CHICAGO FIRE FANZINE
Created by ChicagoFireBlog.com
In This Issue
4 Photo of the month A picture perfect moment from a perfect night.
17 Don’t stop living in An interview with an avid spotrs fan and recent Chicago Fire convert.
6 Kings of the cup The men in red prove why they’re the most successful MLS side in the US Open Cup
19 Home and away A recap of the Fire’s performances during the past month.
8 WHERE ARE THEY NOW Remember Chris Rolfe? We sure do. Read up on how he’s doing in Denmark. 10 COMPETITION TIME One simple step and you could be a winner... 12 Is FIFA psychic? The video game might be useful for more than just entertainment, then again... 14 El Magico FireConfidential’s Guillermo Rivera gives his take on the Fire’s #10.
27 Goal of the month Magnificent, breathtaking, world class. Many adjectives could be used to describe this month’s top strike. 28 A look ahead Another exciting month lies ahead for the Fire. A major friendly against Mexico’s top club certainly grabs our attention. 29 YOUTH WATCH A closer lok at the future... 31 FINAL WORD Closing thoughts...
Visit chicagofireblog.com for more up-to-date news and content on the Chicago Fire, such as: • match previews • post-match analysis • breaking news • player profiles • a galore of statistics • player interviews
Chicago Fire Fanzine
Thank you for taking the time to read the first ever issue of Chicago Fire Fanzine, an online magazine created for Chicago Fire supporters and soccer fans in general. Not long ago, I imagined a place where Fire fans could come to find plenty of great content related to the beloved men in red. Thus began the project of writing and designing the first online magazine on all things Chicago Fire. Inside this issue you’ll find some unique feature stories, a recap of everything from a memorable month, and plenty more. Enjoy!
So here we are then… it’s September and the Fire have already set an MLS record for the most draws in a season. Had someone told me prior to the season that the Fire would draw six straight home matches, I would have simply scoffed at them. Instead, our season has been defined by a string of draws .As one to always look on the bright side, I’ve forced myself to look at the positives rather than dwell on the frustrations of this season. With that being said, however, all is not lost. The Fire have a U.S. Open Cup final against Seattle to look forward to and in a league where unpredictability is its greatest trait, anything can still happen in the hunt for a place in the MLS playoffs. A mainly disappointing season so far will be somewhat amended if the Fire can continue their resurgence and make a strong push to close out the season as well as pick up silverware next month in the cup. You never know, they just might. With that in mind, it’s time to rally behind the team and spur them on in order to salvage a frustrating season thus far. Keep the faith, everyone. And in the meantime, enjoy the first ever issue of Chicago Fire Fanzine and prepare yourselves for many more to come. So cross your fingers, fasten your seatbelts, and brace yourselves for a nerve-wrecking, heart-stopping finale to what proves to be a dramatic last couple of months of the MLS season!
Jeff Harbert Chicago Fire Fanzine Editor and Creator of Chicago Fire Blog
Contact Jeff at:
Photo of the Month The picture was taken during a semi-final U.S. Open Cup match between the Chicago Fire and Richmond Kickers. It shows a view of the park from the Harlem End in the Section 8 supporters section. Photo courtesy of: Jetting Around
Visit jettingaround.com for articles and photography related to travel in the United States and Europe. The site features interviews, photos, travel tips, and more. The websiteâ€™s founder, Pola, is also an avid Chicago Fire supporter and was once a board member of Section 8.
Interested in seeing your picture appear as the Photo of the Month in the Chicago Fire Fanzine? Submit a picture youâ€™ve taken of anything related to the Chicago Fire by sending an e-mail to email@example.com.
Kings of the cup: Chicago earns place in US Open Cup Final There is a reason they call us the kings of the cup right? If being the most successful Major League Soccer club in the US Open Cup isn’t good enough of a reason, then Tuesday night’s 2-1 semi-final win over USL Pro’s Richmond Kickers demonstrated exactly why the Fire boast such an accomplished title. The Fire, fielding a full strength side once again in this tournament, used goals from Sebastian Grazzini and Dominic Oduro to book a place in its sixth US Open Cup Final where they will meet the Seattle Sounders next month. The passion of the 8,909 fans inside Toyota Park was visible for all to see and the message was clear as daylight: this competition means everything to this club. Few MLS clubs, if any, take the US Open Cup as seriously as the Fire and that’s been very much evident this year. Just ask Hans Backe and the rest of the New York Red Bulls. That same message was visible amongst every Chicago Fire player on Tuesday, as well. In a scrappy, evenly contested match, the Fire hustled and bustled in every area of the pitch in order to ensure victory. Oduro chased after every long ball, Logan Pause went into every tackle determined to come away with possession, and Jalil Anibaba put forth a defensive masterclass alongside Corey Gibbs to ensure the Fire’s place in the final. Any nerves amongst Section 8 and the rest of Toyota Park were still very much intact for the first half hour of the match. Richmond started
the match with real intent, spraying the ball around the pitch and closing down every opposition player as quickly as possible – particularly Grazzini, who found himself man marked by one or two players for much of the first half. Chicago looked dangerous on the break during the opening exchanges but its first real opportunity wouldn’t arrive until the 32nd minute. Richmond’s Dave Hertel slid in on Patrick Nyarko inside the penalty box, upending the Ghanaian and presenting the Fire with a penalty in the process. Grazzini made no mistake from the spot, dispatching his kick low and to the right as Ronnie Pascale guessed the wrong way. Grazzini could and should have doubled his and the Fire’s tally right before the half. The Argentinean cut past his defender inside the box and with a clear shot on goal managed to sky his effort high over the crossbar and into the Miller Light Party Deck. The Fire started the second half strongly as Logan Pause tested the goalkeeper with a powerful effort on goal. It’s not every match (or month) you get to say that. His shot certainly spurred on the rest of the team, however, as the Fire continued demonstrate its desire to grab a second goal. They eventually find that goal minutes later through Oduro, Chicago’s inform striker and fourth leading scorer in the MLS. Oduro received a pass from Nyarko on the left wing and the team’s top scorer immediately raced 6
forward, cut inside onto his right foot and curled an absolute screamer into the top right hand corner past a despairing Pascale. Ironically, Pascale was on the coaching staff of Virginia Commonwealth University when Oduro attended school there.
