Weekly update: Fire take a break
and the first time in the last three months -- with a pair of 3-1 wins last week at Soldier Field over the Kansas City Wizards on Wednesday and D.C. United Saturday. The crucial six points have moved the Fire from fifth place to third position in the Eastern Conference standings, just five and four points behind leaders Columbus (8-5-10, 34 pts.) and the second place MetroStars (9-9-6, 33 pts.) with five games remaining for the "Men in Red" in regular season play. After finishing a stretch of five games in 15 days, the Fire will enjoy a well-deserved week break, with their next match coming on Saturday, Sept. 18 when they travel] to the Nation's Capital to finish the season series with D.C. United at RFK Stadium (6:30 p.m. CT, Comcast Cable).
Fifth Largest Crowd in Fire History Sees Fire and Club America Post Wins
A crowd of 34,444 fans - the fifth largest crowd in Fire history - filed into Soldier Field last Saturday night to witness the third soccer doubleheader of the year hosted by the Chicago Fire. Most of the audience went home happy, as supporters saw their "Men in Red" post a 3-1 victory over Eastern Conference rival D.C. United and Mexican club legends Club America defeat their rivals from Pachuca 1-0 in the night's second match. When coupled with the record crowd of 39,529 on July 11 that witnessed an historic Fire-U.S. Soccer doubleheader at the Lakefront venue, two of the club's five largest crowds have been registered during the 2004 season. Counting Saturday night's crowd, 226,754 fans have passed through the Soldier Field gates this season, with the team's average of 17,443 fans per game placing the Fire second in MLS behind only the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Chicago Fire AthletiCo Sports Medicine Injury Report
Armas, Chris - R meniscus tear - out
Razov, Ante - R ankle bone spur - out
Weekly Media Luncheon Series Returns This Wednesday at Lake Forest College
The Chicago Fire Media Relations Department has announced that its weekly Wednesday Media Luncheon series will return this Wednesday, Sept. 8 following the team's practice session at its Lake Forest College training facility at 12:00 p.m. CT. All Fire players and coaches will be available for the media in attendance immediately after training or during the Luncheon inside the old Halas Hall. Following this week, the Fire Media Relations staff will host luncheons on three more Wednesdays during the MLS regular season on Sept. 15, Sept. 29 and Oct. 13.
Fire Players on Leave of Absence for World Cup Qualifying; Ralph Tallies First Goal for Reggae Boyz
Fire players Damani Ralph, Andy Williams, Dipsy Selolwane and newly signed Andy Herron all took a leave of absence from Dave Sarachan's squad this weekend to help their respective national teams as World Cup Qualifying continues. The Jamaican duo of Ralph and Williams bowed 1-2 to a stronger Panama side Saturday at Kingston's National Stadium, but not before Ralph tallied his first goal of his international career in the 82nd minute to even the score at 1-1. Panama's Julio Valdes notched the eventual game-winner in the 90th minute to give the Central Americans the victory. Costa Rican forward Andy Herron - who was signed by the Fire just last Tuesday - started for the "Ticos" Sunday against Guatemala, but was sent off in the 17th minute by referee Kevin Stott. The home side of Guatemala defeated Costa Rica 2-1. Finally, Fire forward Dipsy Selolwane crossed the Atlantic over the weekend but sat out of Botswana's African zone qualifier against Guinea Sunday, as the unbeaten Guineans moved to the top of Group Five with a 4-0 rout of Botswana. Jamaica will visit El Salvador this Wednesday, while Costa Rica hosts Canada at Saprissa Stadium in San Jose.
Fire Fights for Fourth Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Title Sept. 22 Against Kansas City Wizards
The Chicago Fire is hoping that last Wednesday's 3-1 win over the Kansas City Wizards was a sign of things to come, as both clubs have earned the right to square off for the 2004 crown of the nation's oldest soccer tournament - the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The Fire and Wizards will do battle in this year's final on Wednesday, Sept. 22 at Arrowhead Stadium, with kick-off set for 7:30 p.m. CT. The "Men in Red" advanced to the championship match the same way they got into the semifinals, as forward Dipsy Selolwane headed in an Orlando Perez cross to give the Fire a 1-0 victory, this time in the 107th minute of its semifinal contest against the A-League's Charleston Battery on Aug. 25. The triumph in the double overtime thriller earned the Fire its first back-to-back appearances in the Open Cup final and the club's fourth trip in seven seasons of play in the competition, while the Wizards will be making their first-ever appearance in a U.S. Open Cup final. The two sides have met once before in a Cup final, when the Wizards used a 1-0 victory in MLS Cup 2000 to capture their only domestic title. The three-time Open Cup champion Fire is looking to become the first repeat champion in the competition since the New York Pancyprian-Freedoms accomplished the feat in 1982-83.
Get Well, Captain
Last Wednesday Fire midfielder Chris Armas underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. The procedure was performed by U.S. national team physician Bert Mendelbaum in Santa Monica, Calif. During the surgery, Mendelbaum removed scar tissue that was causing inflammation. The timeframe for Armas' return to the field is 4-6 weeks, meaning the U.S. international and Fire captain is expected to miss at least the next three league matches as well as the Fire's U.S. Open Cup Championship match against the Kansas City Wizards on Sept. 22 and the U.S. national team's World Cup Qualifier against Panama this Wednesday. The Chicago Fire family wishes Armas a speedy recovery.
Illinois Soccer Hall of Fame Has New Home
The Chicago Fire, the Illinois State Soccer Association (ISSA) and the Village of Bridgeview announced last week that the Fire's new stadium in Bridgeview - scheduled to break ground this fall - will permanently house the Illinois Soccer Hall of Fame. On initial display at the new stadium will be the Dewar Cup (U.S. Open Cup), which has been won eight times by Illinois teams - 1938 ABA Sparta, 1940 ABA Sparta, 1946: Vikings, 1953 Falcons, 1990 AAC Eagles and the Chicago Fire - the most successful MLS team in U.S. Open Cup competition - in 1998, 2000, and 2003. On permanent display will be a history of soccer in Illinois, a photo history of the current Hall of Fame members including the 21 Illinois Hall of Fame members that are also National Hall of Fame members in addition to local soccer memorabilia and cups that span the nearly 90 year history of the Illinois State Soccer Association.
Hall of Fame Induction Set for Sept. 18 at Bob Chinn's in Chicago
Chicago Fire GM Peter Wilt is one of 11 inductees into the Illinois Soccer Hall of Fame in 2004. The 44-year-old Wilt will join fellow inductees Flo Dyson, Nedeljko Kralj, Federico Lopez, Peter Ioakimidis, Julio Parrales, Frank Tomek, Phil Riess, Joseph Soehn, Bruno Trapikas and Len Ziehm, all of whom will be honored with the state's highest soccer honor at ISSA's 2004 Soccer Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony and Banquet on Saturday, Sept. 18 at Bob Chinn's Restaurant in Chicago beginning at 6:30 p.m. CT. For more information, please contact ISSA at 773-283-2800.