Both the Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew come into 2017 looking to turn a page and forget about their respective dismal 2016 campaigns. They squared off on Saturday at MAPFRE Stadium in the season opener on a chilly afternoon and battled to a 1:1 draw. Based on the soccer on display it's unlikely that either side learned much about whether 2017 will bring more joy than 2016 did, but both teams have a lot of work ahead if they want to be competitive.
Chicago will host the 2017 MLS All-Star Game at Soldier Field on August 2. MLS Commissioner Don Garber, City of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Fire owner Andrew Hauptman were on hand this afternoon to make the formal announcement. Veljko Paunovic will coach the MLS side against an opponent which has yet to be named, but sources indicate to Fire Confidential that Real Madrid will be announced as the competition in the near future.
Major League Soccer has drawn plenty of big-name clubs to play in its All-Star Game in the past, but while the 2017 inviteeremains unconfirmed, the location will be large.
The league announced on Tuesday that theMLS All-Stars game will be played at Soldier Field in Chicago on August 2. The 2017 event marks the first time since 2010 that the All-Star Game is being held outside of a soccer-specific stadium.
The Fire return to full training next Monday after taking a week off during MLS' "Copa America break". One player that is not likely to be back at Toyota Park with the squad is Brazilian forward and Designated Player Gilberto. Following last Saturday's 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers, coach Veljko Paunovic told media that Gilberto had asked for personal time off two days before the match and permission was granted for the player to take a leave.
After two straight seasons at the bottom of the table, the Fire are desperate to be competitive
The Chicago Fire have been MLS's worst club for two straight years. In 2015, they lost 20 times, fired coach Frank Yallop mid-season, and did not retain interim boss Brian Bliss. In 2016, after new GM Nelson Rodriguez hand-picked Veljko Paunovic to be the club's new head coach, they picked up precisely one more point in the standings, and actually won fewer games and had a worse goal difference.
Either the glass is ¼ full or ¾ empty. The Chicago Fire tied longtime rival Columbus Crew on Thursday evening 2-2 at Toyota Park. The penultimate home match for Chicago was a heated affair on what was otherwise a frigid and windy October night.
It appears as if adaptability, knowledge, confidence, and resourcefulness are not always useful in acquiring three points. Sometimes you need grit, determination, the will to win, and to put it quite bluntly, ability. The Chicago Fire were lacking in all of the latter in their encounter with longtime rivals Columbus before the international break.
In the 92nd minute of this past weekend's Chicago Fire match there was an aura of anticipation that could be felt around Toyota Park. To no one's surprise, Veljko Paunovic and his charges obliged expectations by conceding a late equalizer to DC United.
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The Chicago Fire unveiled their newest international forward on Tuesday with a press conference and photo op at Toyota Park, but general manager Nelson Rodriguez was quick to dissuade any notion that Michael de Leeuw will be a cure-allfor the last-place club, whichhas scored fewer goals than any other in Major League Soccer this season.
What Are They All About? New England Revolution Preview
This Wednesday the Chicago Fire lost to the Vancouver White Caps in what has become a typical scenario for the team, a valiant effort that falls just short of producing a positive result. Veljko Paunovic said his team was close to winning the match but that was far from the truth.
What Are They All About? Vancouver Whitecaps Preview
Sir, you're going to have to check that bag. After a lackluster 1-1 draw at home to DC and a "competitive" training week the Chicago Fire are staring in the face of a three game road trip that will give some of the newcomers quite the intro to North America.
Chicago Fire forward David Accam was dressed and on the bench on Saturday for the first time since suffering the knee injury whichhas kept him out of the last fivematches. It sounded afterward, however, like there was very little chance he would have been used.
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The word of the day for the Chicago Fire, written on thelocker-room white board in some of the various languages – English, Serbian, Portuguese, German – spoken by members of the squad, was "victory."
On Saturday, four weeks removed from their onlywin of the season, the Fire had their sights set on victory, but for the second consecutive match they let it slip away.
Chicago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic was adamant that his team reward the home fans with a victory in the team's final home game on Sunday, and his players did not disappoint, knocking off the New England Revolution 2:1. The Fire played simple and fluid football and were not far away from finding the back of the net on several occasions.
The Fire are out of playoff contention but they could eliminate Columbus with a win on Thursday night. They can also do some damage to the New England Revolution (currently in 7th), and Toronto FC (vying for the top spot in the East) in the last two matches of the season. Veljko Paunovic isn't recapping the season just yet.
