Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Red Stars hoping to bring back team's scoring leader for 2010

The first day of Women's Professional Soccer's free agency had some pretty big names on the list, including Brazilian forward Cristiane (pictured right) and U.S. Women's National Team midfielder Carli Lloyd (pictured left) from the Chicago Red Stars' 2009 roster.

But the team immediately made it known that it wants to bring Cristiane back. She clearly was a vital component and an exciting presence, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the Red Stars' offense this past season.

"With free agency opening Wednesday, we are taking the step to speak with Cris about next season and the Red Stars," general manager Marcia McDermott said in a release. "We are excited about the core we are returning and are focused on putting together a playoff-caliber team this off-season."

CLICK HERE for the team's release.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Some of you professional indoor soccer fans might be considering making the occasional trek to our neighbors to the northwest, the Rockford Rampage, since the Chicago Storm are officially on hiatus. The Rampage listed on their Twitter page Monday afternoon that the team's home opener will take place at 7:35 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 27, at the Rockford MetroCentre. The official National Indoor Soccer League schedule is supposed to come out sometime this week. There is the possibility this home opener date could change.

Rockford Rampage mascot Rocky was recently in the Chicago area during halftime of the Chicago Fire's Sept. 20 game against the Columbus Crew.

Monday, September 28, 2009


On Monday the Chicago Red Stars of Women's Professional Soccer exercised the 2010 contract options for nine players: Marian Dalmy, Ifeoma Dieke, Chioma Igwe, Caroline Jonsson, Brittany Klein, Ella Masar, Jill Oakes, Megan Rapinoe and Natalie Spilger.

With Karen Carney, Kate Markgraf and Lindsay Tarpley also under contract, the team currently returns 12 players from this past season's squad. Markgraf's Red Stars debut was delayed for a season after giving birth to twins.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


McBride nets game-tying goal, but potential winner evades Carr

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. - The Chicago Fire are likely bound for the postseason, but the degree of their mishaps do not exactly paint the picture of a playoff team.

The Fire did fight back for a 2-all draw Saturday night when they earned 1 point against Toronto FC at Toyota Park. The aura of disappointment, however, was pretty evident throughout the locker room - a typical feeling during the Fire's 4-4-6 campaign at Toyota Park.

"It takes everybody being on the same (bleeping) page and being disciplined. And right now we're not in our last couple games," Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch said. "And there's no excuse for that.

"We're just giving away easy goals and it's putting us behind the 8-ball. That's the bottom line tonight, again. We're going to score goals. We've got creative players. We get chances every game. But we can't get in these shootouts we keep getting in. And in the playoffs, it's about discipline. And right now we have zero. We have to sort that out very quickly."

Despite the blunders, the Fire had an opportune moment in second-half stoppage time when Patrick Nyarko crossed the ball from the right side. Calen Carr put a foot on the ball at the far post but it went wide left. Carr had a clear path, and the Toyota Park crowd groaned in unision. Then referee Edvin Jurisevic blew the final whistle.

The Toronto goals Busch referred to include the Reds' 6th-minute goal by Dwayne De Rosario off of a defensive blunder by C.J. Brown and Wilman Conde, and then a Chad Barrett tally in the 46th minute, which was a strong run and execution from Toronto's side.

"The whole group tonight defensively, we were no good," Fire head coach Denis Hamlett said. "We gave them two goals tonight. ... I'm disappointed with the easy goals we've conceded so far this season at home. That part needs to get better. We did create some chances. But at the end it's still about defending."

The thing is Chicago was given a present early in the first half when Toronto's Nick Garcia scored an own goal in the 14th minute, tying the score at 1-all. But the Fire did not put a shot on goal throughout that first half.

Barrett's tally against his former Fire squad gave Toronto a 2-1 advantage. Chicago fought back, though.

Brian McBride (pictured above) scored his seventh goal of the season with a 78th-minute header off of a Justin Mapp cross from the left side to tie the score at 2-all. It was McBride's first goal since May 16 against Toronto. But then after McBride went through a scoring drought and had shoulder surgery.