The goal put Chicago firmly in the driving seat, even if it was short lived. Fortunately for the Fire, even a header from defender William Yomby couldn’t derail them in its pursuit of a record fifth US Open Cup title. There were nervy moments at the end, particularly when Daniel Paladini failed to properly clear the ball with Richmond throwing everything forward in the dying moments, but when the final whistle eventually sounded, it was a scene of pure jubilation for every member of the Chicago Fire.
Earning a place in the US Open Cup final was a big priority for the team this season. Klopas has said it, Oduro has said it, and nearly everyone has said at one point or another this season. Consider that mission complete and thank both of those two people for it too. Frank Klopas, a US Open Cup legend for his winning goal for the Fire in the 1998 final, has played a strong side in every round of the cup, including a distant road trip to Rochester in the third round against a USL side. While most MLS clubs field their reserves in order to focus on its league matches, Klopas has refused to sacrifice the club’s best chance at silverware this season and he deserves praise for leading the Fire to the same stage where he made a name for himself as a player all those years back. As for Oduro, his goal was simply world class and it proved to be the difference between the Fire and the USL Pro side. Already nominated for MLS Goal of the Week for the past three consecutive weeks, Oduro will certainly have thrown in his name in the hat for goal of the tournament with that strike. A player deemed to have been one of the worst finishers in the MLS prior to this season suddenly has 11 goals for the Fire, two of which have come in the US Open Cup. The goal was also the Ghanaian’s third straight match winning goal for the men in red. Richmond deserves credit for a spirited performance in its quest to become the first-ever third division team to reach the tournament’s final, but Chicago always seemed destined to reach the final after opening the scoring. Now, only one final hurdle remains in order for the Fire to secure a fifth US Open Cup championship and its first since 2006. That hurdle is the Seattle Sounders, back-to-back winners in 2009 and 2010. Will CenturyLink Field be the setting for the Fire’s fifth US Open Cup title? It won’t be easy, but the Fire are the kings of the cup for a reason.
“When we got together as a team in the beginning, we talked about goals. This is high on our list. It was a special moment. Sometimes you get opportunities like this and you can’t let them slip away. It was a special moment for the team, for the fans. Now we’re in a position to win a Championship.” - Frank Klopas “It’s all about building confidence. We’ve only won four league games so far, but we’ve been playing well and we are on a winning streak right now. Our confidence is very high and that’s what we need going forward. We need to keep that confidence up with the games we have left.” - Dominic Oduro “Having a result today and getting to the Finals is going to give us more motivation to keep fighting, not just in the Finals, but also looking to earn a spot in the playoffs.” - Gonzalo Segares “This was a big goal for the team since the beginning of the season. Our organization and players take this tournament very seriously as you can see. I’m really happy for and proud of this group – this has been a long road through qualification. We now have the chance to win a championship.” - Logan Pause
LET’S DO THIS AGAIN 7
n a league where the salary cap often controls how long players remain at one club, Fire fans have been accustomed to enjoying shortterm relationships with some of the best players to ever pull on the Chicago Fire jersey. It’s not unusual to become endeared to a certain player only to wish him farewell as he seeks a move abroad or moves to a team who can meet his financial wants. Chris Rolfe is a fine example of a player who earned the adoration of the Chicago Fire faithful during his six memorable years with the club. For starters, how do you not love a player who managed to break through the Chicago Fire Premier team in the USL Premier Development League to earn a place in the Chicago Fire squad? It’s not easy to advance from the PDL and be drafted into the MLS, but in Rolfe, the Fire found themselves a player
with an unmatched work ethic, great speed, talented footwork, and a real eye for goal. Rolfe’s first season saw him top the club’s scoring charts with eight league goals. Not bad for a debut season. The following year we were privileged to the sight of our newly beloved #17 lifting the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. And who can forget about that hattrick, man of the match performance against the New York Red Bulls in his final season with Chicago? So where is Chris Rolfe now? The Dayton Flyers youth product is currently plying his trade in the Danish Superliga for Aalborg BK, the club he transferred to following his departure from the Fire. Rofle has made seven league appearances for Aalborg so far, including five starts and two appearances off the bench, and has tallied two goals to date. Much of his time with Aalborg has been hampered
due to injury. Aalborg experienced a difficult season last year, barely escaping the relegation drop by a sole point. A drop into the Danish 2nd division would’ve spelled disaster for Rolfe and presumably forced him to move elsewhere if he really wanted to advance his career. Instead, Rolfe has remained with Aalborg and is already a month into the 2011/12 season. It’s difficult to assess whether or not Rolfe’s move to Europe has really benefited him. He’s certainly gained valuable experience playing in the Danish Superliga, but exactly just how valuable is that experience? Prior to Rolfe’s transfer, Aalborg was one of the top sides in Denmark and had made numerous appearances in the Champions League group stages. Continued...
