Pair of MLS All-Stars enjoy homecoming in Chicago

Pair of MLS All-Stars enjoy homecoming in Chicago

There’s plenty of Chicago Fire representation for the MLS All-Star Game, but there's also a couple more MLS All-Stars that are having a homecoming of sorts with the game in Chicago on Wednesday.

Michael Bradley, a Toronto FC midfielder and captain of the U.S. national team, grew up in Chicagoland while his father, Bob Bradley, coached the Fire in the club’s first five seasons. DaMarcus Beasley, a Houston Dynamo defender and veteran of four World Cups, began his career with the Fire and played four and a half seasons with the club from 2000 to 2004.

“Coming back to Chicago is always special for me,” Bradley said at a press conference Tuesday for the All-Star Game. “Some of the most important years for me growing up and growing up as a young player were here in Chicago.”

Bradley, who turned 30 on Monday, spent some of his junior high and high school years in Palatine. He played for youth club team Chicago Sockers while Bob Bradley was coaching the Fire.

Michael Bradley has fond memories of being around the team.

“I can remember coming to the old Soldier Field on Saturday nights and watching games, the atmosphere, at that time the league was so unique,” he said. “It had such a European feel to it. Obviously it helped that there was a strong Polish presence in the team, but certainly when I look back on my childhood and growing up, the time spent here was incredible. For me to come back as a player, whether over the years it’s been national team or now with the MLS All-Star Team, it’s always something that I really look forward to.”

Bradley played in Soldier Field last June with the national team during the Copa America Centenario. The U.S. beat Costa Rica 4-0 in that game.

For Beasley, returning to Soldier Field brings back different memories. Beasley, who is 35, played for the Fire under coach Bob Bradley when the Fire called the old Soldier Field home. He left to join perennial Dutch contender PSV Eindhoven in 2004 and played for four more clubs abroad before returning to MLS in 2014 to join Houston.

“I spent a lot of great years here, four years at the beginning of my career,” Beasley said. “The people, the fans, they were amazing to me and I enjoyed my time when I was here when I was younger. It’s good to be back, it’s good to feel the energy in Chicago and out in the city.”

Beasley, who is from Fort Wayne, Ind., still wants to see the Fire do well, although he was well aware that his Dynamo play the Fire in the regular season finale

“I’ll always want them to do well,” Beasley said. “Chicago, the Fire is always going to be in my heart and in my blood for the first team that gave me a chance to play. Hopefully they play 33 games well and the 34th game they don’t play so well when they play against the Dynamo.”

Fire rumored to be connected to former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas


Fire rumored to be connected to former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas

They don’t call it silly season in Europe for nothing.

The offseason rumors that pop up and, in some cases, happen make for good entertainment around the world of soccer. Sometimes those rumors are connected to MLS, whether or not the chances of them coming to fruition are high.

The latest example of this is Steven Goff of the Washington Post tweeting out a juicy rumor involving the Chicago Fire and former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Goff doesn’t sound very confident in it happening and there are plenty of reasons why, but there are also reasons why it could make sense. In this case, it makes sense for Casillas to be looking for a home to continue his career. When his contract at FC Porto expires at the end of this European season in June, he will be 37 years old.

It’s been two and a half years since he left Real Madrid, where he spent the rest of his career, and he’s not the elite goalkeeper he once was. If Casillas wants to keep playing he may not be able to stick at a Champions League club like Porto, and that’s where the MLS rumors come into play. It makes sense for Casillas to have interest in joining MLS.

On the Fire’s end, the team isn’t loaded at goalkeeper, although there are three keeprs under contract (Matt Lampson, Jorge Bava, Stefan Cleveland) with the possibility of a fourth (Richard Sanchez) also returning. The numbers logjam could be rectified without much problem if the Fire have a chance to snag Casillas.

His experience as a World Cup and Champions League winner (like Bastian Schweinsteiger), would be a nice addition to the team, regardless of age. Casillas was one of the best goalkeepers in the world and won Spain's La Liga five times and the Champions League three times in addition to winning the 2010 World Cup.

The question from the Fire’s perspective is if he could justify the high cost he would likely come with. Goalkeepers aren’t often highly paid players in MLS with the way the salary cap works. More flexibility has been added with more and more resources being given to teams from the league, but the cost of a player like Casillas may be difficult to justify at goalkeeper, even if he would provide another marketing and attendance boost like Schweinsteiger did.

This rumor makes for a good headline, but may not have much basis in reality. Still, there's a decent chance Casillas' name will continue to be connected with a move to MLS until he signs his next deal.

Fire's protected list for expansion draft hints at possible moves


Fire's protected list for expansion draft hints at possible moves

The MLS offseason doesn't take long to get in gear.

The Fire traded Arturo Alvarez earlier on Sunday, the same day which the list of protected players was to be announced ahead of Tuesday's expansion draft for Los Angeles FC.

LAFC will take five players in the expansion draft, which is set for 1 p.m. on Tuesday. A team can only lose one player. Each team can protect 11 players and homegrown players aren't eligible for selection. For the Fire that means Drew Conner and Djordje Mihailovic can't be taken.

The Fire protected David Accam, Jonathan Campbell, Johan Kappelhof, Dax McCarty, Nemanja Nikolic, Juninho, Matt Polster, Richard Sanchez, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luis Solignac and Brandon Vincent.

While Sanchez and Schweinsteiger are out of contract, the Fire have said they are negotiating with both players. Protecting Juninho is a bit of a surprise because it implies that the Fire have some intention of keeping him for next year, or at least keeping his rights to be traded.

The Fire left David Arshakyan, Jorge Bava, Brandt Bronico, Stefan Cleveland, Jorge Corrales, Michael de Leeuw, Christian Dean, Daniel Johnson and Matt Lampson unprotected. De Leeuw would be a worthwhile pickup for LA if it thinks he is worth it after his ACL tear suffered late in the season.

With only five players being selected it's fairly likely no Fire players are taken by LAFC, but it's arguable that de Leeuw will end up being one of the best five players available. The 31-year-old tied for the team lead with eight assists and scored three goals.