Sports Ajenda: Fire forward Carr feeling good

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Sports Ajenda: Fire forward Carr feeling good

Friday, Aug. 20, 2010
4:48 PM

By Jen Patterson
CSNChcago.com

Chicago Fire Forward Calen Carr made his return to the lineup on Wednesday in a 2-1 victory over the New England Revolution. Carr suffered from a strained quadriceps injury during the preseason but made an impact on the field when he came off the bench in the 86th minute to score the game winning goal.

It was great, its been a long road getting healthy and a lot of hard work," said Carr. "To come back out there and help the team and make an immediate impact was great.

Newly acquired designated player Freddie Ljungberg played a role in Carrs performance on the field. Ljungberg provided the assist on the goal, with a pass on the left wing. It was the first assist for the speedy midfielder in the Chicago Fire uniform since being acquired from the Seattle Sounders.

Freddie has been working with me through the week, just talking to me and giving me some ideas for runs and how to move off of him, said the 27-year-old forward. Carr went on to say that Ljungberg draws a lot of attention on the field and it gave him an opportunity to get open and find the back of the net.

The Men in Red now hold fourth place in the standings with 24 points in 17 games. With the addition of designated players Ljungberg and Nery Castillo, plus their three game undefeated streak, the Fire look to build on the momentum and get a win in Houston.

Its a quick turnaround with the travel but we are ready for it, and weve been training well," Carr said. "We will be prepared and hopefully we will come back with three points."

There is not much rest for the weary. Wednesday night they had a triumph on the field and now they need to go out and again run 90 minutes in Houston.

Its tougher for some then others," said veteran defender CJ Brown. "The good thing is you dont worry about injuries you have. You just focus on the next game and go from there. Hopefully we have the legs, its going to be hot in Houston.

Houston has proved to be a tough opponent for the Fire. It had a five game win streak until Chicago defeated Houston for the first time in franchise history in a 2-0 win April 24 at Toyota Park.

You can see the Fire take on the Dynamo on Comcast SportsNet on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Sunday on CSN: Fire look to extend home unbeaten streak against Red Bulls

Sunday on CSN: Fire look to extend home unbeaten streak against Red Bulls

The Kennedy Igboananike trade shifted focus a bit towards next year for the Chicago Fire, but on Sunday the focus returns to the field.

The Fire host the New York Red Bulls and the game will be televised live on CSN. Coverage starts at 5:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live. The game willl also be simulcast with a Spanish language broadcast on CSN+.

Since going 1-5 to start the season, the Red Bulls (9-9-4, 31 points) have looked like one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and sit second in the standings. The team’s recent run has caught the attention Fire coach Veljko Paunovic.

“We are looking at the next game against one of the best teams in the league, in my opinion,” Paunovic said. “I would say performance wise the best team because in the style they play, it’s fantastic. I think they have very, very good players.”

[SHOP: Get a hold of your own Fire home jersey here]

The Red Bulls are playing better of late, but have not succeeded much on the road. New York is 1-7-3 on the road and 8-2-1 at home.

The Fire (4-10-5, 17 points) remain in last in the conference, but have an eight-match unbeaten streak at Toyota Park.

“It’s important to stay strong at home and it’s important for our fans to see that we can compete against one of the best teams in the league here at our field with all our field,” Paunovic said.

Fire midfielder Razvan Cocis will miss his second straight match due to injury and Joey Calistri was still listed as questionable. With Igboananike gone, forward depth for the Fire is very thin, especially if Calistri is unavailable.

Brandon Vincent’s availability is also in question after playing in the MLS All-Star Game on Thursday. He only logged 33 minutes, but factoring in cross-country travel and just two days rest, Vincent may not play.

The Red Bulls have the same situation with Sacha Kljestan, who played 41 minutes in the All-Star Game. Kljestan leads the league with 12 assists and also has five goals. Bradley Wright-Phillips has also been hot of late. The English forward has 11 goals after not scoring in the first seven matches of the season.

