Thursday, October 29, 2009


My recent posts on
• Oct. 29: Mike Banner's versatility pays off
• Oct. 28: Fire's, Rev's depth put to test this season

Also in the news:
• Cuauhtemoc Blanco: Blanco to leave Fire for Mexico
• U.S WNT: U.S. tops Germany, 1-0 / Local focus: Red Stars forward Ella Masar came into the game in the 73rd minute for Amy Rodriguez. Crystal Lake native and Boston Breakers defender Amy LePeilbet started in defense. Former Red Star and current Sky Blue FC midfielder Carli Lloyd also got the start.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Fire, Revs square off for eighth postseason affair

On my Chicago Fire blog, I list the complete rundown of the playoff history between the Fire and New England Revolution. CLICK HERE to read my post.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Plus, a look back at a memorable day in Fire history

On my Chicago Fire blog, I note the schedule for the upcoming playoff series between the Fire and New England Revolution, and mention the 11th anniversary of the Fire's 1998 MLS Cup (right). Read the below links from Sunday's ESPN Chicago posts:

This date in Fire history: Oct. 25, 1998: Expansion Fire end D.C. United's early reign, win MLS Cup
Fire face Revolution in Round 1

Saturday, October 24, 2009


On my Chicago Fire blog, I take a quick look at some international soccer news involving a couple of former Fire players. Most noteworthy was Rennes defender Carlos Bocanegra, who returned from his one-game suspension.

From red to green: Former Fire defender helps Rennes blank Montpellier

Friday, October 23, 2009


On my Chicago Fire blog, I name my regular-season MVP for 2009: defender Wilman Conde. Sure, he missed a third of the season, but quite a few others on this team have missed extended time, too. Read the below links from Friday's ESPN Chicago posts:

Conde is Fire's MVP

This date in Fire history: Oct. 23, 2008: Chris Rolfe's three first-half goals lead Fire past Red Bulls


On Friday, the Chicago Red Stars signed Oswego native and DePaul standout Julianne Sitch. She played this past season for the Women's Professional Soccer champion Sky Blue FC out in New Jersey.

CLICK HERE for the team's release.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Chris Armas inducted into Ring of Fire

The Chicago Fire clinched a playoff berth Thursday with a 1-0 victory over Chivas USA. And at halftime, former Fire midfielder Chris Armas was inducted into the Fire's "Ring of Fire" Hall of Fame.

Links to my stories are below:

Chris Armas: Ring of Fire 2009 inductee

Fire muster momentum heading into playoffs

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


The Chicago Fire host Chivas USA for a 7 p.m. match Thursday at Toyota Park. With a win or draw, Chicago guarantees itself a postseason spot.

Here are several links posted Wednesday at my Chicago Fire blog:

• Chivas vs. Fire notebook: Fire defender Conde questionable with flu-like symptoms
• Zach Thornton: 'I'm glad I got through it': Catching up with the ex-Fire goalkeeper
• This date in Chicago Fire history: Oct. 21, 2000 - Fire top Fusion to win U.S. Open Cup


For my latest bits of Chicago Fire news, notes, commentary and interviews, feel free to bookmark my Fire page. I anticipate updating it on a daily basis, with several posts per day on occasion.

My first entry includes a detailed look at the Fire's playoff scenario entering Thursday's match against Chivas USA. A win or draw will do the trick, but quite a few factors play against the Fire should they remain at 42 points.

Feel free to comment on the blog or e-mail me at And thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Playoff berth still eludes Chicago entering final week

The Chicago Fire and New England Revolution both had opportunities on the offensive end, more so for the Revs. When everything was said and done, Chicago took some minimal satisfaction in pulling off a scoreless draw Saturday night at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

Chicago's MLS playoff qualification is not quite here yet. The Fire (10-7-12) needed both FC Dallas and D.C. United to lose their matches Saturday. But United topped the defending champion Columbus Crew, and Dallas continued its incredible playoff push with a win over the Colorado Rapids.

