Damani Ralph

Fire welcome DC, Adu this weekend

who will turn just 15 years old Wednesday -- has faced the Fire once, playing the final 18 minutes on Apr. 24 in a 1-0 Fire win at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., but Saturday will mark his first trip as a professional to Chicago. While Adu makes his initial trip to the shores of Lake Michigan, United head coach Peter Nowak will be making his return to the grounds that he manned as the captain of the Fire for the club's first five seasons from 1998-2002. Nowak will also continue a new tradition for the Fire, as the inaugural inductee into the club's Hall of Fame -- the "Ring of Fire" -- will welcome former forward Frank Klopas as the second member of the prestigious club in a pre-game ceremony. Lost in all the hoopla is that both clubs are neck-and-neck in what has become a four-team fight for first-place in a hotly contested Eastern Conference race. Chicago remained tied for first in the East alongside the MetroStars, with each squad landing on 13 points with wins over the weekend, but United (12 pts.) and the Columbus Crew (11 pts.) both stayed within a win of taking the top spot.

The Fire has never led the all-time regular season series with United, which currently stands deadlocked at 7-7-3. However, Chicago has pulled even in the rivalry on three separate occasions, with the latest occurrence coming via a 1-0 victory on Apr. 24 at RFK Stadium that gave the "Men in Red" their first victory of the 2004 campaign. The Fire lost the 2003 season series 1-2-1, but the club has been on a roll against D.C. after winning the last four overall match-ups, including a pair of 2-0 victories in the 2003 Eastern Conference Semifinals. The two clubs split last year's season series in Chicagoland, pushing the Fire's record at home against United to 4-2-2. In a pair of matches contested at Naperville's Cardinal Stadium, D.C. defeated Chicago 2-1 on July 12 before the Fire got its revenge with a 3-1 victory on Aug. 16.

"Homecoming Weekend" festivities to include Klopas induction to "Ring of Fire," first-ever Fire alumni gathering
The Chicago Fire will celebrate its proud history this Saturday, June 5 at Soldier Field when it holds the first official gathering of the Chicago Fire Players Alumni Association (CFPAA) and inducts former forward Frank Klopas into the "Ring of Fire" as part of the festivities surrounding that afternoon's match against D.C. United.

The Fire-DC United match will be preceded by Klopas' addition to the "Ring of Fire," a tribute created last year in an effort to honor members of the team who have made the Chicago Fire a successful organization and displayed the qualities of leadership, dedication and integrity. Only members of the "Ring of Fire" are allowed to elect the newest member, meaning last year's inaugural inductee, the former Fire captain Nowak, was responsible for naming the homegrown Chicago legend to the distinguished group.

The Fire announced the creation of the CFPAA earlier this month, making it the first organization of its kind in Major League Soccer. The group of former Fire players will hold their first annual "homecoming weekend" from June 4-5 in conjunction with the first trip back to Chicago for former Fire players Peter Nowak and Tom Soehn, both of whom joined the D.C. United coaching staff during the last offseason. The mission of the newly formed CFPAA -- a subsidiary of the FireWorks For Kids Foundation -- is to provide soccer opportunities to economically disadvantaged Chicago area youth through scholarships into soccer camps, clinics, and academies while maintaining and enhancing lasting bonds of communication with the Chicago Fire organization for all former players.

Chicago Fire ACE/Tru-Fit Injury Report
Marsch, Jesse -- R ankle cartilage damage -- out

Armas, Beasley head to New England for Wednesday's U.S.-Honduras friendly
Chicago Fire midfielders Chris Armas and DaMarcus Beasley left Chicago on Sunday to join the U.S. Men's national team in the Boston area in preparation for the squad's international friendly match against Honduras this Wednesday, June 2 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., at 6:30 p.m. CT. The Fire duo is part of only seven MLS players on the 18-man roster, as the bulk of the squad is made up of European-based players coming off the conclusion of the European season. The international friendly will be broadcast via tape delay on Spanish-language network Telemundo beginning at 10 p.m. CT. Fans can also follow the match live online via ussoccer.com's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.

The June 2 friendly marks the fifth time in five matches so far in 2004 that manager Bruce Arena has named both Armas and Beasley to the national team roster. Beasley has played in all four contests, while Armas has seen time in three of the games after being forced to miss the squad's March 31 match at Poland due to injury. Armas will enter the match with 54 career appearances for the "Stars-and-Stripes" and two goals, while Beasley has notched four goals in his 32 caps for the U.S. senior team. Both players will rejoin the Fire on Thursday and will not miss any matches for the "Men in Red."

