With the MLS playoffs on hiatus due to an international break and Frank Yallop working on filling out his technical staff domestic soccer news has been a bit slow around these parts for the last few days. Here are a few nuggets to discuss over the weekend......
- Yallop was a guest on the All-In podcast and talked about his career and impending hires for his staff.
- After MLSsoccer.com's Matthew Doyle dissed Chicago's deep dish pizza on the latest episode of the Fire Confidential Podcast on Monday, Comedy Central's Jon Stewart also went on a rant about the same topic.
- MLS will hold a Caribbean player combine in Antigua from January 2-5. This combine will take place before the annual MLS player combine leading up to the Super Draft.
- Owner Andrew Hauptman issued a letter via email to season ticket holders today recapping the season and looking ahead to 2014. Here's the entire letter:
I’m writing this letter to you earlier than we all would have hoped. First and foremost, I want to thank you, all of the supporters, who have stuck with the team through the ups and downs of this year.
After a slow start, plagued by injuries and poor weather, the Club worked tirelessly to get back on the track to success. From working behind the scenes to bring Mike Magee home, as well as securing the return of Bakary Soumare, we nearly completed an unthinkable turnaround. By also investing in two Designated Players, we brought the playoff push full circle, falling gut-wrenchingly short in the final weekend of play.
Reflecting on the past several seasons ultimately led to my decision to make a change with regard to the leadership of the Club’s Soccer Operations. Our goal as a Club is to consistently compete for championships. That is what I, along with all the Fire supporters, expect. Looking to next year, I remain fully encouraged, excited and eager to see what this team can do. With the addition of two-time MLS Cup winner and two-time MLS Coach of the Year, Frank Yallop, I’m confident we’re moving in the right direction.
While any season that sees us not taking home hardware is disappointing, I fondly recall a few of my favorite highlights from this year, including Jeff Larentowicz’s game winning header against Columbus on April 20. Who could forget Mike Magee’s first goal at Toyota Park on June 2 against DC (en route to a near league leading 21 goals). It was also a pleasure to watch Sean Johnson’s emergence as one of the top keepers in the league, and his standout, eight-save performance against rival Columbus on June 22.
Off the field, 2013 marks another significant step toward meeting our vision of being the premier soccer club in MLS, embodying the spirit and diversity of our city and sport. You can expect that the Club will be making a series of exciting announcements this off-season we are making a broader commitment in marketing to grow our brand in the Chicago market and beyond, in order to increasingly own the soccer conversation in Chicago.
In terms of growing the reach of the Fire brand, our media partnerships have created a destination for Fire games on My50 in Chicago and Hispanic radio broadcasts on La Ley. We are excited to have secured a broadcast partner in Wisconsin, Time Warner Cable Milwaukee, who will carry our local games through next season as well. We also committed to further investments in our social, digital and video teams, re-launching our mobile app and launching our new digital magazine, Fireside.
Within the city limits, we are engaging the soccer community through the adult recreational and youth soccer scenes via our Chicago Fire Rec Soccer League (in partnership with Windy City Wanderers) and our recently acquired Chicago Fire Juniors City program, a key part of our youth program that now exceeds more than 10,000 players across seven states. In addition, our U-10 to U-18 Academy program remains fully subsidized and is organically growing. Considered best in-class in MLS, we had the most representatives of any MLS Academy at this year’s US Soccer U-18 National Combine. Owning an ever-expanding piece of the youth and adult soccer landscape gives us scale at home and a foundation for broader growth and reach.
We also continue to inspire our supporter base directly through a variety of different marketing, sales and service efforts leading to all-time highs in fan satisfaction in 2013, as well as tripling our season ticket base from 2010. We are encouraged by the response to our initiatives, such as expanding our bus program and launching our new Fire Fridays events leading up to home matches.
The great work by our Foundation continues, having raised more than $4.5 million since its inception in ’98 and rolling out new programs that directly impact our city’s youth, such as the launch of the P.L.A.Y.S. program this year, and our team sponsorship of City Year Chicago for the first time.
Most of all, I want to thank and acknowledge all the Fire supporters, in Chicago and around the globe. You have my, and the Front Office and Technical Team's commitment, that we will continue to invest and build upon our outstanding tradition, and not shy from any challenges that stand in our path.
Thank you again for your ongoing support. Next season can’t come soon enough.