Fire, players nominated for MLS awards


Fire, players nominated for MLS awards

At least this is progress.

Last year the Fire had but one player chosen among the three finalists for the various postseason awards handed out in Major League Soccer. Dominic Oduro was among the trio in contention for Comeback Player-of-the-Year, but the award went to David Beckham of the Los Angeles Galaxy.

MLS announced its various award finalists for 2012 on Thursday, at about the same time Fire players were cleaning out their lockers at Toyota Park. As expected, defender Austin Berry was among the finalists for Rookie of the Year.

Captain Logan Pause was also mentioned for the Fair Play Award. The winner of it is selected by MLS, based on objective criteria such as fouls committed, cards received and games and minutes played as well as a subjective evaluation of sportsmanship behavior.

The Fire was also nominated for the Team Fair Play award, joining the Houston Dynamo and New England Revolution.

Frank Klopas, who merited consideration for Coach of the Year based on his teams improvement from a 9-9-16 record in 2011 to this years 17-11-6, was bypassed. The finalists among the coaches were Frank Yallop of San Jose, Peter Vermes of Sporting Kansas City and Ben Olsen of D.C. United.

At least the Fire wont have to wait long to find out if it has an MLS award winner for the first time since 2009. The first winners will be announced on Monday, and they are in the three categories that the Fire has finalists.

In the Fires last trip to the awards stand three years ago, the club won the Team Fair Play and Pause took Humanitarian-of-the-Year. His rivals for this years Fair Play honor are Ante Jazic of Chivas USA and Heath Pearce of New York.

Lens Picks

As previously mentioned here, Berry is my clear-cut choice for Rookie of the Year and Pause is as good as any for Fair Play. He didnt draw a card in 32 games this season.

My choices for the other MLS individual player awards are: Matt Besler, Sporting Kansas City, Defender; Kei Kamara, Sporting Kansas City, Humanitarian; Olsen, Coach; Eddie Johnson, Seattle, Comeback; Jimmy Nielsen, Sporting Kansas City, Goalkeeper; Michael Gspurning, Seattle, Newcomer; and Chris Wondolowski, San Jose, Most Valuable Player.

Illinois State Soccer Assn. Hall of Fame ceremony

While Fire players have scattered for the season Toyota Park will still be a busy place, especially on Sunday when the Illinois State Soccer Assn. holds its Hall of Fame banquet beginning at 4 p.m. Heading the list of this years inductees is Hank Steinbrecher, former head of the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Also joining past honorees at the Toyota Park Hall of Fame exhibit are Frank Basan, Mary Jane Bender, Rey Carlberg, Tony Dallas, Charlie Dyson, Harold Hall, Robert Meschbach, Boris Pavichevich, Zygmunt Prudzienica, Hans Wissman, and Richard Znamierowski.

Five others will receive Meritorious Service awards: Edner Franck, Stanley Makowka, Karen ODowd, Harry Quidzinski (posthumously) and Jeff Stern.

Fire’s younger players a mixed bag in 2016


Fire’s younger players a mixed bag in 2016

When Joey Calistri subbed on for Arturo Alvarez in the 81st minute of the Chicago Fire's 3-2 loss at Toronto on Sunday it was the first time the rookie homegrown player had seen the field in over a month.

The nine-minute appearance was also more time than he'd seen in a league game in July, August, September and October combined. Calistri played 10 of the Fire's first 13 league matches totaling 333 minutes. In the final 21 matches of the year he made four appearances totaling 15 minutes.

Because Calistri's substitution was the third and final sub for the Fire, it also signified that fellow homegrown players Patrick Doody and Drew Conner would not play in 2016. Both made the list of available substitutes in Toronto, but did not get the call to sub into the match.

This offseason the Fire got younger with first-round draft picks Brandon Vincent (22 years old) and Jonathan Campbell (23), second-rounder Alex Morrell (22), homegrowns Calistri and Conner (both 22) and international players Rodrigo Ramos (21), Khaly Thiam (22) and David Arshakyan (22) joining the team. Some of the players like Vincent and Campbell were major contributors in 2016 and could be a significant part of the team in the future. Meanwhile, the Fire's four homegrown players, 19-year-old second-year pro Collin Fernandez in addition to Calistri, Conner and Doody, combined for two starts. Fernandez made two substitute appearances for a total of eight minutes.

Campbell played in 33 of the Fire’s 34 matches, starting 30 of them at center back, and was in the early running for Rookie of the Year before Jordan Morris, Keegan Rosenberry and Jack Harrison solidfied themselves as the top three in that race. Vincent finished with 24 starts and 26 appearances at left back and was named to the MLS All-Star team. Those two, along with Johan Kappelhof, could potentially form the core of the team’s defense next year.

Another young defender, Ramos, showed flashes of being a dangerous attacking right back and made 16 starts. However, the Brazilian seemed to fall out of favor with Paunovic in the final two months of the season and the Fire will have to pick up the option on his loan to make him a permanent member of the team.

A pair of younger international players, Arshakyan and Thiam, saw semi-regular playing time down the stretch after joining during the season, but neither made a big impression. Thiam, like Ramos, joined on loan so his future remains up in the air. Arshakyan joined the team in August and both Arshakyan and Paunovic have said he is still settling in.

General manager Nelson Rodriguez has talked about trying to form a core of players to build around for years to come. Campbell and Vincent showed the potential to be valuable parts of such a core, but for many of the Fire's younger players, 2016 was a season of missed, or a lack of, opportunities.

Fire wrap 2016 season with loss at Toronto


Fire wrap 2016 season with loss at Toronto

It wasn’t a full youth movement on the season's last day, but there was one new face in the Chicago Fire’s lineup and that could signal something to come in the offseason.

Goalkeeper Patrick McLain made the start in goal for the Fire in a 3-2 loss at Toronto FC to close out the season.

With the Fire out of contention weeks ago, arguably more notable than the result is the absence of Sean Johnson. Johnson did not travel to Toronto as a healthy scratch while McLain got the start and Matt Lampson was the backup. Considering coach Veljko Paunovic's repeated assurance that he would play what he thought was the strongest lineup and not rotate players just to give younger players more playing time, this decision stands out.

This will fuel further speculation that Johnson could leave in the offseason. Johnson, 27, has been with the Fire since being drafted in 2010. He is the longest tenured Fire player.

McLain finished with three saves, including a nice reaction save following a corner kick in the first half.

Johan Kappelhof also did not play due to a right hip injury. Rodrigo Ramos started at right back in his absence.

As for the actual game, the Fire (7-17-10, 31 points) took the lead via Michael de Leeuw’s seventh goal of the season in the 18th minute. Arturo Alvarez picked up his ninth assist by sliding a pass to de Leeuw, who finished from a tight angle.

Toronto (14-9-11, 53 points) tied things up just before halftime when Sebastian Giovinco was tripped in the box by Joao Meira for a penalty kick. Giovinco buried the penalty and the match was tied at halftime.

Giovinco showed why he is the reigning MLS MVP on the second goal. He managed to control a ball while being double teamed in the box and cut by his man to get to the end line and crossed to Justin Morrow, who finished with a powerful header in the 54th minute.

Jonathan Osorio made it 3-1 when he dribbled around McLain and scored in the 62nd minute.

John Goossens, who came off the bench in the first half for an injured Matt Polster, scored in the 83rd minute to make for a closer finish to the game. Goossens half-volleyed a loose ball in the box with a hammered left-footed strike and his third goal of the season. Polster left with a knee injury.

The loss meant the Fire became the first team in MLS history to finish last place in back-to-back seasons.