twists and turns in recent years, the Red Stars have kept that torch aflame, reaching the WPSL Elite championship final a few weeks ago before losing on penalty kicks.

But starting next year, they're on the move again, teaming up with fellow former WPS clubs Boston and New Jersey to lead another new league with plans for eight teams.

It will be the third attempt at creating a sustainable women's professional league, following three-season stints by the WUSA (2001-2003) and WPS (2009-2011).

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Colin Hettinger / Comments (1)

Fire Mon Aug 13 2012

Fire Clears Up Pappa's Status

The Chicago Fire announced this morning that midfielder Marco Pappa will be signing with Heerenveen in the Dutch Eredivision on Jan. 1.

The Fire have already prepared for life without Pappa with the arrival of talented winger Alvaro Fernandez from Seattle. While he'll definitely be missed, the announcement puts to rest a year of speculation about Pappa's future and ensures that he'll stick around for the Fire's playoff push.

Speaking of which, the Fire made another step towards their first playoff appearance since 2009 with a 3-1 win against the Philadelphia Union this weekend. After spotting the Union the first goal (in what's become a worrying trend), the Fire came back through two goals from Chris Rolfe and an Arne Friedrich header. The win moves the Fire into fourth place in the Eastern Conference and puts them within shouting distance of the Conference front-runners.

Steve Gillies

Fire Wed Aug 08 2012

Fire Get Reinforcements for Playoff Push

As the Chicago Fire gear up for the final months of their playoff fight, they've gotten some reinforcements. Rather than spend big money for a huge superstar, the Fire have managed to acquire two Designated Players in Dutch striker Sherjill MacDonald and Seattle's Uruguayan midfielder, Alvaro Fernandez.

The move led to the exits of Colombian Rafael Rabayo and Uruguayan striker Federico Puppo, two players that never quite managed to find their footing in MLS and hadn't seen much playing time recently. Oddly for salary cap-exempt Designated Players, neither Fernandez or MacDonald are going into situations where they can be assured of playing time either.

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Steve Gillies

Fire Fri Jul 20 2012

Good News, Bad News for Fire

On Saturday night it looked like the doom and gloom after last week's loss to the LA Galaxy was premature. The Fire rebounded with a convincing 1-0 win over Vancouver in which they were full of energy and enthusiasm.

Then they turned around and put in another lethargic display in a 1-0 loss to New York. So, is it back to doom and gloom? Maybe not. The Fire has already matched the number of wins they had during the entirety of last season and we haven't even gotten to the All Star game yet.

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Steve Gillies

Fire Wed Jul 11 2012

So Much For That Unbeaten Streak

Yep. I jinxed it.

As soon as I started to get excited about the Fire's unbeaten streak, it came to a crashing halt with an ignominious 2-0 defeat at the hands of the LA Galaxy. It's the latest setback in what's been a two-step-forward, one-step-back kind of season, and possibly the most demoralizing.

For one thing, it happened in front of a sold-out Toyota Park crowd. There were a few extra thousand people than usual at the game to enjoy the first tolerable stretch of weather in days and wonder how David Beckham was going to suit up for the Galaxy when they saw him sitting in the crowd at Wimbledon that morning.

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Steve Gillies

Fire Fri Jul 06 2012

Keeper Fuels Fire's 4-Game Unbeaten Streak

I don't want to jinx it, but the Chicago Fire is racking up a pretty impressive unbeaten run.

It started with a 3-1 demolition of New York, then came a short-handed 2-1 win against Columbus, was followed by a 1-0 smash-and-grab raid against Kansas City, and then a hard fought 0-0 tie against Houston on the road. Despite the streak, the Fire are still sitting fourth in the Eastern Conference, but they're much closer to breaking into the top three than falling out of the top five.

There are certainly times when the Fire has looked good, but they've also shown they can be hard to break down defensively. They know how to win ugly and that's an important quality in a league that crowns its champion via playoffs.

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Steve Gillies / Comments (2)

Fire Wed Jun 06 2012

Fire's Busy Month Ends With a Whimper

Finally, some games.

After a less-than-busy start to the season, it was hard to get a real impression of this year's Chicago Fire. Well, they've packed eight games into the last four weeks and the results were decidedly mixed. It started out well enough, with the Fire posting a draw against highly rated Real Salt Lake, a loss on Portland's postage stamp of a field, and wins against Sporting Kansas City, Chivas USA, and FC Dallas. Then the wheels fell off the bus. Or maybe the bus just ran out of gas. However you mix your metaphors, the last week hasn't been pretty. They've lost on the road to Columbus, a minor league team from Michigan, and New England.

So, while the Fire have the next two weeks to rest up and prepare for a fairly big home game against the New York Red Bulls on June 17th, it's time to reflect on the good and the bad of the past month.

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Steve Gillies

Fire Tue Apr 17 2012

Fire Draw Dynamo in Short Match

The Chicago Fire returned to league play Sunday night at Toyota Field against the Houston Dynamo, drawing 1-1 in a match that was twice delayed by lightning before being called after the second delay in the 66th minute.

It was a good sign from the Fire against one of the league's better teams, though you have to wonder if they could have done more with a full 90 against a sluggish Houston club that showed a little rust, having played their last game on March 23rd.

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Colin Hettinger

Fire Tue Apr 03 2012

Fire Still Looking for Early Footing

The Chicago Fire opened up the 2012 MLS season two weeks ago, aiming to pick up where they left off at the end of the 2011 season with seven wins in their final ten games.

Unfortunately, they've started closer to how they played for most of 2011, with one win, one loss and one draw over the first three games. In the coming weeks we'll go into some of the changes on the squad and the strengths and weaknesses of this 2012 team (hope you like midfielders!), but to get warmed up here's a recap of the start of their season.

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Colin Hettinger / Comments (1)

Fire Tue Oct 04 2011

Fire Pull Themselves Together in Second Half

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for fire crest.jpgHot damn! With all the excitement over the new school year, football season, and Dancing With the Stars (Hope Solo's gonna prove goalies have good feet too!), I bet you all forgot that the Chicago Fire were still playing!

But they are! And they're doing great! They're even within spitting distance of making the postseason! More important, they're hitting their stride just in time for the U.S Open Cup final against Seattle Sounders FC, set for Tuesday night in the Pacific Northwest. It's a golden chance to win some championship hardware in an otherwise dismal year of soccer for one of the most successful clubs in MLS history.

Let's dive in!

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Colin Hettinger

Fire Wed Aug 31 2011

Silver Lining Watch: Fire Advance to Open Cup Final

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for fire crest.jpgThe Chicago Fire capped their four-game homestand Tuesday with a 2-1 victory against the Richmond Kickers in the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The win puts Chicago in the Open Cup final for an MLS-leading sixth time, where they'll face the Seattle Sounders for the chance to win their fifth title, tying them with two other clubs for most titles in Open Cup history, and the most out of all MLS clubs since their inclusion in the tournament in 1996.

Like England's FA Cup, the U.S. Open Cup is the United States' version of a national tournament, encompassing all levels of adult, organized soccer. Beginning with amateur clubs in the early spring, it advances via a knockout process all the way up the levels of professional soccer and a final in early fall. Seattle has won it the past two years since they became an MLS club, while Chicago likewise placed the same high importance on it upon their birth in 1998, going on to win it a league-best four times since then.

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Colin Hettinger

Fire Mon Aug 29 2011

Fire Stay Alive With Two Wins in a Row

Thumbnail image for fire crest.jpgDon't look now, but due to the generous Major League Soccer playoff system and the fact that 15 ties earned them 15 points, the Chicago Fire are only five points out of a playoff spot with eight league games remaining.

With two consecutive 2-0 victories against Toronto FC and the Colorado Rapids, Chicago is now sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, just five points shy of the New York Red Bulls for the last wild card spot. Sure, they have to leapfrog four other teams, but, that's not literally impossible, right?

After two previous ties, the wins give the Fire a four-game unbeaten streak, but more importantly, their first winning streak in league play since April of LAST season. It's only their third and fourth league wins on the year, but with 15 draws, that's enough to keep them in distant playoff contention.

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Colin Hettinger

Fire Thu Aug 18 2011

Fire Come Home After Yet Another Draw

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for fire crest.jpgIn a Saturday matchup of the two MLS clubs with the most draws this season, Chicago and New York saw fit to keep things all too familiar, drawing 2-2 in an exciting match that ultimately failed to get either team over its winless hump.

New York is one of the most talented teams in the league on paper, with league-leading goal-scorer Thierry Henry up top and several other former or current national team players like Rafa Marquez (Mexico) and Tim Ream, Dax McCarty and Juan Agudelo (United States) also in the lineup. Yet despite a hot start, they've sputtered this summer, and Saturday's tie increased their winless streak to five matches. This draw was especially frustrating, as it came despite overwhelming pressure on Chicago, pressure that failed to capitalize on 17 shots on goal.

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Colin Hettinger

Fire Mon Aug 08 2011

Pardo Comes Through Despite Fire's Struggles

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for fire crest.jpgShows what I know!

Days after joining the Chicago Fire as an international player, midfielder Pavel Pardo started and scored in his debut game against the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday, a 1-1 draw. The Fire changed their regular formation for the 35-year-old veteran, with interim head coach Frank Klopas choosing to take advantage of a glut of midfielders and start the team in a 4-5-1 formation, with midfielder and captain Logan Pause stepping into right back, a position he's filled several times in his nine-year Chicago career.

The numbers in midfield meant Chicago started out with most of the possession, and Pardo looked the comfortable cog in the defensive game plan of the Fire. Using his experience and touch, the Guadalajara native steadied the Fire in the center. His passing was evident early on, when the first great chance by either team came off his foot in the form of a long pass over the top to forward Dominic Oduro, who had gotten behind the Union's back line but was unable to corral the ball.

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Colin Hettinger

Fire Fri Jul 29 2011

New Additions Might Not Be Enough for Fire

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for fire crest.jpgWell, that Manchester United game didn't start the midseason break off on a great note for Chicago, but the good news is there's still almost a week to go before their next game, a league match at home against the Philadelphia Union. While most professional teams allow their players a few days off during midseason/all-star game breaks, let's hope that the Fire are sticking around in town practicing, particularly in light of their performance so far this season.

The front office certainly hasn't taken any time off, making a big signing this week in bringing on Mexican National Team midfield veteran Pavel Pardo and trading defenders with Toronto FC, sending Dasan Robinson north for Dan Gargan.

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Colin Hettinger

Fire Mon Jul 25 2011

Fire Take It On the Chin From Manchester United

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for fire crest.jpgWith MLS teams taking their all-star break and European teams getting ready for their fall seasons, the opportunity has been there in recent years for mid-summer friendlies between the American squads and their world-class foreign counterparts.

Clubs such as Real Madrid, Manchester United and Everton get to make some good money playing two or four games in the United States, furthering their brand in a very unsaturated soccer market, and get some preseason minutes for their players, while MLS clubs also enjoy much-higher-than-average ticket sales and the chance to rate their team against some of the best in the world.

Thus it was that the Chicago Fire fell to Manchester United 3-1 on Saturday at Soldier Field, despite taking an early lead off the head of Cory Gibbs. Three second-half goals by substitutes Wayne Rooney, Rafael and Nani put last year's Premier League champions on top rather easily.

The Fire started essentially their best 11, with bench players coming on at various points in the second half. United, however, took the opposite approach, saving several of their starters for the second half. The difference in skill was readily apparent, and despite their best efforts, it was clear that Chicago's starters were only marginally better than United's second team.

And then when the big guns came in, the difference was incredible.

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Colin Hettinger

Fire Tue Jul 19 2011

Fire Finds Silver Lining Despite MLS Struggles

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for fire crest.jpgAs the Major League Soccer season approaches its mid-year break, unfortunately, not much has changed for the Chicago Fire.

Still struggling to win games, the Fire last earned a league victory on June 12. Since then, they've gone 0-2-4, with vaguely impressive draws against the New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake, but they clumsily lost a point against the L.A. Galaxy at home with comical defending on a David Beckham corner kick.

Their most recent loss, a 1-0 defeat to the expansion Portland Timbers (who hadn't won on the road all season and currently sit second-to-last in the Western Conference) was, well, like all the other games they haven't won. Few offensive chances, and those left unfulfilled. Close calls (like two shots on the post) and a defensive mistake resulting in an easy goal, in this case a 25th-minute penalty converted by Jack Jewsbury.

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Colin Hettinger / Comments (1)

Red Stars Wed Jul 06 2011

Red Stars Return for a Brief Home Season

By Veronica Arreola

Women's professional sports has a long history of ups and downs. Women's professional soccer reached its peak in 2000 by riding the wave of Mia Hamm fever and the USA team winning the World Cup in sports bra-baring style. But then the fans did not show up and the Women's United Soccer Association folded in 2003. In 2009, the Women's Professional Soccer League opened shop with a Chicago franchise, the Chicago Red Stars, and played at the beautiful Toyota Park in Bridgeview. They fielded all-star players like Illinoisan Ella Masar and Brazil's Cristiane.

Yet after the 2010 season, the Red Stars had to cease operations due to an inability to meet the league's financial requirements.

But wait! In early 2011, an email was sent to fans that the Red Stars would indeed play in 2011, but would be joining the Women's Premier Soccer League. Despite its name, it is not the top-notch league, but it does have 60 teams with 10 divisions. The second change was that the Red Stars would move from Bridgeport to Lisle and play at Benedictine University.

The last change, the one that is the most drastic for fans, is that only two of their five home games would be open to the public. Last Saturday was the home opener and this Sunday at 6 p.m. will be the home finale. $10 gets you a ticket, free parking and player autographs after the game.

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Fire Fri Jun 24 2011

Could a Foreign Import Help the Fire?

Thumbnail image for fire crest.jpgFollowing another scoreless draw Wednesday against Real Salt Lake, last year's MLS champions, the Chicago Fire can draw the usual conclusions: great defense in earning yet another shutout and they're still undefeated under interim coach Frank Klopas.

On the other hand, that undefeated record is 1-0-4, hardly much to get excited about. Worse, three of those games have been scoreless draws. While it's great that goalkeeper Sean Johnson and his defense are padding their stat sheets, the fact is that even in a generous league like MLS, tying all your games doesn't get you into the playoffs.

So how can the Fire improve their station?

The vagaries of MLS player allocation and roster construction are unlike every other American sports league (and unlike European soccer leagues, too), but the idea is MLS rosters are meant to be roughly equal. There is a salary cap, there's a draft, and player contracts are even negotiated by the league instead of individual teams.

