Chicago Fire: 2012 Regular Season

Austin Berry named MLS' top rookie

November, 19, 2012

Austin BerryJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

NEW YORK -- Chicago Fire defender Austin Berry has been voted Major League Soccer's Rookie of the Year.

The 24-year-old, selected from Louisville with the seventh pick of January's draft, made 28 consecutive starts and received 140 percent of weighted ballots added from team, media and player votes, the league said Monday.

D.C. United midfielder Nick DeLeon was second with 74 percent, followed by Vancouver forward Darren Mattocks with 26 percent.

MLS also said New England won the team Fair Play Award and Chicago midfielder Logan Pause won the individual Fair Play Award.

After a listless 3-1 loss to Philadelphia in midweek, the Fire rebounded nicely with a 2-0 road win at New York behind two Sherjill MacDonald goals. Arne Friedrich also did his best Franz Beckenbauer impression with some effective runs out of the back.

Check out the complete Power Rankings here.

Fire clinch first playoff spot since 2009

October, 7, 2012
The Chicago Fire earned their first MLS playoff berth since 2009 this weekend.

The 1-1 draw between Sporting Kansas City and the Columbus Crew Sunday, coupled with the Fire’s 2-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls Saturday afternoon, secured the Fire’s spot.

The Fire will host their first MLS Cup Playoff match at Toyota Park on a date that will be determined by the Fire’s place in the final standings.

Head coach Frank Klopas has led the Fire to a 17-10-5 record this season. They are currently in second place in the Eastern Conference with 56 points, just three points behind conference-leading Sporting Kansas City.

The Fire have participated in the playoffs 11 times in their history, reaching the MLS Cup Final in 1998, 2000 and 2003.

MacDonald scores twice in big win for Fire

October, 6, 2012

Sherjill MacDonald Anthony Gruppuso/US PRESSWIREFire forward Sherjill MacDonald scores during the second half against the Red Bulls.

HARRISON, N.J. -- Sherjill MacDonald scored two second-half goals, lifting the Chicago Fire to a crucial 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.

The Fire (17-10-5) jumped three points ahead of the Red Bulls (15-9-8) in the Eastern Conference, with two games remaining, and moved closer to earning a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs. Chicago can get in if Columbus loses to Sporting Kansas City on Sunday.

New York dropped to 11-2-3 at home.

MacDonald broke a scoreless tie in the 65th minute by getting past two Red Bulls defenders off a fine lead pass from Chris Rolfe, then hitting a shot past goalkeeper Luis Robles.

MacDonald, who had only two goals this season before Saturday, made it 2-0 in the 79th minute, taking a pass from Daniel Paladini and sprinting past two defenders to touch it gently past Robles.

The Red Bulls had controlled much of the action in the first half, but had nothing to show for it. Sean Johnson made only one save to secure his fifth shutout of the season.

In the 27th minute, Red Bulls captain Thierry Henry had a wide open shot, but it was knocked aside by a sliding stop with the left leg by Arne Friedrich. Six minutes later, Dax McCarty's left-footed drive from 25 yards sailed wide right.

The Fire responded late in the first half, when Alvaro Fernandez rose high above the Red Bulls defense to get his head on a cross from Jalil Anibaba, but Fernandez' attempt sailed over the crossbar.

The Red Bulls had two excellent chances in the 57th minute. Thierry Henry fired a shot from point blank range that sailed wide left, and then he sent a corner kick to the box that went directly to Tim Cahill. But the Aussie, who has had trouble scoring since joining the MLS two months ago, put a header that Johnson caught.

Cahill was visibly upset, standing with his hands over his face after the save.

Fire's Franco suspended for transgression

October, 4, 2012
NEW YORK -- Major League Soccer's disciplinary committee has suspended Chicago Fire forward Guillermo Franco for an additional game and fined him an undisclosed amount for endangering the safety of an opponent.

Read the entire story.

Fire remain tied for second after 3-1 loss

October, 4, 2012
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Jack McInerney had a goal and an assist to lead the Philadelphia Union to a 3-1 victory over the Chicago Fire on Wednesday night.

Gabriel Gomez and Antoine Hoppenot also scored to help Philadelphia (9-15-6) win for the second time in three games after an eight-game winless streak. With head coach Frank Klopas serving a one-game suspension, the Fire were coached by assistants Mike Matkovich and Leo Percovich.

Dominic Oduro scored for Chicago (16-10-5), which lost its second straight and remained tied with New York for second place in the Eastern Conference, five points behind Kansas City with three matches remaining.

Philadelphia opened the scoring in the 7th minute as McInerney took a pass from Danny Cruz, split defenders Jalil Anibaba and Arne Friedrich, and hammered the ball behind goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

McInerney set up Gomez for the second goal in the 67th minute as Gomez's kick flew into the upper far corner of the net as Chicago defender Austin Berry partially screened Johnson.