On Saturday, two big offensive opportunities involved Fire midfielder Chris Rolfe. The first came in the 39th minute, when his looping shot bounced over the net as he tried to beat Revs goalkeeper Matt Reis and defender Darrius Barnes. The other chance was in the 62nd, when Rolfe was bumped by Reis in the box.

That wasn't how referee Jorge Gonzalez saw it.

Rolfe found himself in a one-on-one situation against Reis, and he tried to dribble around the keeper to the left. Some contact was certainly evident, with replays showing a bump between Rolfe's leg and Reis' arm. Rolfe fell to the turf, and Gonzalez booked Rolfe a yellow card for taking a dive.

"(Reis) did a good job pulling his hands back, but his elbow did catch my foot, and I went down there because of the contact," Rolfe said to Fox Soccer Channel sideline reporter Katie Witham.

Reis made four saves for the Revs (10-10-9, 39 points) and Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch stepped up with seven for the clean sheet.

The Revs mustered some strong attacking stretches in both halves, with high-quality opportunities to get on the scoreboard.

One big missed chance was in the 24th minute. Fire defender Mike Banner had to shift toward the middle of the field for a clearance, and when New England regained possession, Jeff Larentowicz found Sainey Nyassi wide open on the right flank. Nyassi ripped a shot, but Busch batted it away.

Another golden chance for the Revs was in the 57th, when Kevin Alston made a perfect pass to Kheli Dube, but the ball scooted by when Dube minimally should have had a shot on goal.

* * *

Next up: The Fire enter their final regular-season match of the 2009 season when they host Chivas USA at 7 p.m. Thursday at Toyota Park (televised on ESPN2).

* * * thoughts: Considering the match was on the Revs' home turf, and New England needed the points a bit more than the Fire, Chicago should be pleased with its defensive effort. They did dodge a few bullets, but give the Revs some credit for setting up five corners within the first 22 minutes and then opening up the second half with a good attack, too. The Fire also did not have Wilman Conde at center back.

Gonzalez's poor judgment on the Rolfe-Reis situation definitely is a sour note. Apparently he wasn't in a good position to make the call and saw things differently from where he was. We've just seen this too frequently within MLS this season, and you can chalk this wrong call among the dozens (maybe hundreds?) of bad decisions. This could have punched Chicago's ticket into the postseason, and the Chivas match would not carry any significant value.

In a way, this could turn into a good thing now that Chicago has to play for a draw or win. The Fire still don't have a whole lot of momentum heading into the postseason, and garnering their first win since Aug. 23 would be a huge boost.

The team's offensive creativeness had glimpses of working. The execution for the final touch simply did not pan out.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Chicago Red Stars forward and University of Illinois All-American Ella Masar is headed to Augsburg, Germany, as she joins the U.S. Women's National Team for the squad's Oct. 29 match against defending FIFA World Cup champion Germany. However, the U.S. WNT loses another Red Star with midfielder Megan Rapinoe undergoing knee surgery Friday. Rapinoe's injury is expected to sideline her for only a few weeks.

CLICK HERE for the full details at


The last time the Chicago Fire won a game was a thrilling 3-2 comeback against the visiting Colorado Rapids on Aug. 23, erasing a 2-0 second-half deficit. Since then, Chicago has posted a 0-2-3 record.

The Fire clearly want to get out of their funk, especially since they still control their own playoff fate. They take on the host New England Revolution at 5 p.m. (CST) Saturday at Gillette Stadium (game televised on Fox Soccer Channel).

Chicago (10-7-11, 41 points) has had two weeks off to heal up and shore up a few things. The return of Chris Rolfe (pictured) from a hamstring injury certainly is a pick-me-up. Cuauhtemoc Blanco also should be available, though Blanco's recent Mexican national team work probably will be taken into consideration for head coach Denis Hamlett's lineup.

