Fire

Fire and CSN Chicago announce regional broadcast plans

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Fire and CSN Chicago announce regional broadcast plans

All the details for the 28 Fire matches that will be broadcast on CSN Chicago this season have been announced.

The announcing team for regional broadcasts will consist of returning play-by-play man Dan Kelly, who is in the booth for his seventh season, former Fire player and coach Frank Klopas as color analyst and Paul Tenorio as sideline reporter. Klopas will be a familiar and popular name to Fire fans. Tenorio, a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, was with the Orlando Sentinel as the beat reporter for Orlando City SC for the past three years.

“I’m particularly excited with Frank’s new association with the Fire,” Fire COO Atul Khosla said in a press release. “I’m confident that he will be a great fit in the booth with Dan and, when supported by Paul’s work on the sideline, believe that we have assembled a top-class on-air team which will provide unmatched coverage and analysis this season.”

[SHOP FIRE: Get your Fire gear right here]

Chicago Fire All-Access will also be included in CSN Chicago's coverage. The behind-the-scenes show will expand to four episodes this season. The premiere will air on Wednesday, March 2, at 9 p.m.

The season opener at home against New York City FC kicks off game coverage at 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 6. There will be three and a half hours of Fire coverage on that day, starting with a noon rebroadcast of the debut episode of Chicago Fire All-Access. A 30-minute pregame and a 30-minute postgame show will also be part of the coverage. Of the 28 games to air on CSN Chicago this season, 14 will air on CSN and 14 will air on CSN Plus.

“CSN Chicago continues to produce compelling game broadcasts and unique shoulder programming options that is sure to build on the first-year successes,” Khosla said. “We’re thrilled to see our partnership continue to grow through these enhanced offerings.”

[RELATED: Fire release 2016 MLS schedule]

In addition, five games will be simulcast in Spanish. The first Spanish telecast will be on Saturday, April 2, at 4 p.m. when the Philadelphia Union come to Toyota Park.

“The Chicago Fire continues to make an impact not only in terms of growth of their fan base over the past several years, but also in their devoted impact in our community,” said Phil Bedella, Vice President/General Manager for Comcast SportsNet Chicago. “We are proud to be the regional television home for the Fire and fans can count on us once again to deliver expert game coverage, along with enhanced digital coverage, for what promises to be an exciting 2016 MLS season.”

Fire sign veteran MLS forward Alan Gordon

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USA TODAY

Fire sign veteran MLS forward Alan Gordon

As far as notorious players in MLS with a history of scoring big goals, Alan Gordon is one of the first names on that list.

The Fire signed the 36-year-old forward on Friday, continuing to add depth to a roster that appeared paper thin throughout the preseason. Gordon, who had been on trial with the Fire for part of the preseason and even after the season opener, signed a one-year deal.

Gordon adds plenty of experience from being in the league since 2004 and having scored 55 goals with five different teams. For the past few years he has been used primarily as a substitute, but has still maintained his reputation for scoring goals late in games.

At 6-foot-3 he brings plenty of size and strength to the team and is one of the best players on headers in the league. Last season the Fire failed to score directly off a set piece, which was both due to consistently poor service from corner kicks and a lack of players adept at finishing them off. Gordon should give the Fire a late-game option in that area.

Elliot Collier had impressed the Fire enough to earn a contract as a third-round pick and an international player and even came off the bench in the opening loss to Sporting Kansas City, but it appears the team wanted more experience at forward with Gordon.

Wild season opener shows plenty of things to work on for Fire

Wild season opener shows plenty of things to work on for Fire

If you were looking for entertainment, goals, plot twists and storylines, the Fire’s season opener had all of those boxes checked.

What it didn’t have was even a point for the hosts against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday at Toyota Park.

The first half showed a Fire team which very much looked like the “incomplete” roster that general manager Nelson Rodriguez referenced just before the season. KC led 2-0 and the Fire failed to get a shot on target, showing a lack of chance creation and any semblance of a dangerous attack.

The second half showed a Fire attack which was capable of turning the heat up on the visitors, but also a defense which couldn’t defend. Sporting's 4-3 win revealed that there’s plenty of work to do for the Fire to resemble the team that finished third in the MLS regular season last year.

“Especially in the first half we saw that we weren’t ready to compete with a team that had an advantage that they had one competition game before us,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “That was the main difference in the first half, but the adjustment in the second half was tremendous. I think just showing that we can score three goals that quickly and create even more opportunities was a positive.”

However, Paunovic wasn’t about to let his team off the hook by only speaking about positives.

“What we learned today is that we have to get better on every side of the game and in every aspect of the game,” he said. “We are not there. We didn’t have a good game. I think overall a lot of innocent and naive mistakes.”

After trailing 2-0 at halftime, the Fire revved things up in the final 25 minutes and Bastian Schweinsteiger keyed the first goal with a slick assist to newcomer Aleksandar Katai. Nemanja Nikolic showed the scoring instincts and finishing ability that won him the league scoring title a year ago by scoring two more goals to give the Fire the lead in the 82nd minute.

Then it all fell apart, with two KC goals within four minutes of Nikolic giving the Fire the lead. Dax McCarty, your thoughts?

“You’re 10 minutes away from the headline and the storyline being Chicago Fire show great character, make a fantastic comeback, win the game 3-2 and yet here we are sitting here, somehow losing that game, which is insane,” McCarty said. “It’s totally insane.”

The defensive struggles, which Paunovic pointed out mirrored last year’s early playoff exit in a 4-0 loss, will need to get resolved internally. Johan Kappelhof, Brandon Vincent and Matt Polster all started on a competent defense last year and McCarty and Schweinsteiger helped play damage control in midfield. This isn’t what the weakness of the team was supposed to be yet after one game, it’s all anyone on the team could talk about.

“We gave up four goals,” Kappelhof said. “That’s not good. Simple.”

While more additions may be coming in-season, as Rodriguez has mentioned, and injuries haven’t allowed the Fire to start 2018 fresh, this game wasn’t a good sign for what’s to come for the 2018 Fire. A lack of any offensive creation in the first half and a lack of defensive concentration, as Paunovic put it, throughout the game showed a team that has plenty of pock-marks currently.

“We don’t know how to defend, quite frankly," McCarty said. "From back to front, front to back, the defending aspect of our game was pretty poor. A lot of things to learn."

The good news is even if the Fire take some time to correct the errors from Saturday’s season opener, MLS is a forgiving league. A majority of the league, 12 of 23 teams, makes the playoffs and league-wide parity means teams can go through slumps and still end in good standing. A year ago, the Fire lost six games out of seven and still had the third best record in the league. It’s OK if the team takes time to iron out some organizational issues defensively, just don’t take too long.