Chicago dropped in the Eastern Conference standings with the first-place Columbus Crew earning 3 points Saturday with a 2-0 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy. That gives Columbus 46 points. The Crew are followed by the Houston Dynamo (43 points), Fire (41) and Galaxy (41) in the race for the Supporters' Shield.

The Fire are now 10-6-11 on the season while Toronto is 9-10-8.

Fire midfielder/forward Chris Rolfe was a late scratch for Hamlett. Rolfe suffered a hamstring injury during practice earlier in the week. Defender Gonzalo Segares is day-to-day with that sprained MCL, and he stated after the game that he had a setback earlier in the week. So his status remains to be seen.

* * *

Next up: The Fire begin a two-game road trip when they head out west to take on the Los Angeles Galaxy for a 10 p.m. (CST) match on Friday, Oct. 2. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

* * * thoughts: There is no question that the defense had its problems Saturday. And while that was much of the focus postgame, I was surprised that an equal amount of blame was not directed toward the offense for not finishing things off. After all, they had a 15-8 edge in shots and were spotted a goal by Toronto. That doesn't exactly happen a whole lot at Toyota Park.

McBride had a strike at close range in the 34th minute that probably should have been a goal, or minimally at the net. In the 89th, Stefan Dimitrov had a header that went over the net, with Peter Lowry providing a perfect cross from the left side.

Mapp had one of his better games and had a bunch of crosses that could have led to even more scoring opportunities, but instead many of those chances the ball trickled away or Toronto was able to clear.

One interesting statistic was that the Fire committed only two fouls which ties a league record for the fewest, set by FC Dallas on July 4 earlier this season. Whether that's a meaningless statistic or whether that's a sign of a not-aggressive-enough bunch, you can decipher that at your leisure.

Between the Fire's health and the team's execution, Chicago is a talented squad filled with numerous question marks.


The Chicago Fire are down to four regular-season games remaining, including two at home. The first of those two takes place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday against Toronto FC at Toyota Park (televised on My50).

Toronto (9-10-7, 34 points) still is working in its recent designated player signing (Julian de Guzman). Chicago's DP, however, could be absent with a hamstring injury. Cuauhtemoc Blanco will be a question mark for Chicago (10-6-10, 40 points), and with John Thorrington still out with a groin injury, the Fire's midfield will be hoping for the types of contributions that 23-year-old Peter Lowry (pictured) provided last week against the Columbus Crew.

Defensive outside back Gonzalo Segares was taken off the injury report, though a Saturday appearance could be rushing things a bit. Mike Banner, while a bit unconventional at left back, is holding his own.

Toronto boasts a pretty solid midfield group led by the dangerous Dwayne De Rosario, who has 10 goals this season. De Guzman's MLS impact remains to be seen solely for the fact that he has only played in one match and is quickly adapting to his team's tendencies. But with his international experience, de Guzman obviously is expected to be a big threat. Then you have Honduran international Amado Guevara, who leads Toronto with six assists and is behind De Rosario with five goals.

On May 16, the Fire topped the Reds, 2-0, at BMO Field with goals from second-half sub Chris Rolfe and Brian McBride, and three saves from Jon Busch for the clean sheet.

That match happened to be the last time McBride scored a goal, his league-leading sixth of the season. He went through a drought and then spent a couple months away from the team with a shoulder injury.

McBride still is trying to find his timing out there, and clearly Chicago needs him to be the main weapon who can either fight for some hard-nosed goals or draw defenders to set up the likes of Rolfe and Marco Pappa.

