In an announcement that
came as a complete stunner surprised absolutely no one - since it was widely reported a week ago - MLS commissioner Don Garber announced Orlando City as the 21st Major League Soccer franchise amid a party atmosphere in Disney City.
The announcement marks the end of a seven-year quest by Phil Rawlins, the club president who is one of the primary owners of the club (and part-owner of English Premier League side Stoke City). Rawlins originally founded the club in 2007 as the Austin Aztex, before moving the team to Orlando in 2010 and re-branding as Orlando City SC. Rawlins has always been frank that his goal was to develop an MLS market, and the resources he poured into the USL-Pro have brought success - regular-season crowns in 2011 and 2012, and a rollicking postseason triumph this year.
Plans are in place for a new stadium in Disneyville, and rumors have the club bringing in Brazilian star Kaka as a Designated Player for 2015. Orlando City will play one further season in USL-Pro before moving up to MLS. One interesting aspect is the relationship between OCSC and Kansas City in MLS; Sporting's Dom Dwyer led USL-Pro in scoring this season while on a half-season loan in Orlando. Apparently this relationship will remain in 2014.
Magee Most Improved?
MLSSoccer.com's John Bolster has a piece up suggesting that Mike Magee is the league's Most Improved Player, which sounds nice, and is nice. All I hear is "Waaa waa waaa" like Charlie Brown's teacher is talking, though - Mike Magee is the MVP of this league, and all the happy-talk second-banana awards in the world won't damp the ire of Fire fans if some other dude is holding a crystal trophy on Dec. 5. MLS, you've been warned.
Section 8 Player of the Year voting ongoing
There's still about 24 hours to vote for the Section 8 Chicago 2013 Supporters Player of the Year - just follow this link to cast your vote before noon CST tomorrow, Nov. 21. This year's winner will join previous winners Patrick Nyarko, Dominic Oduro, and C.J. Brown in undying esteem - and will name a charity of his choice to receive a $1,500 donation from Section 8.
Fire Academy product Shipp is ACC Offensive Player of the Year
Chicago Fire Academy product Harrison Shipp, a Lake Forest native, was named ACC Offensive Player of the Year after a strong campaign in his senior season at Notre Dame. Shipp's 8 goals and 8 assists led the team, which lost 4-3 in overtime to Virginia in the ACC semifinals last weekend.
Somehow, despite being from the Fire's recruitment area and spending time in the Fire Academy, Super-20s and PDL teams, Ives Galarcep is reporting that Shipp's Homegrown status is being disputed:
Interesting buzz I'm hearing on Shipp is the Chicago Fire's homegrown claim on him is being disputed. Sure-fire 1st rd pick if he's in draft— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) November 15, 2013
If Shipp is recognized as a Homegrown player for CF97, the Fire would not have to draft him, and his salary would not count against the cap - so this decision could be important for a team that has struggled to see results from its youth pipeline so far. If not, it's certainly tooth-grindingly frustrating. The back-office skullduggery of the Homegrown process does the league no credit, and allows paranoia to flourish in its wake. Let's hope this one goes our way.
Chris Rolfe: Awesome
There's a brief piece up on the league site about where Chris Rolfe's head's at that is a decent read. My takeaway: Despite his uncertainty about his status with the club for 2014 - since Frank Yallop hasn't tipped his hand either way - he repeatedly refers to the club as "we," and says "we will be good next year whether I'm here or not." He also gives Yallop a veteran's vote of confidence. Here's to hoping you're back next year, Chris, and thank you as always for being awesome.
Duka & Pineda to train in Madrid
In what is becoming an annual tradition, the Fire are sending two younger players to train with La Liga club (and front-office partner) Atletico Madrid for two weeks. This year, Dilly Duka and Victor Pineda are making the jaunt, and it sounds like the pair are excited by the opportunity. For Duka, this is about continuing his growth into a solid starter at the MLS level; for Pineda, it's about breaking through into the first team after a long tenure just beyond the fringes of the gameday 18.
Nothing is guaranteed, naturally. Let's hope this works out better for each of them than it did for Corben Bone, who went to Madrid last winter, tuned up his game, and stormed his way to three minutes playing time in 2013.
Academy tunes up for DA Winter Showcase
Let's just get this out of the way: The Academy wins a lot of games, but that's not the goal of the Academy. Frankly, if the Academy teams' results were horrible enough to create a schism in space and time, it wouldn't matter one whit to most Fire fans: We'd crane our necks around the space-time rift, trying to see if any of these kids might, just might, develop into players for the first team. That is the point of the Academy, not winning age-group trophies in bulk.
That said, someone wins these games, and at this point it's usually our guys. The U18s, U16s and U14s all wrapped their fall seasons recently, and all have garishly successful records. Next up for the Academy squads is preparation for the Development Academy Winter Showcase, which takes place in Florida on Dec. 11-15. There our Fire U18s and U16s will join the Indiana Fire Academy and Chicago Magic PSG in facing the cream of the crop from around the USA in whithering, game-packed five-day tourney.
The U18s schedule for the Winter Showcase is here, and the U16s is here.