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.

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Fire dominant against Orlando for seventh straight home win

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Are the Chicago Fire still getting better?

The Fire entered Saturday’s match against Orlando unbeaten in eight straight MLS games, yet showed a level of domination the team hasn’t had for extended periods this year. David Accam scored two goals in the first eight minutes and finished with a hat trick to lead the Fire to a 4-0 win against the visiting Lions on Saturday.

Accam’s first goal was a beauty in the third minute. It came at the end of a 17-pass buildup, which started with a Matt Polster throw in. In the end it was Polster hitting a low cross to Accam, who scored with a pretty backheel from five yards out.

“I think the main thing from the group is that we’re just all moving off the ball," Polster said. "Our movement has been very good in terms of we’re always finding the open man. We’ve been creating a lot of space for each other... I think that’s kind of what we’re trying to build, a lot of running off the ball and creating a lot of space for each other.”

Five minutes later Accam had another goal after Bastian Schweinsteiger’s long ball put Accam all alone with goalkeeper Joe Bendik in the box. Accam dribbled around Bendik and scored.

That incredibly fast start seemed to set the tone for the show. The Fire were not only dominating the game, but they were seemingly having fun while doing so. There were plenty of flicks and tricks and creative set plays on display.

Nemanja Nikolic added one in the second half, on an Accam assist. Accam finished off his hat trick, which he said he believed was the first of his professional career, in the 63rd minute on a penalty kick.

Nikolic now has 14 goals to add to his league-leading total. Even though he is in the running for the Golden Boot, there was no question who was taking the penalty kick.

“I just took the ball and he gave it to me," Accam said. "We share responsibilities with the penalties every time. I know he wants to score every game. For me I try to help him to score goals and I’m glad I did today.”

The Fire (10-3-4, 34 points) remained within a point of Toronto (10-2-5, 35 points) for the best record in the league and reached double-digit wins for the first time since 2013. The regular season is halfway finished.

“We have to understand that this is going to be a long season and we still have to look for the peak of our performance by the end of the season,” coach Veljko Paunovic said.

Orlando (7-6-5, 26 points) was without its leading scorer (Cyle Larin), was coming off a midweek game at Seattle and has one win in its past 11 MLS matches. Even with that, the Lions are in a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and the Fire thoroughly dominated.

Orlando didn’t have a shot on target and the Fire had plenty of chances to score more than four. There’s another half to the season remaining, but this Fire team is coming off arguably its best result of the season (last week’s win at New England) and seems to be still improving.

At the beginning of the season, simply ending the team's five-year playoff drought would have been viewed as a minor success. Now, midfielder Dax McCarty says the Fire are hoping for bigger things.

“The mentality is certainly now, let’s not just make the playoffs because that’s not good enough," McCarty said. "Sure, we want to make the playoffs, but we want to win the Open Cup, we want to win MLS Cup, we want to compete for the Supporters’ Shield. Is that realistic to compete for all three, why not? Why not us? I think that’s our motto and our attitude in the locker room right now. Why can’t we win every game. Clearly MLS is a long, hard grind and you’re going to have off days, but we step on the field every day now to compete and win games.”