...continued The past two seasons have seen Aalborg endure some difficult times as they’ve managed to slide down the ranks of the Danish Superliga and consequentially relinquish their label as one of the best teams in the league, meaning it’s difficult to judge just how much the experience of playing in Europe has benefited Chris Rolfe. Some would say he would have been better off receiving quality playing time for the Chicago Fire, while some would argue that simply playing in Europe has been a benefit. The truth is, we may never know just how much this adventure in Denmark has benefited Rolfe until he returns to the US or moves to another club in Europe. If there is one thing that is certain, however, it’s that Rolfe will always hold a special place in the hearts of Fire fans.
Analyzing the numbers
Chicago Fire stats: Year GP GS G 2009 28 20 6 2008 26 23 9 2007 19 18 6 2006 21 21 7 2005 29 21 8 Total 123 103 36
A 1 8 3 1 5 18
SHT SOG FC OFF Y 62 26 10 2 5 42 24 18 8 1 38 19 13 4 1 39 19 23 4 1 61 32 20 11 1 242 120 84 29 9
R 0 0 0 0 0 0
GP GS G A Y R *League appearances only 14 9 2 0 1 0
E P E o R s U n T o C s I a P e s
. . . r fa
Did FIFA 2011 get it right?
EA Sports: No love for a Blanco-less Fire. up to seventh place in the East with
Prior to the start of the 2011
Major League Soccer season, FIFA 2011 performed a simulation of the entire season. How did the Fire fare? Well, not so hot. Chicago finished the season in last place in the Eastern Conference with a miserable record of 7-6-21. I scoffed at such a prediction. Surely the Fire couldn’t really finish the season with a worse record than 2010 (9-9-12)? Apparently video games are a better psychic than me. Well, to an extent at least. Perhaps if FIFA had reversed their wins and draw columns their prediction would have been even more accurate, at least judging from the way results have gone this season. As for my own predictions, I envisioned a good year for the Chicago Fire. After all, 2010 was a transitional season, Diego Chaves and Gaston Puerari were brought in over the summer to light up the league in scoring, Marco Pappa was going to exceed his stellar 2010 campaign, the Fire were going to right the wrongs from 2008 and 2009 in the MLS playoffs. That was the plan, right? Evidently I had more confidence in the squad than EA Sports did. In mid August, the Fire found themselves seated at the cellar of the Eastern Conference, with only Vancouver suffering a worse record in the league than the men in red. Back-to-back league wins in the span of a week has propelled the Fire
four wins recorded this season, parently not even FIFA could have but despite still having an outside predicted that Chicago would draw shot of qualifying for the MLS play- this many matches this season as its offs, you simply cannot disguise the simulation resulted in the Fire fact that this has been an extallying just six draws. With 15 draws tremely disappointing season to date this season, the Fire have for Chicago (barring the US Open already set an MLS record for draws Cup). in a season and are on track to triple But has it been as bad as the most the amount that FIFA’s simulation popular soccer game on the planet had predicted. forecasted? Not quite. The Fire’s If each column doesn’t defy FIFA’s record currently stands at four wins, simulation enough, the total points fifteen draws, and seven losses. tally reveals a telling stat as Chicago With eight matches remaining this has already earned as many points season, the Fire are only three wins (27) as the video game predicted they short of equaling FIFA’s win predic- would over the course of the entire tion and despite season. Clearly this season being the Fire will littered with Current record: have exceeded draws, it’s highly FIFA’s expecta4-15-7 (27 pts) possible that tions by the the Fire will win FIFA 2011 simulation: time the seamore games durson draws to a 7-6-21 (27 pts) ing the last eight close. matches of the As I men2010 record: season than they tioned earlier, did in the first 24 9-9-12 (36 pts) however, switch matches of the the draws and season – espeloss column in cially judging FIFA’s simulaby its recent resurgence that saw the tion and they wouldn’t have been too team record its first winning streak of far off from how the Fire might finish the season. this season. Now what about the loss column? In the end, clearly the world’s most It’s safe to say FIFA were way off. The popular soccer video game didn’t exFire have only lost seven matches this pect much from the Fire this season. season, a significantly lower number I suppose video games need to stick than the 21 recorded in the video to providing entertainment and avoid game’s inaccurate simulation. having a say when it comes time to As for the draw column, apmake pre-season predictions. 13
