Fire to make Southland debut Wednesday, welcome Galaxy to Soldier Field on Sunday
After pushing its home undefeated streak to three games courtesy of a 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes last Saturday night at Soldier Field, the Eastern Conference leading Chicago Fire (4-3-5, 17 pts.) will prepare for a busy week in which it will take on one familiar foe and an opponent it hasn't faced in three years. The Fire will make its unofficial debut in the Chicago Southland this Wednesday, June 23 when it takes the field at St. Laurence HS in Burbank, Ill. in the nitecap of a doubleheader of soccer action against the Premier Development League's Chicago Fire Reserves at 8 p.m. CT. The first match of the "Fire Family" doubleheader will feature the newly-formed Chicago Fire Juniors U-23 college development squad against the Under-20 side from the Fire's Mexican League sister team Monarcas Morelia at 6 p.m. CT. Media members planning on covering the doubleheader must present a 2004 Fire or MLS credential for admittance. The Fire will then return to MLS action on Sunday, June 26 when they look for revenge against the Western Conference co-leading Los Angeles Galaxy (6-4-3, 21 pts.) at Soldier Field in a match that kicks off at 6 p.m. CT. Fire fans can follow the match live via Chicago radio stations WRTO 1200 AM (Spanish) and WNVR 1030 AM (Polish) and worldwide at www.Chicago-Fire.com (English). The first 10,000 fans through the gates at Soldier Field this Sunday evening will receive a pack of 2004 Chicago Fire trading cards, courtesy of AthletiCo and the Chicago Fire.
The Fire will take on the Fire Reserves for only the second time since the PDL club's inception in 2001. That year, on June 19, the two clubs battled to a physical 2-2 draw at Cougar Field on the campus of St. Xavier University in Chicago. Eric Wynalda and Evan Whitfield tallied the goals for the "Men in Red" while Sean Reti and future MLS player Gavin Glinton scored for the Fire Reserves. Several ex-Fire Reserves players have used the successful PDL team as a springboard to America's top-flight soccer league, including the Fire's Denny Clanton and Matt Pickens and the Los Angeles Galaxy's Ned Grabavoy, all of who helped the Reserves to the 2003 PDL Championship match.
Chicago will face a more familiar foe in the Galaxy, who defeated the Fire 3-2 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. in a battle for the top overall spot in the MLS table just two weekends ago. The Fire trail the all-time regular season series against Los Angeles 8-11-1 and will be looking to break a 5-5-0 deadlock against the clubs in matches played in Chicagoland. The Fire hosted the Galaxy three times at Naperville's Cardinal Stadium in a span of six weeks last season and came away victorious in all three contests en route to a four-game season sweep against L.A. across all competitions. In the first meeting at Cardinal on Aug. 20 the Fire used Orlando Perez's first career game-winner to squeak out a 1-0 victory. On Sep. 23 in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Semifinals, the "Men in Red" used goals by Ante Razov, DaMarcus Beasley and Damani Ralph to register a 3-2 win that catapulted the Fire into its third Open Cup final in six years. The Fire then closed its tenure in Naperville on Oct. 4 against Los Angeles with a 2-0 victory.
Chicago Fire ACE/Tru-Fit Injury Report
Mapp, Justin - lower back strain - probable
Marsch, Jesse - R ankle cartilage damage - out
Fire and Carry On to hold second annual Kicks 4 Cancer 3-V-3 tourney
The Chicago Fire has announced that the club will once again team up with Carry On, a non-profit organization created to raise significant funds to support the American Cancer Society (ACS), to support the Second Annual Kicks 4 Cancer 3-V-3 Soccer Tournament, which will be held Aug. 7-8 on the Chicago lakefront at Montrose Beach. Approximately 150 boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 18 helped raise over $3,000 last year during the event, which is held both as a means to raise money for the Chicago area ACS and to encourage soccer skills among youth. The cost per team to participate in the 2004 event is just $150, and each team will play a minimum of three games. Age-appropriate brackets are forming right now for both boys and girls teams, and all team members receive a tournament t-shirt and a free ticket voucher to a special Chicago Fire "Kicks 4 Cancer 3 v 3 Soccer Night" at Soldier Field. The winners of each age bracket get special prize packages and the top two teams that raise the most money for ACS will be recognized at an upcoming Fire game. Interested players and sponsors can visit the event's website at www.kicks4cancer.org, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call Ryan Bradley of the Chicago ACS at 773-615-9432 for more information.
Fire's internationals go 3-for-3 in World Cup Qualifying
It was a successful weekend for the Fire's international contingent, as the national teams of the United States, Jamaica and Botswana all registered important wins in FIFA World Cup Qualifying on the road to Germany 2006. All five senior international players - midfielders Chris Armas, DaMarcus Beasley and Andy Williams and forwards Damani Ralph and Dipsy Selolwane - will return to the Fire camp early in the week to resume training with the club.
Selolwane started off the weekend's play in fine fashion Saturday by scoring the game-winning goal just five minutes into Botswana's 2-0 win over Malawi in Gabarone in group 5 play in African Zone qualifying. The goal was Selolwane's eighth of his senior international career in his 23rd career appearance for the "Zebras," who joined Guinea and Tunisia atop the group 5 standings at three points after the second of potentially 10 matches in the semifinal stage.
