Hat Trick and QOTD, pre-Philly

This will be a sight for sore eyes Saturday Night. It's been a long winter.

Alright folks, the hat trick/QOTD is back, and just 3 short days away from the Fire home opener. It seems like it certainly has been a long time since our Men in Red played a MLS game at Toyota Park. Well, that wait is almost over, and hopefully our first 3 points of 2012 comes with it. I will also have a collaboration piece up with The Brotherly Game most likely on Friday or early Saturday at the latest. We normally do 3 questions, but Brotherly Game is interested in switching things up a bit. Stay tuned to see what happens. Without further ado, follow me after the break for the hat trick and QOTD...

1. Well, the name of Michael Ballack just won't go away. We have discussed him here at HTIOT numerous times. Some Fire fans may be getting a bit tired of hearing us linked with him and nothing coming of it, but this summer may change that. It now seems as if a move to MLS is inevitable. Whether this news is like past news and is just "flavor of the week" remains to be seen. However, unlike past nuggets of news, Ballack's agent, Michael Becker, is pretty much all but confirming his client will be making a move to MLS this summer. And apparently the New York Red Bulls had the chance to sign Ballack and turned him down for Stephen Ireland instead. Becker calls Ireland a "no name" player, which I would not agree with as he is well known to most EPL fans. One advantage that Ireland does have over Ballack is that he is about 10 years younger, which could have influenced New York in their decision to pass up Ballack. The problem with Ireland is that he hasn't been able to stay healthy the past 2 years, making only 34 total appearances since 2010. What good is paying all that money for a guy that can't stay healthy?

The answer to the above question could certainly be these two words: Erik Soler. On paper, the Red Bulls should be dominating MLS play, yet Soler, along with head coach Hans Backe (yeah, the guy that doesn't even rate Juan Agudelo) have seemed to manage the opposite and attempt to run the club into the ground. Why he would say no to Ballack if given the chance is perplexing, especially for a player with the experience Ballack brings to the table. The Red Bulls need all the midfield help they can get. And the fact that Ballack's agent is calling out Soler publicly as referenced in the link above is certainly good fodder for a little media war to open up. The nails are out and the fur is about to fly. One thing is certain- you can bet those Ballack to the Fire rumors begin heating up yet again.

2. Our friend Guillermo Rivera has a great piece over at Chicago Fire Confidential on the first training session of German International Arne Friedrich. Arne of course is the newest member of the Fire family, and the article does a great job of shedding light on why he came to Chicago. I know we are all ecstatic to have him here, but it's nice to know he wanted to come here and made Chicago his top choice. Too many times the big names look at LA or NY, so it's nice when great players like Friedrich recognize the team we have assembled in Chicago and want to be a part of that.

Although many of us are hoping to see him this weekend, from the sound of it we will not. As he builds match fitness he will no doubt see an increase in minutes. I am hoping for maybe a late appearance next week against Colorado to get him a taste of MLS play. After that, we have a week off, followed by a showdown with the Dynamo on April 15th. I definitely think we will see him get a good chunk of time by then. Good things from Arne are definitely on the way my friends!

3. There is certainly one article I read yesterday that I felt was a must share for my hat trick. It was on the mlssoccer.com website yesterday, and it's a great little piece with Fire owner Andrew Hauptman. It should definitely make Fire fans very, very happy. Although we don't currently have a DP, I know many of us (including myself, multiple times) wonder why we aren't that team to make a big splashy signing once in a while. We play in a big city for a big club rich in tradition, so why not us? Well, if you read the article, the question answers itself. If the right situation becomes available, Andrew won't hesitate to write off on Frank making a move for someone like a Robbie Keane type of player.

Although I am still firmly in the camp of not signing a DP just to sign one, the article reiterates that point. If we spend that type of money, the team will do all it can to make sure the cash is spent as wisely as possible. The main thing to take away is that the desire and money is available to Frank. And that's all we can really ask for as fans. I am sure there are many fans in MLS that would love to hear something like this from their front office.

One other thing to take away from this is just how involved Andrew is becoming with the Fire and how he is putting his own stamp on the club. I think most of us can confidently say we are headed in a good direction. His willingness to open up and talk to the fans/media more recently has helped ease some anxiety about the future plans and direction for the club and set the foundation for where the Fire are heading under his ownership. And it's certainly nice to know we won't shy away from pulling the trigger on a big move when the time is right.

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