Written by Guillermo Rivera If it’s one thing the Fire have lacked for the better part of the last two seasons it has been that certain creativity, leadership, and flair that a true central midfielder that some refer to as a number ten can provide. That central attacking midfield position just may be the toughest spot to fill in MLS. It’s a position that requires vision, a sense of each teammate’s strengths, and the ability to score on your own when called upon. That creative role as an offensive facilitator is something that has largely gone missing since Cuauhtemoc Blanco returned to Mexico at the conclusion of the 2009 season. There are a handful of players in MLS who fill that role for their clubs albeit from different positions on the field. David Ferreira played the part for FC Dallas in a 2010 MVP season as a withdrawn forward. 14
Guillermo Barros Schelotto ran the show in Columbus for four successful seasons from a similar spot. The absence of Javier Morales, probably the closest thing to a true number ten central playmaker that MLS has to offer has made Real Salt Lake look like more like your average MLS side than CONCACAF Champion’s League Finalists. In fact the position is difficult enough to fill that most MLS clubs deploy formations that favor dual central midfielders who are essentially interchangeable on both ends of the pitch. For the last two seasons the Fire have filled the central roles with various combinations that favor the defensive play that most MLS sides emphasize but that ability to push the game from the middle of the pitch has invariably been absent.
On July 13, 2011 the Fire announced the signing of Argentine midfielder Sebastian Grazzini, a player nicknamed “El Magico” in his native country. Not much was known about Grazzini other than he had played for various clubs in Argentina, Spain, Belgium, Venezuela, and Italy with varying degrees of success and for no more than two year stops at each club. Upon his Fire debut on July 23 against Manchester United it was apparent that Grazzini provided an element in the attack that the team did not possess before his arrival, the elusive central attacker capable of putting opposing defenders on their heels. With two goals and two assists in six MLS matches subsequent to the Manchester United friendly, Grazzini seems to be fitting in fairly seamlessly. “I’m very happy with my teammates, the coaching staff, and the people at the club who have made me feel like I’ve been here a long time. They really welcomed me so when I’m on the field I’ll do what I can but I’m very happy because each game the team grows stronger so I’d like to contribute my own little grain of sand to helping it grow,” said Grazzini following the Fire’s 2-1 win over Richmond in the US Open Cup semi-final last Tuesday. That victory was due in part to the Argentine’s through ball pass that
led to a penalty kick when Patrick Nyarko was tripped in the box, a penalty kick that Grazzini ultimately converted for a 1-0 lead. While the pairing of Grazzini and Pavel Pardo has produced three goals and five assists in the last six MLS matches, the Fire seem to be an entirely different team when Grazzini is on the field. Although both players are capable of utilizing the raw pace of forwards Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko with pinpoint passes it’s Grazzini that is making the engine go. With him on the field the Fire is no longer an easy team to defend. Grazzini is excited about his first impression of the league and the team, “It’s a great league. It surprised me because all of the teams attack and they play to win. When I first got here we played some great games but we couldn’t win but I thought we had a good team and the wins were eventually going to come. Now we’ve got three wins in a row and hopefully a lot more to come.” It may be too early to include him in the list of playmakers with the likes of Ferreira, Schelotto, and Morales since his MLS resume includes only six league matches but if early results are any indication “El Magico” appears to be the real deal.
Guillermo Rivera writes and operates Chicago Fire Confidential, a blog covering news and analysis of the Chicago Fire. The blog is associated with Chicago Now. Contact Guillermo at firstname.lastname@example.org
Attending your first Chicago Fire match is the type of experience you don’t forget very quickly. That will certainly be the case for Alex Smith, a Michigan native and friend of mine, who attended his first ever Fire match on Saturday in the Fire’s 2-0 win over the Colorado Rapids at Toyota Park. Alex was in for a real treat that day too as the men in red put forth one of their best performances of the season to register back-to-back home wins for the first time this season. As always, Section 8 was also in full voice all night long to ensure his first experience at Toyota Park was one to remember. I caught up with Alex to talk to him about his thoughts on attending his first Chicago Fire match.