Toronto needs this game more than the Fire in terms of setting itself up for the postseason. But the scale is in Chicago's favor as the Fire appeared to have found some good form last week against the Eastern Conference-leading Crew, even though the match ended in a draw. Chicago Fire 2, Toronto FC 1

* * *

CLICK HERE for's Week 28 MLS preview, which includes a quick look at former Fire goalkeeper Zach Thornton's rejuvenated campaign.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Chicago Fire to host San Jose Earthquakes in Week 3

Major League Soccer unveiled its 2010 home openers on Thursday. The Chicago Fire's first match at Toyota Park takes place in Week 3 on Saturday, April 10, when they host the San Jose Earthquakes (7:30 p.m.). Chicago will be a part of history when New York makes its debut at Red Bull Arena and hosts the Fire in Week 1 for a 6 p.m. (CST) match on Saturday, March 27 (televised on ESPN2).

CLICK HERE for the full list of Major League Soccer's 2010 home openers.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Sting's '84 NASL title to be celebrated at Fire game

The Chicago Fire announced that the organization will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Chicago Sting's North American Soccer League title.

There will be a halftime ceremony and an autograph session before the Fire's match against Toronto FC on Saturday (7:30 p.m., My50) at Toyota Park. A commemorative Sting poster will be available, and 15 former Sting players and coaches from the '84 squad are expected to sign the posters in FireFest at Gate C, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

"I am very excited to see my former teammates this Saturday and bring the soccer community together for this important anniversary in Chicago soccer history," Fire technical director Frank Klopas said.

CLICK HERE for more information about the festivities.

* * *

Fire's defensive line shows some positive signs

The Fire's 2-all draw against the Columbus Crew on Sunday did not sit too well. But in keeping an upbeat view on the game, it is noteworthy to mention that the Fire's defense limited the Crew to less than 10 shot attempts, and the back line is showing a bit more stability. There was not much the Fire could do about a controversial penalty call against Wilman Conde that led to Guillermo Barros Schelotto's game-tying penalty kick. And the lone lapse was Robbie Rogers beating Brandon Prideaux en route to Schelotto's first of two tallies.

The back line doesn't look the way the team drew it up at the start of the season. Outside backs Mike Banner (pictured) and Prideaux did shank a couple of clearances that did not hurt them against the Crew. But for the most part, this defensive group is coming around, and they anticipated Columbus' passing lanes relatively well Sunday.

"I think Banner's coming into his own, and that's fine. And Brandon's always pretty sharp playing at the right back," Fire captain and central defender C.J. Brown said. "With Wilman coming back (from a hamstring injury), he's huge in the middle. So I think we're all starting to get on the same page. And I think we've all devoted ourselves - especially this game (against Columbus) - to try and start that playoff mentality. Everybody was focused for it. They were all in tune for it. Every week we work on shifting and moving, staying on our block. And when we do that, it makes a difference."

Not only did the back line do an adequate job, but much of Schelotto's supporting cast did not have a huge impact. For example, the Fire limited Crew midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo to minimal touches, and he is Columbus' assists leader and ranks third on the squad in shots. Ekpo had so little value playing-wise that the Crew subbed him out.

"A lot of that is credit to your forwards and your midfielders," Brown said. "The forwards make it difficult for them to get out of the back, and our midfielders are shifting on the fly and doing the dirty work to prevent their midfielders from getting free looks at the ball. ... "If you look at (the game) soccer-wise, the guys should be happy with themselves with what they produced on the field."

* * *

Midweek links:
• MLS Power Rankings, through Week 27 (Fire tied for third)
• MLS race for playoffs tighter than ever (includes comments from Fire defender C.J. Brown)
• Armas to be inducted to 'Ring of Fire' Hall of Fame
• New York Times: Q&A: Brian McBride Responds to Readers
• Pitch Invasion: Hiring and Retaining a Good Front Office Team (by Red Stars CEO Peter Wilt)

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Controversial penalty call assists Columbus' fate down stretch

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. - Soccer's dreaded 2-0 advantage doomed the Chicago Fire against the Colubmus Crew on Sunday afternoon at Toyota Park. The Fire's dwindling lead was partly due to one poor sequence to lead to one goal. The other was a highly debatable penalty kick call from referee Mark Geiger.