The Fire could have David Accam and David Arshakyan back this coming weekend against Toronto FC once the international matches are done. Fitting them back into the side doesn't appear as urgent now following the 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night. Veljko Paunovic talked about the latest victory and more during his weekly media conference call.
What Are They All About? Philadelphia Union (Away)
The streak continues. Chicago lost yet another road match as the Fire fell 2-1 against the Colorado Rapids this past Saturday. Veljko Paunovic was visibly angry as he and his players walked off the pitch in Commerce City and his weekly conference call showed hints of deviating from the usual "everything is fine" party line.
The arrival of Khaly Thiam in Chicago adds another midfield option for Veljko Paunovic. Thiam has been acquired on loan from Hungarian side MTK Budapest but in similar fashion to another Fire target, Michael de Leeuw, a competing MLS club held his Discovery Rights. In exchange for that, Chicago sent a conditional 2017 second round SuperDraft pick to the Columbus Crew.
The Fire will have some help on the way in the form of midfielder Khaly Thiam, who is expected to join the team this week. Thiam's club, MTK Budapest announced a loan to Chicago via their website this morning. The loan will cover the remainder of this year with an option to buy his contract, which expires in June of 2017.
The past few preseasons have provided false hope by way of positive exhibition results coming into league play, but this 6-0-0 run from the Fire has a slightly different feel to it. This version of the Fire concluded training camp with its most impressive result so far, a 4-1 defeat of defending Eastern Conference champion Toronto FC.
Another long-time Fire stalwart is leaving the club. Sources indicate to Fire Confidential that Logan Pause is set to depart for a position with Los Angeles FC. Pause will assume the head coaching position for LAFC's USL side Orange County Blues FC and serve as an assistant when they begin play in MLS next season.
The Fire fought back from an early deficit, took the lead, but ultimately failed to hang on, and they shared the points with Columbus on Thursday at Toyota Park. Here are two quick thoughts about the match.
Pauno ain't playing the kids Speculation has been raised in the media on whether Veljko Paunovic would provide playing opportunities to his younger, less experienced players once the Fire were officially eliminated from the playoffs.
The Fire defensive effort in this match was indicative of a team that has packed it in for the season. There wasn't much of a challenge posed against a New York City FC squad playing without an in-form Frank Lampard. NYCFC was somehow able to find plenty of space on their small pitch and completed 81% of their passes while easily holding the ball 60% of the game.
The Fire were without two key attackers in Michael de Leeuw and John Goossens against DC United last weekend. Veljko Paunovic addressed their injuries during his weekly conference call on Monday afternoon. Goossens' back injury will keep him out against New York City FC on Friday but de Leeuw could be back from an ankle injury.
David Accam's goal in the second minute made it seem like the Fire were going to exhibit a renewed winning 'mentality' on the road after Veljko Paunovic's impassioned words earlier in the week. That hope lasted all of about 9 minutes when the Union tied the game and went on to score four unanswered goals en route to handing the Fire a 32nd consecutive road match without a victory.
Perhaps it was the frustration of a late goal in Colorado leading to a 2-1 loss and a 31st consecutive match on the road without a victory, but Veljko Paunovic's tone on Monday was different from previous weekly media conference calls. In the weeks and months leading up to this past Saturday's match, Paunovic has stayed steadfastly positive in his remarks.
The US Open Cup tournament is shaping up to be the Fire's best and only chance at hardware once again this season. Ahead of a fourth round match against Indy Eleven, who claimed the top spot in NASL's spring season with a 4-0-6 record, Chicago is facing what many fans will consider a 'must-win' game.
The Fire are off to their worst start after twelve games in team history (2-5-5) but there have been some rays of hope evident in the side. Following a 4-3 loss at home on opening day, Veljko Paunovic reshuffled his side and moved rookie centerback Jonathan Campbell into the starting line-up. The move paired him with the biggest acquisition of the offseason, Johan Kappelhof.
Veljko Paunovic's weekly conference call featured an injury update on players who were not available for the Houston match, a discussion about formation and system, and look ahead to the Portland Timbers on Saturday. Here are the highlights: On team injury updates "Collin Fernandez will do some preparation.
The Fire will try to avoid a 30th consecutive match without a win on the road against another struggling side in the New York Red Bulls. The defending Supporter's Shield winners are leaking goals and already have seven losses on the season. Veljko Paunovic was asked about New York and several other topics during his weekly media conference call.
The Fire head into a busy stretch after having to sit idle for two of the last three weekends. A good test comes Wednesday night in Vancouver with a game in New England following on Saturday. The team will be on the road for more than one solid week ahead of another Wednesday/Friday combination during the next round.