The Men in Red will head for Charleston, South Carolina and Blackbaud Stadium to once again participate in the Carolina Challenge Cup (CCC). The Fire will be joining fellow MLS teams Houston Dynamo and Vancouver Whitecaps, as well as the hosts, Charleston Battery. The Fire will be coming into the CCC off the heels of a 1-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes, courtesy of a Jeff Larentowicz penalty kick.
The Men in Red will kick off the CCC against the Dynamo on Saturday, February 16th at 4:00 PM CST. The next day, there will be a reserve match against Coastal Carolina University. I look for many of the players on the fringe to have a chance to make one final impression and make the roster.
Next up is a matchup against the Charleston Battery on Wednesday, February 20th at 6:00 PM CST. The final test comes against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, February 23rd at 4L00 PM CST. The Fire will then head back to Chicago and prepare for the season opener on March 2nd in LA.
All 3 CCC matches will be streamed live here at Hot Time In Old Town. If you are able to join us, we encourage you to stop by and talk shop with us. For me, one of the most interesting things about phase 3 are the battles for the final roster spots. One would assume that players like Dilly Duka and the impressive Yazid Atouba will claim final spots. However, back line competition between the likes of John Gallagher and Rauwshan McKenzie and forwards Blake Brettschneider and Quincy Amarikwa should be very intriguing as the pre-season winds down. There is also a 3rd GK spot up for grabs too, so for many players the CCC games could be some of the biggest of their careers at this point in time.
I for one can't wait for the regular season. As always, we will have full coverage of every MLS regular season match. This includes match previews, gamethreads, and of course recaps after each MLS game. It's going to feel really good getting back in the swing of things after what seems like a very lengthy lay off. Until then let's enjoy the final few pre-season tune-ups and anxiously await the 2013 campaign.