In the end, the Crew capitalized as the Fire walked away with a 2-all draw in a battle of the Eastern Conference's top two squads.

The result definitely added some controversy to the mix. It took place in the 77th minute when Fire defender Wilman Conde (pictured above) was called for a foul in the penalty box against Crew second-half substitution Steven Lenhart. The replays told a much different picture leading to Guillermo Barros Schelotto's game-tying, 79th-minute penalty kick.

"It's unfortunate that the game ended the way it ended," Fire head coach Denis Hamlett said. "Because we all saw it. The play that leads to the PK, the referee tells (assistant/goalkeeper coach) Daryl Shore after that game that he called a PK on Wilman because he knicked him. You saw the replay. Steven Lenhart comes in and does a karate kick and kicks Wilman. Wilman actually gets the ball. The referee decides to change the game. It's disappointing. With four or five games left in the season, everyone's fighting for points. You just hope that the players dictate the outcome of the game."

So instead, Schelotto fired the PK for his 12th goal of the season and second of the match. He had not scored a goal since a two-goal effort against Chivas USA on June 14. It soured what had been a relatively solid performance across the board for Chicago, with the exception of the Crew's first goal.

"We played very well, and we got done by a bad call," Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch said. "You look at it again ... we looked at it again when we came in (after the game). If anything it's a foul on Lenhart, not on Wilman. And it's very upsetting that we put so much into it and we created other quality chances that we still could have won the game. But we work so hard and the guys put everything in. And we end up dropping 2 points, which we never should have dropped. It had nothing to do with the way we played."

The Crew moved to 11-4-10 (43 points) and the Fire to 10-6-10 (40 points). Chicago is now 4-4-5 at Toyota Park.

Early on, it was all Fire. Peter Lowry was the offensive fuel with goals in the 6th and 35th minutes.

Lowry's first goal came during a sequence when defender Brandon Prideaux made a cross from the right flank to Brian McBride, who one-touched the ball to Lowry at the top of the box. Lowry struck the ball to the left side of the net past Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer for the 1-0 lead.

His second goal was a solid strike from nearly the same spot on the field and on net as he was at the right place at the right time when Crew defender Eric Brunner lazily attempted to clear the ball toward the wing. Chicago had the 2-0 lead and all of the momentum heading into halftime.

"We trained this week on some finishing and those were the kind of spots that we were hitting them," Lowry said. "Thankfully I hit both of them pretty well and they went in."

The Fire's defense had only one major lapse, and it occurred in the 55th minute. Prideaux took a gamble on the flank and Columbus' Robbie Rogers capitalized. He crossed from ball from the left wing to Schelotto for the header to cut the Fire's lead to 2-1.

* * *

Next up: The Fire stay at home when they host Toronto FC for a 7:30 p.m. match on Saturday, Sept. 26. The game will be televised on My50.

* * * thoughts: To echo the team's sentiment, the Fire's play looked strong. It obviously is a bitter moment because this game had so much impact toward the Supporters' Shield.

They created some crisp passing, good movement of the ball, good player movement and regular development of scoring chances.

Chicago still has a good leg up on D.C. United in the East standings and has not been a part of that enormous batch of squads vying for a wild card. But one point versus three makes a big difference down this regular-season stretch.

Poor calls are bound to happen in any MLS game. But Geiger's judgment was pitiful. You never want to see a game come down to a referee's misstep, and it's safe to say you can put the end result squarely on Geiger's shoulders.

Friday, September 18, 2009


CLICK HERE to read my preview of Sunday's big Eastern Conference showdown between the Columbus Crew and the host Chicago Fire. The game starts at 2 p.m. and will be televised on My50 and Telefutura. Columbus leads the East with 42 points and six regular-season games remaining. Chicago has 39 points with five regular-season games to go.

