Justin Mapp

Fire discover ways to bond on road

The Chicago Fire will not play another regular season home contest until Oct. 5, resulting in a five-game, 56-day lapse between contests at Soldier Field.

Plane rides, take-out food, long-distance phone calls and hotel rooms characterize the bland and forgetful aspects of life on the road. But the subject of road trip roommates usually brings smiles and a glimpse into the camaraderie that road trips help build.

Jesse Marsch and Jim Curtin are among the longest standing Fire roommates.

Rooming with Curtin has improved Marsch's road living conditions from the several years that Marsch roomed with former Fire captain Peter Nowak.

"Without Peter the hotel rooms are less smoky," said Marsch.

"[Then-Fire head coach] Bob [Bradley] would always get on Peter for smoking. When Peter came to the team he smoked Marlboro Red, then he went to Marlboro Lights, then Marlboro Ultra Lights, and finally he ended up smoking Virginia Slims.

"Every time Peter would come out of the hotel bathroom from smoking a Virginia Slim I'd tell him 'You've come a long way baby,' " said Marsch, laughing.

"Jim and I are good buddies and it's nice to room with him. You usually try to get somebody you are comfortable with."

Marsch, a well-rounded and well-liked professional, was assigned to room with Hristo Stoitchkov one time early in Stoitchkov's MLS career.

"Stoitchkov didn't speak any English and we were watching the Masters on television and we were trying to communicate. I didn't understand a word he was saying and he didn't understand a word I was saying, but we were trying to be friendly -- it could make for a long day," said Marsch.

Twenty-year-olds Justin Mapp and Craig Capano were roomies before Capano was sidelined by injuries.

"Craig is a good roommate. He likes to be lazy and take it easy on road trips, just like me. We sleep in and we rent movies or get some food. He's pretty much like me, he sleeps," said Mapp.

Chris Rolfe rooms with Matt Pickens when the Fire backup 'keeper travels with the team and rooms with Mapp or Jack Stewart other times.

Which roommate has the worst habits?

"You have to make me decide on this?" asked Rolfe, whose first answer was Pickens since the Fire 'keeper was standing nearby in the Fire locker room. After giving it further thought, Rolfe said, "Jack."

"Jack [Stewart] is the worst," said Rolfe, while anticipating the next question.

"I don't know if I'm allowed to say that kind of stuff," said Rolfe, while turning to Pickens and asking, "Am I allowed to tell the media what Jack does?"

"I'm not going to go into detail. I have some lighter stuff on Justin [Mapp]. Justin watches The Weather Channel all day, and he has a habit of using the bathroom ... the second we get into our hotel room all of the time."

Logan Pause, who calls himself the utility roommate, having roomed with C.J. Brown, Chris Armas, Nate Jaqua and John Thorrington, remembers his preseason stint with Thorrington best.

"John and I were roommates out in the middle of nowhere in Guadalajara; we were in a very remote area. That was the first time I got to know him and it was a good place to do it, there was nothing to do there," said Pause.

Do any players "live it up" on the road?

"A lot of it is your own prerogative. The coaching staff has a good relationship with the players, and they give us the freedom to do that so it's up to the individual players, but this is our job and we treat it that way," said Pause.

On the soccer side, Marsch thinks there are positives and negatives playing away from home.

"I think the good things are that you have no distractions. You can go to your hotel room, and get a good meal," he said.

"The bad things are the familiarity with the field. When you play on your home field you know where your spatial presence is. Trips to the West Coast can take something out of you -- the time change and playing at a different time of day each effect you a little bit. The fans make a difference too.

"I think the biggest thing is the familiarity and special comfort you have playing in your own stadium."

Ivaldo Basso is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.