Alex, give a quick introduction about yourself and tell us what drew you to your first Major League Soccer match? I grew up in an area where the most popular “sports” were probably hunting and fishing. My high school didn’t have a soccer team until about 8 years ago, so I did not have a great deal of exposure to the sport growing up. I am an avid fan of all sports, and I learned a lot about soccer over the past couple years, but I had not been to a professional soccer match before. What were your expectations prior to attending the match? Prior to the match, I was just generally excited about the match because it was going to be a new experience 17
for me. I hoped to see some fierce competition, speedy footwork, and hopefully a few goals in the match. I told a co-worker last Friday that I was going to see the Chicago Fire that weekend, and he instructed me not to get punched. I had a good, albeit nervous, laugh about that. I knew soccer fans could get rowdy, but I doubt that same co-worker would make the same comment after attending a game. How would you describe the pregame festivities surrounding Toyota Park compared to other sporting events you’ve been to? That was the longest amount of time I’ve ever spent outside a stadium waiting for gates to open before a
sporting event. What made it worth it was the fact that there were so many other people doing the same thing. There were bands playing, tailgate games going on all around, and people kicking balls in whatever open areas they could find – and despite all that activity and the size of the crowd prior to the match, getting out of the parking lot after the game wasn’t that tough.
section 8 would be at a college football or basketball game – specifically the Izzone at Michigan State basketball games. Most other stadiums are too large to build a great atmosphere because fans are so spread out. Getting everyone involved in the cheering is key. Section 8 was ramped up that evening, and they kept it up the whole game. If you see fans standing for an entire game, it is usually a good indicator of a solid fan base.
time I go back, the songs will seem very familiar. The Fire obviously haven’t been very prolific this season, were you surprised to see them play so well against Colorado? I was very surprised. I did my research before the match, and I honestly expected to see Colorado pull off a road win. I wouldn’t have been surprised by a draw either, as Chicago has 15 this season (the most in the What did you think of the atmoleague). Fortunately, I got to see the sphere inside the stadium? Section 8 erupted during both of Chi- team play very well and pull off an There were a few empty seats along cago’s 2 tallies during the match. The impressive win. the sidelines on either side of Toyota only similarity I can draw between Park, but that’s probably because peo- that excitement and any other event And lastly, would you come back ple flocked to section 8 to be a part of I’ve gone to would be a game winning for another Chicago Fire match at that section. I could tell that the real goal at a pro Hockey game in overToyota Park? fans made their way to that section time. Both of Chicago’s goals garnered Absolutely – and I would like to go to watch the game – the atmosphere the same kind of “sudden-death/we back soon. there is hard to beat. just won” kind of response. You’re a big hockey and baseball fan. Can you compare the atmosphere inside Toyota Park to any other sporting events you’ve attended before? Does Chicago’s Section 8 fan base draw similarities to any other fan bases in other leagues? The closest comparison I can make to
Were you able to learn a few of the songs sung by Section 8? I caught on to almost all of the songs in section 8. The chanting and singing was one of my favorite facets of the fan experience. Everyone was singing and having a great time. I’m sure next
You can follow Alex on Twitter @bonemassblues.
For more exclusive content, visit chicagofireblog.com. Look for more ‘DON’T STOP LIVING IN THE RED’ features at Chicago Fire Blog - you’re source to everything related to the Chicago Fire. Interested in writing about your first ever Chicago Fire match? Send an e-mail to email@example.com for a chance to share your first experience watching the beloved men in red.
HOME AND AWAY
A summary of last month’s action.
Moving On Up: 3 draws, 1 loss, and 3 wins in all competitions has the
Fire sitting in 7th in the East… and also looking forward to a US Open Cup final. Talk about a strange –and busy – month for the Fire.
Hans Backe: Made a presence in New York, but was MIA in Chicago for the US Open Cup quarter-finals in Chicago. 19
Chicago Fire 1 Pardo 54’
Philadelphia Union 1 Paunovic 34’
Returning from an 18 day break from MLS play, a new look Chicago Fire team hoped to secure what would be just its second home win of the season against a high flying Philadelphia side. As expected, Sebastian Grazzini was given his first start for themen in red while Pavel Pardo, who had only been signed a week earlier, also got the nod. As a result, Logan Pause was moved to right back to accomadate the Fire’s two new signings. Missing from the visitors bench was former Chicago Fire midfielder Peter Nowak, who was forced to miss the match due to severe back spasms. That wouldn’t prevent his team from going ahead first, however. After a positive start from the Fire that nearly saw Grazzini announce himself in spectacular style with
August 3rd, Toyota Park. Kickoff: 8:00 p.m. Referee: Michael Kennedy. Attendance: 10,557
a long range effort and Dominic Oduro test the hands of goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, Velijko Paunovic scored against the run of play with a fine long range effort that was driven past Sean Johnson. Patrick Nyarko attempted to draw the Fire level with a volley from outside the box before the half, but once again Mondragon was equal to it. The home side entered the break a goal down and certainly disheartened after creating the best chances thus far. The Fire began the second half determined to find an equalizer, which they eventually did. Pardo started the move from just inside the Fire’s half with a long ball towards Grazzini which was cut out by a Philadelphia defender. The ball dropped kindly to Nyarko who wasted little time in racing