~ Charlie Corr
MLS Examiner at creator and editor

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


In case you have missed anything, here are some recent links with Chicago pro soccer mention:

WPS expansion draft
• John Howell, Bleacher Report: Red Stars lose two subs to Philadelphia in WPS first expansion draft
• Beau Dure, USA Today: Philly looks strong in WPS expansion draft
• Jeff Kassouf, The Equalizer: Grading the WPS expansion draft

Chicago Fire player development
• L.E. Eisenmenger, MLS player development: Chicago pushes south

Peter Wilt, Red Stars president and CEO
• Peter Wilt, Pitch Invasion: Who owns a soccer club? Creating tribalism
• Kristian Dyer, ESPNsoccernet: Wilt feeling bullish on MLS, New York

Chicago Fire, Chicago Red Stars releases
• Sept. 15, Chicago Red Stars: Two Red Stars selected in WPS expansion draft
• Sept. 16, Chicago Fire: Weekly Update: Battle for first place - Fire hosting Crew for top spot in Eastern Conference on Sunday

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


The Chicago Fire announced the signing of Costa Rican defender David Myrie on Tuesday. The 21-year-old recently played for Liga Deportiva Alajuelense of Costa Rica last season.

CLICK HERE for the team's release.


Last season's Red Stars selected in WPS expansion draft

Defender Nikki Krzysik (top) and forward Danesha Adams (bottom) will continue their Women's Professional Soccer tenure in Philadelphia in 2010. This past season's members of the Chicago Red Stars were selected by the Philadelphia Independence in the first-ever expansion draft Tuesday.

There were only 13 picks made between the Independence and Atlanta Beat, the eighth and ninth teams to join WPS. Krzysik was the fifth selection and Adams the 11th.

Krzysik started in 10 of the 14 games she played in, and Adams had two starts in 12 games. For the full results of Tuesday's draft, CLICK HERE.

Monday, September 14, 2009


As a follow-up to last month's announcement, Chicago Magic Soccer Club Technical Director Raul Diaz Arce was inducted into D.C. United's Hall of Tradition on Saturday. Here is a video of teammates and staff reflecting on his MLS career. An interesting note from Eddie Pope, talking about how Diaz Arce ran 5 miles before the team's training would even get underway:

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Chicago takes early lead but walks away with 1 point

Real Salt Lake's offense found some life in the second half, and the Chicago Fire escaped Rio Tinto Stadium with a 1-all draw Saturday night in Sandy, Utah.

For just a little more than 70 minutes, it looked like the Fire were en route to their seventh road victory. But Real's Jamison Olave netted an equalizer as he snuck behind Chicago's defense, and he almost had the game-winner in second-half stoppage time.

About 4 minutes and 40 seconds into stoppage time, Olave struck a solid header off of a corner kick, but Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch came up with a huge save as Chicago earned the one point on the road.

"We felt we could have had three (points) tonight," Fire head coach Denis Hamlett said afterward. "Obviously we fell asleep on their tying goal. But overall I thought we defended well, we had a good game plan, we made it hard for them. ... We'll take our point from the road."

The Fire (10-6-9) are currently tied for the Eastern Conference lead with 39 points alongside the Columbus Crew. But the Crew take on the Houston Dynamo on Sunday, and after that game Columbus will have played one less game than Chicago. RSL is now 9-9-7 on the season.

Chicago also had a good chance in second-half stoppage time to come away with the win Saturday night. Peter Lowry's strike above the box forced RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando to make a diving save to his left.

Chris Rolfe (pictured above) netted the Fire's lone goal in the 44th minute, his sixth goal of the season, to tie for the team lead with Brian McBride. And speaking of McBride, he made his first appearance after an eight-game layoff with a shoulder injury. McBride had one big opportunity when his 24th-minute header sailed over the net off of Mike Banner's free kick on the right side.

Busch made four saves for the Fire and Rimando had three for Real.

With limited chances throughout most of the first half, the Fire came through with a huge momentum builder entering halftime. In the 44th, Marco Pappa provided a cross from the left to Rolfe in the middle. Rolfe quickly chested the ball, and between two Royals defenders Rolfe hit the ball with the outside of his right foot and put enough velocity to strike it past Rimando's left side.

