Section 8 doing its own work ahead of Fire home opener


Section 8 doing its own work ahead of Fire home opener

The Fire’s season opener is not far away, but the players and staff aren’t the only ones putting some work in ahead of the March 6 match against New York City FC.

Some of the fans are getting together to add some atmosphere and show their support for the season opening match. Fans from Section 8, the Fire’s independent supporters’ group, have had multiple organized outings already in February and have more to come before matchday.

In the past the group has put up some impressive tifos, which are organized, sometimes even choreographed, displays by a number of fans. This year they are promoting what they’re calling a ‘two-pole initiative.’

The two-poles are about 5-feet-by-5-feet sheets of fabric that have a fan-created design painted on them. They get the name from the two poles that fans use to hold them up high enough for everyone to see.

“There’s usually one big group behind it,” said Rudy Gomez, Section 8 director of operations. “This year we’re trying to do it more individualistic so people can come out and do a two-pole. If they want to take it home, they can take it home and it will be a great show of support and all that good stuff to show the team that we’re behind them.”

[MORE: Calistri brace gives Fire another preseason win]

The idea is to have enough of the two-pole designs created that it will create a cool visual effect in the stadium. Some of these designs are riffs on a Fire logo or on the logo of a specific fan group.

One of the more creative designs features new Fire coach Veljko Paunovic, who is Photoshopped into the hood of Obi-Wan Kenobi from the original Star Wars movie. It includes the caption “Save us Pauno, you’re our only hope.”

“I like to see where people go with it,” Section 8 supporter John Petty said. “Some of them have relevance to the Fire. Some of them are just for fun, but they’re all entertaining.”

The process for a two-pole or a bigger tifo starts by creating a design on a computer. Next, they hook up a projector to the computer so they can trace the image onto the sheet that they will paint on. Finally, paint in the appropriate colors. Some of the more artistically talented free-hand their designs.

It’s a relatively simple process, but can be intimidating from afar. However, as Alexis McAdams, who is spearheading the charge to have these two-pole events about once a month during the 2016 Fire season, put it, “We’re not shooting for perfection.”

Whether it’s several smaller designs or one bigger, coordinated one, a lot of time goes into something that is on display for just a short period of time right before kickoff.

“It’s a lot of work for a minute or two of glory,” Gomez said.

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Many members of Section 8 have been doing working on tifos and banners for years. Gomez is one of the longest standing supporters and one of the organizers.

He has met a lot of people through the events and tries to encourage an inclusive environment for more people to join.

“The people who’ve been doing this ended up being some of my really good friends so it’s something that we do as a group of friends,” Gomez said. “We get more people involved and we try to make it so everybody can come out and participate and show that love for the team that they have as well in this form that we’re trying to get out there.”

Be sure to watch the Fire home opener against New York City FC on March 6 at 1 p.m. on CSN.

Injuries affecting Fire's preseason with season three weeks away


Injuries affecting Fire's preseason with season three weeks away

It may be a good thing that the Fire’s originally scheduled season opener March 3 at Colorado got moved back.

The Fire’s preseason has been riddled with injuries to key players and the extra week may end up being needed to get the team ready for the season. Four players (not counting the already known long-term injuries to Michael de Leeuw and Djordje Mihailovic) sat out Saturday’s game against Florida Gulf Coast University due to injury: Daniel Johnson (a right ankle injury suffered in a game against Philadelphia on Feb. 8), Grant Lillard (left knee), Matt Polster (left knee) and Luis Solignac (left hip).

Polster’s injury is especially notable because he has had recurring left knee problems since first suffering a sprain in the 2016 season finale at Toronto. Polster missed the first nine games of 2017 due to the injury and missed three more in August due to a related injury.

The 24-year-old, who is now the longest tenured player on the team and the only player remaining from before general manager Nelson Rodriguez’s tenure began at the end of the 2015 season, arrived with the Fire after playing with the U.S. national team in January. He played all 90 minutes on Jan. 28 against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bastian Schweinsteiger still hasn’t played in the preseason and the team hasn’t listed him as injured.

All the absences, combined with rest for some of the team’s regulars, resulted in a starting lineup against Florida Gulf Coast that featured two players who have appeared in an official match with the Fire. Three trialists and four draft picks started.

Four of the Fire’s seven scheduled preseason matches are in the books. The Fire lost 2-1 to Montreal on Feb. 14. One of the bright spots was a rare set piece goal after the Fire trailed the Impact 2-0. Dax McCarty headed in a free kick from Diego Campos. Campos has been dangerous on set pieces, hitting the post with a free kick and assisting a goal from a corner kick in Saturday’s 2-0 win against Florida Gulf Coast.

Next up is a match against USL expansion team Nashville SC on Feb. 21. Next Saturday the Fire play at Orlando to finish up play in Florida.

The Fire close out the preseason March 3 against the team’s USL affiliate, Tulsa, at Toyota Park before the season opener on March 10.

Fire notes: Bastian Schweinsteiger yet to play in preseason


Fire notes: Bastian Schweinsteiger yet to play in preseason

The Fire's preseason is two games old, but not much action has taken place in those games.

The opener was a 2-0 win against the University of South Florida, the Fire's host during this phase of the preseason, and Thursday's match against the Philadelphia Union was a scoreless draw. It's still early in the preseason and it has looked like it, but there have been some notable things.

For one, Bastian Schweinsteiger hasn't played yet. According to a team source the plan was for the German to sit out these two games. The 33-year-old did show some signs of a relative lack of fitness during scrimmages at the newly-build Toyota Park Dome (he had his hands firmly on his knees after one session despite still showing quality on the ball). The season opener is still over a month away so it's not a red flag.

Newly added winger Aleksandar Katai hasn't joined the team yet, but is expected to do so for the next phase of the preseason. Thursday is the team's travel day for a return to Chicago. The team has the weekend off before returning to Florida, this time in Bradenton, on Sunday.

Katai last played on Oct. 24 so he may need some time to get up to full speed, but so does the rest of the team at this time of year. How he is used will be worth watching. Will he be a straight replacement for David Accam (at least in terms of position) or will he be a more versatile option? Luis Solignac, Daniel Johnson and rookie Jon Bakero have played in the attacking midfield spots with the starting group in both preseason matches.

Defensively, it appears Christian Dean may have the inside track on the starting spot next to Johan Kappelhof. Dean has started next to Kappelhof in both preseason matches and did so in scrimmages in Bridgeview in the first week of the preseason. If that continues, Dean is likely the starter. If coach Veljko Paunovic wants to see someone else play with Kappelhof later in the preseason, there is still an open competition. Dean and rookie Grant Lillard are both left-footed center backs vying for the left center back spot.

Rookie Mo Adams started against USF and was in the second half lineup against Philadelphia. Against the Union, Adams dropped deep to begin attacks as the Fire tried to build out of the back. That trait is not common in young MLS players and is a good sign for Adams' prospects. He won't beat out Schweinsteiger or McCarty, but he could be a valuable bench piece this season, especially with Juninho gone from last year's team, and more in the future.

The recently traded Accam started for Philadelphia and played into the second half, but wasn't a major factor. To be fair, in a scoreless preseason draw few players were major factors. Of the 11 players the Fire started the second half with, Accam only played in a match with one of them (Jonathan Campbell) during his time with the team. The Fire's second half lineup was largely comprised of rookies, trialists and even an academy player.

Finally, Dax McCarty is always good for a good line. After the Philadelphia match, McCarty shared an idea he has for the league.