“Sacha Kljestan is playing at an MVP-caliber level and Wright-Phillips has seemed to find the scoring touch again,” Fire defender Eric Gehrig said. “They had a great year last and they’re starting to turn it on now, but we’re at home. We know that if we bring our best game that we can compete with anyone at home. It’s an important three points, especially with our road form we know that we have to snatch these points up and we’re looking forward to it.”

Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls

When: 6 p.m. Sunday (coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live)

TV: Comcast SportsNet (simulcast in Spanish on CSN+)

Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.

Fire trade Kennedy Igoboananike to D.C. United

Fire trade Kennedy Igoboananike to D.C. United

With just five days until the summer transfer window closes in Major League Soccer, the Chicago Fire have made their first big move of the window.

Kennedy Igboananike has been traded to D.C. United for Targeted Allocation Money and a third round pick in 2019.

Per the Fire's release, Igboananike will still count as a Designated Player through the rest of 2016 and the Fire will retain a percentage of any transfer fee if he is sold outside the league in 2016. Paul Tenorio also reported that the Fire are still paying a majority of Igboananike's salary.

Igboananike is the second DP forward to leave the team during this season. Gilberto and the Fire mutually terminated the Brazilian's contract in late June.

David Accam is the only DP left on the Fire roster, but with Igboananike still counting as one this season, the Fire only have the one spot vacated from when Gilberto departed. However, when the Fire head into the offseason they will have two DP spots to work with.

Igboananike joined the Fire before the 2015 season and made 55 appearances between MLS play and the U.S. Open Cup. He scored 13 goals for the Fire. This season, the Nigerian scored four goals and carried the offense when David Accam was injured in the early part of the season.

He has not scored since May 11, a 10-game drought. Even still, his four goals are still tied for the team-lead this season. Igboananike also led the Fire in shots (48) and shots on target (15).

The 27-year-old was a hard-working, but ultimately only moderately productive forward with the Fire. He was also not as featured in the attack since the arrival of Michael de Leeuw.

“Moves like this are needed in order to execute our plan for roster development,” general manager Nelson Rodriguez said in the press release.

Rodriguez has said that he and the club were working towards a multi-year plan that made it sound like 2017 was more the priority than 2016 in terms of building the roster. This move goes along with that.

D.C. is chasing a playoff spot and the Fire have become a longshot to make the playoffs. Dumping Igboananike allows the Fire to have more flexibility heading into the offseason to prepare for 2017.

MLS could expand in the Midwest and how that affects the Fire

MLS could expand in the Midwest and how that affects the Fire

There aren’t many notable traditions in Major League Soccer yet.

So many things are frequently changing in the league, which is currently in its 20th season, that not much can be counted on year after year.

However, one of the smaller things that is newsworthy each season is commissioner Don Garber’s on-air halftime interview during the MLS All-Star Game. For hardcore fans of the league it’s must-see TV and in some years might even be more interesting than the game itself.

Expansion, one of the seemingly evergreen hot topics in the league, always seems to come up and Garber usually has some good details to offer. During halftime of yesterday’s All-Star Game in San Jose, Garber teased more than he informed when asked about expansion, but there was still some useful information.

Atlanta is all set and ready to go for 2017 and Garber said they have 31,000 season-ticket deposits. Garber said a second team, which is all but assured to be Minnesota, will also join in 2017 with a formal announcement in “a couple weeks.” Los Angeles FC and David Beckham’s Miami team, which appears to be in limbo at the moment, are next in line.

After that, it’s anyone’s guess beyond the fact that Garber has previously said the league is working to add an additional four teams to reach 28. At this point even Garber doesn’t know which cities will get those teams, but he said there’s a lot of interest.

“I can’t tell you when that’s going to be,” Garber said during the interview on ESPN. “We’re going to be careful to ensure we manage the technical aspects of expansion, but a lot of interest. Probably a dozen cities for those last four spots.”