But in 2007, the league instituted a rule that can give teams an advantage if their owners are willing to spend extra money.

The Designated Player Rule, nicknamed the Beckham Rule after the player it was created for, allows teams to keep two players on their roster, pay them whatever they want, and have only a portion of their salaries count against the team's salary cap.

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Colin Hettinger

Fire Tue Jun 21 2011

Road Results Have Fire Moving in Right Direction

Thumbnail image for fire crest.jpgSince last we checked, the Chicago Fire have been moving in the right direction with a pair of road results, earning a 1-0 rare win at Columbus on June 12 and a 1-1 draw at New England on Saturday.

Good momentum as they return home to Bridgeview this week, welcoming Real Salt Lake on Wednesday and the New York Red Bulls on Sunday.

The win in Columbus was Chicago's first since March 26, ending a club-record winless streak that had stretched to 11 games. It was the first win since technical director Frank Klopas took the coaching reins three weeks ago, and especially impressive considering how well Columbus is playing this year.

They did it with a dramatic goal in stoppage time and another strong defensive performance, extending their shutout streak under Klopas to three games, following two previous scoreless draws.

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Colin Hettinger

Fire Sun Jun 12 2011

Fire Disappoints With Another Scoreless Draw

Thumbnail image for fire crest.jpg

The Chicago Fire were on the road Thursday night in Kansas City as Sporting KC played their first game in their new stadium, Livestrong Sporting Park, drawing the Fire 0-0. Despite an active, end-to-end game, the only chance that found the back of the net was an offsides finish by Kansas City's Graham Zusi. Chicago's best chance came late, as Sporting's substitute goalkeeper Eric Kronberg spilled a shot that Orr Barouch rattled off the crossbar.

The team formerly known as the Kansas City Wizards have undergone a total overhaul, changing the team name, badge and colors, capping it all off with a brand new, $200 million soccer-specific stadium. It wasn't completed in time for the start of this MLS season, however, and they've started the season with MLS' longest-ever road trip, playing their first 10 games away from home.

This is a big reason why they're now 1-6-4, right in the bottom of the conference alongside Chicago's 1-4-8 record. But they're a young team, with a few young college stars and a striker in Teal Bunbury who has the U.S. National Team in his sights, and who has in fact been good enough to get a few looks from U.S. head coach Bob Bradley. Ten games on the road is hard, and their youth should provide a few valid excuses for why head coach Peter Vermes' team is one of the league's worst.

But Chicago's Frank Klopas, in only his second game as interim head coach, is surely starting to search ever harder for a way to turn his team around. Their only win this year came against this similarly weak Sporting KC squad in Toyota Park, and being unable to score yet again despite having a man advantage for 30 minutes does not reflect positively on his team's offensive ability.

In the 67th minute, Kansas City starting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen used his hands outside the 18-yard box on a long ball meant for Dominic Oduro (whose speed was on full display, one of the few obvious weapons Chicago brought to the pitch). Rushing out to try and beat Oduro to the ball, Nielsen simply reacted as a goalkeeper would when the Fire winger got first touch and tried to float it past the onrushing keeper. But as the last man back, he was sent off with a straight red card, forcing the backup to enter the game in place of Bunbury.

It's true that Kansas City was pumped up for this game, and holding the hosts to a shutout is again a great defensive improvement upon their previous games. If both teams had played 11v11 for 90 minutes (and an unheard-of *nine* minutes of stoppage time!), perhaps it would be enough to feel good about. But playing a man up, with a backup goalkeeper that was sent in cold and unexpectedly, you would hope Chicago could find a way to manufacture the win.

Alas, it wasn't to be, and now Klopas must turn his attention from the back line to his attack as the Fire head to Columbus, Ohio, for Sunday's matchup against the much better Crew, currently sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference.

Colin Hettinger

Fire Tue Jun 07 2011

Scoreless Draw is Step Forward for Fire

Thumbnail image for fire crest.jpgThe Chicago Fire took their first step forward under interim coach Frank Klopas on Saturday night at Toyota Park, managing a scoreless draw with the Seattle Sounders. Despite the positives that can and should be taken by shutting out one of the better attacking teams in the league, at the end of the day their lack of offensive output means another missed chance at taking three points -- something they've done only once this 1-4-7 season.

I'll leave the American frustration with tie games -- especially 0-0 ties -- for another time. But with a new coach at the helm, this draw is more helpful than most, even as it extends the winless streak to 10 games.

At the very least, this wasn't a loss. It keeps the team treading water while allowing the coaches the chance to evaluate an entire 90-minute performance and look for measurable signs of progress. In that vein, Klopas has to be happy with a few things he saw Saturday night.

Like a coach under the gun should, he first focused on shoring up the defense. Yes, the Fire are doing far too much tying and not enough winning, but the last thing you want to do is go all-in and play a high-risk game of strong attacks and weak defense. Better to keep the ship afloat with an emphasis on preventing goals and have confidence that your offense will provide enough.

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Colin Hettinger

Fire Wed Jun 01 2011

Fire Moves Forward With New Coach

Thumbnail image for fire crest.jpgWith a third of the MLS season gone and the Chicago Fire still only at one win, head coach Carlos de los Cobos was let go Sunday. De los Cobos was coach for just over one season, with last year's campaign only the second time the Fire didn't make the MLS Cup Playoffs since their creation in 1998.

This year, Chicago (1-4-6) finds itself eighth among nine teams in the Eastern Conference with nine points. Even in MLS, with a playoff system renowned for its guest-list generosity, the current standing is becoming too big a hole to climb out of. As a result, club technical director Frank Klopas has stepped in as the interim head coach.

So how did the Fire get to this point? Actually, they're not playing that poorly, at least on the whole.

The six draws should make it clear that they're playing competitive soccer, and so far in the season, they've only lost one game by more than one goal. They've also only been shut out once, in a 0-0 draw against MLS newcomers Vancouver.

Simply put, they're scoring plenty of goals, but have yet to find the defensive prowess to get those tallies to stand up.

But a franchise with the Fire's history of success has high expectations. As a team that started out winning the U.S. Open Cup and the MLS Cup in their first year, the bar has always been set high for the Fire. Repeated playoff appearances cemented that as not just a goal, but an expectation, for any coach that had the reins.

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Colin Hettinger

Fire Mon Apr 11 2011

Growing Pains Continue for Fire in Seattle

Thumbnail image for fire crest.jpgThe Chicago Fire fell Saturday for the first time this season, losing 2-1 at Seattle in front of a packed house of 36,223. The defeat puts them at 1-1-1 in MLS play so far, with a 3-2 home win against Sporting Kansas City and a 1-1 season-opening draw with FC Dallas.

Seattle opened the scoring Saturday in the seventh minute when O'Brian White beat Chicago keeper Sean Johnson near-post with a picture-perfect header.

The Fire replied a minute later with a well-orchestrated attack finished with a low cross from the right that Diego Chaves coolly directed into the left-side netting. The goal was his third of the season, making him the first Fire player to score in his first three games.

Despite a few great chances in the second half, Chicago was unable to beat former U.S. international goalkeeper Kasey Keller. Highlights of the entire game can be found here.

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Colin Hettinger

Soccer Mon Dec 20 2010

Red Stars Become Latest WPS Team to Fall

red stars.jpgLast week, the Chicago Red Stars announced they will suspend operations for the 2011 Women's Professional Soccer season while they pursue additional funding with an eye toward returning in 2012. The loss of the Red Stars and FC Gold Pride, a Bay Area club that won the league championship this year, and the addition of the Western New York Flash leave the WPS with six teams as it approaches its third season.

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Colin Hettinger

Soccer Wed Oct 06 2010

USAMNT Captain Carlos Bocanegra Taping at SmallBar Tonight

Smallbar Division St. will be hosting USAMNT captain Carlos Bocanegra tonight at 7 for a taping of US Soccer's Studio 90 series and also some Q&A with fans.

USAMNT players are in and around the city this week preparing for their friendly on Saturday at Soldier Field against Poland.

Ben Schuman-Stoler

Fire Sat Sep 25 2010

Chicago Fire v Seattle Sounders Liveblog from Toyota Park

The Fire, like Mustafa in Austin Powers, are not dead just yet.

5:38 p.m. Enabling is disabled on the video I wanted to introduce this liveblog with. It's the kind of get-the-eff-off-your-seats-or-die energy that the Fire are hoping for tonight. It's also really disturbing. In that way, I guess, it sums up the night's drama perfectly: it's dramatic, it's a little dirty (rainy), it's life and death, and just being in this situation - with all the talent the Fire have - is disturbing.

Kickoff's in about 90 minutes so I'll be back with starting lineups and more info in the next hour.

Remember to email me ( or tweet at me and Tailgate with your amusing musings.

6:00 p.m. I know what you're thinking. You're sitting there, all snug in your flannel pjs, settling into the winter hibernation. You're all, "But Ben, who cares? The Fire are screwed! And anyway, it's windy outside. I'm staying in and watching Threes Company reruns with my cat."

Ah yes, strange reader. You do that. Or you can get up, realize that the Fire aren't completely hopeless just yet, and pray that a good result tonight propels the Fire onto a late season surge exactly opposite of that putrid last month the White Sox threw up. Because they're not dead just yet.

If you're not familiar, here's how MLS Playoff qualification works:

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Ben Schuman-Stoler / Comments (4)

Soccer Wed Sep 22 2010

Soccer Juggling Fundraiser

America Scores, the youth group that enriches the lives of at risk youth with an inventive combination of soccer, poetry and service learning, will be holding an obesity awareness fundraiser tomorrow. The event will be championed by the executive director of SCORES Chicago, Amy Vondra Stark, who will be juggling a soccer ball for 14 hours between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. Starting in the wee hours of the morning at NBC Plaza, Vondra Stark will travel around the loop from 190 State St to Daley Plaza to 120 S. Riverside Plaza.

Everyone from CPS teachers and administrators to professional soccer players to people off the street are welcome and challenged to join her marathon juggle and raise money as well. Individual donations can be pledged at:

Rick Abplanalp

Soccer Wed Sep 08 2010

Chicago Fire v Toronto FC Liveblog from Toyota Park

ToyotaPark.jpg6:18 Heyyyyyyy everybody. See that photo up there? I just took that with my phone. There are currently 18 people in the stands right now. It's sort of creepy, although it's just a Wednesday, the crowd will get here eventually. I do like that now - a good 75 minutes before kick off - is when they announce all the anti-racism, anti-prejudice, anti-feminist, anti-drunkenness rules. The 18 people here took note, I guarantee it.

In the surprisingly traffic free commute down I-55, I was listening to the most underrated LCD Soundsystem song off their new album: "Home."

Here's my preview of today's game over at Chicagoist.

I'll be back closer to kickoff (730). Email me your favorite LCD song or Fire comments at

6:49 Starting lineups are out:

Fire: Johnson (GK), Kinney, Brown-C, Robinson (D), Nyarko, Pause, Thorrington, Banner, Ljungberg (M), Castillo, John (F)

Fire bench: Dysktra, Conde, Krol, Bone, Husidic, Carr, McBride

Toronto FC: Frei (GK), Usanov, Harden, Cann, Attakora (D), Peterson, de Guzman, Gargan, LaBrocca (M), de Rosario-C, White (F)

TFC bench: Conway, Garcia, Hscanovics, Henry, Santos, Gala, Nane

7:21 Bob Bradley just left the press box after talking to us for about 20 minutes. I'll tell you one thing: the whole "piercing blue eyes" thing? Definitely legit. When asked if there was anyone in particular he was watching in today's game, he said no - but I'd be surprised if Baggio Husidic and Sean Johnson haven't been on his board at some point.

Tailgate's esteemed editor Brian Lauvray also wants you readers to know you can holler at us via Twitter at Tailgate's, Brian's, or my account.

Just a few minutes to kick off.

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Ben Schuman-Stoler / Comments (2)

Soccer Sat Sep 04 2010

Fire vs. LA Galaxy Liveblog from Toyota Park

Sup peoples. I'm sitting in the press box here in Toyota Park, where for some reason, a whole bunch of fireworks just went off - only 70 minutes before kick off. I'll be back with some preview/hype stuff, but for now dig Jordan Brown's adventures watching the Fire and the video highlights of the last match between these two teams (above).

Right then, Section 8 is doin their thing over to my left, and the lineups are out:

2:48 For the Fire: Johnson (GK), Kinney, Brown, Conde, Segares (D), Nyarko, Thorrington, Pause, Banner (M), Castillo and captain/retiring hero McBride (F). The major absences are Freddie Ljungberg (suspension) and Marco Pappa (international duty for Guatemala). It's interesting that Carlos de los Cobos opted to start Collins John and Baggio Husidic on the bench.

For LA: Ricketts (GK), Franklin, Gonzalez, Lenoardo, Dunivant (D), Bowen, Kovalenko, Kirovski, Cazumba (M), Donovan - captain - and Buddle (F). No major absences for LA - who will get David Beckham back next week after his lengthy absence from achilles injury.

Ok the t-shirt canons are out! Ten minutes to kickoff. Feel free to send questions, thoughts, or nicknames for Donocan's giant forehead to

Here's my game preview at Chicagoist.

2:57 Jonathon Toews in the house! (He's sort of tiny in person.) (Don't tell him I said that.)

3:02 There's a giant cadre of HerbaLife people in the far corner of the stadium - it's weird because they're wearing the kind of blinding green shirt that the Seattle Sounders wear.

0 mins MOTIVATIONAL MUSIC! MOTIVATIONAL MUSIC! MOTIVATIONAL MUSIC! Pumped yet? Galaxy jumping around in white, the Fire in home red. Looks like Banner's going to start on the left, with Nyarko on the right - I wouldn't be surprised to see them switch arount hough as the game goes forward.

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Ben Schuman-Stoler

Fire Thu Sep 02 2010

Flaming Journal 09.02.2010 - Freddie Got Fingered and Fredy got 2

ljungbergrun.jpgIt was a tough week to be a week-long Fire fan. Suffering a devastating loss in stoppage time, and losing our DP for next week's match against the LA Galaxy isn't the way I wanted to cap my Saturday, but these are the breaks.

This was my second viewing of a televised Fire match, and I have to say that we didn't look so bad -- it took some genuine heroics by Seattle's Fredy Montero to see the Sounders wrestle a respectable draw point away from us. The Montero brace had an hour between each goal, and the story of the loss was really the story of most our losses this season -- shaky defense. To be fair, we were without choice centre back Wilman Conde, but the archives I've pored over of Fire games this season show a sieve-like back line as a running narrative.

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Jordan Brown

Soccer Mon Aug 30 2010

US Soccer Extend Bradley's Deal Through 2014

BobBradley_888838.jpgAmong a whole flurry of rumors that US Men's National Team coach Bob Bradley (38-20-8) would be fired or signing on to coach Aston Villa in England - it looks like he'll just stay where he is. US Soccer announced today Bradley will coach through the end of 2014, which means he'll lead USAMNT through the 2014 World Cup in Rio.

The move took many observers by surprise. Most coaches' tenure leading national teams are short, and the 52 year old Bradley didn't exactly blow anyone away since he was hired in 2006. Making the finals of the 2009 Confederations Cup - and beating Spain en route - was definitely the highlight, but Bradley's identity is marked more by his consistency and discomfort taking any risks in the team's roster or style than it is with any particular result.

And now, despite the rumors that the former German star Jurgen Klinsmann - the man responsible for the overhaul and resurgence of the German national team - would try to overhaul US Soccer, the taciturn Bradley will get four more years. It's exactly the consistent, internal, steadfast decision you would expect from US Soccer - only time will tell if it's the correct one.

US Soccer put up some of Bradley's stats, and here are some interesting numbers on returning coaches, via Grant Wahl:

Of the 49 repeaters with the same country, 22 fared worse than the national norm, 18 fared better and 9 fared the same. (Recent results were still pretty poor, though: Only 2 of the 12 repeaters from 1994 on have fared better than their national norm: Norway's Olsen and Romania's Anghel Iordanescu in '98.)

And don't forget, USAMNT plays Poland at Soldier Field on October 9th.

Ben Schuman-Stoler

Soccer Sat Aug 28 2010

Red Stars Push for the Playoffs

As the sports cliché goes, "It's not how you start, it's how you finish." Maybe somebody should have told the Chicago Red Stars that.

With the Red Stars' latest stumble, a 3-2 defeat to the hands (legs?) of FC Gold Pride last Sunday, the team is 1-6-1 over its past eight matches. While they are not mathematically eliminated from the postseason just yet, their chances to lock up the fourth and final playoff spot are less than stellar.

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Raf Onak

Soccer Mon Aug 23 2010

Flaming Journal - Chicago Fire

fire crest.jpg
Learning to love something new isn't easy. There's so much risk in putting yourself out there, really opening up to the possibilities of a new relationship--you leave yourself vulnerable to false hopes, inflated expectations, hurt, and disappointment. It's with these anxieties in mind that I make my first wary steps towards supporting the Chicago Fire.

I have been a lifelong soccer fan, regular visitors to the Tailgate section of GB will surely have seen my World Cup coverage. I fell in love with the sport through the familiar American avenues of AYSO and European travel. The first professional game I attended was the 2007 Clasico in Barcelona, at the Nou Camp. The viral intensity of the fans, the exhibition of top quality football, Iker Casillas's sexual gestures towards the crowd-- the paella pot of tasty soccer flavors grew within me a love for all things football. I regularly follow the major leagues in Europe, I actively support Barcelona (on the way to being a paid club member), and over the years soccer has gradually become the only sport of any weight or consequence in my life.

On the flip side, I could really care less about the MLS. Whereas European competition is woven with rich history--regional and intercontinental rivalries, current heroes and former legends, it's own colorful collection of stories both glorious and tragic. Football in almost all other parts of the world is an extension of people's culture and politics. The rivalries are outgrowths of long standing feuds, territorial disputes, and cultural clashes. Soccer outside of the United States is the weekly practice of human drama, played out on the most watched and lively stages in the world.

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Jordan Brown / Comments (1)

Soccer Wed Aug 18 2010

Chicago Fire v New England Revolution Liveblog

Happy Wednesday all. Since it's hard for many to trek down I-55 midweek for these 730pm kickoffs, I figured I'd oblige with a liveblog of tonight's action, especially considering the recent hype surrounding the new look Fire.

I'll be back with more closer to kickoff, but for now dig the vid above and enjoy Section 8's memories of this 2008 drubbing of New England.

And, if you're so inclined, email me your favorite picture of Freddie Ljungberg (or whatever else is on your mind): Mine is this one.

6:50 Starting for the Fire (5-5-6, 21pts): Sean Johnson (GK), Dasan Robinson (D), C.J. Brown (D), Wilman Conde (D), Gonzalo Segares (D), Marco Pappa (M), Baggio Husidic (M), Logan Pause (M), Nery Castillo (M/F), Brian Mcbride (C) (F), Freddie Ljungberg (F)

For the Revs (6-9-3, 21 pts): Matt Reis (GK), Kevin Alston (D), Emmanuel Osei (D), Darrius Barnes (D), Cory Gibbs (D), Sainey Nyassi (M), Shalrie Joseph (C) (M), Pat Phelan (M), Chris Tierney (M), Ilija Stolica (F), Marko Perovic (F)

Fire bench: Dykstra, Kinney, Krol, Watson-Siriboe, Banner, Lowry, Carr
Rev bench: Shuttleworth, Sinovic, Griffiths, Schilawski, Smith, Linck, Mansally

The major news for the Fire, then, is that Segares - back from one year in Cyprus - is starting at left back over Krystztof Krol. Also Mike Banner has been replaced by Castillo, who coach Carlos de los Cobos said he didn't start against the Red Bulls last week because of fitness.

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Ben Schuman-Stoler / Comments (8)

Fire Tue Aug 17 2010

Is Krol Unhappy in Chicago?


According to his wife, Patrycja Mikula, Fire player Krzysztof Krol wants out of Chicago. "we had a big talk, neither of us wants to stay in chi, eventually we want to move to Cali cause he also loves it there," she said in a tweet that has since been deleted.

With the Fire barely halfway through the regular season, it remains to be seen whether this is just idle talk from a bored Playboy model (NSFW), or if Krol is making noise for a trade. With his position at left back in question with the return of Gonzalo Segares, Krol's future with the Fire may be at a crossroads.

Andrew Huff

Soccer Wed Aug 04 2010

Red Stars Dethrone Defending Champs

As the Chicago Red Stars (5-8-5) proved Sunday night on the road, all streaks are meant to be broken. Doing so against the defending champion Sky Blue FC makes it all the more rewarding. After succumbing to their last three opponents, the Red Stars finally ended their three-game losing streak at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, N.J., by beating Sky Blue, 2-1.

"Anytime you can get a 'W' on the road, that will give you more confidence," Red Stars Head Coach Omid Namazi said following the match. "It was a big win."

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Raf Onak

Soccer Tue Jul 27 2010

Red Stars Drop Second in a Row

Despite defeating the Boston Breakers (5-6-4) in Massachusetts five weeks prior, the Chicago Red Stars (4-7-5) could not complete the season series sweep as they fell to the Breakers, 3-1, on Sunday at Toyota Park.

Early goals by Breakers forward Kelly Smith set the tone for the remainder of the match as she wasted no time in netting goals in the 9th and 12th minute of play, deflating the Red Stars and the 3,673 fans in attendance. Just two minutes after her second goal, Smith also assisted Ifeoma Dieke's goal to take an overpowering 3-0 lead.

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Raf Onak

Soccer Thu Jul 15 2010

Manchester United Teams Up With Chicago's Aon


Typically when a company acquires one of its largest rivals in a nearly $5,000,000,000.00 (yeah, lots of zeros) merger, that's the company's BIG news for the week. Not so for Chicago's Aon. Aon did in fact purchase Hewitt Associates for 4.9 billion this week, but the corporation also teamed up with the most popular sports franchise in the world, Manchester United. United, the legendary football club out of jolly old England, for decades has dominated the imaginations of countless footie fans across the globe and will for only the 4th time in its long history switch kit sponsors and have Aon adorning the fronts of their unis.

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Brian Lauvray

World Cup Wed Jul 14 2010

World Cup 2010 - The Deserving Champions


Spain have emerged victorious, winners of the 2010 FIFA World Cup; but you probably already know that, considering this was the most publicized sporting event the world over. The soccer spectacle this summer was on full display, the past month dictating commercial creation, shirt sales, and dominating televisions both in and out of homes. Spain's victory over the Netherlands this past Sunday garnered over 700 million viewers, with over 24 million Americans joining in.

The huddled masses were treated to a shocking game, one which flouted all the prescient expectation and frothing hyperbole heaped upon the matchup by the ESPN network. Bill Simmons and his ilk were almost shaking with perverse glee at a Spain-Netherlands final--both were tournament also-rans, both were known for their tactical and technical creativity, they shared a heritage trailing back the Dutch creation of 'Total Football'. Not surprisingly, no one predicted a choppy, foul-ridden, unrecognizable game--yet here we are a week later with referee Howard Webb having to stand in ridiculous defense for his rain of colorful confetti throughout the game.


The officiating through the run of this World Cup had been notoriously suspect, but make no mistake--Howard Webb was the victim and not the culprit. Both teams were guilty of some gasp-worthy defending, but none more so than the Dutch, whose near constant aggressive challenging earned them a red card, far into the match though it was. Their general deportment throughout the match was deplorable, but one highlight which will surely stay with the record for years to come is the Nigel De Jong kick to Xabi Alonso's chest--a horrifying example of dangerous play, which even he admits he was lucky to receive only a yellow from.

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Jordan Brown / Comments (2)

Soccer Fri Jun 25 2010

The Arrival - USA Into the Round of 16 of World Cup


American Soccer has arrived in a dramatic and unprecedented way. Over the course of the past two weeks the excitement surrounding the USMNT campaign in South Africa has grown into an ecstatic orgy of adoration. Lando and Co. won the top spot of their group, felling giants and overcoming injustices to realize one of the most dramatic runs in United States sports history.


This is not a fluke, our boys have not gotten lucky. Their success so far has been built on the collective determination of a team whose character has shone through on the world's largest stage. Boss Bob Bradley molded the identity of a team that left the 2006 tournament with an air of disgrace. His tenure has been marked by quiet and poised surety, he exudes a stoic confidence that seems to have enveloped the mentality of the entire team. The team's 11th hour victory against Algeria showed the world what mental-toughness meant, never surrendering even past the 90th minute, and Landon Donovan's fateful strike was the glorious reward for their virtue.

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Jordan Brown / Comments (3)

Soccer Thu Jun 17 2010

Invoking Eve - Feminine Scapegoats in the World Cup

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Hopes and expectations are powerful forces to motivate human action. In football, entire nations stores of identity and pride are wrapped majestically about their men to defend on the pitch in our most civil equivalent of combat sans casualties. The collective peoples, and their voices manifested through media, build dreams and expectations around their teams, who in turn make promises to their nations--with 32 teams in the world cup, 31 are eventually going to have some explaining to do. Ugly heads are rearing at this tournament though, as two nations with the highest hopes have stumbled early, and blame is finding its way to the most classic of scapegoats--women.

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Both England and Spain saw their goalkeepers let through preventable goals, and while a great majority of the sporting and national medias of both countries have chosen to find fault in plausible spots--reasonable places such as tactics, defensive errors, good finishing by opponents--some of the more salacious (read: moronic) news sources have chosen to blame not the keepers, but the women in their lives.

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Jordan Brown

Feature Wed Jun 16 2010

America SCORES: Community Program Builds New Heroes

americascores.jpgWhile sports stars are being made all over the globe as the 2010 World Cup kicks off, there is another soccer organization that has established itself here in Chicago with heroes of its own. America SCORES, a not-for-profit organization that works closely with at-risk youth on Chicago's West Side, uses the sport as one of its three focal points in enriching lives of its fledgling athletes. With the goal of keeping kids healthy, educated and safe, SCORES focuses on enriching the minds, bodies and souls of children throughout the city. The organization uses an innovative combination of soccer, poetry and community service to keep school children in grades three through eight active both personally and within their communities.

By combining exercise through soccer, self expression through poetry, and self enrichment though community service learning, America SCORES strives to instill its three core values in their students -- teamwork, leadership and commitment. According to Heather Walles, the deputy director of America SCORES Chicago, the program uses the three disciplines to round out a complimentary curriculum that supplements the students education. Soccer, she tells me, is the "carrot" that draws students interest in the program. In addition to keeping the children active, soccer serves as the means in which children are enticed to learn creative writing and get more involved in their communities.

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Rick Abplanalp

Soccer Sun Jun 13 2010

World Cup 2010 Preview: Group G

As soon as the groups were drawn, Group G was immediately tabbed the group of death. But in the build up, injuries took their toll and now Brazil are even more entrenched as favorites. Who will go through with them?

This Brazilian team is unlike most previous Canarinha squads in that its focus is more on organization and defense than the typical Brazilian toca-toca samba style. In fact, coach Dunga's preferred line-up includes two holding midfielders -- Felipe Melo and Gilberto Silva -- and former stars are now calling it everything short of treason.

But Dunga would know. He himself was a growling holding midfielder, known as much for crunching tackles as for protecting his back line. Still, some of his selections have been strange. Why leave off a finally fit Ronaldinho, coming off a great season at Milan? Some say it's personal: When Ronaldinho was just coming up, he embarrassed Dunga -- maybe he's never been forgiven. And in 'dinho's place are not the unknown energetic Brazilian youngsters that always seem to make a name for themselves in these tournaments, but inconsistent veterans. Elano? Kleberson? Really?

Either way, and even with the odd selection (no Adriano either), this Brazilian side is the most defensively talented ever. Goalie Julio Cesar, center back Lucio and right back Maicon were each all forces on Inter Milan's treble winning side this year. Maicon is especially dangerous going forward (check out this candidate for goal of the year). Shoot, Brazil are so stacked at back that Barcelona star Dani Alves will have to start on the bench.

Going forward, Brazil will rely on Kaka and Robinho. The idea is that those two and another striker (Julio Baptista or Luis Fabiano) should be able to get a goal or two by themselves -- and the defense will lock it down. It's certainly not the full team flowing soccer that we're used to seeing, but results in qualifying and at the Confederations Cup (see above) last summer have proven that this Brazilian team is no less lethal than some of their famous predecessors. Actually, bolstered as they are at back, they're even scarier.

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Ben Schuman-Stoler

Soccer Fri Jun 11 2010

World Cup 2010 Preview: Group E

All the teams in Group E don't mind throwing players forward. They all want to play an offensive style. The question, then, is which teams will be able to withstand each other, and which teams' attack will be too much to withstand.

Favorites to not only get out of the group but make a serious run for the title, the Oranje will have to overcome the injury epidemic as well as a history rife with missed chances, unfulfilled expectations, and heartbreak. Euro 2008 was just the latest disappointment -- losing to Russia after beating Italy and France seemed almost typical. But coach Bert van Marwijk got his team back on track, getting eight wins from eight games in qualifying, and Holland is flying into the World Cup.

Despite all the talk about their broken promises, one thing's for sure. Notwithstanding the shaky hamstrings of Arjen Robben (coming off a scorching time at Bayern Munich), Holland doesn't lack attacking options. Even without Robben, Van Marwijk has Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart, Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Dirk Kuyt, Ryan Babel, and youngsters Eljero Elia and Ibrahim Afellay to choose from. Keep an eye out especially for Wesley Sneijder, Inter Milan's creative spirit, and Robin Van Persie, who looks to have recovered nicely from a major ankle injury (see video above).

But beyond attack, this Holland team also boasts two strong ball winners in Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel. It's that kind of grit that will make the famous Dutch total football succeed against teams looking to defend, defend, and counterattack. Keeper Maarten Stekelenburg is probably the team's biggest weakness, but the Oranje should have no problem scoring enough goals to overcome any blunders and go through.

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Ben Schuman-Stoler

Soccer Thu Jun 10 2010

World Cup 2010 Preview: Group D

Group D -- another group, another unpredictable tangle of critical injuries and upstart replacements, traditional systems and bold new approaches, and on and on.

Despite the tumult of a major injury and some sociological distractions, smart money has Germany going through. They have pedigree, that's for sure. Coach Joachim Low has continued Jurgen Klinsmann's system of playing an odd brand of German fußball that doesn't consist entirely of booting the ball as far as possible, prioritizing organized defense, banging bodies, and restricting offense mostly to free kicks. It flourished at Euro 2008 (where they lost the final to Spain) and in qualifying, where Germany never lost and beat Russia twice.

With that whole, you know, passing thing in mind, captain Michael Ballack's injury (see above) might be the biggest Ewing Theory contender of the Cup. Yes he's a critical player, but without him gooning around picking up stupid yellow cards, Germany may find they move into attack quicker. The playmaking responsibilities will have to be spread more evenly among Bastian Schweinsteiger (playing more central than he does at Bayern Munich), Lukas Podolski, Philip Lahm (coming from right-back), and a whole cast of young upstarts including Sami Khedira, Cacau, Marko Marin, and Mesut Ozil.

If some of those names sound a little un-German, get used to it. One of the most interesting cultural subplots this summer is the diversification of the German side, finally reflecting the country's sizable Muslim (mostly Turkish) contingent. Along with Polish players -- like Podolski and Miroslav Klose -- 11 of the 23 German players are either foreign born or of foreign descent. A national anthem controversy has already surfaced.

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Ben Schuman-Stoler

Soccer Wed Jun 09 2010

World Cup 2010 Preview: Group C


Vuvuzelas at the ready America, it's soccer time. Our very own World Cup Group C is the topsoil from which Team USA will sprout its (hopefully) historic cup run. If you've passed ESPN on the telly for more than 20 seconds in the past months, Djimon Hounsou--AKA Amistad--has been telling you all about how 'one game can change everything,' and the US's first game is testament to that. Landon Donovan and Co. will be playing England to start our soccer safari this Saturday at 1:30 CST, and it looks to be an epic match for all involved.


The last time the USA faced England in the World Cup in 1950, we beat the imperialist bastards 1-0 on a goal from Joe Gaetjens, who later died in Haiti when his family was involved in a coup against the Duvalier regime. The rich history, soccer and otherwise, between our two nations has led to one of the more gripping sagas leading up to the tournament in South Africa. The US and Nike specifically modeled the team's jerseys to pay homage to the 1950 kit, our ambassadors are making wagers and trading witty banter, Woody Harrelson sunk a penalty leading the 'Rest of World' celebrity team over an English opposition in Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium, and Landon Donovan has already tipped Johnny Depp to play him in the movie adaptation of the event.


For all the hype, America actually stand a fair chance of winning the match. We showed our true colors in last summer's Confederation's Cup, beating #1 ranked Spain in the semi-finals, and leading Brazil at half-time in the final match. Under our dour coach Bob Bradley, Team USA has built a solid style of quick, counterattacking soccer, using the pace and athleticism of players like Donovan, Maurice Edu, and Clint Dempsey. If our sometimes-shaky defense finds their form early, the USA could be looking further out than just making the knockout round, and playing for some real glory.

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Jordan Brown / Comments (2)

Soccer Wed Jun 09 2010

World Cup 2010 Preview: Group B


With Group B we'll be moving from bottom to top. The South Americans in this group have gifted reportage of this World Cup so much in these past weeks, and the outlook of this group seems to have a 'save the best for last' feel to it.

The Greeks

The lucky devils most likely to get an early summer break are Greece. Winning Euro 2004 put Greece on top of Europe for the first time since before time, but expectations are not high for the Mediterraneans (not actually their nickname). A rough road to qualifying against teams like Israel and Moldova doesn't a recipe for success make. While they do carry some striking power with the pairing of Georgios Samaras (Celtic FC) and Theofanis Gekas (10 goals in qualifying), recent form is painting a dark group run for the Greeks who lost by two goals each to Paraguay and unqualified Senegal, and drew against Evil's own North Korea. Expect Greece to be watching the knockout rounds back in the old (old) country.

South Korea

Flying out with the Greeks will most likely be South Korea. Though they are a perennial Asian powerhouse, and finished fourth in the 2002 World Cup, the South Koreans lack striking power at the front. They had an even qualifying where they snuck a lot of second leg wins against teams like Turkmenistan and BFF North Korea. The South Koreans do boast some star power with players like Manchester United's workhorse midfielder Park Ji-Sung, and under coach Huh Jung-Moo the Koreans have adopted a more conservative style, sacrificing attack for smart play. Group B is already a shaky place to be, so some surprises may be in store, but don't bet the farm on it.

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Jordan Brown / Comments (4)

Soccer Wed Jun 09 2010

World Cup 2010 Preview: Group A

In the World Cup group stage, four points is a good number to aim for. If you can get a win and a draw, chances are--notwithstanding goal differential and other tiebreakers--you'll make it to the knockout round. This week, GB is taking a look at each group in preparation for Friday's opening kick-off, starting with Group A: France, South Africa, Mexico, and Uruguay.


France is overrated, and in trouble. Most experts hold France as a top tier team with semi-final pedigree and they're right except that it takes more than sheer talent to succeed in the World Cup. On paper, it's true: France is stacked. Franck Ribery, Patrice Evra, Nicholas Anelka, Florent Malouda, Thierry Henry, William Gallas, Bacary Sagna--these are some of the world's best position players, and all of them have experience in big games playing for top teams. So getting to the semi-final or beyond isn't out of the question.

The problem with Les Bleus, though, is not the players but how the players are organized. French coach Raymond Domenech is mental. He left Samir Nasri, Karim Benzema, and Hatem Ben Arfa off the team. In 2008, he didn't take Robert Pires to the Euro Cup because he's a Scorpio. (Seriously.) This year, actually just last week, he decided to bench and take the captain's armband from France's all time best scorer in Henry and give it to Evra, while overhauling the squad's formation to enhance their attacking options. Although the players seem to like it, so did lowly China, beating France 1-0 in a friendly last week.

The list of Domenech's questionable decisions is only outweighed in its hilarity by the fact that he's still employed. Somehow, the French Football Federation thinks highly enough of him to have kept him around for six years, even while lining up a successor (Laurent Blanc) to take over in July. Why are they letting him coach the World Cup? France sputtered through qualifying and only made South Africa thanks to the luck of what has quickly become one of the most controversial goals in qualifying history (see above).

So how much can a coach torpedo his own team? The sheer quality and depth of the French squad is probably enough to see them through, but that's what people said in 2002--when France was beaten by Senegal and failed to progress.

South Africa


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Ben Schuman-Stoler / Comments (1)

Soccer Tue Jun 08 2010

Chicago Red Stars Complete Homestand

Despite dominating possession and outshooting their opponent 16-5, the Chicago Red Stars were held to a scoreless draw against the Atlanta Beat on Sunday at Toyota Park. With the draw, the Red Stars move to 2-4-2 on the season while Atlanta falls to 0-5-2.

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Raf Onak / Comments (1)

Fire Fri May 28 2010

Yet Another Tie for the Fire

It would appear that the Fire are a bit stuck. The team has become accustomed to the concept of not losing rather than winning, and, frankly, it's getting a little irritating. After a rough showing at the Sister Cities Tournament last week where Chicago lost in a couple friendly matches to Paris Saint-Germain and Legia Warsaw, the Fire returned to regular season play last night against FC Dallas. But despite a strong performance in the first half, the Fire were unable to come away with a victory.

The trouble began early for the Fire (2-3-4, 10 points) as Dallas (2-2-6, 12 points) took a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute. Midfielder David Ferreira dashed past two defenders and sent a shot directly to the right of Fire goalie Andrew Dykstra. In the 40th minute, Fire captain Brian McBride evened the score after heading a long pass from Justin Mapp. The Fire started the second half attacking the ball and outrunning Dallas, but soon the steam subsided, and the team found themselves on their heels in the final minutes.

If the Fire can somehow find a way to harness their energy and keep the momentum up throughout the game, they will hopefully take the win against international visitors A.C. Milan this coming Sunday, May 30. But the Italian powerhouse will certainly give them a battle for the W, so the Fire need to be prepared for some rough and vigorous play. If they can manage to hold off some of A.C. Milan's strong forwards, the Fire may be able to break their tying streak. Otherwise fans will get used to saying, "at least they didn't lose."

Vanessa Day

Fire Sun May 23 2010

Friendly Tournament Ends in Defeat for Fire

I'll be honest, I couldn't--and still can't--pronounce the names of the Polish players as they handily cut, crossed and scored against the Chicago Fire last night. Those unique names went flying through the Fire players, resulting in a 3-0 win for Legia Warsaw, giving them the official third place title in the Chicago Sister Cities International Cup.

The first half saw no goals as both teams battled at an even level. The Fire had some prime opportunities to obtain the lead but couldn't seem to get past Legia goalie Kostyantyn Makhonovsky. (See what I mean, that's difficult.) It all fell apart in the second half. In the 59th minute, Maciej Rybus fired a cross to Maciej Gorski, who quickly nudged the ball to Maciej Iwanski. (It makes it easy when I only have to know one name.) Iwanski then shot it past Fire goalie Andrew Dykstra to put Legia up 1-0. Even when Fire coach Carlos de los Cabos brought out his big players--McBride, John and Pappa--it did no good against Legia. The next two goals were scored by Sebastian Szalachowski in the 69th and 85th minutes.

Despite the loss and the last place finish, the Fire gained great experience from the tournament. The team was able to test the waters with some of their reserve players as well as get a look at some prospectives from the competing teams looking to make a move to the MLS. Also, the tournament encouraged friendly competition and a positive relationship with Chicago's Sister Cities. And if fans weren't already excited, the international play certainly boosted enthusiasm for the upcoming World Cup.

The Fire return to regular MLS play on Thursday, May 27 against FC Dalla at Toyota Park at 7 p.m.

Vanessa Day

Fire Thu May 20 2010

Unfortunate Loss for Fire in Sister Cities Tournament

The excitement was thick last night as the Fire kicked off the Sister Cities International Cup against Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). Everyone cheered as the game got underway, but soon the strong following of Fire fans were sighing in disappointment.

In the 14th minute of play, PSG's Clément Chantôme headed the ball into the goal after a cross from Ludovic Giuly. Rookie goalkeeper Sean Johnson was between the posts for the Fire and attempted to get a hand on the ball as it sailed past, but was unsuccessful. PSG almost scored again after a fatal mistake from Johnson in the 40th minute. Johnson failed to clear the ball past PSG midfielder Christophe Jallet, who decided to make a cross to his teammate who was luckily off sides.

The Fire continued their push to event he score in the second half, and in the 86th minute it appeared there was some hope. Stefan Dimitrov went tete-a-tete with PSG goalie Apoula Édel, but was unable to control the shot as it passed over the crossbar.

The Fire will take on Legia Warsaw in the consolation round on Saturday, May 23 at 6 p.m., while PSG fights for the title against Red Star Belgrade immediately following the first match.

Vanessa Day

Fire Wed May 19 2010

Chicago is Ready for the Sister Cities Tourney

Tonight marks the opening of the first-ever Chicago Sister Cities International Cup at Toyota Park. The tournament consists of four teams playing over the course of two days, fighting for a cup, prize money and pride. For the Chicago Fire, this is an ideal soccer experience. Not only will they get the chance to compete against top international teams, but also test the strength of their young players.

The three other teams playing in the tournament are Serbia's Red Star Belgade, Poland's Legia Warsaw and Paris Saint-Germain of France. Paris recently won its eighth French Cup, the Red Stars won the Serbian Cup a little over two weeks ago and eight-time Polish Champions Legia Warsaw. With such strong teams competing, the tournament is expected to be full of energy and excitement.

The Fire will take on Paris Saint-Germain tonight at 7 pm to kick off the tournament, followed by the Red Stars and Legia Warsaw. The finals will take place this Saturday starting at 6 p.m. For tickets and information, visit the Chicago Fire website.

Vanessa Day / Comments (1)

Soccer Mon Apr 26 2010

Red Stars Silenced by Defending WPS Champs

The Chicago Red Stars (0-1-2) were given the opportunity to dethrone the 2009 Women's Professional Soccer champions not once, but twice in the team's first three matches of the 2010-11 campaign. Unfortunately, both efforts resulted in a loss with Sky Blue FC (2-0-1) squeezing past the Red Stars, 1-0, on Saturday at Toyota Park after producing the same outcome just two weeks ago in New Jersey.

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Raf Onak

Fire Tue Feb 09 2010

Chicago Fire Host Indoor Cup Soccer Tournament

How do you plan on spending Presidents Day weekend? How about indoors cheering on soccer clubs from around Chicago? This weekend the Fire host their 5th Annual Chicago Fire Cup Indoor Tournament at the Regional Sports Center in Crystal Lake. With at least 30 teams and over 500 players participating in the event, it is expected to have the highest turnout ever.

