The Fire Reserves played their first match of the season yesterday. A 2-1 win over the New York Red Bulls featured a mix of bench players and Fire Academy products. Giuseppe Gentile scored a brace to provide the difference. Victor Pineda played ninety minutes and his brother Mauricio also got into the match.
Grant Lillard, Collin Fernandez, and Qudus Lawal were the other Academy players getting playing time in this one. Jacob Bushue, a defender from Indiana University who went undrafted in January was a guest player.
Fire line-up: Kyle Reynish; Marco Franco, Patrick Ianni, Grant Lillard, Jacob Bushue (Mauricio Pineda* 68’); Logan Pause, Chris Ritter, Victor Pineda, Giuseppe Gentile, Collin Fernandez, Juan Luis Anangono (Qudus Lawal* 64’) Subs not used: Patrick Nyarko, Alec Kann
Notes and more notes
Fire owner Andrew Hauptman presided over the club's annual early season media gathering last Thursday and covered a wide range of topics. The focus of the event this year placed an emphasis on the club's vision for establishing a greater footprint in the Chicago market. Involvement in the community and grass roots building through the academy and eventually the new Chicago Fire Soccer Center on the near north side will play a big part in hopefully making the club more visible. A revamped marketing campaign should also make more people aware of soccer in Chicago via English and Spanish language platforms.
Hauptman was joined by COO Atul Khosla and the majority of technical staff - Frank Yallop, Brian Bliss, CJ Brown, and Clint Mathis fielded a variety of questions ranging from line up choices to marketing to MLS expansion.
One of the questions I posed involved the club's plans to address the need to reinvigorate long time supporters who have expressed concerns and reacted negatively to issues like "the editorial" and other perceived slights. “We’re in a constant process of connecting and reconnecting with our fan base so I’d like to think we’re putting our best foot forward and being communicative and do our best,"' said Hauptman. With regard to relating better to supporter concerns Khosla also chimed in. “We’re trying to take a step back and look at the fan base that’s here and the fan base we want to bring in. What you’re seeing here is a long term vision of how we want to grow the fan base and hopefully over the course of doing that we’re going to invigorate the one that’s currently there. The fan base has been asking for a radio show and we've done that this year. They've asked about being on main (stream) media in town from a tv perspective, we weren't there two years but we’re there now. They've also (told us) that the club needs to market itself and we are. My thoughts are that through those actions we are growing the fan base and also invigorating the ones that have been with the club and have provided some very good feedback for us over the years. We've really taken that into account," he said.
“We have to pick and choose our spots we can’t be everywhere for every single issue that’s raised. My north star is (based on) whether we can look in the mirror at the end of the day and ask ourselves if we’re trying to do right and is our intention pure. Do we care deeply about this club and are we trying to make the fans proud? We care a lot about them (and what they think), it’s not like we’re dismissive of any of it. Everything is with an eye towards inspiring the fans," added Hauptman.
Along those lines the Fire owner also acknowledged that errors on and off the field over the last several years has led to dissatisfaction among the core fan base. One of those issues has been a lack of clarity in the direction of the club. “There’s a natural tendency in any sport where supporters start to feel that (lack of clarity) and over time it can bottle up. We’re not delusional about that," he said.
In terms of the league's immediate future and how expansion will affect the Fire, Hauptman said that MLS has entertained the prospect of adding another club in the Midwest thereby providing a more natural rivalry for Chicago. Several potential locations have been discussed although those cities weren't named. New York City FC, Orland City, and Miami would leave the league two short of Don Garber's apparent goal of 24 clubs and numerous applicants are vying for those spots.
Here are a few more notes from the day:
- Construction will start on the new Chicago Fire Soccer Center this summer. The facility will eventually be utilized by the first team for training during preseason and inclement weather days.
- Aron Hyde has been called up as a goalkeeper’s coach for the US Men's National Team. He will join the US for their next match on April 2 against Mexico.
- The Fire picked the Portland match over Chivas USA for the first My50 game based on atmosphere and presentation. The remaining matches on the schedule will all be covered with English language television broadcasts.
- Cap room was again a topic with Yallop and Bliss reiterating the club's current position. The Fire don’t have much room cap-wise. “We’re up against it,” said Yallop. Bliss also indicated that trading Austin Berry was a move made to get cap compliant. The team is cap compliant with little or no room but it doesn’t preclude them from making moves to clear space. The amount of players with guaranteed contracts heading into 2013 limited their options.
- The club is also still exploring and reviewing different options for the new reserve league set up that will be implemented in 2015. The current structure is making way for a new program intended to provide more valuable playing time for young players and reserves. “We’ve had some discussions in Tucson with the Phoenix group. There’s an opening there to work with them. There’s a group out of Milwaukee that would like to re-start with a USL franchise and there’s a potential to be a partner with them or an affiliation is still on the table,” said Bliss. They are also continuing to have discussions with other groups that are looking to be a part of USL in the Midwest in 2015. “More than likely it will be like the model that a lot of other teams have that will look like a partnership or affiliation as opposed to an ownership," he added.