towards the byline and sending in a dangerous low cross towards Oduro, whose one time shot at the six yard box was blocked. With both the defender and ‘keeper on the ground, Oduro managed to lay the ball into the path of Pardo at the top of penalty box, allwing the debutant to make little mistake by neatly curling a ball into the left hand corner of the goal to finish off the move he started in his own half. Chicago could have very well gone on to snatch the points. Oduro was stifled twice by Mondragon and the Fire stood their ground on the defensive end for the remainder of the half. In the end, the Fire were left to rue yet another draw, and just as painfully, yet another home match without a win. Man of the match: Pavel Pardo
Chicago Fire 2 Oduro 23’, Barouch 80’
Vancouver Whitecaps 4 Hassli 1’, 72’, Koffie 24’, Sanvezzo 48’ August 7th, Empire Field. Kick-off 6:00 p.m. Referee: Chris Penso In a match featuring the two teams with the league’s worst records, the Fire traveled to Vancouver in hopes of snapping a seven match winless streak. The Whitecaps, meanwhile, had gone six matches without a win and were equally desperate to put an end to that streak. And like the Fire, the Whitecaps had only tallied one home win all season. It didn’t take long for things to go off course for Chicago. A horrible miscue by Yamith Cuesta gifted Eric Hassli with a clear sight on goal, allowing Vancouver’s top scorer to rip a shot past Johnson on the 32 second mark. A case of jetlag, perphaps? Whatever the Fire’s excuse for such a poor start might have been, they would manage to draw level after 23 minutes – and a fine equalizer it was. Grazzini found Oduro’s diagonal run with a brilliant flick , providing the Ghanian forward with space to run at the Vancouver defenders. After cutting inside, and then back outside, Oduro finished with aplomb past an onrushing Jay
Nolly. After a disastrous start, it seemed the Fire had dug themselves out of the hole, only to shoot themselves in the foot once more. Less than a minute after Oduro’s equalizer, Gershon Koffie was allowed space outside of the penalty box to drive a low shot on frame that somehow bobbled over Sean Johnson and into the net. A disappointing error for a player who has been steady ever since overcoming his early season mistakes. It could have gotten even worse for Chicago prior to the break. Cuesta was the culprit once more, fouling Camilo Sanvezzo in the box to present Hassli with a chance to double Vancouver’s lead as well has his own tally on the day. Fortunately for the Fire, Johnson made up for his earler mistake and guessed right to thwart Hassli’s spot kick. Vancouver would eventually find a third goal, as well as a fourt. Sanvezzo got his name on the scoresheet three minutes after the break and Hassli tallied his 10th goal of the season. Substitute Orr Barouch pulled 22
one back in the 80th minute with a quality finish. Once again, it was simply too little late for the Fire on a day when they were completely outplayed across the park.
Chicago Fire 2
New York Red Bulls 2
Oduro 16’, Grazzini 24’
Henry 8’, Lindpere 64’
August 13th, Red Bull Arena. 6:30 p.m. Referee: Jair Marrufo. With a win seemingly at grasp, it was another similar story for the visitors. Thierry Henry demonstrated why he was once regarded as one of the best players in the world, and now one of the best in Major League Soccer, by sending a beautiful curler from outside the box past Johnson for an early lead for New York. An MLS goal of the week nominee from Oduro tied things up in the 16th minute, and against all odds, Chicago found themselves with a precious lead thanks to a first ever MLS goal for Grazzini. After Oduro’s attempted lob over Chris Konopka, an MLS pool goalkeeper rented by the team in a hardship situation, Grazzini was first on the scene to hammer home the rebound and entertain the crowd with a Samba dance celebration. Despite playing well in the final third, the Fire were unable to find the third goal they craved and eventually paid the price. Joel Lindpere, who scored in the team’s previous meeting at Toyota Park, scored with a lovely side footed volley to hand the Fire a league record 14th draw. Man of the match: Patrick Nyarko
Chicago Fire 1 Grazzini 59’ DC United
August 18, Toyota Park 8:00 p.m. ESPN2 Referee: Ricardo Salazar Attendance: 10,118 After a brilliant first half that saw the Fire string together some of its best soccer all season, the home side must have spent the half time break wondering how they weren’t in front. Oduro was a constant menace to DC United’s defense in the first interval, linking up extremely well with Grazzini – who was also fantastic – and testing goalkeeper Bill Hamid on several occasions. Oduro struck the far post before somehow scooping an effort over the bar from inside the six yard box shortly before the half – much to dismay of every Fire supporter inside Toyota Park. After a dominating first half, all that was missing for the Fire was a goal. Grazzini provided just that,
completing a brilliant performance with the game’s opener in the 59th minute. Nyarko sent in a cross to the middle of the box that was only partially cleared by Perry Kitchen, the ball fell kindly to Grazzini who fired his first time effort past substitute goalkeeper Steve Cronin to send the home crowd into raptures. Everyone in Toyota Park must have wondered, although somewhat cautiously, if this could be the Fire’s day. Sadly for the Fire, a similar story would unfold 14 minutes later as DC United substitute Josh Wolff stepped off the bench to draw his side level with a thunderous shot from close range that ricocheted off the crossbar and into the back of the net, although there was a strong 24
case for offside. Following such an impressive display all across the field, the Fire must have certainly regret taking their foot off the gas and allowing the visitors back into the game. The biggest regret, however, will have rested on the Fire’s inability to finish chances. Frank Klopas summed up the match perfectly: “It’s frustrating because our players came out with a sense of urgency and put everything on the line. It’s just frustrating when you dominate a game and you should win and unfortunately it comes to an offside goal that the referees missed.” Man of the Match: Sebastian Grazzini
Oduro 16’, Gargan 69’
August 21, Toyota Park. 6:00 p.m. Referee: Paul Ward Attendance: 12,020 Entering a Sunday afternoon ‘do or die’ match against Toronto FC, an incredible span of eight draws and two losses had passed since the Chicago Fire last recorded a home win. After coming agonizingly close to securing three points at Toyota Park three days earlier, it seemed like only a matter of time before the Fire would finally snap a winless streak at home dating back all the way back to March 26th. That win over Sporting Kansas City was also the Fire’s first home match of the season and gave supporters a reason to believe plenty more to come.
