MLS All-Star game is a work in progress

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MLS All-Star game is a work in progress

The Major League Soccer All-Star Game has been a work in progress in the past, and that remains the case this year.

Fan balloting began Friday for the match pitting the MLS squad against UEFA Champions League winner Chelsea on July 25 at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. MLS squad selection is a long, confusion process that started with media from around the league determining the top six players on each team.

For the Fire, that meant goalkeeper Sean Johnson, defender Gonzalo Segares, midfielders Sebastian Grazzini, Marco Pappa and Pavel Pardo and forward Dominic Oduro will be on the fans ballot.

Fans can vote through July 2, either through the MLS website or via text messaging or Twitter. Those votes will determine the designated All-Star First XI, with the players announced at the halftime of the Fires home match vs. the Los Angeles Galaxy on July 8.

That wont determine the whole team, though. Ex-Fire captain Peter Nowak, now the coach of the Philadelphia Union, is the coach of the MLS All-Stars this year. He will choose the game day roster and the starting lineup. MLS commissioner Don Garber will also have two picks for selection eligibility to be announced on July 25. The leagues players will also vote for their peers as part of the selection process.

In the end, 32 players will be designated as All-Stars, as per the leagues collective bargaining agreement with its players. Obviously, not all of them will be on the field against Chelsea. Of the Fire nominees, only Pappa has had a taste of All-Star activity. He was a starter in the 2010 match, a 5-2 loss to Manchester United in Houston.

MLS has tried a variety of formats for its version of All-Star weekend. In the leagues first two seasons, 1996 and 1997, teams were chosen by conference with the East meeting the West.

In 1998, when the Fire joined the league, the match pitted MLS players from the United States against those from the rest of the world. That was an interesting concept, but it didnt last long. It was back to East vs. West in 1999, 2000 and 2001.

The 2002 version pitted the MLS All-Stars against the U.S. national team, and just one MLS squad also participated the following year when the opponent was CD Guadalajara, the popular Mexican club known as Chivas.

After another try of East vs. West in 2004, the league opted for the present matchup of one MLS squad facing a notable international club Englands Fulham in 2005, Chelsea in 2006, Celtic FC of Scotland in 2007, Englands West Ham in 2008, Englands Everton in 2009 and Englands Manchester United in both 2010 and 2011.

The two matches with Man-U were the only matches the MLS squad lost during the seven-year run. The 4-2-1 mark compiled by the MLS squad in that period included a 1-0 victory over Chelsea before a sold-out crowd of 21,210 at Toyota Park in 2006. The game has been a sellout every year since 2005.

Eric Gehrig officially joins Fire's staff an assistant coach

Eric Gehrig officially joins Fire's staff an assistant coach

The Chicago Fire filled out the rest of the soccer operations staff on Wednesday and a familiar name is an assistant coach.

Eric Gehrig filled the assistant coach vacancy opened by Logan Pause's departure. Gehrig, 29, played the last two seasons with the Fire as a defender.

Gehrig had his option declined by the Fire this offseason, but resurfaced as an assistant coach at the start of preseason training. He was technically on trial as a coach until today.

Yesterday Gehrig announced his retirement as a player on Instagram, which led the way for his move into coaching. Gehrig played four seasons with the Columbus Crew before joining the Fire.

Six years ago to the day I signed my first professional contract. It was one of the greatest days of my life. I still can remember anxiously waiting to get out of what felt like the longest team meeting in my life. I just couldn’t run upstairs fast enough to call Greg. Competing in the playoffs for the Columbus Crew, in front of some of the most passionate fans, are memories I'll cherish forever. And then being traded to my hometown Chicago Fire, the first soccer team I ever loved, and being voted Chicago Fire Defender of the Year. Literally backyard dreams becoming a reality. Thank you to my brother @ggehrig09 for sharing his genuine joy and unwavering support. To my parents, there’s just no words. Car rides, soccer jerseys, nachos at Fire games, every Adidas Predator shoes released, you name it. I LOVE you 3 so much, and here's to many more memories at soccer stadiums 😉. Thank you to all my coaches over the years for relentlessly pushing me, even when it was hard for me to see why at the time. You guys hardened me, toughened me, and without those experiences there's no way I would have made it to Major League Soccer. Thank you to the fans, for giving a no-name kid from Loyola a chance to earn your trust and support. Both to the people of Columbus, who became family, and to my brothers and sisters in Chicago, THANK YOU. Lastly, I want to thank my teammates. To me being with you all, and getting to know you, is what was the best part. Sure, I'll miss competing in sold out stadiums, wrestling with superstar forwards, or hitting 60 yard lasers to a teammates foot 😁. But I WILL undoubtedly miss those times spent with the boys the most, and I've been lucky to make some amazing friends for life. You all made me a better player, but more importantly a better man. Thank you so much guys. I’ll always be here for you! ….and with that I announce my retirement from playing professional soccer. It’s bittersweet for sure, but I am at peace, and more than anything, I’m beyond grateful. The game has meant too much to me over the last 20 years for this to be the end... EG ❤️ p.s. Happy Valentines Day @natalieput. You’re so pretty. Love you.

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Gehrigh is younger than six players on the Fire's roster: Jorge Bava, Arturo Alvarez, Michael Harrington, Michael de Leeuw, Dax McCarty and Joao Meira.

In two other moves to the soccer operations staff, Steven Purcell got moved up to head athletic trainer after being an assistant athletic trainer last year. Reade Whitney was hired to fill Purcell's vacated spot.

Fire jump on Montreal early for third straight preseason win

Fire jump on Montreal early for third straight preseason win

Preseason soccer can be funny sometimes.

Some teams play full strength lineups while some teams mix it up and the matchups in preseason games can create some mismatches with teams having different priorities in mind. Wednesday was one of those examples.

The Chicago Fire blitzed the Montreal Impact with a goal in the first 30 seconds and three in the first 20 minutes of a 4-1 win in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Fire played what appeared to be a full strength lineup for just over 60 minutes, with most starters going more than 70 minutes, while the Impact had a combination of starters, reserves and academy players in both halves.

The Fire got on the board 25 seconds in when Michael de Leeuw caused a turnover in the Montreal box. He set up David Accam for an easy finish.

Dax McCarty made it 2-0 in the 15th minute with a wicked half-volley on a layoff from Nemanja Nikolic. Accam stole the ball in Montreal's defensive third and centered to Nikolic.

Three minutes later an own goal made it 3-0. All three of the early goals came as a result of mistakes by Montreal which the Fire capitalized on.

In the second half Nikolic got a goal of his own by sliding in to finish of a de Leeuw ball that looked like a shot following a short corner.

Montreal got one back in the final minutes when an Ignacio Piatti shot hit the arm of Drew Conner for a handball in the box. Piatti then converted the penalty.

The Fire lined up in coach Veljko Paunovic's standard 4-2-3-1 formation. Goalkeeper Jorge Bava played the full 90 minutes and made a few notable saves. All the Fire's field players were subbed off in the second half.

Michael Harrington got the start at right back, a position which remains a question mark. Harrington and Johan Kappelhof are the only players on the roster with notable experience playing right back and Kappelhof is also probably the Fire's best centerback. Harrington was subbed off in the 71st minute and Kappelhof, who started the match at centerback, played the next 12 minutes at right back before Joey Calistri, typically a midfielder or forward, replaced him.

The Fire had two right back trialists in camp in Drew Beckie and Boyd Okwuonu, but neither made the return trip to Florida after the Fire returned to Chicago over the weekend. Second round pick Guillermo Delgado, a forward, is also no longer in camp with the team.