CHICAGO - The Chicago Fire Reserves will return to action for the first time in over a month on Saturday, June 18, when the squad faces off against their counterparts from fellow Eastern Conference club the Kansas City Wizards Reserves at the Lemont High School Soccer Complex, located at 13100 S. Bell Road (corner of 131st Street and Bell Road) in southwest suburban Lemont, IL. Prior to the MLS Reserve Division contest, the local Premier Developmental League (PDL) affiliate, the Chicago Fire Premier, will take on the Thunder Bay Chill, a Canadian PDL side hailing from Ontario, in the first game of an MLS Reserve Division-United Soccer Leagues (USL) doubleheader. The twin bill of soccer action will kick off with the Fire Reserves-Thunder Bay match at 5:30 p.m. CT, with the Fire-Wizards Reserve League contest to follow at 8:00 p.m. CT. Tickets to the doubleheader cost $8 for adults and $5 for children and students with a valid student ID.
The contest between the Fire Reserves and Wizards Reserves will mark the first-ever meeting between the two clubs in MLS Reserve Division action. Major League Soccer expanded the roster size for its 12 franchises to 28 players to accommodate the new Reserve Division, which consists of a 12-game schedule that are played in conjunction with MLS regular season matches. The Reserve Division was designed to allow the League's younger players a stage to perform on outside of the regular first-team matches, allowing more players to hone their abilities in game conditions and push harder for time with their first-team sides. The Fire Reserves have already seen newcomers such as defender Gonzalo Segares and forward Chad Barrett find increased playing time with the "Men in Red" as a result of their play in the Reserve Division.
The Fire Reserves enter tomorrow's contest with a 2-2-2 mark and eight points, tying them with Colorado and San Jose for a share of fifth place in the Reserve Division's single-table standings. The Wizards Reserves have gone winless (0-2-3, 3 pts.) in their first five contests and sit in a 10th place tie alongside Chivas USA in the standings. Barrett leads the Fire Reserves in scoring this season with three goals, which places the rookie striker in a four-way tie for sixth place in Reserve Division play, while forward Will Johnson, D/M Tony Sanneh and midfielder Scott Buete all share the team's assist lead with two helpers each.
Chicago will be without the services of three of its Reserve team regulars, as Barrett, M/F Will John and Johnson are currently playing at the FIFA World Youth Championship in Holland. John and Barrett are representing the U.S. Under-20 National Team in the tournament, while Johnson, a native of suburban Woodridge, is starting for the Canadian U-20s. The three Fire rookies will be in action tomorrow as pool play in the tournament winds down, with the U.S. (1-0-1, 4 pts.) taking on Egypt (0-2-0, 0 pts.) at 6:30 a.m. CT (live on Fox Soccer Channel and Galavision) in a Group D battle at Arke Stadium in Enschede, Holland, while Canada (0-1-1, 1 pt.) will fight for its tournament life in a Group E clash against Italy (0-2-0, 0 pts.) at 6:30 a.m. CT at Parkstad Limburg Stadium in Kerkrade, Holland.
The Fire Premier (5-0-1, 16 pts.) enters tomorrow's nitecap as the only undefeated team of the Great Lakes Division of the PDL's Central Conference, while Thunder Bay's record of 3-1-0 (9pts.) puts the Chill in the middle of the pack in the Heartland Division standings. Under the guidance of Head Coach Mike Matkovich, the Chicago Fire Premier has established themselves as one of the most successful teams in PDL history despite their short, four-year history. In addition to garnering the best regular season record of the more than 50 teams competing in the PDL since 2001, the Fire Premier has claimed four Division titles in as many seasons, the 2003 Central Conference championship and a spot in the 2003 PDL title game. The Fire Premier has also qualified for two consecutive Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups and began their quest in the 2005 edition of the country's oldest tournament last Wednesday with a 4-1 victory over the AAC Eagles of the USASA. The Fire Premier will continue play in the tournament against the USL First Division's Minnesota Thunder in a second round match-up on Wednesday, June 29 at James Griffin Stadium in St. Paul, MN.
The success of the Fire Premier has not gone unnoticed in America's top-flight League, as players such as the MetroStars' Ricardo Clark (2003) and Tim Regan (2002) and the Los Angeles Galaxy's Ned Grabavoy (2004) have been drafted by MLS sides since the club's inception in 2001. The "Men in Red" have also benefited by picking up former Fire Reserves in the MLS SuperDraft, as two of its current rostered players - goalkeeper Matt Pickens and starting forward Chris Rolfe - both helped the Fire Reserves flourish over the past three seasons. This past MLS SuperDraft saw a slew of talented former players such as Rolfe (Fire), Danny O'Rourke and Julian Nash (Earthquakes), Luke Kreamalmeyer and Cameron Knowles (Real Salt Lake), Brad Guzan (Real Salt Lake), and Drew Moor (FC Dallas) selected by MLS squads.
For more information on the Fire Premier, including directions to its home venues and ticket information, please visit the team's official website, www.ChicagoFirePremier.com.