The boys' teams will compete on Saturday, February 13, while the girls are set to take the field on Sunday, February 14. Each team gets to play three forty-five minute games. After all the matches have been played, 12 teams will continue on to play at Toyota Park on opening night, Saturday, April 10. These remaing teams will fight for the chance to be called the 2010 Cup Champions.

For the teams that do not qualify for the finals, special opportunities will be available including participating in the "Tunnel of Fire," while one team each will have the chance to be Ball Kids and Flag Kids at the Fire home games during the 2010 season. As part of the tournament, all players will receive a complimentary corner kick ticket to the Fire's Opening Night game with additional tickets for family and friends for only $24.

So come out to Crystal Lake this weekend and cheer on your club--or any club--as they compete to be the Cup Champions. For more information, visit the Chicago Fire website or

Vanessa Day / Comments (1)

Fire Sun Jan 10 2010

New Coach Has 'Em Fired Up

firecoach.jpgHe hasn't coached their first game yet, but the Chicago Fire are getting rave reviews for the hiring off they new coach, Carlos de los Cobos. ESPN Chicago calls the appointment of the former El Salvador National Team and Mexican League head coach a "good move", not only for de los Cobos coaching ability but for his ties to some of the best player south of the border. The Tribune points to de los Cobos' "wide open style" of play which should help the Fire continue their streak of playoff appearances, which includes post-season play in 11 of their 12 years of existence. The Fire will introduce their new head coach to the media at a press conference tomorrow.

Ken Green

Fire Wed Dec 09 2009

Get Your Fire Gear Here!

In the market for a new soccer jersey? training gear? Why not pick up Marco Pappa's old jersey? or Wilman Conde's? Well, this Saturday fans will have the chance to do just that. The Chicago Fire will hold a Season End Fire Locker Room Sale on December 12 at Toyota Park.

Available merchandise will include game worn jerseys, training gear from players like Brian McBride and John Thorrington, Chicago Fire Grab Bags, up to 50% off 2009 adidas items, and much more. The sale will be open to renewed Season Ticket Holders from 10 to 11 a.m., and will open to the general public from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fans who attend will have the chance to enter for a special Chicago Fire Prize Pack that will include a 2009 Fire Holiday Pack and other goodies. The team will also be giving away a pair of tickets to the 2010 Opening Night at Toyota Park to 10 lucky shoppers as they checkout.

If people are in the giving mood, they can donate a new toy or non-perishable food items to the Bridgeview 20th Annual Chamber of Commerce & Industry Food and Toy Drive. Those who donate will receive a coupon for an additional 10% off their entire purchase. Give a little, get a little.

For pictures of the merchandise for sale, visit the club's blog, En Fuego, or their Twitter and Facebook pages.

Vanessa Day / Comments (1)

Soccer Wed Nov 25 2009

Red Stars' Masar Help Kick Hunger for Thanksgiving

masar-battling-durochik.ashx.jpegThere are always feel-good stories involving professional athletes and the less-fortunate during the holidays and the Red Stars are no exception, particularly their star forward Ella Masar.

Masar, from Urbana, Illinois, took it upon herself to connect with a local community organization after signing with the Stars after being drafted in the second round of the Women's Professional Soccer draft. Her strong religious beliefs led her to the far South Side and the Roseland Christian Ministries where Masar joined others in serving Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless.

How did Masur connect with the RCM? "When I was looking for a place to share and practice my faith, I wanted to be around genuine believers," said Masar on the Red Stars website. "Roseland Christian Reformed Church is all genuine. I'm so comfortable here."

Lest you think Masar's involvement is one of those photo-op holiday feel-good moments, you should know that she also began attending Wednesday night Bible study and Sunday morning service at RCM's Roseland Christian Reformed Church.

Ken Green

Fire Fri Nov 13 2009

Free Fire Tickets!

This Saturday's Conference Final game between the red-hot Fire and Real Salt Lake is a sellout. But you can still get in on the action if you're lucky enough. Text the word "playoffs" to 95248 and you could be the lucky Fire-head who'll win a prize package that includes two seats ON THE FIELD (west sidelines), folding chairs autographed by a Fire player, two Stadium Club passes, two Fire scarves, a team-signed Fire jersey, a parking pass and two tickets to the Fire's 2010 season opener against San Jose on April 10. Yeah, it IS pretty cool. You'll be signing up to receive Fire text alerts when you enter the contest, but if you're that big on the Fire, you probably won't mind that. Hurry, the winner will be picked TODAY.

Ken Green / Comments (2)

News Fri Oct 23 2009

Short Hops

Ken Green

News Thu Sep 24 2009

Short Hops

  • Will he or won't he? President Obama may go pitch Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics afterall (with Arne Duncan in tow). But, as everyone knows, Oprah has the last word.
  • Whither goest thou, White Sox? Kenny Williams is trying to figure that out.
  • Milton Bradley says he's sorry. Does anyone care?
  • Cubs fans disillusioned by the outcome of this season can take a look back at the 1984 team. Not that the outcome then was any better, but still...
  • Seattle's T.J. Houshmandzadeh says he has something to prove when the Seahawks meet the Bears this Sunday. Meanwhile, the Bears seek to establish the running game. But if wide receiver Johnny Knox continues his ascent, we can wait a little while.
  • Mixed martial arts star Fedor Emelianenko is coming to Chicago in November. Take appropriate action.
  • And you find yourself...riding a bike down Michigan Ave. Musician David Byrne talks about his cycling fixation and cruising around Chicago.
  • Boxer David Diaz brings it back home this Saturday.
  • If you're participating in the sixth annual Salmon Classic this Sunday at Northerly Island, use this as inspiration.
  • The Chicago Fire prepare to honor another Chicago soccer team who weren't too shabby themselves in their day.
  • Late Chicago Olympian Willye White has a new park named in her honor.
  • The Big Ten football season kicks off this Saturday and while other teams discuss strategy for their upcoming opponents, Northwestern's gridiron gang has different concerns on their mind.
  • The Chicago Outfit close out their 2009 season this Saturday at the Windy City Fieldhouse. Get pumped up for the contest by checking out the cool video below.

The Chicago Outfit - The Latest Show Ever from Spencer M. Rohan on Vimeo.

Ken Green / Comments (1)

Soccer Fri Jul 31 2009

Red Stars Fade To Black

The Red Stars host their last match of the season this Sunday when they face the L.A. Sol at Toyota Park, and thought their inaugual season didn't result in a playoff appearance, it did include the record-setting play of Christiane (yeah, one name) who recorded the first hat trick in Women's Professional Soccer history. Relive the history below.

Ken Green

News Thu Jul 30 2009

Short Hops

  • Boy, you have one inter-team spat... Even though the Bears are denying any rift between Brian Urlacher and new QB Jay Cutler, USA Today has concluded that the team is the new Dallas Cowboys.
  • Can we leave the poor guy alone? A documentary is being planned on Steve Bartman and the "incident".
  • Speaking of the Cubs, the middle of their lineup (Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Milton Bradley) are heating up at just the right time.
  • If the Illini make it to the Rose Bowl again, they can thank... Donovan McNabb?
  • If you join up with the Fork In The Road biking and dining group, will you be having a well-rounded meal?
  • Not only are the Chicago Fire doing well in MSL action, but their developmental and Super-20 teams aren't doing too shabby either.
  • The Chicago Huddle, a weekly Bears preview and recap show, is looking for a spokesperson to open each program. Looking at the photo on the front of the video, I can't for the life of me figure out what they're looking for.
  • The Chicago Women In Baseball League and the Chicago Gems baseball club will take their skills to a bigger audience when they conduct and exhibition prior to the start of a Schaumburg Flyers game during Women In Baseball Day

Ken Green

Fire Tue Jul 21 2009

Blanco on Fire

It's been a good week for the Fire's Cuauhtemoc Blanco. His goal and assist earned him MLS Player of the Week honors, the second time he's earned the accolade. The win boosted the Fire to first place in the Eastern Conference with a 7-3-7 record. Blanco, meanwhile, has four goals on the season, along with seven assists. Here's his extra time goal here, while his slick assist is attached below.

Ken Green

Fire Thu Jul 16 2009

Chicago Fire Ablaze in SuperLiga Tournament

This week has been full of high points for the Chicago Fire: reaching the first place position in the Eastern Conference with a tie against the Columbus Crew; having two players, defender Wilman Conde and midfielder Cuauhtémoc Blanco, selected for the MLS All-Star First XI; topping off with a 2-1 win in the SuperLiga semifinals against defending champions New England Revolution. Yes, the team is certainly--pardon the pun--on fire.

The semifinal match took place last night at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA. This is the first year that the Chicago Fire has participated in the SuperLiga tournament, but they are extremely familiar with New England. The Fire have played the Revolution in 35 regular season games and 13 post-season matches. And while the Revolution had the upper hand at home last night, holding a 15-8-2 record against the Fire when playing at Gillette Stadium, Chicago showed no sign of intimidation.

Continue reading this entry »

Vanessa Day

Soccer Mon Jul 13 2009

Neat Trick

cristiane-run-celebration-fcgp-durochik.jpgThe Chicago Red Stars' forward Christiane (yeah, that's right, one name) made Women's Professional Soccer league history Sunday night when she recorded the first hat trick ever in the WPS.

Christiane, who hails from Brazil, also recorded the first penalty kick goal in Red Stars franchise history. Her stellar efforts lifted the Red Stars to a 3-1 victory over FC Gold Price and raised their record to 4-6-5. It also marked the first back-to-back wins for the Stars in their young history.

The Red Stars hit the road for two games before returning to Toyota Park on Sunday, July 26 to take on the Washington Freedom.

(Photo by David Durochik from Chicago Red Stars website)

Ken Green

Fire Sat Jul 11 2009

Chicago Reaches First Place with a Scoreless Game

In front of the largest crowd this season at Toyota Park, 18,123 people, the Chicago Fire battled the Columbus Crew to a 0-0 tie. Though neither team scored a goal, both came away with a positive outcome. Chicago surpassed D.C. United by one point, and now stands in the first place position in the Eastern Conference. The Crew also gained a point for the tie.

Despite strong offensive attempts from both teams, neither could finish off their shots. Goalies William Hesner and Jon Busch held their opponents to a shut out, the fourth one this season for Busch. The Fire's defense stepped up allowing the Crew only 4 shots on target. Although the Fire had 11 shots on target, they could not manage to put the ball past Hesner, who had a career high in saves.

Apart from the impressive soccer played, the crowd was another sight to be seen. Not only was it the biggest crowd this year, it was also the craziest. Fans chanted "Chicago Fire" for what seemed like the whole game, as various people in the crowd waved flags and lit flares. Though it was disappointing not coming away with a win, the Fire hope to draw the same enthusiasm to their next home league game July 18 against the San Jose Earthquake.

Vanessa Day

Fire Wed Jul 08 2009

Fire Battle for #1 Spot

Two is a magic number. The Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew have played to 2-2 ties their last three regular season meetings, and both sit at the top of the Eastern Conference standings with first place in their sights. This Saturday, July 11, the Fire take on the Crew at home to determine who will surpass D.C. United and take first in the East.

The Fire are coming off an incredible 2-1 win against the Colorado Rapids, which gained them a win and three points leaving them tied with D.C. United. Columbus sits just one point below Chicago, and will be hoping to add another win to their season (5-3-8). The Crew have won 9 of their last 10 games, dropping one to Dallas in mid-June. Before the win over the Rapids, Chicago had lost three games in a row. However, after a strong performance in Colorado, breaking a 10-year losing streak to the Mile High team on the road, the Fire have a real chance to defeat the Crew and reach #1.

The Fire will be playing at home at Toyota Park, where they hold 9-5-5 record against the Crew. Home field advantage will come in handy this Saturday. The game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. and will air on ESPN2.

Vanessa Day

Fire Wed Jul 01 2009

Fire Face a Challenge in Colorado

As four-time Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup winners, the Chicago Fire entered last night's third round game against the Wilmington Hammerheads (USL-2) with confidence. The Hammerheads had not played a Major League Soccer (MLS) team since they lost to the New York Red Bulls in 2006. However, that fact did not show at all as the Fire fell to the Hammerheads 1-0. Chicago dominated a majority of the game and was presented with plenty of opportunities to score, but none of their shots were able to get past the Hammerhead's goalie Daryl Sattler. The loss knocked the Fire out of the tournament, and now they must travel to the Mile High city this weekend to face the Colorado Rapids for their first league match in two weeks.

Chicago has done tremendously well on the road this year with 4-1-3 record in 8 games. Colorado, though, has historically been a difficult city for the Fire to dominate. This is the first encounter of these two teams this year, and both share the exact same record and hold the fourth place position in their respective conferences. The Fire hope to pick up three road points this weekend, which is something they have only accomplished twice in 11 years of play, and they have not won a game against the Rapids since 1999. Their record against Colorado is not the only thing the Fire has to worry about. After a long undefeated streak (11 games), the Fire lost three consecutive games in June. The team hopes they will not post a fourth consecutive loss this Saturday.

The 4th of July game will take place at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado, and kick-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.

Vanessa Day / Comments (1)

News Thu Jun 25 2009

Short Hops

  • The Chicago chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America is meeting tomorrow to figure out once and for all how they should regard players of the Steroid Era in their future Hall of Fame voting. One Delaware sports writer is urging them to "do the right thing."
  • When the dust clears after tonight's NBA draft, will Kirk Hinrich end up wearing a new uniform?
  • The White Sox youngsters Jayson Nix and Josh Fields made the most of their rare starting assignments.
  • Local Iowa State and Duke basketball fans might have something to do next January 6.
  • The Fire is gearing up for its next match in the Super Liga against fellow MLS club Chivas USA Tuesday at Toyota Park.
  • ChicagoNow blogger Matt Olsen lists 10 Chicago sports surprises that weren't really surprises. Personally, I'd add the continually rising cost projections for hosting the Olympics.
  • It'll be Mark Brown (no, not this Mark Brown) instead of Gonzalo Omar Basile who will take on Fres Oquendo at "Windy City Fight Night 3" this Friday at the UIC Pavilion. On the undercard, Rita "La Guera" Figueroa has a rematch with Tammie "The Tasmanian Devil" Johnson. Man, I love nicknames.
  • Weekend warriors, get caught up with the Chicago Open paintball tournament being held in Bollingbrook.
  • The Chicago Machine hope to end a three-game losing streak when they take on the Washington Bayhawks this Saturday at Toyota Park in Major League Lacrosse action.
  • If you just can't let go of the 1985 Bears, you might have a reason to watch the Cleveland Browns a bit closer this season.
  • The Lou Malnati's Pizza Bronco team does a worst-to-first run in the Wilmette House women's baseball league. Meanwhile, it's the Riveters versus the Skyline and the Comets versus the Turtle Rock in Chicago Gems Women's Baseball League action at Bedford Park Fields.