Sadly that hasn’t been the case, but judging by an impressive win over Toronto, that could still change. Dominic Oduro, coming off a nightmare performance in front of goal against DC United, silenced the critics with a well taken goal in the 16th minute to give the Fire the lead. Gonzalo Segares’ swung in a cross from the left and Oduro did brilliantly to flick the ball past TFC goalkeeper Milos Krocic. The goal was Oduro’s eight of the season and earned him a nomination for MLS Goal of the Week. Chicago controlled the major-
ity of possession throughout the first half and should have doubled its lead when an open Cory Gibbs sent a volley over the bar from close range. The Fire would eventually find that precious second goal and it would arrive through an unlikely source. Just three weeks after being traded by Toronto, Dan Gargan made his old club pay the price as he scored off a corner with a powerful header twenty minutes from time. At last, the Fire would collect all three points at home. And a precious three points they were too, lifting the club off of the bottom of the table.
Dan Gargan comes back to haunt his old club. Who’s making noise now? 25
Chicago Fire 2
Colorado Rapids 0
Oduro 17’, Gibbs 35’
August 27, Toyota Park. 7:30 p.m. Referee: Juan Guzman Attendance: 15,211
Following an impressive win a week earlier, the Fire capitalized on the chance to win back-to-back matches for the first time this season by putting Colorado to the sword courtesy of two first half goals from Dominic Oduro (who else?) and Cory Gibbs. Oduro scored his ninth goal of the season with the type of terrific breakaway goal that we’ve come to expect from him. The finish on this occasion wasn’t too bad either, especially for a player who has taken so much heat for his finishing this season. Cory Gibbs nodded home a second goal before halftime to send the Fire on their way to a second con-
secutive win and set the team up nicely for a US Open Cup semi-final match three days later. Fire supporters have seen it all at Toyota Park this season. There’s been games the Fire should’ve won yet somehow managed to throw away their lead late on in the match (Houston, DC United) and there’s been games the Fire didn’t deserve anything from (Portland, LA Galaxy) and was justified in winding up on the losing side. This win was a case of the Fire finally earning the three points they deserved and, in the process, conclude a trying month with a vital win before moving into another crucial month of fixtures.
Man of the match: Dominic Oduro 26
GOal of the Month
Dominic Oduro 8/30 vs. Richmond Kickers US Open Cup semi-finals Toyota Park “It was a fantastic goal. I thought it was a world class goal. He just bent it upper 90, it was just fantastic. He’s been really super for us and I know that he’s going to continue to develop and get better and score more goals. He’s been fantastic.” - Frank Klopas
“I don’t even know who passed me the ball, but it was a great ball on the sideline. I took the defender on and he just committed himself on one side I took it to the other side, saw the net and tried to whip the ball in and it went in.” -Dominic Oduro
A Look Ahead... Date Opponent Venue Kick-off
Sat, Sep 10 San Jose Away Sat, Sep 17 Chivas Home Sun, Sep 25 New England Home Wed, Sep 28 Real Salt Lake Away Sat, Oct 1 Houston Away Wed, Oct 12 Dallas Home Sat, Oct 15 DC Away Sat, Oct 22 Columbus Home
9:30 3:00 3:00 8:00 3:00 7:30 6:30 7:30
Highlight of the month Wed, Sept 14 Toyota Park
Chicago Fire vs Chivas Guadalajara On September 14th, the Chicago Fire will welcome the most successful club in the Mexican First Division to Toyota Park for a midweek international friendly. Chivas have won the Primera Division a record 11 times and most recently reached the Copa Libertadores Championship in 2010. The Fire played Chivas eleven years ago at Soldier Field, falling to the Mexican side 1-0 in front of 22,260 fans. Regardless of the outcome in the upcoming meeting, it should be a fantastic match and a great occasion for each set of fans. Tickets are available at Chicago-Fire.com. A certain Manchester United striker by the name of Javier Hernandez is the latest of a long line of famous players to have played for Chivas Guadalajara.
