Fire release 2011 MLS Regular Season Schedule

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Fire release 2011 MLS Regular Season Schedule

Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011
CSNChicago.com

The MLS released the Official Schedule for 2011 Thursday, and the Chicago Fire will be battling at home at Toyota Park for 17 games. The Men in Red will kick off their 14th MLS season when they travel to Dallas to challenge MLS Cup runners up FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park on Saturday, March 19. The Fire take on Sporting Kansas City for their home opener on Saturday, March 26.

DateOpponentHomeAwayTime (CT)
Saturday, March 19
DallasAway7:30Saturday, March 26
Kansas City
Home
3:00
Saturday, April 9
Seattle
Away
3:00
Thursday, Apr 14
Portland
Away
10:00
Sunday, April 17
LA Galaxy
Home
3:00
Saturday, April 23
HoustonHome7:30Saturday, April 30
ColoradoAway8:00Saturday, May 7
VancouverHome7:30Saturday, May 14
TorontoAway6:00Saturday, May 21
PhiladelphiaAway7:00Saturday, May 28
San Jose
Home7:30Saturday, June 4
SeattleHome7:30Thursday, June 9
Kansas City
Away9:00Sunday, June 12
ColumbusAway3:00Saturday, June 18
New England
Away6:30Wednesday, June 22
Real Salt Lake
Home
7:30Sunday, June 26
New York
Home1:00Saturday, July 2
ChivasAway9:00Saturday, July 9
LA Galaxy
Away9:30Saturday, July 16
PortlandHome7:30Wednesday, August 3
PhiladelphiaHome8:00Sunday, August 7
VancouverAway6:00Saturday, August 13
New York
Away6:30Thursday, August 18
DCHome8:00Sunday, August 21
TorontoHome6:00Saturday, August 27
ColoradoHome7:30Saturday, September 10
San Jose
Away9:30Saturday, September 17
ChivasHome3:00Sunday, September 25
New England
Home3:00
Wednesday, September 28
Real Salt Lake
Away8:00Saturday, October 1
HoustonAway3:00Wednesday, October 12
DallasHome7:30Saturday, October 15
DCAway6:30Saturday, October 22
ColumbusHome7:30

Fire putting finishing touches on roster as season nears

Fire putting finishing touches on roster as season nears

The preseason has finished and it's officially a match week for the Chicago Fire.

The Fire, which travel to Columbus on Saturday for the season opener, returned from preseason training in Florida on Sunday and began the team's first full day back in Chicago with the team's annual kickoff luncheon on Monday. The team's players, coaches and staff interact with fans and the media ahead of the upcoming season.

Two players, UNC-Charlotte products Brandt Bronico and Matej Dekovic, were introduced to the audience a couple hours before the club announced the two 2017 draft picks had signed contracts. Bronico, a central midfielder drafted in the third round, and Dekovic, a center back/left back taken in the fourth round, both signed one-year deals with club options for the following three years.

Dekovic could add some much needed depth in central defense, but is a logical candidate to go out on loan to USL affiliate Tulsa. Dekovic, 23, is Croatian and counts as an international player even though he played three years collegiately with the 49ers. The Fire have nine international players on the roster with eight slots for them. The Fire could trade for an international slot, but if Dekovic goes out on loan he won't count against that number. Coach Veljko Paunovic was asked about potential outgoing loans, but didn't give specifics other than to say they have "made some decisions" and "are still working on that."

Bronico and Dekovic don't figure to play major roles this season, but there could still be more moves ahead. The lone trialist in the final week of the Fire's training camp, former Columbus Crew defender Chad Barson, was not retained. General manager Nelson Rodriguez said Ryan Taylor will be the latest right back to join the Fire on trial. Taylor, 32, made 55 English Premier League appearances with Wigan Athletic from 2005-2009 and 61 more with Newcastle United from 2009-2015. This season he has made 12 appearances for Port Vale in England's third tier, the most recent of which on Jan. 20 when he scored a penalty kick.