Real Salt Lake responded in the 72nd minute when Chris Wingert provided a deep ball just after he crossed the halfway line on the right side. With RSL defender Olave running past C.J. Brown and getting behind Wilman Conde of the Fire defense, Olave one-touched the ball near post and drove the ball past Busch for the 1-all score.

* * *

Next up: The Fire host the Columbus Crew on Sunday, Sept. 20, for a 2 p.m. match at Toyota Park. The game will be televised on My50 and Telefutura.

* * * thoughts: The Fire still are in great shape from a playoff standpoint, that's for sure. But escaping with a win at Rio Tinto really would have created some separation down the stretch. Instead, we're seeing a continuation of a logjam of teams in the hunt for the postseason.

Chicago should definitely take some pride in its defensive effort against an RSL team that thrives on the offensive end at home. RSL's Yura Movsisyan obviously has the ability to get into a player's head and capitalize from it. Dasan Robinson was fortunate to get away with a bit of a headlock on him, even though Movsisyan initiated the contact. Nevertheless, the Fire's defensive back line kept RSL's leading goal scorers in check. Movsisyan and Robbie Findley have combined for 16 goals this season, with Findley leading the Royals with 10.

Fire midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco was not available because of visa issues. The midfield was actually not too bad against RSL, including Justin Mapp. But Chicago always is going to miss what Blanco brings to the table, especially for set pieces.

Next Sunday is starting to shape up into one of the biggest - if not the biggest - games of the season for the Fire. Every point holds so much value during this final stretch.


Following 2-week break, Chicago a bit healthier heading into Rio Tinto

Good health is a relative term for the Chicago Fire these days. A two-week break definitely provided some necessary healing, but there still is a long way to go as Chicago visits Real Salt Lake on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium (8 p.m. CST start, televised on Fox Soccer Channel).

Center defensive back Wilman Conde could be in the starting lineup as he continues to play through hamstring problems. And then there is the speedy recovery process of target man Brian McBride (pictured).

McBride no longer is on the injury report following shoulder surgery and he is in full practice mode. Whether Fire head coach Denis Hamlett brings McBride in remains to be seen.

The disappointing statistic is that McBride still is the team leader with six goals, an obvious sign that Chicago (10-6-8) has had its share of scoring setbacks. The Fire have been shut out twice in the past three games.

And yet this game could be an opportune moment to stay on the Columbus Crew's heels, or even surpass them in the race for first in the Eastern Conference.

Columbus leads with 39 points and Chicago is right behind with 38, though the Fire have played 24 games to the Crew's 23. The Crew have a daunting task this weekend, though, when they host the Western Conference-leading Houston Dynamo on Sunday.

The Fire's concern clearly rests on Real Salt Lake (9-9-6), which has posted back-to-back shutout victories against Chivas USA and the Kansas City Wizards.

The Fire still have a large defensive crew missing (Gonzalo Segares, Daniel Woolard and Tim Ward), and heading into Saturday, that Chicago defensive line and goalkeeper Jon Busch will be tested quite often against a Real offense that generates a bunch of shots. RSL has outscored its opponents 28-10 at home, leading to a 7-1-4 record at Rio Tinto.

The Fire are road warriors this season at 6-2-4, but playing in the thin air, still battling some shorthanded setbacks defensively and Real's home dominance could all certainly play huge factors against Chicago in this one. Real Salt Lake 2, Chicago Fire 1

Sunday, September 6, 2009


She provides game-winning assist as England tops Netherlands

Through 120 minutes of battle, Chicago Red Stars midfielder Karen Carney and England defeated the Netherlands, 2-1, on Sunday to advance to the championship of the UEFA Women’s Euro 2009. It marks the first time England has reached the title game since losing the inaugural European Championships in penalty kicks against Sweden in 1984.

