Fire releases regular season schedule

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Fire releases regular season schedule

Theres a new twist to the Major League Soccer schedule for 2013, released by the league and its member clubs on Wednesday.
Not only will the season start a week earlier than ususual, it will have a Revivals Week on March 16-17. Regional rivals will be paired at that time, with the Fire drawing Eastern Conference regular season champion Sporting Kansas City on March 16 in K.C.
Fans, though, may be more enticed by the Sunday matinee games. The Fire will play nine, five of them at Toyota Park. Only three mid-week games are on the schedule and in an interesting numerical coincidence -- the Fire will play 16 nationally-televised matches in its 16th season of existence.
The Fire has its earliest MLS season opener ever, at Los Angeles on March 3. Thatll be the first of 34 regular season battles, with 25 of them coming against Eastern Conference opponents.
Within the East the Fire will face seven conference rivals three times and two (New York and Toronto) twice. The latter two will be home-and-home series. In the others the Fire will have two home dates against D.C. United, Sporting Kansas City, the Montreal Impact and New England Revolution.
To balance things out the Fire will play two of three matches on the road against the Columbus Crew, Houston Dynamo and Philadelphia Union.
On the national TV front, the Fire will play on NBC Sports Network eight times, ESPN and ESPN2 once apiece, Univsion once and UniMas five times.
The opener will be the first of nine meetings against Western Conference foes, a road battle with the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy on March 3. The home opener is March 9 vs. New England, a good home opening opponent. The Fire is 2-0-3 in home openers vs. the Revs and is 9-3-3 in its 15 previous home debuts.
In addition to its schedule the Fire announced the winner of last months open tryout.
The lucky survivor from over 150 trialists is forward Samuel Archer, a 23-year-old Rutgers University product who owns dual citizenship in the U.S. and Jamaica. A member of the U.S. under-17 pool, he went through the New York Red Bulls Academy and had a tryout with the Colorado Rapids in 2012.
After failing to crack the Rapids roster he spent time with the United Soccer League members Harrisburg City and Wilmington.
Archers chances of making the Fire roster are slim. Only one of the previous four open tryout winners succeeded Pari Pantazopoulos in 2011. He got into one match, in the U.S. Open Cup, with the first time and also took the field in a friendly against Manchester United.
Pantazopoulos, however, failed to make last seasons roster, and Archer could be gone after the first week of training in Ave Maria, FL. That 10-day session begins on Jan. 20.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jason Benetti stops by to talk the future of the White Sox

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jason Benetti stops by to talk the future of the White Sox

There's a lot of buzz around the future of the White Sox.

White Sox announcer Jason Benetti joined SportsTalk Live on Wednesday to discuss the team's exciting young prospects and how soon they'll be making their way to the South Side.

Also joining Pat Boyle on this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast are the Tribune's David Haugh, Pro Football Weekly's Hub Arkush and WGN Radio's Sam Panayotovich.

The guys also react to Mike Glennon's recent comments and Kevin White’s uncertain status at OTAs.

Plus, they wonder if Kyle Schwarber has finally found his spot in the Cubs' lineup.

Take a listen to the latest episode below:

Preview: Confident Fire face tough test vs. FC Dallas Thursday on CSN

Preview: Confident Fire face tough test vs. FC Dallas Thursday on CSN

The Chicago Fire are on a three-game winning streak, but those wins have come against struggling teams. FC Dallas, Thursday’s opponent, provides a different level of opposition.

Dallas won the Supporters’ Shield and the U.S. Open Cup last year and was the last team in Major League Soccer to lose this season, only getting knocked off for the first time Saturday against San Jose.

The Fire host Dallas at Toyota Park on CSN with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live. The Fire (6-3-3, 21 points) have more points, but Dallas (5-1-4, 19 points) has played two fewer games.

“You can test yourself against one of the best teams in the league and kind of gauge where you’re at,” Fire defender Brandon Vincent said. “We’re confident and we want to go out there and battle with them.”

Vincent has been part of a defense that has two straight shutouts, although those came against the two-worst goal-scoring teams in the league in Colorado and D.C. Dallas’ attack isn’t the most prolific in the league (14 goals in 10 games), but is very dangerous on the counter.

“They have a ton of attacking talent,” goalkeeper Matt Lampson said. “They’re actually just a solid team throughout and we expect a very hard game, but we are a completely different team. I think we’ve started to prove that and it’s going to be a very good game.”

While the defense will be busy containing Maxi Urruti (6 goals, 2 assists), midfielder Kellyn Acosta has been a crucial two-way player for Dallas. The 21-year-old has become a key player in the middle with playmaker Mauro Diaz, who was third in MLS with 13 assists last year, still out with an Achilles tendon injury.

Dallas has allowed the fewest goals in the league this season, seven through 10 games. Both centerbacks, Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman, have emerged as national team prospects for the U.S.

Dallas has the talent, experience and credentials of a top team. The Fire are new to being a contender. Vincent and Lampson, both in their second years with the Fire, said they haven’t seen the team have this much confidence since they joined the team.

“This is something special,” Lampson said. “That just proves that guys like Juninho, Dax (McCarty) and Bastian (Schweinsteiger) coming in, the culture has completely changed and we have guys who will do anything to win. When you have every guy on the team that’s like that, then you’re going to get results, you’re going to have confidence when you play well and everybody on the field is going to play for each other.”

Chicago Fire vs. FC Dallas

Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.

TV: CSN Chicago

When: Coverage begins 7 p.m. Thursday with Fire Pregame Live

Records: Fire (6-3-3, 21 points), FCD (5-1-4, 19 points)