Ken Green

Soccer Mon Jun 22 2009

Red Stars In A Black Hole

red stars logo.jpgThese are tough times for the fledgling Chicago Red Stars of the Womens Professional Soccer league. For teams like the Red Stars, in their inaugural season, leeway is usually given with regards to wins, or the lack thereof. But for the Stars, it's turning into a dire situation.

With their 2-0 loss to the Boston Breakers on Sunday, the Red Stars saw their winless streak extended to eight games and their scoreless streak pushed to three (a run that began with a 0-0 tie against the Washington Freedom). In fact, the Stars (2-5-5) have only won one of their six home games at Toyota Park so far this season, not a fact that is bound to intimidate visiting opponents.

The team will try to correct the situation when they travel west to face the L.A. Sol this Saturday. They next home game is Wednesday, July 1 against the Freedom in Toyota Park. They could probably use your support.

Ken Green

News Wed Jun 10 2009

Short Hops

  • It was a rough start for the Chicago Sky in their season opener, but top rookie Kristi Toliver is taking it one game at a time.
  • ESPN Chicago muses on the White Sox young "saviors", recent call-ups Gordon Beckham and Aaron Poreda.
  • Meanwhile, the Sox newest draft picks still have that new car smell.
  • On the other side of town, the Cubs' top pick says he was hoping they would select him all along because he admires their history...
  • ...which, as a Tribune article states, has been well documented on film.
  • A golf foursome with Ben Roethlisberger, Justin Timberlake and Michael Jordan? Somebody pinch former Chicago cop Larry Giebelhausen, because he must be dreaming.
  • Chicago's long history of heavyweight boxing add another chapter as Frez Oquendo takes on Gonzalo Basile in a June 26 bout.
  • Fire fan favorite C.J. Brown looks back on 12 years with the team.
  • Add Mike Ditka to the Not-Crazy-About-Jay-Cutler (Anti)Fan Club. Did this guy kick a puppy or something?
  • It may be too late to register as an individual for the 2009 Chicago Marathon, but you can still get in under the wire by joining a team.
  • Finally, meet the man who motivated Michael Jordan to greatness (by beating him out for the last spot on their high school basketball team): Leroy Smith. (If he looks a little like Charlie Murphy, that's purely coincidental, we're sure.)

Ken Green

Soccer Fri Jun 05 2009

Soldier Field Near Sold Out for the US, er, Honduran National Team

The US plays Honduras in a vital World Cup Qualifier this Saturday night at Soldier Field. With over 50,000 tickets sold, chances are most of the fans won't be there for the US, considering their last match drew less than 11,000.

Last Wednesday in Costa Rica, the US learned just how big an impact a hometown crowd can make, as they went down in flames in front of a boisterous Costa Rican crowd (though let's be clear - the crowd was maybe the least of their problems on a night when they played miserably). One of the disadvantages of being a melting pot, is that the US rarely ever enjoys such an advantage at home with so many fans choosing to support the country of their heritage, rather than the one of their residence. Though that's clearly an understandable choice, what's less understandable is why the US Soccer Federation chose to play such an important match in Chicago, where a high Honduran turnout was always likely.

Steve Gillies / Comments (3)

News Thu May 28 2009

Short Hops

  • Wipe your tears, Hawks fans. According to USA Today, the young team's gotta wear shades ('80s music reference).
  • Not only are Derrick Rose's academic endeavors at Memphis under scrutiny, but it looks like the grade hanky-panky extends back to high school.
  • So does this SAT probe mean anything for the next batch of NBA hopefuls, many of whom will be here in Chicago for the annual pre-draft camp?
  • Answering the cries of many Cubs fans, GM Jim Hendry says the trading of Mark De Rosa isn't the problem. Meanwhile, The Bleacher Reports thinks moving Alfonso Soriano to second is one of the answers. And if the sale of the team to the Ricketts family doesn't go through, Sam Zell says "don't worry".
  • So who's the most important Bear on the team right now? If you think the answer is obvious, think again.
  • Even with deep dish pizza and Italian beef sandwiches all over the place, Chicago is pretty average when it comes to fitness. We're 25th out of 50.
  • Someone found the Tampa Bay Rays 2008 AL Championship trophy in a thrift shop in Chicago. Well, not the ACTUAL trophy...
  • The Chicago Fire's Gonzalo Segares gets the "up-close-and-personal" treatment from
  • It sounds like a sweeps week "special report": Are playgrounds endangering our children? Watch "Not Just Fun and Games", a special investigative report...

Ken Green

News Fri May 15 2009

Short Hops

  • If you were looking for the results of today's Cubs-Astros game, forget it. Rain washed it out.
  • For his uncharacteristic helmet-throwing incident, the White Sox' Jermaine Dye gets suspended and fined, meaning he's going to miss most of their series against Toronto.
  • Speaking of Chicago vs. Toronto, the Fire travel to the Great White North to take on Toronto FC this weekend. Other Fire news: the team has qualified for the 2009 SuperLiga tournament and kick off their annual Community Soccer Series net week.
  • Meanwhile, Chicago's other pro soccer team, the Red Stars have a budding star with the free-spirited midfielder Megan Rapinoe. Elsewhere, ESPN shows the Red Stars some by singing out goaltender Caroline Jonsson as one of the standouts in the Women's Professional Soccer League's inaugural season.
  • Vancouver is still trying to hold its collective heads up high after being bounced by the Blackhawks. But at least they don't welch on a bet.
  • If you had a brand-new boat (and really, in this economy, who doesn't?), the Chicago Park District has given you two new harbors.
  • Yahoo! Sports has the Bears finishing 11-5 this season. Hmmm...what changed?
  • As long as the Arena Football League is gathering mothballs, former Rush coach Mike Hohensee figures he's better earn a buck somewhere else.
  • Tired of movie dates, candlelit dinners and walks along the beach? Try antigravity yoga (among other alternative and physical date ideas).
  • New video game upstart retail outlet Play N Trade opens a new store in the Chicago area.
  • Seeking to assert their masculine superiority, the baseball-playing Schaumburg Flyers will take on the Chicago Bandits, the 2008 National Pro Fastpitch champions, in a fastpitch softball game. Why am I temped to bet the house on the Bandits?
  • This song? Get used to it.

Ken Green

Soccer Wed May 13 2009

Red Stars Seek Bounce Back

Hoping to recover from their first loss of the season, the Chicago Red Stars will take on FC Gold Pride this Saturday, 7:30 p.m., at Toyota Park in Bridgeview in Women's Professional Soccer league action.

The Red Stars, 2-1-1 in their inaugural season fell to Sky Blue FC (1-2-2) of New Jersey 2-0 on May 10 at Toyota Park. The Stars only managed three shots on goal and the first one didn't come until the second half. The lackluster performance received a blunt assessment from Red Stars head coach Emma Hayes.

Continue reading this entry »

Ken Green

News Thu May 07 2009

Short Hops

  • It's do or (almost) die time tonight for the Blackhawks in their playoff series against the (boo) Vancouver Canucks.
  • Now that he's back in the fold, the White Sox' Scottie Pods wants his old number back. Meanwhile, manager Ozzie Guillen thinks the team has more pressing needs.
  • Speaking of the Sox, they hold their first Volunteer Day this Saturday. It's not too late to sign up for the event, inspired by their No. 1 fan.
  • Derrick Rose? Jay Cutler? Patrick Kane? Who's Chicago's most marketable athlete?
  • Handball fanatics, the place to be this weekend is Elgin. Yes, Elgin.
  • The Bulls' playoff run been berry berry good to Comcast Sports.
  • As if the Chicago Rush didn't have enough problems, what with their entire league collapsing, now they're accused of sticking it to one of their fans.
  • Yet another tribute to venerable Wrigley Field.
  • A website called "Ride The City" needs your help in mapping out Chicago's cycling routes.
  • From Lemont, Illinois to Venice, Italy: cyclist Christian Vande Velde has come a long way.
  • Walk with a purpose. The 10th Annual Breast Cancer Walk comes to the Beverly neighborhood.
  • Look out Robert Morris College: Roosevelt University is getting back into the intercollegiate athletics action.
  • Fresh off their victory over Kansas City, the Chicago Force take their undefeated record to Detroit to take on the Demolition in Women's Tackle Football action.
  • The equally unbeaten Chicago Fire, meanwhile, face the New England Revolution at Toyota Park.

Ken Green

Soccer Tue Apr 21 2009

Seeing (Red) Stars

inauguralmatchprofilepicture.gifSo far, so good for the Chicago Red Stars of the Women's Professional Soccer league. While not exactly dominating their opponents in their inaugural season, the Stars can at least claim an unblemished record after playing to a scoreless tie against the Sky Blue FC this past Sunday at Toyota Park in Bridgeview. Previously, the Red Stars defeated St. Louis Athletica 1-0 and played to a 1-1 tie against the Washington Freedom.

Despite the score Sunday night, there were some promising signs, most notably the Red Stars' 18 shots and 4 shots on goal, including a sharp bicycle kick by midfielder Megan Rapinoe. On the defensive side, goaltender Caroline Jonnson stopped all three Sky Blue FC shots on goal for her second perfect game of the season.

The Red Stars home to keep their record clean when they meet the Boston Breakers (2-1) this Saturday at Toyota Park, 7:30 p.m.

Ken Green

Soccer Fri Apr 17 2009

Two Undefeated Teams at Toyota Park This Weekend

Two undefeated records go on the line at Toyota Park this weekend. First, the Chicago Fire face the Kansas City Wizards on Saturday night. Avoiding a loss will give them their longest unbeaten start to a season, if you're into that sort of thing. Obviously, in MLS it's not how you play at the start of a season, but how you're playing at playoff time. And the Fire have seen some pretty good starts turn into really bad summers in recent seasons.

Then on Sunday, the Chicago Red Stars will have their home debut where they'll try to extend their 1-0-1 record. They'll also be trying to silence all the doubters that wonder how this league will succeed where other women's professional soccer efforts have failed. One thing they have going for them - the best uniforms of any team in Chicago.

Steve Gillies / Comments (2)

News Thu Apr 09 2009

Short Hops

  • The Great Dewayne Wise Experiment is over. Ozzie's going with Chris Getz in the leadoff spot for tonight's game. Getz says he's ready for the change.
  • Bears tracks: Orlando Pace says he came here to play with a winner; Will Cutler fit in with the Bears, and if so, will he be throwing to this guy?
  • ESPN's much-ballyhooed (never thought I'd write that word) Chicagocentric website debuts Monday.
  • If you like your sports bloody and brutal (other than badminton, I mean), you probably already have your tickets to the upcoming World Extreme Cagefighting match at Allstate Arena
  • A Pennsylvania man is biking 840 miles to Chicago to bring awareness to the fight against brain tumors and take part in a special 5K.
  • The Chicago area just missed out on another championship as the Chicago Mission lost in the title game of the USA Hockey Nationals.
  • The first-year Red Stars are looking to succeed where other Chicago soccer franchises have failed and their victory over St. Louis puts then on the right path. You can see for yourself at their home debut on April 19.
  • The Chicago Force kick off their 2009 season this Saturday, April 11, in Iowa vs. the Crush, before returing to North Park University for their home opener April 18 against the Wisconsin Warriors. You can hear head coach John Konecki discuss the upcoming season this Friday on AM 1240 (11 a.m.) and on WJJG-AM 1530 at 4:15 p.m.

    Ken Green

News Fri Mar 20 2009

Short Hops

  • There may not be a casino in Chicago (yet), but there is definitely some gambling going on. The city is now on the hook for $500 million to host the Olympics, part of the state's $750 million guarantee.
  • The Cubs want a new spring training facility in Mesa, or else they're walking. And Cubs fans want to end 100 years of misery or...they'll be back next year.
  • They may have been so-so as a team last season, but as humanitarians, the Bears might belong in the Super Bowl.
  • A unique local soccer tourney will pit the 10 best ethnic teams against each other.
  • Two coaches from the Chicago Force are probably glad the temperatures are going to be a bit warmer this weekend. They're getting their heads shaved for charity tomorrow. Meanwhile, the women'd pro full contact football team released their 2009 schedule.
  • The Windy City Rollers' home teams throw elbows in their next match this Saturday night at the UIC Pavillion.
  • Meanwhile, if you're up for a road trip, Chicago's other roller derby queens, The Outfit, have a bout-on-wheels near Grand Rapid, MIchigan.

Ken Green

Soccer Tue Mar 17 2009

Watching Soccer in Bars: Small Bar

The Bar: Small Bar has been building its reputation as a soccer friendly bar. They started running buses to Fire games a couple of years ago. And recently, US National Team Coach Bob Bradley had nice things to say about it via an online video.

Still, I had never visited Small Bar. Its location in Wicker Park isn't too convenient for me, but doing this series has given me the excuse to correct that.

Continue reading this entry »

Steve Gillies / Comments (1)

Soccer Fri Mar 06 2009

Watching Soccer In Bars: Ginger's Alehouse

The Bar: From 2002 to 2006, Ginger's Alehouse won the US Soccer Best Soccer Bar Award four years running. However, they might have been coasting on their reputation for the last two of those years. Once the former Ginger's manager struck out on his own in 2004 and opened The Globe Pub just down the road, I hadn't known a single person in Chicago who watched games at Ginger's. I wasn't actually too sure Ginger's still showed games, but I recently passed by and saw a sign welcoming soccer fans, so I decided to see what's changed in four years.

What's changed? Not that much. The same friendly Irish waitresses still work there. They still show soccer on their numerous TVs, though the TVs are shinier and flatscreenier than I remember. Not that it helps, since both Fox Soccer Channel and Setanta don't broadcast in HD, regrettably.

