It's time yet again for another round of Hat Trick and QOTD info. With the Chicago Fire season drawing close (yet still seemingly an agonizingly long time away), Fire fans have the Carolina Challenge Cup (CCC) to look forward to this weekend. It will be a final tune-up of sorts for the Fire before they head into a fresh new MLS season. The 3 CCC games will be the last preseason action the Fire see until their MLS opener at Montreal on March 17th. It's an even longer wait until the start of the season for Fire fans since we are one of the few teams that don't play the first week of games. But, that glorious opening day on March 17th is getting closer. Join me after the break for the CCC Fire schedule, as well as the rest of the hat trick and customary QOTD...
1. Here is a look at the CCC schedule for the FIre:
2/25/12 CCC 4:00 PM CST DC United vs. Chicago Fire
2/29/12 CCC 4:00PM CST Columbus vs. Chicago Fire
3/03/12 CCC 6:15PM CST Charleston vs. Chicago Fire
The CCC is always a fun competition for the Fire to compete in. Apart from last minute tweaks before the season starts, there is bound to be some interesting roster battles as well to see who sticks with the team and who goes home. Some of these battles will be pivotal, especially when you take into the account that Sean Johnson, Marco Pappa, and Orr Barouch will be away from the team representing their national teams and we need people to fill their shoes and do it well. Fortunately we have really fortified the team this offseason so I am not too worried. The team continues to look at different faces as Chicago Fire team writer Jeff Crandall reported that the Seattle Sounders' Amadou Sanyang will join Chicago on trial in Charleston.
The biggest area of concern that I hope the CCC will help to ease anxiety is our relative lack of goals this preseason. While we did put up 3 against Real Espana and FGCU, we have also laid 3 goose eggs. Now, I don't get up in arms as much as some with preseason results. The point is to look at your squad, especially the new players, try things out, and find out what you best XI/formation is, among other things. As long as there is progress being made I don't care much at all about the results, unless a theme begins to emerge. That theme has been a lack of goals and finishing opportunities we are creating.
For the most part, it seems like the chances have been there. The Fire are creating solid scoring chances (though it's always hard to tell when you just have audio and not video to rely on). Our strikers just have to start putting the ball in the back of the net. Especially new arrival Federico Puppo. He has yet to net a goal this preseason, so I would like to see him bag 2 or 3 in the CCC to set the stage for the regular season. Although wins and losses don't matter in the preseason, a solid offensive performance from the Fire this weekend and next week will go a long way to building momentum heading into the season and easing my concerns over the lack of goals and finishing scoring chances.
2. I found this article on Fire draftee Lucky Mkosana to be a very interesting read. It goes into detail about his tough preseason and splitting time between trying to make the Fire final roster and also trying to finishing up his degree in the next couple of weeks. While either task requires hard work and dedication, I can't imagine what the past month or so has been like and how hard it has been on him. Here's to hoping Lucky accomplishes both tasks. It's always good for years of hard work to pay off with a college degree. If he can also make the team and contribute some desperately needed goals, then it's icing on the cake.
I also found the connection between Lucky and Kheli Dube to be an interesting factoid I had not know about. Anytime someone moves to a new team, there is an acclimation period that the player has to go through. The fact that they have a previous personal connection and have somebody to speak with them in their native tongue is really helpful for both players. It provides a familiarity and a support outlet in a situation that can be unsettling until the players adjust to their new team and surroundings.
3. The last point of the hat trick is one I found to be more in the realm or ridiculous rather than useful info. Obviously professional soccer players make a lot of money (well, at least star players in most leagues). In the English Premier League, salaries get into ridiculous levels. If you are making that much money, it probably gets a bit boring after a while to buy another new house or another new car. So athletes turn to alternative ways of spending ridiculous amount of cash that most human beings will never experience in their lifetime.
This piece talks about Arsenal legend and current New York Red Bull Thierry Henry's plans for his new mansion. First he is going to have to tear down his current 9.5 million pound mansion and start fresh. His grand plan for the new house? Well, the diagram shows you in detail. He is building a 40 ft. tall (yes 40 feet) aquarium that covers all levels of his house. Just building the thing is outrageous, but the costs to keep it going are at levels of absurdity. Ahh the things the superstar soccer players spend their money on. There could be other uses for the tank as well. Recent talk of needing to blow the team up and start new should tell you how things are going for Gunners fans these days. Maybe this fish tank will give Wenger a place to hide.
One other thing I found interesting at the end of this article: Stephen Ireland plans to put a shark tank under his kitchen floor. Considering how useless he was on his loan spell for Newcastle last year, he would have been just as useful jumping in his shark tank than showing up on the pitch and playing for Newcastle. The things rich people buy...
Question of the Day
Going Fire related with this poll, what most concerns you as the preseason winds down and the regular season nears?