Selolwane wasn't the only Fire player to knock home a deciding goal over the weekend, as Beasley notched his second game-winner in as many games for the U.S. national team Sunday afternoon in a 3-2 win over Grenada at the National Cricket Ground in St. George's, Grenada. The result helped the "Stars-and-Stripes" move into the semifinal group stage of CONCACAF qualifying. Beasley's team-high fourth goal of 2004 - and the eighth of his senior international career - in the 77th minute proved to be the clinching goal of the away leg of the home-and-home series against the "Spice Boys," which the U.S. won on aggregate 6-2. Beasley played all 90 minutes in his 35th career match, as did the Fire's captain Armas, who earned his 57th cap under U.S. boss Bruce Arena in the victory. The U.S. now moves on to the semifinal stage of CONCACAF qualifying for Germany 2006, a pool stage that will include Jamaica, Panama and El Salvador.
The Jamaican national team advanced to CONCACAF's semifinal stage courtesy of a 3-0 triumph over Haiti Sunday evening at the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica. Williams would earn his 79th cap for the Reggae Boyz after earning the starting nod from Technical Director Carl Brown, while Ralph would play in his sixth international match for Jamaica after entering the match as a substitute in the 70th minute. The win gave Jamaica a 4-1 aggregate win in the series and moved the "Reggae Boyz" into the same CONCACAF qualifying semifinal group as the United States.
Clanton earns high marks in first career start
Fresh off his first career appearance in an MLS match on June 12 at Los Angeles, Fire defender Denny Clanton earned his first-ever appearance in Dave Sarachan's starting line-up last Saturday in the Fire's 1-1 draw with San Jose at Soldier Field. The 22-year-old Aurora, Ill. native played the full 90 minutes for the club and earned the praise of Sarachan and his teammates after the match. "I thought Denny was good, very solid," said Sarachan. "It's important for young guys to get a good start to the game, and I thought his start was excellent. He got the ball on his feet and made good passes and defensively I thought he did a very good job. I had a lot of confidence in Denny coming in and he did a good job." Fans can expect to see more of Clanton this Wednesday when he and the Fire square off against his former squad, the PDL's Chicago Fire Reserves, at St. Laurence HS in Burbank, Ill. Clanton was named to the All-PDL Team in 2003 and the PDL Defender of the Year in 2002 during his three-year tenure with the Fire Reserves.
Fire welcomes Haitian midfielder Alexander Boucicot for trial
The Fire has announced that Haitian national team midfielder Alexander Boucicot will begin a one-week trial with the club beginning on Tuesday. American soccer fans will remember Boucicot as the goal-scorer for the Haitians in the team's 1-1 draw with the United States in an international friendly on Mar. 13 at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Fla. The Fire is also awaiting the arrival of Costa Rican midfielder Carlos Johnson for a trial with the club, but visa issues have delayed the arrival of the player.
Fire general manager Peter Wilt elected to Illinois State Soccer Association Hall of Fame
The Chicago Fire family would like to congratulate GM Peter Wilt, who last week was named a member of the Illinois Soccer Hall of Fame by the Illinois State Soccer Association. Wilt is one of 11 members of the ISSA's "Class of 2004" that will be recognized during the organization's Hall of Fame Banquet on Sep. 18 at Bob Chinn's Restaurant in Chicago. The 44-year-old Wilt began his soccer career in 1987 with the indoor Milwaukee Wave before being named GM of the Chicago Power in 1990. After leaving for the Minnesota Thunder in 1994, Wilt would return to Illinois in 1997 to help the then MLS expansion team Chicago Fire begin operations. Wilt has helped the Fire become a perennial contender for the MLS Cup on the field while helping champion worthy causes in the community as the President of the FireWorks for Kids Foundation. The Chicago Fire would also like to congratulate Chicago Sun-Times reporter Len Ziehm for his induction in the Illinois Soccer Hall of Fame. Ziehm has covered soccer in Chicagoland and beyond since the days of the Chicago Sting in the 1980's and has diligently covered the Fire for the Sun-Times since the team's inception in 1998.
U.S.-Fire doubleheader fast approaching
Fire Reserves advance to third round of Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
After an 11-year absence, only 20 days remain until the U.S. men's national team makes its return to Chicago, as the Fire and U.S. Soccer will host an international doubleheader on Sunday, July 11 at Soldier Field. The U.S. squad will begin the historic evening of soccer on the banks of Lake Michigan at 6 p.m. CT when it hosts the Polish national team in their second meeting of the year. The Fire will then host the New England Revolution at 8:30 p.m. in the Revs' first visit to Soldier Field since the Fire's exciting 1-0 overtime victory in last November's 2003 MLS Eastern Conference Final. Advance tickets ranging in price levels from $28 to $80 can be purchased through Ticketmaster outlets or by calling 312-559-1212 or visiting www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets can also be purchased at the Chicago Fire Offices, located at 980 N. Michigan, Suite 1998 (corner of Oak/Michigan) in Chicago. Group discounts are also available and can be arranged by calling 1-888-MLS-FIRE.
The Chicago Fire Reserves once again dominated during play in the 2004 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, this time registering a 5-1 road victory against the Pro Soccer League's New Hampshire Phantoms last Wednesday in Manchester, N.H. to advance to the third round of the nation's oldest soccer tournament. The Reserves used a pair of goals from Julian Nash and a trio of assists from Boyzzz Khumalo to easily defeat the Phantoms. The Reserves will have to hit the road again for this next round when they travel to upstate New York to take on the A-League's Rochester Raging Rhinos. The third round match between the Reserves and Rhinos will take place on Wednesday, June 30 at Frontier Field in Rochester, NY at 6:35 p.m. CT.
Fire Reserves advance to third round of Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup