Pardo announces his retirement

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Pardo announces his retirement

AVE MARIA, FL. The Fire caught flight to the first phase of preseason training on Sunday with one notable absentee. Pavel Pardo, the legendary Mexican midfielder, announced his retirement before the flight took off for this small college town on the outskirts of Naples.

Pardos retirement was no surprise. At the age of 36, he had been considering it for some time and the Fires acquisition of Jeff Larentowicz in a trade with the Colorado Rapids last week made the decision more clear-cut.

Still, Pardos 19-year professional career was filled with brilliant moments and he was always a class act.

The second-most capped player in the history of Mexicos national team, Pardo was one of the greatest international stars of his era. He played in 148 matches for Mexico after being a mainstay for Atlas and Club America.

Fire coach Frank Klopas, admitting Pardo has been a "fantastic" player, felt the need to build for the future and the recent acquisitions of Larentowicz and New York midfielder Joel Lindpere meant that Pardos role would be inevitably diminished. He had partnered with captain Logan Pause for much of the last two seasons and was a key component in the Fires revival after missing the Major League Soccer playoffs in 2010 and 2011.

For the Fire and its fans having Pardo on the roster though for only 41 matches was an honor. He joined international stars of the past like Peter Nowak, Hristo Stoitchkov, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Brian McBride, Freddie Ljungberg and Arne Friedrich in wearing the Fire jersey and made great contributions to the team.

Fire owner Andrew Hauptman said it was "truly a great experience having Pavel Pardo represent the Chicago Fire on and off the field."

President of soccer operations Javier Leon also lauded Pardos performance in MLS during the twilight of his career.

Pardo arrived in the middle of the 2011 season, one in which the Fire won just two of their first 20 MLS matches and had turned to Klopas as head coach. The club finished 7-2-1 in the last 10 matches to finish at the .500 level (9-9-16) and barely missed postseason play. The team's playoff slumber ended in 2012.

Although Pardo is ready for his next step off the field, his decision to call it quits didn't come easily.

"It was a difficult decision," he admitted. "The journey has been exciting, and Im proud of the things Ive accomplished."

Saturday on CSN+: Fire get a second chance in New England

Saturday on CSN+: Fire get a second chance in New England

The Chicago Fire have won four straight at Toyota Park and have built an eight-match unbeaten streak at home, including three in the U.S. Open Cup.

However, playing on the road has been the opposite. The Fire (4-9-5, 17 points) still don’t have a win on the road this season and haven’t even earned a point on the road since April, a seven-game losing streak.

Saturday’s match is at New England (5-7-8, 23 points). The match will be televised on CSN+ with coverage beginning at 6 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.

“I’m not thinking about the streak that we have on the road,” Fire forward Michael de Leeuw said. “It’s another opportunity to play and to win and we need the points because we’re six points behind. I think New England has got six points more than us, two games (played) more, so it’s an important game for us.”

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New England currently sits in the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Revolution already beat the Fire at Gillette Stadium this season, 2-0 on May 14. On that day, Lee Nguyen scored following a corner kick and then Femi Hollinger-Janzen provided a late insurance goal.

Hollinger-Janzen is among a fairly lengthy injury list for the Revs. Fellow forwards Charlie Davies and Juan Agudelo will also be out.

“It was a tough, tough loss for us,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said of the previous game in New England. “Nobody likes that. I just remember and when I have the opportunity to play again I just want to win. I want to prepare our team to win on Saturday and we will manage that.”

That game also marked Khaly Thiam's debut for the Fire. He started and played 64 minutes in midfield. Meanwhile, that was Kei Kamara's first appearance for the Revolution after being traded from Columbus. Kamara didn't score in his first five games for the Revolution, but has since scored three goals in the past four matches.

On the Fire’s injury list are Razvan Cocis, who picked up a calf injury in the Open Cup game on Wednesday, and Joey Calistri, who is still recovering from an ankle sprain. Both are officially listed as questionable, but it would be a surprise if either play.

Chicago Fire at New England Revolution

When: 6:30 p.m. (coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live)

TV: CSN+

Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.

Michael de Leeuw gives Fire ‘another dimension’

Michael de Leeuw gives Fire ‘another dimension’

Michael de Leeuw hasn’t taken long to show he was worth the attention paid to him when the Chicago Fire acquired him this season.

The 29-year-old Dutch forward scored his second goal in four appearances with the Fire in the team’s 3-0 win against the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers on Wednesday.

The goal was almost entirely made by David Accam. The Ghanaian winger dribbled from midfield and rounded the goalkeeper before making a centering pass to de Leeuw to tap into an open net.


Other than Accam’s highlight-worthy moves on the ball, what stands out about the goal is what de Leeuw did off the ball. He read the play correctly and put himself in position for that easy finish.

“He’s a different type of player,” Accam said. “He’s like a box striker, a typical striker and that’s what we lacked all season and he’s contributing a lot to this team.”

In de Leeuw’s four games with the Fire, three of which have been starts, he has registered only two shots on target. Both of those have been close-range goals.

“I don’t think he has scored a difficult goal this season, but for me that’s a good striker,” Accam said. “He was in a good place. Most people will not be there.”

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It appears from his first few appearances with the Fire that de Leeuw is not a striker who is going to create his own shot by beating a defender or two. That’s what Accam did on that play and what Kennedy Igboananike has done on most of his four goals this season.

The key for the Fire is getting de Leeuw and Accam on the same page so they can complement each other like they did on Wednesday. For now, de Leeuw is learning what he has to do when Accam has the ball.

“Keep up, keep up with him,” de Leeuw said. “You know he’s fast. You know when he’s got the ball he goes for it. He’s like Usain Bolt. But you know you have to be prepared for the rebound. That’s what I’m doing. He made a shot and just be there for the rebound.”

Before de Leeuw’s arrival, the Fire clearly were a team looking to play on the counter to utilize the speed of Accam and Igboananike. That came at the detriment of the Fire’s ability to keep possession of the ball.

What de Leeuw gives the team is another way to attack. His hold up play means the Fire can retain the ball more easily and build up more deliberately as opposed to frequently having midfielders look for a sprinting Accam whenever they get a bit of time on the ball.

“I think it’s an outlet,” midfielder Matt Polster said. “We don’t always have to look in behind for David and try to counter. I think we have now have another dimension to our game. We can look in behind and break or we can try to combine with Michael so I think it just gives us another little bit of something for the other team to be worried about.”

Fire to head on the road for U.S. Open Cup semifinal, but can host final

Fire to head on the road for U.S. Open Cup semifinal, but can host final

The Chicago Fire can host the 2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final, but will have to win on the road in order to do so.

U.S. Soccer held the draw to determine the hosts of the Open Cup's semifinals Thursday morning at Soccer House in Chicago. After beating the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers 3-0 in a quarterfinal last night, the Fire learned they will be heading on the road for the first time in this year's tournament for the semifinal.

The Fire will travel to take on the New England Revolution on Tuesday, Aug. 9, at 7 p.m.

The LA Galaxy will host FC Dallas in the other semifinal.

The other part of Thursday's draw was to determine the hosting priority for the final. The Fire were given the top spot in that, meaning if the Fire beat the Revolution, they will host the final in September at a date still to be determined. If the Fire lose, the winner of the Galaxy-Dallas semifinal will host the final.

This is the same result in the draw as last year, when the Fire traveled to Philadelphia for a semifinal with the chance to host the final with a victory. The Fire lost 1-0.

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The Fire are four-time winners of the U.S. Open Cup. The last time they made the final was 2011, a 2-0 loss at Seattle. The last time the Fire hosted the final was in 2006, which is also the last time the Fire won the tournament.