The last two weeks of December are some of my favorite of the entire year. Reuniting with family and friends, Christmas music, gift wrapping, lots of lights, New Year’s parties and of course this year, Star Wars.
The point is most people are busy doing fun things and thinking positive thoughts. That makes it a little difficult to really keep up with all the Chicago Fire news that can remind us of not so positive times from 2015. But the time for fun and games is over!
We are all back at work and miserable now so the Fire are no longer coal in our stockings, but a shining star of moderate hope that helps us all conquer the redundancy of the work week as we envision a 20-goal campaign from Gilberto or a 16/16 2016 for Harry Shipp or David Accam streaking down the grassy green (sometimes brown) pitch of Toyota Park on a Saturday evening.
Once again, every team is 0-0-0.
But before we look ahead, there are a few important nuggets to address that we missed during our holiday siesta.
Big Red headed West
Reports started to surface right around Jan. 1 that former Fire captain Jeff Larentowicz is on his way to the LA Galaxy. The fact Larentowicz is leaving Chicago is no great surprise, as the team declined his option, but his destination was fairly unknown. The Galaxy seems like a good fit for the veteran who can help both in the backline and at defensive midfield where L.A. struggled at times. Larentowicz is the kind of smart professional Bruce Arena likely values on a team full of egos to feed. Whatever role Larentowicz may play, it is safe to say his days of taking penalties are assuredly over.
Everyone loves a good schedule unveiling. Fire fans will be happy to see the team was not selected to be the lamb for slaughter this year with an opening weekend trip to the StubHub Center. Instead, the Fire will open at home in Toyota Park on March 6 against New York City FC. The darlings of last season’s opening weekend have already gone through a coaching change with Patrick Vieira taking the reins. Both rookie coaches should have their teams buzzing.
On the preseason front, the Men in Red will have the luxury of playing soccer in Portland during February rather than Arizona. It will be cold. The Fire will take on Portland, Vancouver and soon-to-be MLS side Minnesota United. Should Chicago somehow run that table, feel free to be happy and excited, but remember it means very little. We’ve seen that movie before.
As always, the Chicago Fire roster is in a constant state of motion. Joevin Jones is once again being called up to Trinidad & Tobago. It’s a pretty big game for T&T as the winner of their match with Haiti on Friday will advance to the Copa America Centenario, which will be hosted in the U.S. (including Chicago) this summer. So best of luck to Jones and his countrymen. The Fire also announced Mauricio Pineda and Cameron Lindley will get some run the with national U-20 team during a winter camp. We know there is plenty of talent in the Fire’s youth academy. Hopefully we will see more and more of them get opportunities to take on greater challenges with the youth national teams to continue their development.
Speaking of the Fire’s youth academy, the U-12 team played in the La Liga Promises International Soccer Tournament in Miami last month. That had to be a pretty cool experience for the kids I am sure. Absolutely no one should care about the results. They’re 12.
Hearing Brian Bliss has left the Chicago Fire and will join Sporting KC. Announcement to come later today. #cf97
— Danny Michallik (@DMichallik) January 5, 2016
This one is pretty self explanatory and not a shock at all. Bliss was rumored to be leaving in the fall when a number of staff members were let go, but the team held on to the former technical director/interim coach. Even though the team kept Bliss at that time, rumors continued to spread he would likely leave the team after the SuperDraft, which is on Jan. 14. It looks like that timetable may be a little off, but either way Bliss seems to be on his way. He did great work in Columbus and I am sure he will fit right in at Sporting Kansas City.
Mike Magee headed back to the Galaxy
Courtesy of our friend Guillermo Rivers (@Fireconf), it appears Magee could be sticking with Larentowicz. The 2013 MLS MVP is in demand from a number of teams around the league, so anything can still happen, but we know Magee is at least comfortable in L.A. But it would still be a bit of a surprise to me, especially if the Galaxy re-sign Alan Gordon, as Arena has stated is likely. There are more offensively inept teams that could give Magee a much more regular role.
That catches us up on all the big substantiated news!* (Yeah, I know about the whole Stoke City/David Accam thing. But it's Stoke, so, you know ...)
The Fire have about a half a roster to fill and the SuperDraft is coming up on Jan. 14th. Get ready for a busy January.