Chicago pulled to 2-1 two minutes later when Dominic Oduro's slow shot caught Philadelphia goalkeeper Zac MacMath away from the right post, and rolled into the net.

Hoppenot beat Johnson with a deflection at the 87-minute mark.

Power rankings: Fire fall one spot

October, 1, 2012
The Fire's recent surge had hidden an ugly stat: Five times in the past eight games they had given up the first goal, and after continuing that trend on Friday, there was no way back against SKC.

Check out the complete Power Rankings here.

Fire fall to Kansas City

October, 1, 2012
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Graham Zusi scored two goals, and Sporting Kansas City clinched a playoff spot with a 2-0 win over the Chicago Fire on Friday night.

Jimmy Nielsen had to make one save to record his league-leading 14th shutout for Sporting (17-7-7), which extended its unbeaten streak to nine matches and widened its Eastern Conference lead to five points over the Fire. Sporting had not won against Chicago at home since a 3-2 victory on Aug. 22, 2007.

Chicago (16-8-7) had a four-match winning streak snapped and lost for just the second time in nine games.

Zusi put Sporting up 1-0 in the 11th minute, running onto Kei Kamara's cross and one-timing the ball past Sean Johnson. He scored unassisted in the sixth minute of second-half stoppage time, working his way free and slotting the ball home just seconds from the final whistle.

Chicago manager Frank Klopas and Fire defender Gonzalo Segares were both ejected in second-half stoppage time, Klopas drawing a straight red card from referee Chris Penso and Segares picking up his second caution. Both will be suspended for Chicago's next match, on Wednesday at home against Philadelphia.

Power rankings: No. 2 Fire keep winning

September, 24, 2012
An early gaffe from goalkeeper Sean Johnson put Chicago in a hole against Columbus, but two brilliantly taken goals from Chris Rolfe enabled the Fire to claim a 2-1 victory, its seventh in eight games.

Check out the complete Power Rankings here.

Rolfe scores twice to lead Fire past Crew

September, 24, 2012

Chris Rolfe
AP Photo/Paul BeatyChicago Fire forward Chris Rolfe erased an early 1-0 deficit with two quick goals.

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Chris Rolfe scored two goals in a little more than 3 minutes in the first half to lead the Chicago Fire to a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Crew on Saturday night.

Chicago (16-8-5) won its fourth straight and seventh in the last eight to move two points behind first-place Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference.

Jairo Arrieta took advantage of a miscue by Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson to score in the 15th minute for Columbus (13-11-6). Johnson took a drop pass from a defender and kicked it directly to Arrieta, who took three quick steps to his left and fired a hard shot that scrambling defender Andy Friedrich had no chance to stop.

Rolfe then scored twice in a span of 3:16, tying the score in the 23rd minute with a ground-hugging, left footed drive from 16 feet out. He put the Fire ahead with the game's last goal, a 15-yard that went over goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum high into the left corner of the net.

The Crew forced the issue in the final minutes, but Johnson made a diving punch save on Josh Williams in the 79th minute to thwart Columbus' last big scoring chance. He made six saves in all.

Columbus has lost three of its last four matches after winning four straight.

Time in Denmark pays off for Fire's Rolfe

September, 21, 2012
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Chris Rolfe's memories of playing soccer and living in Denmark aren’t all sunny and joyful.

Chris Rolfe
David Banks/Getty ImagesChris Rolfe is tied for the lead on the Fire with six goals.

Of course that wasn’t what Rolfe intended when he first arrived in the country. He proved himself as a talented forward in the MLS during his first five seasons with the Chicago Fire and was ready for another challenge. He signed a contract with Danish Superliga club Aalborg BK in 2009 and joined the team in January 2010.

He hoped to establish himself in Europe and continue building his career, which included appearances with the United States national team. But a hamstring injury in his first season kept him off the field and left him a bit lost in an unfamiliar culture. He describes that period in his life as one of the most trying.

Rolfe’s situation improved -- he scored six goals in 32 appearances -- but his 2 years there fell short of his expectations.

Now five months after leaving Denmark and returning to the Fire, Rolfe says the difficult times overseas have helped him on and off the field.

“It was a great experience for me,” said Rolfe, whose Fire will host the Columbus Crew at Toyota Park on Saturday. “I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I think those 2 years I matured a lot. I gained so much experience and new appreciation, not just the soccer back here, but the life back here in general.

“When I went to Denmark, it was the right time for me to make that change in my life. After being over there for over two years and trying to pursue a different goal, I thought it was time to come back home.”

After battling an ankle injury when he returned to the Fire, Rolfe finally got on to the field in June.
In his second game, a 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls, he scored a goal in front of the home crowd at Toyota Park.

Now 16 games into the season, Rolfe has six goals, tied for the team lead, and dished out two assists. The Fire has gone 10-4-2 during those 16 games and has risen to second place in the Eastern Conference.

Fire coach Frank Klopas always assumed he hadn’t seen the last of Rolfe in a Fire uniform. Klopas was the team’s technical director when Rolfe went to Denmark, and the Fire still held the held Rolfe’s MLS rights.