Continue reading this entry »

Steve Gillies

News Fri Feb 20 2009

Short Hops

  • The latest to fill the economic pinch? The sports memorabilia business. Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio autographed napkins?...
  • Never say Dye: The White Sox right fielder hopes to stay put.
  • When you have a half-ton bull step on your head and you don't quit, you've earned the right to be called tough. The Toughest Cowboy competition comes to Chicago.
  • One group is working to ensure that the potential 2016 Chicago Olympics Games are a winner for everyone.
  • Pay to play: School officials in Waukegan have raised high school sports fees.
  • Lisle may have lost the Bandits, but they've gained the Red Eleven (who used to be the Gales and are not to be confused with the Red Stars, even though the two are connected. Got all that?).
  • The local mixed martial arts center expands its range. Now there's something for everyone...who likes to punch other people in the face.
  • A new book examines the "holy" (or unholy, depending on where you stand) trinity of men, sports and beer.
  • He might have flew a bit under the radar on the local sports scene, but they'll no doubt be a tip of the cap in the press boxes to the one-of-a-kind Larry Gross, who is mourned here in Chicago and in his native New Jersey.

Ken Green

News Fri Feb 13 2009

Shot Hops

  • No matter how this thing with John Paxson and the Bulls shakes out, he may not be to blame for their current state. Might it be this guy?
  • For years now, Cubs fans have been making an Iraq-like surge and turning Milwaukee's Miller Park into "Wrigley Field North". Now the Brew Crew and Amtrak are looking to return the favor.
  • One blogger sees something sinister in the fact that the Cubs' pitchers and catchers report for spring training today and the calendar reads "Friday the 13th".
  • Is Carlos Quentin really Floyd Robinson, V 2.0? The two San Diego natives and White Sox outfield stars, separated by 40 years, recently met and compared notes.
  • profiles the "father of black baseball", Negro League founder and Chicago American Giants owner Rube Foster.
  • It might be grabbing at straws, but a Tribune reporter says Favre's (possible) retirement will hurt the Bears. Yeah... that's it... that's what's hurting the Bears.
  • ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. sees the Bears going after Florida WR Percy Harvin... if they know what's good for them.
  • No Decepticons were in sight, but a Transformer IS making an appearance at the Chicago auto show.
  • Sorry, gamers. The Street Fighter IV arcade cabinet game isn't coming to Chicago.
  • Whitney Young, the top high school basketball team in the state, continues its quest for the city title with a quarterfinal game Sunday against CVS at the Pavilion.
  • National Girls and Women In Sports Day paid tribute to college-bound Chicago prep stars.
  • Soldier Field could play host to another World Cup qualifier.

Ken Green

News Thu Feb 05 2009

Short Hops

  • Chicago vs. Tokyo in the battle for the Olympics: Might TV have the final word? If not, maybe a mural will sway the Olympic Committee.
  • If the Bears actually signed everyone who reportedly has expressed an interest in playing for them, think of the team! For now, throw T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Simeon Rice on the pile.
  • Are the Orioles fleecing the Cubs? One blogger seems to think so.
  • There's a movie being made about the Cubs (and no, it's not a disaster flick) and you can be in it.
  • While Dewayne Wise fights for a roster spot with the White Sox, the coaching staff will be watching closely.
  • Meanwhile, Sox PR chief Brooks Boyer explains the Obama Effect on the team's merchandising.
  • Gamers, now you can play with Blagojevich on your iPhone.
  • Chicago-based Salukiheads, Feb. 21 is your day as SIU comes to Chicago for a hoops showdown with UIC.
  • So Bulls fans, you say you want a big man in the middle... how do you feel about Brad Miller?
  • While the Chicago Red Stars women's pro soccer franchise signs a pair of players from Sweden, the DePaul women's soccer team brings in three players from a little closer to home.
  • Lawyer by day, Windy City Roller by night. Sort of like Batman... girl... er, woman.

Ken Green

Soccer Mon Feb 02 2009

Watching Soccer In Bars: The Globe Pub

Even with the MLS in its offseason, the great thing about being a soccer fan (and the awful thing about dating a soccer fan, according to some) is that it's always soccer season somewhere. And in Chicago there is no shortage of bars to watch a game and have a beer, even if the game kicks off at six in the morning. I'll be spending the rest of the offseason filling you in on the various places to check out games.

The Bar:
I originally meant to save the best for last, but after a slew of miserable winter weather I needed the comforts of my regular bar. When I say best, I mean that literally, as The Globe Pub has been voted Best Soccer Bar by a US Soccer Federation poll two years in a row. This year it won with 52% of the vote - it's nearest rival got 9%. Check out this video of the place and then read about my visit after the break.

Continue reading this entry »

Steve Gillies / Comments (1)

News Fri Jan 23 2009

Short Hops

  • Trouble at local high school basketball games means new rules for fans and players
  • It's never to early to start thinking marathon
  • Try as they might, the Utah Jazz still can't get over the damage done to them by Michael Jordan and the Bulls
  • Step away from the italian beef: Chicago has a goal of going from the fattest to the fittest city in the country
  • No, smelt fishing doesn't involve taking a good, long whiff. It's a Chicago thing.
  • Taking a cue from their No. 1 Fan, the White Sox are issuing a call to social service
  • A Libertyville native gets a chance to play with (the) Fire.
  • That commercial with LeBron James dreaming of playing fo the Cleveland Browns? What if some of our local non-football athletes had the same dream?
  • A charity stair climbing event takes place this Sunday at the 80-floor Aon Center. Around floor 57, just keep telling yourself, "It's for the kids, it's for the kids..."

Ken Green

News Fri Jan 16 2009

Short Hops

  • Remember when the Chicago Cardinals were the toast of the town? Neither do we. Here's some footage to show you what the big deal was.
  • Barack Obama is a continuation in a long like of athletically-active presidents, although we're pretty sure that list doesn't include Taft. Wait, we take that back.
  • Albert Belle, Dennis Rodman, A.J. Pierzinski... we're fast becoming the home for athletes that rub everyone else the wrong way. So why NOT Terrell Owens?
  • Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija is getting used to sudden fame...
  • ...while fellow Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano nearly breaks a water cooler over the CTA fare increase (OK, not really).
  • Sox fans, the Twins are retooling for an AL Central title and just might used Joe Crede to do it.
  • Study of Sports analyzes the Sox-Bartolo Colon deal and raises the issue of the "S" word ("S" being steroids).
  • Bleacher Report lists the 10 most annoying type of fans. Did you make the cut?
  • Despite a struggling economy, the Chicago Red Stars have sold 1,000 season tickets for their inaugural women's professional soccer season. Granted, season tickets are only $99, but still...
  • Martin Luther Knig Holiday Weekend prep hoops action includes the High School Hoops Showdown and the MLK Dream Classic at Whitney Young, where you just might see some of the top 40 area players.
  • Winter cornhole league play kicks off at Joe's on Weeds Street, with proceeds benefitting the Chicago Cornhole Charity Initiatitve. Yeah, you read it right.
  • Like father, like... daughter? Brittney Payton, daughter of Walter, tries out for the Chicago Force.

Ken Green

Soccer Tue Jan 13 2009

Watching Soccer in Bars: The Abbey Pub

Even with the MLS in its offseason, the great thing about being a soccer fan (and the awful thing about dating a soccer fan, according to some) is that it's always soccer season somewhere. And in Chicago there is no shortage of bars to watch a game and have a beer, even if the game kicks off at six in the morning. I'll be spending the rest of the offseason filling you in on the various places to check out games.

The Place:
Mostly known as a music venue, The Abbey Pub was one of the few places that advertised live English Premier League soccer when I moved to Chicago back in 2000. I caught a great day of World Cup Qualifying there in 2001 with the entire music room filled with Polish and English fans going mental. Since then, it's been eclipsed first by Ginger's Ale House and then The Globe. But I thought it would be a good idea to check in on the first soccer bar I visited in town, since I hadn't heard much about it lately.

The Match:
Chelsea vs Manchester United, two of the "Big Four" teams in the English Premier League

The Atmosphere:
When I opened the door, I could see why nobody has been talking about the place in years. For one of the biggest games of the season, there were a grand total of eight people in the bar. While the low-key, locals only vibe was a bit intimidating, it was refreshing to walk into a bar to watch a soccer game that wasn't completely packed with people in $80 replica jerseys, trying to advertise just how into soccer they were. The closest anyone at the Abbey came to that was a tasteful polo shirt - well, I'd call it tasteful if it weren't for the fact that it featured a Manchester United logo. Everyone in the bar spoke with a thick Irish accent, except that one mainstay of every soccer bar I've ever been to: the middle aged American guy that doesn't know a lot about soccer, but is really just excited there's a bar to drink in at ten in the morning.

The Food/The Booze:
If you don't consider baked beans a part of a nutritious balanced breakfast you're out of luck. That's all The Abbey serves in the way of breakfast. The full lunch menu is available though. Burgers for breakfast anyone? As for beer, there isn't anything too fancy here, with pints of Guinness or bottles of MGD being the poisons of choice.

The Smack Talk:

The good thing about being in a bar that is almost empty is you can hear all of the smack being talked. Like every other bar in the city, The Abbey has a noticeable lack of Chelsea support. But the Irish guy in the Manchester United shirt made his own fun, winding up a fan of Manchester United's title rival Liverpool. Popular topics included:

  • Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez's recent tirade about Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson

  • The fact that the scorer of Manchester United's second goal was Wayne Rooney, whose career started at Liverpool's crosstown rival, Everton, or "some guy from Liverpool," as he became known in the bar

  • The Liverpool fan's ardent desire to see a draw, since both teams couldn't possibly lose

  • That Chelsea striker Didier Drogba was a whining, moaning, diving cheater.

The bar's lone Chelsea fan did get one good line in though. "They need to bring back Avram Grant," he said as he got up to leave. It's actually a pretty funny line if you're nerdy enough to have followed the managerial soap opera at Chelsea since Russian oil billionaire (he might only be a millionaire now) Roman Abramovic took over. In my defense, it got a good laugh from the bar, which I badly needed after watching my team take such a miserable beating.

Steve Gillies / Comments (2)

News Sat Jan 10 2009

Short Hops

Ken Green / Comments (1)

Soccer Wed Jan 07 2009

Soccer 'God' Coming to Fire?

Could "God" becoming to Chicago?

No, not that "God," although the way the weather and the city's economic status has been going lately, a Second Coming might be in order.

No, the "god" in question is Liverpool soccer (sorry, football) legend Robbie Fowler and internet rumors have him coming to Chicago to play for the Fire next season.

According to the AOL Sports' Fanhouse site, Fowler, who scored 120 goals in 236 Premier League games, is thisclose to inking a deal with the Fire, although for a relatively piddling $9,000 per week. Why the lowball price? Fowler, 33, is reportedly interested in ending his career here and thanks to his real estate holding doesn't really need the money, which basically means he'd be playing for the love of the game. He was most recently released by the Blackburn Rovers.

He is the fourth-highest goalscorer in the history of the Premier League. After eight years with Liverpool, he left to play for Leeds United and Manchester City before coming back to Liverpool in January 2006. A little more than a year later, he signed with Cardiff City. A year and a half after that, he took a three-month "pay as you play" deal with the Rovers but left in December to become a free agent.

The Fire aren't the only ones interested in securing the striker's services. The New England Revolution are reportedly also in the bidding to bring him to the MLS.

Whether Fowler gets the opportunity to line up alongside Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Brian McBride remains to be seen. In the meantime, here's some video tribute to Fowler from a fan on whom he obviously made an impression.

Ken Green / Comments (1)

News Thu Dec 11 2008

Short Hops

  • A Las Vegas minor league hockey team joins the army of "jokesters" who are sticking it to Rod Blagojevich.
  • The Cubs dream of obtaining Jake Peavy is dead. So what better way to commemorate this non-event than...
  • The Cubs did however add to their roster. Just not with Peavy.
  • Do high school sports still matter? Sounds like a silly question, but...
  • A Chicago consulting firm looks at how avatars might help in winning at online poker.
  • In local soccer new, the Fire's Soccer Development Academy plays in three matches while the Storm slate their own holiday appearances in the coming days.
  • Soup's on...and it's paying dividends for the Blackhawks
  • A French newspaper seems to think that the election of Barack Obama means softball will be back in the Olympics. Huh?
  • Are Thursday NFL games a "recipe for disaster"? Depending on when you read this, you may already have the answer.

Ken Green

News Thu Nov 20 2008

Short Hops

  • And the Cubs post-season post-mortem examination continues, with Lou Pinella blaming that old standby, the media, while Ryan Dempster says the team flatout wasn't ready. Hey guys, sorry, no do-overs.
  • Meanwhile, the White Sox, who seems to have come to grips with their playoff loss, work on keeping Bobby Jenks around. But did Nick Swisher phone it in for much of the season?
  • Four area college soccer teams have made it to the NCAA tournament.
  • It was bound to happen after that embarrassing loss to the Packers: The "Fire Lovie" talks are heating up. Here is one blogs' 10 reasons why he deserves the ax. Meanwhile, Fanhouse questions Lovie's assessment that the Bears receivers are "pretty good".
  • The Bulls' Derrick Rose sits atop most Sports Illustrated NBA writers' list of early top rookies. Naturally.
  • It's not the major draw it used to be, but prep football is still a big deal in Chicago. The Catholic League is gearing up for its title game, pitting Loyola Academy against De La Salle.
  • A disabled cyclist bikes 1,064 miles from Jacksonville, Fla. to Chicago. His final destination? Where else: Oprah.
  • The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation gets a new name.
  • The Chicago Outfit wants YOU... well, that is, if you're a female and don't mind getting knocked around a little. There's a recruitment Q&A tonight at 9:30
  • The Onion reports on an unusual source of nourishment for the BearsHungry-Bears-Defense-R.jpg and God's plans for the Cubs.
  • If you haven't had enough of cornhole, and really who has (OK, put your hands down), there's a Thanksgiving tournament coming up called the "Turkeyhole Classic" coming up here in Chicago. No, really.

Ken Green

Soccer Wed Nov 19 2008

Chicago: A Good Place To Drink And Watch Soccer

The US Soccer Federation is doing its annual Best of... voting and Chicago has 3 bars in the list of nominees: The Globe Pub, Ginger's Ale House, and the Chicago outpost of the Fado chain.

I've been on record as saying The Globe is my preferred viewing spot, but Chicago's lucky to have so many soccer bars, including many that weren't nominated. Which is why I'll be visiting as many as I can during the Fire's offseason and reviewing them in my new series, "Watching Soccer in Bars."