[RELATED: Fire players downplay importance of undefeated preseason record]

"Ryan Taylor will join us this week," Rodriguez said. "He's a very experienced player, he plays a lot of different positions, which we like. We like that versatility. We love the attitude that he's expressed towards coming on trial, which is not easy for an accomplished player. We'll look at him this week, maybe look at him for two weeks. I don't know how long it will take, but he is an option for us."

The Englishman would also take up an international slot.

A potentially bigger move is the one Rodriguez hinted at regarding a third designated player. Currently, David Accam and Nemanja Nikolic are the Fire's two DPs, meaning one more DP spot is available.

"We have the latitude, we have the cap space, the budget space and the resources within MLS and within our ownership to add another DP," Rodriguez said. "We've looked at a few players. Two of the players that we had on our list, we didn't make offers for so I want to be clear the two players we were tracking, one signed in Mexico with a big club in Mexico and one went to China for big money so they're off our list.

"There are still two players that we're tracking. I think as we get deeper into the start of the season, even though the first window is open, it's tougher. I would say we would likely look at the summer, or, as we did last year, forego the summer and concentrate on January. I still think it's hard to integrate players midseason."

Fire players downplay importance of undefeated preseason record

Fire players downplay importance of undefeated preseason record

Despite struggles in recent years during the regular season, the Chicago Fire have had a good run in the preseason.

In Veljko Paunovic's two years in charge, the Fire have posted two undefeated preseasons, but the February success goes further back than that. In officially listed preseason matches on the Fire's website, the Fire went 7-1 in 2014, and a less impressive, but still undefeated 1-0-4 in 2015. Last season, Paunovic's first season, the Fire posted a 5-0-1 preseason mark.

The Fire failed to make the playoffs in any of those years and were dead last in Major League Soccer in each of the last two years.

This time around the Fire went a perfect 6-0, beginning with two shutouts and finishing with four more wins in which the Fire scored 16 goals. Downplaying the relevance of preseason results seems obvious, especially with the Fire's recent track record, but is there some benefit to winning as opposed to losing?

Midfielder Dax McCarty snickered at the question when asked at the Fire's season kickoff luncheon on Monday.

"I don't think it's that valuable at all actually," McCarty said. "It's nice to win. The goal in every game you play is to win games. Preseason teams are tinkering, teams are playing different formations and players and personnel. I think the general thesis of preseason should be to try to work on the things that you want to do in the season that are going to make you a successful team. For each team that's different so we definitely put value on the results that we got, you always want to win every time you step on the field, but in terms of what it means for the regular season, it doesn't mean much. We have a lot of confidence knowing that we have a good team and we have good players and the results in preseason showed that. As far as how valuable it is, I don't think it's very valuable at all. It's definitely nice to say you went through the preseason unbeaten I guess."

The purpose of the preseason is generally to get players in shape for the season, find how certain pieces on the team fit together and to begin to form the relationships on the team, both on and off the field, that will be crucial when the games matter. Results are, with good reason, viewed as secondary.

However, general manager Nelson Rodriguez said there are intangible benefits to winning in the preseason, although he admitted thinking the same last year when the team had a good preseason and then went winless in the first three matches of 2016 and struggled throughout the year.

"Of course they matter," Rodriguez said of preseason results. "They matter during the preseason, but [season opening opponent] Columbus is not afraid of us because we went 6-0-0 in the preseason. But again what the results during preseason allow to have happened is this belief in each other, is in this trust in the style of play and the proactive nature we're trying to build at the club. Results confer legitimacy, losses erode it. So in that regard I think it was helpful."

Juninho, who like McCarty is a league veteran and new addition to the Fire this offseason, leaned more towards McCarty's sentiment.

"What we got from there was the minutes and the games," Juninho said. "That's what was the main thing. When the season starts it's another game. We all know that and we have to work and focus on the season."

Paunovic talked about the team's work in the preseason and building confidence, but wouldn't talk about the results.

"We believe that the preseason is very important, but obviously as I said, when the season starts that's where you see who can handle the difficult situations and who you can count on."

When the Fire head to Columbus for the March 4 season opener both teams will have clean slates. The Fire will be hoping to turn a winning preseason into a winning start to the regular season and go against the recent trend.