Klopas kept tabs on Rolfe’s career overseas and observed all of his ups and downs from afar. He never doubted Rolfe’s ability, and didn’t hesitate when Rolfe expressed interest in returning to the Fire.

“I think it’s hard to keep guys (with the team) like that that have an opportunity,” Klopas said. “You try to do your best, but in the back of the mind, if the chance is there, I think they want to try the different environment, the different opportunity in Europe.

“It was great that things worked out. Chris had obviously played here, knows the club well, knows the league well. A good player in an important time for us.”

It didn’t take long for Klopas to see that Rolfe isn’t the same player upon his return to the Fire.

“I think he matured as a player,” Klopas said. “As he got older, he got better, wiser -- his ability to make better decisions, his movements, reading the game better and being at the right spots at the right moment.

“His technical ability has obviously gotten better, but he always had that. (He has the) ability around the goal to finish and be dangerous when he gets the ball.”

Fire midfielder Logan Pause has also had the chance to see Rolfe’s evolution. Pause, who has been with the Fire since 2003, witnessed Rolfe’s career from his rookie season to now as a 29-year-old veteran.

“I think the big thing that changed was he went to Europe and struggled with some injuries as he has mentioned,” Pause said. “I think that took a toll on him mentally and also gave him an opportunity to work through that adversity and grow as a person and player.

“He’s just as strong as ever. He’s just a fit, fast, dynamic, youthful player still even being almost 30. A great addition for our team.”

As good as the winning is, Rolfe has also enjoyed the company of his fellow players. He wasn’t that close with his teammates in Denmark, and he wanted that feeling of camaraderie again when he returned to the Fire.

“I missed that a lot,” said Rolfe, an Ohio native. “Coming back, I was really excited about that. That allowed me to put myself out there more, and the guys had a grasp of that.”

Rolfe feels at home again.

“I’ve wanted a home for a while,” Rolfe said. “I feel this is my home now. It’s good to be back. It’s good to come back. Everyone’s treated me well. We’re having success on the field. I couldn’t ask for more.”

Power rankings: Fire jump three spots

September, 17, 2012
When Chicago Fire manager Frank Klopas kept adding attacking pieces to his roster, you wondered if it would hurt team chemistry. Not so, as Sherjill MacDonald, Alex, and Alvaro Fernandez all found the net in a 3-1 win over Montreal.

Check out the complete Power Rankings here.

Fire takes over second place with win

September, 15, 2012

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Alex and midfielder Alvaro Fernandez each scored in the second half to lead the Chicago Fire a 3-1 comeback win over the Montreal Impact on Saturday night.

Jalil Anibaba
David Banks/Getty ImagesThe Chicago Fire jumped at the chance to take over second place in the East.

The win pulled the Fire (15-8-5) within a point of Eastern Conference leader Sporting Kansas City. Chicago has 50 points and third-place New York is right behind with 49.

Montreal (12-15-3), playing its first match in two weeks, dropped its second straight after winning five in a row.

Alex took a pass from Fernandez, split a pair of defenders and beat goalkeeper Troy Perkins to break a 1-all tie in the 61st minute. The Brazilian sent his shot over Perkins and high to the far corner of the net.

Fernandez followed with a 15-yard right-footed shot in the 80th to put the game out of reach. Sherjill MacDonald had tied the match with a nifty header in the 34th, redirecting a pass from Jalil Anibaba into the lower left corner of the net.

Marco Di Vaio gave Montreal a 1-0 lead in the 20th, his fourth straight match with a goal. He took defender Hassoun Camera's headed centering pass, flicked the ball forward and scored from about 12 yards out. Goalkeeper Sean Johnson fell to his right but could only get a fingertip on the ball.

Fire acquire Thompson from Rapids

September, 10, 2012
The Chicago Fire acquired midfielder Wells Thompson from the Colorado Rapids for a conditional draft pick, the team announced on Monday.

"Wells is a steady, dependable player that has proven himself in MLS," Fire coach Frank Klopas said in a statement. "He will provide additional depth and coverage on the wing and in the midfield as we continue to make our push for the MLS Cup Playoffs."

Thompson, a veteran of 75 MLS regular season matches, will be available to play Wednesday when the Fire play on the road against Toronto FC.

Thompson joined the Rapids in 2010 from the New England Revolution and was a member of the Colorado squad that won the 2010 MLS Cup.

Drafted fifth overall by the Revolution in the 2007 MLS SuperDraft, Thompson played in 71 regular season appearances in three seasons for the Revolution.

Power Rankings: Fire look to make jump

September, 10, 2012
The Chicago Fire had a break from league play, but still stayed sharp with a 2-2 friendly draw against Santos Laguna. Of greater importance will be Wednesday's tilt against Toronto that could see Chicago jump up to second place in the Eastern Conference.

Check out the complete Power Rankings here.