Also, Luis Arroyave's Red Card blog got its first nomination in the Best Blog category. Justifiably so, too. Once you get past the whining about his dating life, the occasional cheesecake celebrity piece, and all the references to terrible music, it's the absolute best place to get news about the Chicago Fire.

Steve Gillies / Comments (1)

News Thu Oct 02 2008

Short Hops

  • Eddie Vedder, Schmeddie Vedder. The Tampa Bay Rays have their own crooning fan in Kevin Costner.
  • Sure, they're involved in a heated playoff series. Doesn't mean that Derrek Lee and Mark DeRosa shouldn't think about their longterm future.
  • The Wrigley Field faithful aren't the only ones singing "Go, Cubs, Go". A "fan" in California wants them to win too, although for admittedly selfish reasons.
  • If the Twins had their way, it would have been double-or-nothing against the White Sox. (OK, not really, but...)
  • According to one writer, the Fire fans are some of the nicest around town.
  • Got an extra $90,000 or so lying around? You can sponsor your own triathlon.
  • Two more elite runners (PDF) announced for the Chicago Marathon field.
  • Now that Ben Gordon is back in the fold and Derrick Rose is in the lineup, the Bulls should be a front-runner in the NBA's Central Division, right? Not so fast...
  • Got crazy flipper fingers? A supple wrist? Check out the pinball expo.
  • The Chicago Outfit Roller Derby team host their last clash of the season when they take on the Hammer City Rollergirls of Hamilton, Ontario.

Ken Green

News Thu Sep 25 2008

Short Hops

  • The White Sox ship may be sinking, but Juan Uribe is worried about a different boat.
  • Cubs' manager Lou Pinella talks about his future with the Cubs.
  • "Mr. Cub" Ernie Banks has added to this personal roster.
  • With talk of the sale of the Cubs heating up again, a YouTube video offers one possible outcome.
  • That All-Time Cubs/White Sox team has irked one fan... in Indianapolis.
  • The White Sox will take on the Reds in next year's Civil Rights Game.
  • Donovan McNabb says he's fired up to play against the Bears this Sunday. Great... just great.
  • An AIDS activist is running from New York City to Chicago to raise awareness of the disease's devastating affect in Africa
  • The Chicago Red Stars of the Women's Professional Soccer league obtained the rights to four international stars.
  • "Cicero Fury" comes to, well, Cicero in the form of an evening of boxing on October 17.
  • Brush up on your Big Wheel skills. The Urban Assault Ride is coming to Chicago this weekend.
  • More pedal-powered fun: bike polo.

Ken Green

Feature Thu Sep 18 2008

Short Hops

  • If Chicago is the stress capital of the U.S., the New York Times has one reason why.
  • Meanwhile, The Trib's Steve Rosebloom sticks by his Cubs/White Sox World Series prediction. Um, has he looked at BOTH teams' bullpen?
  • Ozzie being Ozzie, part 37.
  • The good news: Carlos Quinten's cast has been removed. The bad news: They're not rushing him back.
  • Ok, so Kosuke Fukudome didn't exactly set the Chicago baseball world on fire. There could be another Japanese baseball star trying to make his mark at Wrigley Field next season.
  • They haven't had their first match yet, but the Chicago Red Stars already look like the team to beat, thanks to three new additions to their roster.
  • A survey says nearly every kid plays video games. Will the Jumbotrons of today be the playing fields of tomorrow?
  • Apparently he wasn't punched enough the first time. A local boxing promoter is returning to action IN the ring.
  • In case you missed it, the Chicago Open crowned a squash champion recently.
  • The Chicago Storm joined the four-team Xtreme Soccer League. You know it's wild because they spell it "Xtreme".
  • Check it out: U.S. Women's Soccer vs. Ireland at Toyota Park. The Chicago Cyclocross Cup at Jackson Park. The Blackhawks Training Camp Festival. The AIDS Run/Walk at Grant Park. Tuesday Night Pub Quiz at The Globe.

Ken Green

Soccer Thu Sep 11 2008

The Price Of Competence

The crowd of nearly 11,000 for the US National Team's 3-0 World Cup Qualifying win over Trinidad and Tobago was more than the 8,500 expected. But it still wasn't particularly great for a US National Team game, let alone a World Cup Qualifier. Maybe it was the 7pm kickoff time on a Wednesday. It certainly wasn't easy to get out to Bridgeview in time; I ended up about five minutes late due to rush hour traffic. Maybe it's the sheer amount of soccer games Chicago has been treated to over the past couple of years (the Gold Cup, the All-Star Game, as well as appearances by Barcelona and Brazil). Maybe it's just the economy. But it could be the price the US National Team has paid for becoming competent.

Not so long ago, away games a home game against a team like Trinidad and Tobago would give the US the heebie jeebies. Now, it's a foregone conclusion that the States will win. In fact, the US never looked troubled from the opening whistle, but you could hardly say they looked inspired either. Over the past 10 years the US has gotten a thousand times better at winning the games they're supposed to win, and not losing too badly in the games they're supposed to lose. And it's undeniably progress, but I think the question is, is it the kind of thing that people are willing to pay $50-$100 to go see? A lot of Chicagoans answered no.

Steve Gillies

Soccer Tue Sep 09 2008

Get It Together America

The US is playing its first World Cup Qualifier in the modern era in Chicago tomorrow and the Trib is reporting only 8,500 tickets have been sold. This is the US National Team. It's not a friendly game. It's a competitive World Cup Qualifier And by the way, Trinidad and Tobago is no pushover. Don't get me wrong. I love going to Fire games, but this should be a step up from a regular season MLS game in terms of the level of play and the importance of the game. It should draw at least as many fans. Come on America, do the right thing. Go to a soccer game.

Steve Gillies

News Thu Aug 14 2008

Short Hops

  • It may not make it to the side of a milk carton, but the Chicago Fire fan club Section 8 is missing their banner.
  • Some people might have an opinion about who they are, but a new book of photos entitled "We Are Cubs Fans" seeks to define the loyalists visually. The obligatory Ronnie Woo Woo photo is included.
  • Speaking of the Cubs, Sports Illustrated joins the rest of the country in being amazed that they AND the White Sox are both in first place and may make the playoffs in the same season for the first time since 1906.
  • And speaking of the Sox, Fox Sports calls the acquisition of Carlos Quinten the steal of the century. OK, they call it the steal of the season. It just LOOKS like the steal of the century.
  • The Bears are set to unveil a major advertising blitz. Too bad they can advertise for a quarterback.
  • Tickets for the National Pro Fastpitch softball championships go on sale this Saturday at Judson Sports Complex in Elgin, home of the Chicago Bandits. The Bandits are one of the four teams who will be participating.
  • Now that the Blackhawks are enjoying a resurgence in popularity, new fans might want to read about one of the team's legends featured in a story from the Sports Illustrated vaults.
  • Mark them on your calendar: The Human Race, the cycling National Championships in Downers Grove, Chicago Gems women's baseball, Windy City Rollers action and gay rodeo.

Ken Green

Soccer Wed Aug 06 2008

Set Your Alarm Clock (Or Tivo)

Early birds will get their first chance to see the Chicago Fire's latest signing, Brian McBride, as the U.S. Olympic soccer team kicks off their medal campaign against Japan in Qinhuangdao tomorrow morning. Unfortunately, it means waking up at 4 a.m. The Olympic team is made up of the U.S. Under 23 National Team, plus three overaged players - one of which is McBride. With players like McBride, Freddy Adu, Josi Altidore and Michael Bradley, it may be the most talented group ever assembled for a U.S. Olympic effort. But they face a very tough field in Japan, Nigeria and Holland. Of course, an early exit for the U.S. would mean McBride joins the Fire that much sooner.

Steve Gillies

Fire Sun Aug 03 2008

There Was Some Soccer

I'll cop to it. I really screwed up. Faced with the chance to see three professional soccer games in Chicago this week, I only saw two. Worse than that, I missed the one that actually mattered: the Chicago Fire's 1-0 win over Chivas USA. Call me a blatant Eurosnob (or a guy who had way too many scheduling conflicts this Saturday), but I chose international friendlies over a competitive league match. The good news is that when faced with a glut of options, not everyone did.

The Fire's friendly against Everton FC, the fifth place team in the wildly popular English Premiere League, drew a paltry 9,000. Barcelona's friendly against Chivas Guadalajara drew 40,000 to Soldier Field. That's nothing to sneeze at, but a little disappointing considering we're talking about Barce-friggin-lona here. And really there were waaay more Chivas fans there than people that bought Barca jerseys out of the Eurosport catalog. Meanwhile, the Fire drew a sellout 20,492 crowd to Toyota Park for their regular MLS league game against Chivas USA. That number was helped by the fact that they sold combo ticket packages with the Barcelona game, but the fact that that much soccer happened this week and it didn't cannibalize the MLS attendance says something for the loyalty and interest the team is starting to generate.

And, OK, the games that I went to were approached like they were totally just friendlies, but that doesn't mean there wasn't a lot to enjoy about them. Observations after the break:

Continue reading this entry »

Steve Gillies

Soccer Wed Jul 16 2008

Tired of Just Watching?

If watching just soccer games at Toyota Park or on one of the three soccer channels on cable isn't enough anymore, check out Windy City Wanderers FC. They have several outdoor leagues to choose from, as well as hosting numerous pickup games. They also host various social functions and bus trips to Fire games leaving from Fado and Small Bar. Additionally, their affiliation with the Illinois State Soccer Association means higher quality refereeing and a more organized approach to games than a lot of the multi-sport recreational leagues in the city.

Steve Gillies

Fire Thu Jun 19 2008

It’s Hard to Argue That We’re Not the Jerks On This One

When the Chicago Fire didn’t want to let Wilman Conde follow Juan Judas Osorio to New York just because he wanted to, people called them jerks. When the Fire didn’t let the Red Bulls sign Lider Marmol because the Fire had already put a discovery claim on him, people called them much worse. But they were wrong. The Fire was doing everything in their rights to stay as competitive as they could and not help a rival Eastern Conference team. That’s what a sports team should do.

So it’s hard to defend this quote in the Tribune from Frank Klopas about his negotiations with Toronto FC coach Mo Johnston about acquiring the rights to Brian McBride:

Continue reading this entry »

Steve Gillies / Comments (3)

Soccer Wed Jun 18 2008

The News From Spain

This week a guy in Spain made an announcement regarding a Portuguese player, a Brazilian, and a Cameroonian that might have effected the summer plans of a few Chicagoans. Barcelona’s new manager Pep Guardiola announced a housecleaning after last season’s “disastrous” second place finish in the Spanish League only making it to the semi-finals of the Champion’s League. Barcelona is a team with high standards.

So in his introductory press conference, the new manager announced he had no further plans for Deco, Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o. In terms of the tour that brings them to Soldier Field August 3rd, that's three of the team's biggest draws.

Don’t fear though. If you’ve already bought your tickets to the Barcelona – Chivas game, you can still see the rising star Lionel Messi and the shadow of the player that was formerly Thierry Henry. And this is Barcelona, they’re sure to sign someone huge this summer.

Steve Gillies

Fire Mon Jun 16 2008

Three Things At Once

There are plenty of good reasons for leaving your couch and watching any sport in a bar, but with soccer there are more than most. For one thing, being in a noisy, boisterous crowd does a better job of being at a live game than the mostly bored sounding American commentators. For another thing, there’s always a soccer game going on somewhere in the world, and usually more than one. And lastly, beer.

Continue reading this entry »

Steve Gillies

Soccer Thu Jun 12 2008

So Much Soccer

After a dormant period last week, the Fire now face a period of three games in 10 days. They kicked it off with a big overtime U.S. Open Cup win in Peoria over the Columbus Crew, furthering the theory that they should just stop playing in Toyota Park. Up next comes FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park (yes, Pizza Hut Park) on Sunday. The following Thursday they’ll play Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center in L.A.

The Fire aren’t the only ones with a busy schedule. I’m so busy trying to watch two Euro 2008 games a day and hold down a job that I haven’t had time to tell you that after Mexico’s 4-0 win over Peru at Soldier Field on Sunday, Mexican goalkeeper and well-known jerk Oswaldo Sanchez was arrested by the Chicago Police Department after noise complaints at his hotel.

Speaking of the Euros, they’ve been pretty fun so far with both Italy and Germany being humbled in their own way, Portugal living up to the Ronaldo hype so far, and Switzerland and Turkey playing in the most hilariously water-logged game I’ve seen in a major international championship.

Steve Gillies / Comments (1)

Soccer Mon Jun 02 2008

International Soccer in Chicago

With the Fire off this weekend, it’s a good time to talk about the non-MLS soccer games in Chicago this summer. At the top of the list, Barcelona FC will play at Soldier Field August 3. Barcelona features a ridiculously star-studded lineup including Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto’o, and Thierry Henry (although some of those names might change during the summer transfer season). Friendlies between European superpowers in Soldier Field have a deservedly bad reputation ever since Manchester United and Bayern Munich reserve teams played one of the worst soccer games of all time there. For that reason I was pretty excited when Chivas Guadalajara was announced as Barcelona’s opponent. Chivas will attract passionate fans, be more willing to make a game out of it than another touring European team, and sad to say, are probably more capable of making a game out of it than an MLS team.

Continue reading this entry »

Steve Gillies

Soccer Fri May 16 2008

Chicago Pro Womens' Soccer Adds to Their 'Arsenal'

The Chicago chapter of the Women's Professional Soccer league got a bit of Brit flash yesterday when they named a former coach of the legendary Arsenal as their new field general.

No, not Arsene Wenger, manager of the famed men's squad, but someone just as talented.

The as-yet-unnamed Chicago WPS franchise scored a coup by luring Emma Hayes, a first-team assistant coach and academy director with the Arsenal Ladies Football Club, to coach the Chicago team in their inaugural season.

Hayes helped lead the Lady Gunners to an undefeated League record and won every competition England had to offer. Under her guidance, Arsenal won the FA Women's Premier League title from 2006 to 2008, the 2007 UEFA Women’s Cup and the 2007 FA Women’s Premiere League Cup, among other honors.

The Chicago franchise will begin play in April 2009 at Toyota Park.

Ken Green

Soccer Fri Apr 25 2008

Lost At Sea

If his new women’s pro soccer venture doesn’t work out and he doesn’t get rehired as GM of the Fire, Peter Wilt should consider a career writing Jack London-esque adventure stories. Check out this harrowing lost at sea story from his youth, and the touching follow-up. But seriously, the Fire should really hire the guy back already.

Steve Gillies

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