Dipsy goes back to Botswana for World Cup Qualifier
One of the Fire's two senior internationals -- forward Dipsy Selolwane -- left Chicago Sunday to head back to his native Botswana, where he has joined up with the country's national team in preparation for its first match in the African zone's preliminary qualifying round for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Botswana will travel to Tunis, Tunisia for its first match in Group 5 qualifying Saturday at 5:15 p.m. local time (10:15 a.m. CT), meaning Selolwane will miss the Fire's match against DC United this weekend. The third-year pro has taken on the "super-sub" role for the Fire this season, registering four points on a pair of goals in only 199 minutes played.

Chicago-Fire.com gets a new look
The Chicago Fire has re-launched the club's official team web site, www.chicago-fire.com. The re-launch of the website brings the club's official online information site onboard the newly created MLSNet.com Internet Network, a joint effort between Major League Soccer and Sports on Earth, LLC that includes eight of the league's 10 sides. With the re-launch, Fire fans will continue to have access to the information from the previous site, such as sections focusing on the Chicago Fire Youth Development Program and the FireWorks for Kids Foundation, while enjoying an increase in fresh features and a site navigation similar to the league's website, www.MLSNet.com. The Fire new website will also give fans of the "Men in Red" access to more multimedia features, including audio and video highlights from every Fire contest.

Summer has started ... time to take advantage of "The Summer Sizzler"
With the Memorial Day weekend comes the beginning of summer, and the Chicago Fire has recently introduced a mid-season ticket plan called "The Summer Sizzler" that will allow fans to see the hottest soccer action in Chicago over the remainder of the 2004 season. The new ticket plan -- a savings of $20 off the regular price -- consists of 10 vouchers that can be used in any combination for any Chicago Fire games at Soldier Field this season. Individual game tickets for the Fire's 2004 MLS campaign at Soldier Field -- including the highly anticipated July 11 doubleheader featuring the Fire vs. the New England Revolution and the U.S. Men's National Team vs. Poland -- can be purchased through Ticketmaster outlets or by calling 312-559-1212 or visiting www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets can also be purchased by visiting the Chicago Fire Offices, located at 980 N. Michigan, Suite 1998, in Chicago. For more information or for group discounts, please call 888-MLS-FIRE.

Additional tryout for Chicago Fire Juniors Girls U-23 team to be held Tuesday
The Chicago Fire Juniors has announced that the club will hold an additional tryout for its Girls U-23 College Development Program this Tuesday at 7 p.m. CT. The tryout will be held at Hubble Middle School, located at 603 S. Main Street (corner of Roosevelt Road and Main Street) in Wheaton, Ill. For more details, please call the Chicago Fire Juniors offices at 312-705-7212, or visit the club's website at www.ChicagoFireJuniors.com.


  • As a representative of the Premier Development League, the Chicago Fire Reserves are set to kick off the first round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup this Wednesday when they face SAC Wisla Chicago of the USASA. The game will kick off at 9 p.m. CT at the Redmond Sports Complex in Bensenville, Ill., and will mark the first-ever appearance for the Reserves in the nation's oldest soccer competition. The winner of the Reserves-Wisla match will advance to the second round, where they will face the Pro Soccer League's New Hampshire Phantoms in Manchester, N.H. on Tuesday, June 15. The Chicago Fire will begin the defense of its 2003 U.S. Open Cup crown when it joins the competition in the fourth round on Tuesday, July 20.

  • The Chicago Fire Reserves kept rolling along this weekend with a 9-0 drubbing of the Sioux Falls Spitfire at Eisenhower HS in Blue Island, Ill., last Saturday. Five different Reserves contributed to the scoring onslaught that boosted the club's spotless record to 6-0-0 on the season and improved the club's scoring margin to an incredible 32-0 on the campaign. Patrick Grange led the squad with a hat trick, while Hamid Merhreioskouei and Jimmy Klatter each added a pair of goals and Drew Moor and Julian Nash each notched a single tally in the impressive effort. Defending PDL Player of the Week, goalkeeper Brad Guzan, was forced to make only two saves while collecting his sixth shutout in as many contests. With the result, the Reserves remain one of only five teams in the 55-team PDL to remain undefeated.

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