The Fire-Revs rivalry always is a heated one. New England (10-10-8, 38 points) is hanging in there with the eighth playoff spot if the season ended prior to this match. The Revs have found a way to win among the most dire circumstances on the injury front, and head coach Steve Nicol somehow, some way gets the most out of his players.

Chicago is not in for an easy match Saturday, that is for sure. But with a league-high six road victories, the Fire have mounted some significant accomplishments away from Toyota Park. This one should clinch another playoff berth: Fire 1, Revolution 0

Thursday, October 15, 2009


McHenry, Ill., native Peter Wilt officially was introduced by the Milwaukee Wave as the team's new president and CEO on Wednesday in Milwaukee. Wilt still will maintain several roles with the Chicago Red Stars, where he had been the team's president and CEO.

Here are some useful links:

• Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: New boss wants Wave to reach out
• 19 years later, Wilt returns to lead the Wave
• Pitch Invasion: Career Decision: Full Circle with the Milwaukee Wave (by Peter Wilt)
• Daily Herald: Red Stars' president Wilt leaves for Milwaukee club
• Peter Wilt leaves the Red Stars to become the CEO & president of the Milwaukee Wave
• New York Post: Wilt heads to Milwaukee (Soccer: Extra Time)
• Southtown Star: Wilt leaves Red Stars

• Peter Wilt returns home to become president and CEO of Milwaukee Wave
• Wilt returns to Wave as president, CEO

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


• Chicago Red Stars president and CEO Peter Wilt is joining the Milwaukee Wave of the National Indoor Soccer League in a similar capacity. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first posted the news Tuesday morning. The McHenry, Ill., native and former Chicago Fire general manager will be introduced at a press conference Wednesday, and official information will be available at and

• Chicago Fire midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco is going to help launch EA Sports' FIFA Soccer 10 on Monday, Oct. 19, at the Best Buy Hancock Center store, 875 N. Michigan Ave., in Chicago. Starting at 4 p.m., Blanco will be signing autographs as the popular video game begins its U.S. launch to the public on Tuesday, Oct. 20. But you don't have to wait till that date to get a chance to try the game out. The Oct. 19 launch event will include the opportunity to play the video game in an in-store Xbox 360 tournament. CLICK HERE for more information regarding the tournament registration.

• Former Chicago Fire head coach and current U.S. Men's National Team head coach Bob Bradley spoke for his team after learning that forward Charlie Davies was seriously injured in a one-car fatal crash on the George Washington Parkway early Tuesday morning: "Obviously, as a team we were saddened to learn this news," Bradley said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Charlie and his family, as well as the people in the car and the families of the others involved. As a team, we are relying on each other in a moment that has for sure hit us all hard." The U.S. MNT, already qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, complete their qualifying round with a 7 p.m. (CST) match Wednesday against Costa Rica at RFK Stadium (game televised on ESPN2).

Monday, October 5, 2009


Red Stars midfielder to face Germany on Oct. 29

Chicago Red Stars midfielder Megan Rapinoe was one of 18 players named to the U.S. Women's National Team on Monday for the team's Oct. 29 match against Germany.

This year she has played in all seven of the U.S.'s international matches, posting two goals, an assist and a team-high five points. The U.S. is 6-0-1 in international play this year.

Among the other players, 2009 Red Stars midfielder Carli Lloyd is on the U.S. squad. She currently is a Women's Professional Soccer free agent. Locally, Naperville native Brittany Bock of the Los Angeles Sol and Crystal Lake native Amy LePeilbet of the Boston Breakers are on the roster.

CLICK HERE to read the release at

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Donovan pushes L.A. into first in the West

Chicago Fire players were colliding with each other - Jon Busch and Wilman Conde (right), Mike Banner and Calen Carr. There were some open gaps within the Fire's defense, including leaving Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan wide open a couple of times above the box. And then the Fire had minimal possession of the ball for the final 45 minutes.

The Fire still had some chances through all of the above shortcomings, but L.A. pulled off the 1-0 victory Friday night at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The Galaxy overtake the Houston Dynamo for first place in the Western Conference and inches closer to the MLS playoffs. They can clinch a postseason spot if Chivas USA earns a draw or defeats D.C. United on Saturday.

