Fire remain positive despite playoff loss

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Fire remain positive despite playoff loss

By Jeremy Mikula
CSNChicago.com contributor

Despite being eliminated in the Knockout Round of the Eastern Conference playoffs Wednesday, the Chicago Fire remain positive about their season.

"Hundred percent," striker Chris Rolfe told CSNChicago.com when asked if the season was considered a success for the club. "17 wins is unheard of since I've been here. The guys have a lot to be proud of; the coaching staff has done such a great job. Right now it's hard to say and look back at the way it went, but when we've kind of calmed down and take a look back, well see how special a year it was."

The Fire qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and amassed a 17-11-6 season -- good for fourth place in the East with 57 points. However, the season would come to end Wednesday night at the hands of the Houston Dynamo, who came into Toyota Park and walked away with a 2-1 win.

For captain Logan Pause, the loss should serve as a building exercise for a team largely devoid of MLS playoff experience.

"The big thing is for the guys to know and understand the feel," Pause said. "First of all for what it takes to get here, which is one element, and then the feeling of getting knocked out, which is one we don't want to feel."

"It's a hard one to swallow right now," Pause added. "But I'm proud of where this group has come over the last year. I don't think anyone thought much of us at the beginning of the year, missing the playoffs two years in a row. There are elements where it was a success, but we're in the business where we want and need to win championships."

The Fire fell behind in the 13th minute when Will Bruin scored his first of the night on a Brad Davis corner. Seconds into the second half, Bruin completed his brace when he slotted home in the 46th minute past Sean Johnson.

Chicago managed to pull one back through second half substitute Alex, who replaced Pause at the interval. Alex's 83rd minute goal put the Fire within touching distance, but ultimately Houston held on to setup a showdown with Sporting KC on Sunday.

One highlight for the Fire in the match was veteran German centerback Arne Friedrich, who put in a performance at both ends of the pitch.

"Unfortunately it was not enough," Friedrich said of a performance that saw him both defending and leading attacks. "We were down, I saw some opportunities so I wanted to push. It's really sad because we played a really good season. But this is soccer."

Friedrich joined the Fire in the offseason after cancelling out of his contract with Bundesliga side VFL Wolfsburg. Despite playing in two World Cups and a European Final with Germany, and numerous seasons in the Bundesliga, a championship has eluded him.

"There was a great chance this season, but I guess we were a little lazy," said Friedrich, who hopes to extend his one-year contract with the Fire. "We could have won some winnable games against Philadelphia at home and at New England. But we have to learn from that. The team has a good spirit, a good character, and everybody can learn from this season and the mistakes we made."

Although by no means a rookie, Friedrich is nonetheless a rookie when it comes a postseason that determines a league champion. In most soccer leagues, the team at the top of the table by seasons end is crowned the champion.

"It's cool, I like," Friedrich said of the new experience. "We'll see at the end who wins, but for teams like Kansas City or San Jose its really hard because one game and they could be out. But for teams like Houston who finished in the fifth position, everything is possible, so I like this."

With the season now over for the Fire, the team has indicated a return to the postseason in 2013 is a goal.

"The most important thing for us is winning an MLS Cup," said Rolfe, the team's MVP and Golden Boot winner."It's going to be the same thing next year, just keep pushing ourselves and try to get further than we did this year."

Fire finish preseason with undefeated record after beating Toronto

Fire finish preseason with undefeated record after beating Toronto

The Chicago Fire finished off another undefeated preseason on Saturday.

The Fire concluded preseason play in Florida with a 4-1 win against Toronto FC at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg.

It was the sixth and final preseason game in the Fire's preseason. The Fire outscored the opponents, three MLS teams, two minor league clubs and a college team, 18-6 and scored 16 goals in the past four games.

The Fire started with what appears to be a likely starting lineup for the opening match at Columbus a week from today. Jorge Bava was in goal with a back four of Brandon Vincent, Johan Kappelhof, Joao Meira and Michael Harrington. The midfield was anchored by Dax McCarty and Juninho in the center with David Accam, Michael de Leeuw and Arturo Alvarez supporting striker Nemanja Nikolic in the attack.

With the season opener at Columbus just a week away, coach Veljko Paunovic played the starters into the second half and had five players, Bava, Vincent, Kappelhof, McCarty and Juninho, play the full 90 minutes. Meanwhile Toronto made eight changes at halftime.

Juninho scored in the ninth minute on a rocket shot from outside the box. The Fire doubled the lead just over 10 minutes later when Nemanja Nikolic converted a penalty kick after Michael de Leeuw was fouled in the box. David Accam set up de Leeuw for the third goal and the Fire led 3-0 at halftime.


In the second half de Leeuw got his second goal before Toronto pulled one back via a penalty kick from Tosaint Ricketts.

"It's good for our confidence that we win these kind of games, but at the end, next week every team is starting at zero," de Leeuw said after the match. "Everything next week is important, but I think the confidence is big after this one."

CSN Chicago expands regional broadcast plans for Fire

CSN Chicago expands regional broadcast plans for Fire

CSN Chicago has expanded their regional broadcasting plans for the 2017 Chicago Fire season.

The expansion includes 29 MLS fixtures, 36 episodes of Fire Weekly, and four behind-the-scenes episodes of Fire All-Access.

"Throughout our 20th season, CSN Chicago will be providing viewers unprecedented coverage of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club," said Fire COO Atul Khosla. "We’re thrilled to be able to team with CSN Chicago to share more than 100 hours of live, original content to fans throughout the region."

"We are proud to be the regional television home for the Fire and fans can count on us once again to deliver expert game coverage, pre-game shows for every telecast, and expanded offerings of Fire-related programming throughout the 2017 MLS campaign," added Phil Bedella, VP/GM of CSN Chicago.

Fire Weekly, presented by The PrivateBank, will debut on Wednesday, March 1 at 10 p.m. on CSN+. It will be also be available via live stream on CSNChicago.com.

Fire All-Access will premiere on Wednesday, March 8 at 9:30 p.m. on CSN and streamed at CSNChicago.com.

Click here to see CSN's Broadcast Schedule.