YOUTH WATCH Every issue Chicago Fire Fanzine will highlight a youth player for the Chicago Fire to keep an eye out for during the upcoming months. This issue’s spotlight falls on Peter Beasley... As the captain of the Chicago Fire U-18 Academy Team, Peter Beasley is one of the hottest prospects in the Chicago Fire youth set-up and has featured in several matches for the reserves this year. Beasley is also considered as one of the most talented recruits in the incoming freshman class amongst NCAA Division I soccer. Collegesoccernews. com ranked Beasley 66th out of 2011’s top 150 college soccer recruits following his decision to commit to Northwestern University.
The 18-year-old Naperville native is a five year member of the Chicago Fire and anchored the USSF Academy National Team’s defense of en route to a championship in 2010. Beasley has yet to make his bow with the Northwestern team but he’ll be eager to impress following
some supportive words from Northwestern Head Coach Tim Lenahan: “Peter has just gotten better and better each time we have seen him. He has the solid and steady demeanor that coaches just love in their central defenders. He has been captain of just about every team he has played for, leading his team to a national championship and being selected to the US Soccer Developmental Academy Select Team. He has all the intangibles to be an outstanding player and leader at Northwestern.” The Chicago Fire will certainly hope that last sentence will come true for the young defender. At 6-0 ft, 155 pounds, Beasley isn’t the biggest of defenders but with a great understanding of the game, impeccable work ethic, impressive speed and ability to match his notable leadership, the Chicago Fire Academy player certainly possesses some of the key qualities needed to advance to a higher level. For Fire supporters, fingers are crossed that Beasley can continue to develop and eventually make enough progress to become a Major League Soccer. Can Beasley can follow in the footsteps of Fire youth products Jonathan Spector and Jay Demerit? It remains to be seen, but he’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Chicago Fire Juniors 2008 - Captain Region II Champions 2007 - Captain Region II Finalist 2006-2009 - Captain four time IL State Cup Champions
Naperville Central HS -Captain Chicago Fire Academy 2011 - USSDA Winter Showcase Select Team -Daily Herald All-Area First Team (Honorary 2010 - Captain USSDA National Champions Captain) -Four year varsity starter 2009-2010 - MLS U17 Sum Cup 29
Could Kellen Gulley be a star in the making? It’s often been said that youth is the way forward. If that’s the case, the Chicago Fire are certainly taking the necessary steps by investing in promising young talent. Most recently, the Fire re-emphasized their focus on youth by signing US U-17 MNT forward Kellen Gulley as the club’s second homegrown player. Gulley joined the Fire from the Mississippi Chicago Fire Juniors and will be added to the Fire’s roster for the 2012 season. “Developing young professionals is the goal of our Juniors program and Kellen serves as a defining figure in our player development system,” said Technical Director and Interim Head Coach Frank Klopas. “Kellen is a tremendous individual and has proved to be a scoring force with the Chicago Fire Juniors and U17 U.S. Men’s National Team and will continue to grow as a player while with the Fire. Developing young professionals is the goal of our Juniors program and Kellen serves as a defining figure in our player development system.” If one thing’s for certain, it’s that Chicago Fire fans shouldn’t expect to see Gulley playing regularly next season. Instead, the club should look to continue to develop
him and offer him first team opportunities when they feel that the time is right. There’s no need to rush a 17-yearold on to the main stage. After all, we’re not talking about Lionel Messi here. Like most youth players, Gulley will need time more than anything. Gulley has begun training alongside the Fire first team and will certainly benefit from playing around a talented group of professionals on a consistent process. If all goes to plan, Gulley will make significant strides of improvement during the remainder of this season and earn himself a few first team opportunities next season, particularly in pre-season and friendly matches. “Kellen is a very talented player and we are thrilled to add him to our first team,” said Klopas.
Name: Kellen Gulley Position: Forward Height: 6’0” (1.82m) Weight: 185 lbs. (84kg) Date of Birth: April 6, 1994 Place of Birth: Clinton, MS Hometown: Clinton, MS Citizenship: USA Last Club: Chicago Fire Juniors-Mississippi Acquired: Signed by the Chicago Fire on 8/11/2011 Photo courtesy of Arrow Soccer
Thanks for reading the first ever edition of Chicago Fire Fanzine. I hope you enjoyed this exciting new project and will look forward to reading the next issue as much as I look forward to writing and editing it! As always, feedback – positive or negative – is always beneficial and I welcome any comments you may have regarding this first issue. You can e-mail me at chicagofiresoccerblog@gmail. com to let me know your thoughts. If you’re interested in contributing to the next issue, due to be released on November 1st, you can also send an e-mail to the same address above. Maybe, just maybe, by the next issue we’ll be reflecting on a US Open Cup championship and rallying behind the men in red in the MLS playoffs. Fingers are crossed.