Zach Thornton will spend three weeks training with the English club Blackburn.
Steve Grayson/MLS/

Weekly update: SuperDraft on tap

Fire Prepares for Friday's MLS SuperDraft
Major League Soccer recently announced the rules and selection order for the 2005 MLS SuperDraft(tm) presented by adidas at the Baltimore Convention Center on Friday, January 14, 2005. The draft will be broadcast live for the first hour on Fox Sports World at 11:00 a.m. CT and fans can also follow the entire four-round event through a live streaming video available by visiting the League's official web site

The 2005 SuperDraft, traditionally a six-round draft, will consist of four rounds in this year's edition. The Fifth and Sixth Rounds of the draft will become the First and Second Rounds of a four-round draft for the soon to be named MLS developmental league, which will be held at a later date. The draft order is initially determined by reverse order of finish in 2004 with the exception of Real Salt Lake and CD Chivas USA, the 2005 expansion teams that will select with the top two spots in each round.

The Fire made history last year by making a team-record 10 selections during the 2004 SuperDraft. Midfielder Scott Buete was selected by Chicago in the first round (9th overall) and the University of Maryland product did not disappoint, recording two points on a pair of assists in 13 games (eight starts) with Chicago. Defenders Leonard Griffin and Denny Clanton, selected in the second and fourth rounds, respectively, earned valuable playing time with Griffin suiting up nine times for the Fire and the Aurora-native (and former Fire Reserves player) Clanton making 10 appearances (six starts) and recording 500 minutes in his first year with the "Men in Red."

Chicago's 2005 MLS SuperDraft Order
First Round - 3rd overall selection
Second Round - 18th overall selection (from MetroStars)
Third Round - 25th overall selection (from Real Salt Lake)
Third Round - 35th overall selection (from Kansas City)
Fourth Round - 39th overall selection

12 Former Fire Reserves Players Participate in 2005 adidas MLS Player Combine
Fire President/GM Peter Wilt and Head Coach Dave Sarachan headed to the West Coast this weekend to witness the highly anticipated 2005 adidas MLS Player Combine, taking place from Jan. 8-11 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, CA. Wilt and the technical staff will not be the only members of the "Fire Family" in attendance, as 12 of the 66 players invited to the camp were members of the 2004 Central Conference champion-winning Chicago Fire Reserves side this past summer. Brad Guzan (University of South Carolina), Boyzzz Khumalo (Coastal Carolina University), Cameron Knowles (University of Akron), Luke Kreamalmeyer (Bradley University), Julian Nash (Creighton University), Danny O'Rourke (Indiana University), Drew Moor (Indiana University), Nick Pollard (Southwest Missouri State University), Chris Rolfe (University of Dayton), CJ Klaas (University of Washington), Doug Lascody (Southwest Missouri State) and T.J. Tomasso (Southern Methodist University) will all take part in the annual event that showcases the best collegiate talent in advance of the MLS SuperDraft, which takes place Friday, Jan. 14, 2005 in Baltimore, MD.

From England, With Love
Fire goalkeeper Zach Thornton and defender/midfielder Kelly Gray will be traveling to England this week to begin their training stints with the popular British clubs Blackburn Rovers FC and Fulham FC. Thornton, who re-signed with the Fire in September 2004 after spending most of last season with Portuguese side Benfica, will join Blackburn from Jan. 11-Feb. 2. Thornton, a "Fire Original" and a member of Chicago's four championship teams, has trained with Blackburn during each of the last three off-seasons. Meanwhile, Gray is eager to experience his first training stint with Fulham. The 23-year-old will spend 10 days with the London-based team but fans will be able to keep up with his activities abroad through a journal to be published at

Fire Looks to Kick Off 2005 Season with a Bang
An old rivalry will begin anew for the Chicago Fire on Saturday, Apr. 2, when the Fire will open up its eighth season in Major League Soccer by hosting FC Dallas at Soldier Field at 7:30 p.m. CT. The Apr. 2 match will mark the continuation of the Brimstone Cup series against the re-named Dallas franchise (formerly the Dallas Burn) and will also serve as the final home opener for the Fire at Soldier Field, which will serve as the home venue for 16 games in 2005 before the club moves to its permanent home in Bridgeview in the Spring of 2006. The "Men in Red" will be looking to avenge the only two losses in a 3-2-2 record in MLS home openers, both of which have come against Dallas. MLS's 10th season will open with First Kick 2005 and a full slate of six matches on Apr. 2, including the highly anticipated first game in the history of Club Deportivo Chivas USA as they play host to MLS Cup champion D.C. United at The Home Depot Center in a match to be broadcast live on ABC Sports (2:00 p.m. CT). The complete 2005 regular season schedule will be released later this month.

For the Record
"It's the first time I train overseas and I'm very excited about it. It will help to have Carlos [Bocanegra] there with me. I'm really very grateful for this wonderful opportunity. I can only embrace it and hope to learn as much as possible from this experience."
- Fire D/M Kelly Gray on traveling to England this week to begin his 10-day training stint with Fulham FC.

• Caribbean King: Fire forward and Jamaican international Damani Ralph is featured on Ralph talks about his recent training stint with Dutch club Feyenoord, his meeting with former Fire star DaMarcus Beasley and his expectations for 2005. To read the full story, visit

• Hot Streak: Fire D/M Kelly Gray is becoming a popular figure these days. Upon his return from England for a brief training stint with the famed British club Fulham, the California native, who recently launched his own clothing line "Adesso," will be featured in Today's Chicago Woman Magazine as one of Chicago's 'hottest' singles. The publication will hit newsstands later this month.

• Chicago's Ginger's Ale House was named the winner in the "Best Soccer Bar" category in the 2004 version of the "Best of U.S. Soccer," becoming the first repeat winner in any category in the increasingly popular awards series. The establishment in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood retained its title by claiming 19% of the online vote, beating out the Brittania Arms (San Jose, CA; 14%) and Summers Restaurant (Arlington, VA; 13%).

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