The Chicago Fire may have a lot of trouble winning MLS Regular season games but the roots of the proverbial tree are strong as the system itself churns out victories. First we turn to the Chicago Fire U-23 PDL teamthat have two games left and are tied at the top of the standings with the Michigan Bucks. Both the Bucks and the Fire have a 10-2-2 record and the two squads just happen to square off tonight with only one other game left in the PDL season. The Bucks beat the Fire 2-0 back on May 30th and they have an impressive +8 goal differential advantage on Chicago in the standings. The Fire have the ultimate trump card going into the match and that is possibly you.
Kick-off for tonight's match is 7:00 PM. The PDL squad have reserved beautiful University of Illinois-Chicago Flames Field at 901 W. Roosevelt Road. Entrance to the game is free. Some members of Section 8 Chicago will be in attendance and it should be a great night. If you need any further inspiration, just know that the Michigan Bucks are a Columbus Crew affiliate. A win by the Fire would put them in the driver's seat for Sunday, July 24th's 4:00 PM game at the Toyota Park Practice Field against the Akron Summit Assault. Some of the drama might be taken out of the match because the Bucks wrap up their season the night before against the Toronto Lynx but it might also be a victory lap. If you can make either match, I would highly recommend it. Chris Estridge, Josey Portillo, and Paulo Vaz have combined to make a dangerous top Fire attack while Jonathan Raj and Kevin Cope provide a rock solid defense. Even some of the academy kids like Brady Wahl and Patrick Doody are seeing some time on the field. Here's a great chance to support and get a look at some potential Chicago Fire players of the future. More of the future after the break.
Yesterday in Kansas City, the Fire Reserves team took on Sporting KC Reserves in - you'll never guess - official MLS Reserves League action. The biggest disappointment of the day was that Sebastian Grazzini did not find his way into the starting lineup or even the bench. Sam Stejskal tweeted that Grazzini was back training in Bridgeview. Perhaps Frank Klopas wanted to keep him practicing with the first team but the Reserves weren't 'totally Reservesish' featuring players like Orr Barouch and Diego Chaves. A minor disappointment we didn't see Grazzini? Yes. More than understandable move? Certainly. The full starting 11 was Jon Conway, Bratislav Ristic, Dasan Robinson, Josip Mikulic, Pari Pantazopoulos; Baggio Husidic, Michael Videira, Corben Bone, Victor Pineda; and the aforementioned Barouch and Chaves up top. In typical fashion Barouch put the Reserves up early 1-0 in the 13th minute of play. A Sporting KC trialist, Dwayne James, answered in the 20th minute to tie up the game. Chicago Fire U-18 player Manny Guzman was substituted on in the 66th minute and scored a long-distance goal 6 minutes later to make it 2-1. That would be your final score to move the Reserves Fire to a 4-0-1 record and maintain the Division lead in the Central/Mountain Reserves Division.
It's nice to see Barouch and Guzman score (especially Guzman) but there is idle speculation to be had in who started when and where. Husidic started out on the right wing and he also got some time on the wing against New York Red Bulls in last Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup game. Remarkably Tuesday represented the first time Corben Bone started in central midfield in any Reserves League or U.S. Open Cup match. Bone had previously been starting on the wing, entering as a sub or not playing at all. Gabriel Ferrari was curiously not involved at all. Chaves' involvement in yesterday's game likely had more to do with the fact he was suspended for last Saturday's game than anything else but the one-time sure starter has been a substitute in 2 of his last 3 MLS eligible games. Chicago Fire U-18 Academy player Brady Wahl came on as substitute after starting last Saturday's game for the Fire PDL team. He's a name to watch out for.
The Milk Cup & Victor Pineda
Speaking of names to watch out for, a belated congratulations to Victor Pineda for making the United States U-18 squad that will be participating in the 2011 Milk Cup. Founded in 1983, the Milk Cup has become one of the most prestigious international youth tournaments. Pineda will be joined by other MLS players like the SKC's goalie in yesterday's Reserves League match, Jon Kempin, FC Dallas' Michael Ambrose and Boyd Okwuonu, NYRB's Bryan Gallego, Real Salt Lake's Luis Gil, Vancouver Whitecaps' Omar Salgado, and D.C. United's Jalen Robinson and Marcus Salanday-Defour. The US U-18 team will play three games, one each on Monday, July 25th, Wednesday July 27th, and Friday July 29th. We will be sure to keep you posted on Victor's performance.
Kwame Watson-Siriboe & FC Tampa Bay
Kwame Watson-Siriboe's loan to FC Tampa Bay continues to go well as the youngster is starting every game at central back. He moves up the minutes leader board despite joining the team about halfway through their season.
Chicago Fire U-15 & U-19 teams
Victor Pineda won't be the only Fire player to monitor next week. The U-15 team qualified for the 2011 U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships and begins group play next week. Kick-off is Wednesday, July 27th, at 8:00 AM CST, followed by games on Thursday, July 28th at 8:00 AM CST, and Friday July 29th at 8:00 AM CST. The Fire will be fighting with six other teams for the right to play in the championship game. The Fire also have a team in the U-19 age group. We'll have to break out the coffee to provide updates on their games with 6:00 AM CST start times for matches also on Wednesday, July 27th, Thursday, July 28th, and Friday July 29th.
Best of luck to all who wear the Fire colors as always.