A dozen cities seems high and perhaps Garber is posturing to increase the competition for those expansion openings, but there are plenty of cities that on the surface would appear to be good for MLS.

From a local perspective, or more appropriately, a regional perspective, it makes one wonder how many of those cities are in the Midwest and could become geographical rivals for the Chicago Fire.

The region as a whole doesn’t have many teams in MLS. Chicago is joined by Kansas City and Columbus, with Minneapolis-St. Paul soon to join. The problem is Kansas City and Minneapolis, and to some extent Columbus, are the geographical edges of the region. There are plenty of Midwestern cities that are both closer and have more ties with Chicago in other sports that don’t have MLS teams.

Looking at the candidates

St. Louis: This is an obvious pick in the rivalry category for the Fire and jumped up the MLS list once the Rams left. The city has rich soccer history, a fairly successful minor league team (the Fire's United Soccer League affiliate, Saint Louis FC, is averaging nearly 5,000 fans per game to put it towards the top of the league attendance chart) and just two other sports teams to compete for mindshare and media attention.

Detroit: There hadn’t been much talk about Detroit joining MLS until Tom Gores (Pistons owner) and Dan Gilbert (Cleveland Cavaliers owner) announced they are working on getting a team into Detroit. Detroit City FC is a semi-pro that team that has built a dedicated following. There’s preexisting Chicago-Detroit rivalries in every other sport with Bulls-Pistons and Blackhawks-Red Wings the standouts.

Cincinnati: A year ago Cincinnati would have been an afterthought, but since FC Cincinnati has joined the USL things have changed. The expansion club is averaging a league-best 16,750 fans per game and recently drew just over 35,000 for a friendly against Premier League club Crystal Palace. There’s nothing minor league about those numbers.

Indianapolis: Indy Eleven, which the Fire beat in penalty kicks in this year’s U.S. Open Cup, led the North American Soccer League in attendance in 2014 and 2015 and sit only behind Minnesota this season. The fan interest and the numbers are there for a minor league team, but the question is if the investment is also there to move into MLS.

How this affects the Fire

MLS continues to market rivalries via sponsored “rivalry weeks” and the same few matchups seem to headline. Seattle-Portland, the new New York derby, LA-San Jose and to a lesser extent Dallas-Houston. The Fire don’t have anything that approaches these games.

The Columbus Crew are probably the Fire’s biggest rival and that’s not reaching the top tier of big matchups in the league. St. Louis, Detroit or Indianapolis could provide a marquee game on the schedule.

“The growth of the league is phenomenal,” Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez said back in May when asked about Midwest expansion. “We will be excited to go into those markets because we know we’ll be met with fans who will be inclined to hate Chicago because Chicago is a great sports town. Because we carry with us the tradition of six trophies in our cabinet and we also carry with us the reputation of Chicago sports in general. I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s a wonderful thing.”

From the players’ perspective, they won’t complain about their being more jobs in the league, but they also look forward to the bigger spectacles.

“Any rivalry game brings a lot of fan interest, a lot of high-intensity games,” said Fire midfielder Michael Stephens, who grew up in the Chicago area. “You see New York City-New York Red Bull this weekend was a good one so they’re always good.

“There’s been some talk about St. Louis as well so that could be a little rivalry. We got the Cardinals and Cubs going on already so that could be nice. Any more teams is good for the players.”

Like Stephens, Eric Gehrig is a Chicago native and a big fan of Chicago sports. Gehrig also believes it would be good for both the Fire and the league to see more teams in the region.

“You think about the markets, maybe St. Louis,” Gehrig said. “A lot of ties there with Chicago and Detroit obviously. Michigan has got a healthy crop of young talent. I think as the years pass soccer is going to keep getting bigger and bigger and any time you can add more teams and more rivalries to the Midwest it will be good.”