Donovan tallied the game's lone goal in the 42nd minute, making a strong run side-by-side against the Fire's Logan Pause, off of a deep send from Chris Klein. Pause hit the ground and Donovan drew Busch far from the goal box. The Galaxy midfielder chipped the ball well over Busch, the ball bounced once and into the back of the net for a 1-0 L.A. lead.

The Galaxy goal came off of a counter from Peter Lowry's corner kick attempt. David Beckham started the counter with a quick pass to Donovan, who dropped it back to Klein and then led Donovan with the send.

It was that type of ball movement that helped L.A. control much of the second half, while Chicago could not muster a run of possession for most of the second half and portions of the first.

There were some moments when the Fire offense came close to striking, though. In the 27th minute, Brian McBride had a deep strike with some pace on it to force Donovan Ricketts to make the diving save. In the 65th, Patrick Nyarko chipped the ball at a difficult angle from the left side, but his touch was just wide right. In the 89th, there was a huge scramble where Brandon Prideaux had a good opportunity in traffic, and second-half sub Stefan Dimitrov also got a foot on the ball before L.A. stopped the attack in front of the goal line.

The brightest spot for Chicago was the play of Busch, who made a couple of top-notch saves (five total), including a laser shot from Beckham in the 86th minute, reacting quickly enough to push the ball away with his right glove.

* * *

Next up: The Fire have a bit of a break until they visit the New England Revolution for a 5 p.m. match on Saturday, Oct. 17. The game will be televised on Fox Soccer Channel.

* * * thoughts: The Fire have had plenty of injuries and lineup changes to deal with, this time playing without the likes of Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Chris Rolfe. But at this point in the season with any lineup, the extent of miscommunication was pretty extreme.

Additionally, it looked like the Fire players did not know how they wanted to attack the Galaxy defense. There were some half chances, there were some opportune moments when a better run or decision would have challenged Ricketts a bit more. For some reason Chicago hasn't forced Ricketts to break into a sweat this year, as many Fire fans probably remember the Fire's zero shots on goal the previous time they played the Galaxy at Toyota Park. Most of Ricketts' saves, other than the McBride shot, were pretty routine.

One player who has not had a noteworthy game in a while is midfielder Marco Pappa. He did lead the team with three shots on goal Friday, including one long strike that had some velocity but went straight to Ricketts. With numerous soccer skills in his arsenal, for some reason he just looks lost on the pitch when he doesn't have Blanco playing alongside him. Pappa needed to pull the trigger earlier in the 41st minute on a good setup from Nyarko. And McBride provided a nice chip pass in the 88th minute, but Pappa's shot went way left and probably should have minimally been placed on goal.

The final stretch is all about finding some momentum as the playoff picture pans out, and Chicago needs to find a way to put an end to its five-game winless rut.

Friday, October 2, 2009


The Chicago Fire can inch closer to a playoff berth Friday night when they take on the host Los Angeles Galaxy for a 10 p.m. (CST) match at The Home Depot Center (televised on ESPN2). Both teams are 10-6-11 with 41 points. If either team wins and D.C. United loses Saturday, they will join the Columbus Crew as the only postseason qualifiers to date.

CLICK HERE for my full Week 29 MLS Preview and predictions at
* * *

Other recent soccer links:
• World Cup qualifying: Former Chicago Fire head coach Bob Bradley named his 22-man U.S. Men's National Team roster on Thursday in preparation for the U.S.'s final two World Cup qualifiers. Also, will Bradley's MLS wins record fall this season? Seattle Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid will need a huge run to dethrone Bradley.
• CL's LePeilbet on U.S. WNT podcast: In case you missed it earlier in the week, check out a U.S. Soccer podcast featuring Crystal Lake native and Boston Breakers defender Amy LePeilbet, the WPS Defender of the Year for 2009.