In the 116th minute, Carney provided the game-winning assist with a corner kick from the right side. Carney’s precise cross found Jill Scott, who headed the ball past Dutch goalkeeper Loes Geurts and two defenders standing on each side of Geurts at the goal line.

England had the clear edge in possession, but the Netherlands kept hanging around to the point where it appeared the match would eventually get to a penalty kick shootout. But toward the end of the added 30-minute session, Carney and Scott made sure the match would not get to that stage.

Carney did not start the match, surprisingly. But she was brought in as a second-half substitution for Sue Smith.

“The Holland fullbacks are very physical,” England head coach Hope Powell said. “And I wanted Jess (Clarke) to run them a bit and then bring Karen on.”

Kelly Smith gave England a 1-0 lead in the 61st minute, and Holland quickly tied up the score at 1-all just 3 minutes later with a Marlous Pieete goal.

Carney’s Euro 2009 continues this Thursday in the championship, where England will face either Germany or Norway in the final. Germany and Norway battle in their semifinal match on Monday.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

REPORT: ROLFE TO JOIN AALBORG's Greg Lalas has an exclusive with the Chicago Fire's Chris Rolfe. Rolfe will be joining Aalborg Boldspilklub of the Danish Superliga in January.

So far in 2009, Rolfe has played in all 24 Fire matches, but early on he was coming off the bench for Denis Hamlett's squad. He also has been used in the midfield more so than his customary role up front.

Rolfe has 16 starts this season in 1,502 minutes. He has scored five goals and also has an assist. In 2008, Rolfe had his best MLS season with career highs in goals (9) and assists (7).


Chicago's road-home dynamic could be one for the MLS history books

We have been through every nuance of explaining just how awkward the 2009 Major League Soccer season has been for the Chicago Fire.

They win on the road (6-2-4), and they can't capitalize at Toyota Park (4-4-4). Nevertheless, this team is sitting near the top of the Eastern Conference and is in good shape for the playoffs at the moment.

So with an extended break in the action, this is a good moment to quickly reflect on where this year's Fire team would rank in terms of authenticity. Because the Fire's road-home trend does not happen that often. There are six remaining games (three home, three away) to change their ways, but as things stand, just take a look at how rare this breed of team is.

In the entirety of MLS play, only one team has posted a .500 or worse record at home to coincide with a winning road record and advanced to the postseason. That team was the 2003 N.Y./N.J. MetroStars, which posted a 5-6-4 home record, 6-4-5 road, then fell to the New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

That's the only instance. And if the 2009 season ended right now with their current road and home winning percentages, the Fire would be the second to accomplish that feat.

There have been some other instances when a team posted a .500 or worse percentage both at home and on the road and landed in the playoffs, but most of those situations meant they were playing within a weak conference overall. Four teams fall into this category.

Two of them faced each other in the opening round of the playoffs in 2002, when every Eastern Conference team had a losing overall regular-season record. Of the three East playoff teams, two had a .500 mark at home and a losing record on the road. They were the Revs (7-7-0 home, 5-7-2 away) and Fire (5-5-4 home, 6-8-0 away). New England advanced past Chicago in the East quarterfinals.

In case you are wondering, the other two teams with a .500 or less percentage both at home and on the road to advance to the playoffs were the 1999 Tampa Bay Mutiny (third in the East with a 6-10 home record and 8-8 road record) and the 2004 Revolution (6-6-3 home, 2-7-6 road). The '04 Revs topped the Columbus Crew in the East semis but fell to D.C. United in penalty kicks in the East finals.

Clearly the Fire's 2009 season is typically unheard of. This type of road-home trend just isn't supposed to happen. Even the worst of teams in this league generally hold their own at home.

All you have to do is look at the 2008 season. All 14 teams had a winning record at home. Everyone. On the road, only two teams were above the .500 mark - the Crew and Fire, both at 6-5-4.

The Fire certainly are capable of turning this discussion into a moot point. But for anyone who has watched the 2009 version of this organization, it is hard to fathom that the Fire are battling for the East lead without having a successful home stretch run to lean on.