Introducing the Chicago Fire and Chivas USA in our first weekly round up of the MLS Teams ahead of the 2012 play-offs
Now that you’ve been introduced to the league, It’s Round and It’s White will be introducing you to a team from both conferences every week in the run up to the 2012 play-offs.
You’ll find out when teams joined the league, their ground and their manager – plus a team history, and an introduction to three of their key players, to help you decide who to support in the 2012 play-offs and beyond!
There are some truly fantastic players on show, from decorated megastars such as Thierry Henry and David Beckham, to recent Barcelona academy graduate Orioll Rosell. Within this series of introductions I’m sure there’s a team for everyone. First up, the Eastern Conference’s Chicago Fire and the Western Conference’s Chivas USA!
Ground: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, IL
Head Coach: Frank Klopas
Chicago Fire burst onto the MLS scene in 1998 in style by winning the MLS cup and US Open Cup double at the first time of asking, tapping into the city’s unique ethnic makeup with the likes of Piotr Nowak, Lubos Kubik and Jorge Campos under head coach Bob Bradley. Since then the Fire have never been able to repeat their success, finishing runners up for the MLS in 2000 and 2003. Though always a fixture in the post season playoffs right from their foundation, and barring the 2004 season, the Fire have failed to enter the post season since 2009 where they reached the semi-finals. After a topsy turvy couple of seasons, Chicago narrowly missed out on last year’s post season after a late resurgence saw them take 24 points in their last 12 games. This season, the Fire have looked a better affair overall, and look good value to qualify for the first round of the play-offs
The Captain: Logan Pause – having played his entire senior career at Chicago Fire, the 31 year old midfielder has certainly seen all the highs and lows in Chicago – earning a runners up league medal in his rookie 2003 season and an MLS open cup. Logan has been a mainstay in the Chicago Fire side for the majority of his career, initially filling in the defensive midfield slot for Chris Armas, who retired in 2007. He is also capped 6 times for the US National Team, and won the Chicago Fire MVP for the 2010 season
International Hotshot: Alvaro Fernandez – with 11 caps for his native Uruguay, Alvaro brings a wealth of experience to his Chicago Fire side. The 26 year old initially came to the MLS through Seattle Sounders, after spells at Nacional, Vitoria and Universidad de Chile. He was traded to the Fire in July 2012 to allow the Seattle Sounders to open up a designated player slot. Whilst at Seattle, Alvaro managed to win the US Cup twice in a row in the 2010 and 2011 seasons
Experience at the Back: Arne Friedrich – German centre back Arne Friedrich will need no introduction to many European football fans after a 12 year career in his homeland, including a fine 9 year senior international career with a runner up medal in Euro 2008 and a third place world cup medal in 2006. He was released from Wolfsburg in 2011 due to long term injury, and signed for the Fire in March 2012. His domestic honours include the German League Cup and UEFA Intertoto Cup with Hertha BSC
C.D. Chivas USA
Ground: The Home Depot Center, Carson, CA (ground share with L.A. Galaxy)
Head Coach: Robin Fraser
Club Deportivo Chivas USA as they are fully known, joined the MLS as a feeder club to Guadalajara in Mexico – who use Chivas as their nickname, and share an identical club crest. Chivas were given a rude welcome to the MLS, and started their first 10 games with 1 win, 8 draws and 1 loss – leading to their first head coach Thomas Rongen moving into a director’s position upstairs. From June onwards, Hans Westerhof took the helm but was unable to guide the team into the post-season play-offs, and subsequently was replaced by Bob Bradley ahead of the new season. Bradley presided over a much more successful second campaign, leading them to 3rd place in the Western Conference and a play-off berth; however a call to become national to head coach led the MLS Coach of the Year away from the Home Depot Centre. Chivas’ most recognised past players are US Internationals Jonathan Bornstein and Sacha Kljestan, who both stayed at the club during the most successful 2006-07 period, and subsequently left in 2010. This season, it looks unlikely that Chivas will gain a play-off spot, having languished at the wrong end of the table for most of the season
The Captain: Alejandro Moreno – Journeyman Alejandro Moreno has led the forward line of 6 MLS clubs to date, bagging plenty of goals on the way. He brings much needed experience to the Chivas side, having won his first MLS Cup with corridor rivals LA Galaxy, with subsequent success with Houston in 2006 and Columbus Crew in 2008. He has played 41 times for his native Venezuela
Fans might remember: Juan Pablo Angel – Columbian born Angel will likely be best remembered for his time at Aston Villa, for whom he made 173 appearances and scored 44 times between 2001 and 2007. In 2007 he made the switch to the MLS, spending 3 years with New York, before being re-drafted in 2011 by LA Galaxy. The arrival of Robbie Keane meant Angel had to depart across the hall to Chivas after only 22 appearances however, in order to free up Galaxy’s third designated player slot
Exciting Prospect: Juan Agudelo – Columbian born Agudelo burst onto the MLS scene in 2010 with New York Red Bulls, which allowed him to go some way to earning his 15 USA caps despite being only 19. He was traded to Chivas in May 2012 for Heath Pearce and future clauses – including a handsome sell on fee should he make his way to Europe