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Fire Home Opener This Saturday vs. San Jose Earthquakes

By Ben Schuman Stoler in News on Apr 7, 2010 6:00PM

Photo of last year's cold and wet home opener by clint. The forecast this year calls for the Fire to make it rain goals.
After taking just one point from their first two games (0-1-1), Soccernet ranked the Fire 9th in their power rankings. That's about right. They've had to play two solid teams in two difficult stadiums (highlights vs. NY here and vs. Colorado here), but most of all the squad is still only just getting settled. On Saturday, the San Jose Earthquakes (0-1-0) come to Toyota Park for the home opener at 7:30. The Fire will hope that they've settled enough to give the home fans a show against SJE, who got torn apart last week by defending MLS champs Real Salt Late.

Here’s what to watch for:

  • The new look Fire. Gone are striker CuauhtĂ©moc Blanco (evidently enjoying himself back in Mexico these days), keeper John Busch (released, now on San Jose), midfielder/forward Chris Rolfe (Denmark), defender Gonzalo Segares (Cyprus), and coach Dennis Hamlett (fired). Into the first team come new signings like striker Collins John (who played with Brian McBride at Fulham, you can see him and McBride in many of the goals here), Salvadorian midfielder Julio Martinez and Polish defender Krzysztof Krol, as well as young players from within the ranks. Former reserves Peter Lowry, Mike Banner, and young keeper Andrew Dykstra are playing already. Four rookies will also be looking to get consistent tick, most notably former UConn defender and 2009 Big East player of the year Kwame Watson-Siriboe who got his first start in Colorado last week. Some of the long time Fire players are still around, though. You can relax, all you crazy C.J. Brown, Logan Pause, John Thorrington, and Justin Mapp fans.
  • The beautiful game? It was a little brazen for the Fire to, erm, fire coach Dennis Hamlett after he took them all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals in just his second year in charge last year. But they certainly got a capable replacement. Carlos de los Cobos coached El Salvador’s national team to their best World Cup qualifying position in a decade last year, and has extensive experience coaching Primera division Mexican teams. Besides his experience, de los Cobos has gotten headlines for promising to bring a more attractive brand of soccer to Chicago. After the season opening 1-0 loss at New York, he said, “We’re disappointed in the result. But I was not disappointed in the players.” In other words, de los Cobos is okay with a few bad results early in the season as long as the players are learning to play a more passing, cohesive game. It's a fair philosophy, but how long will players and fans take it if it doesn't result in wins? And with two imposing, longball-winning strikers in John and McBride, how fit is the team for that approach?
  • The whole bonding thing. With all the changes, both in personnel and in philosophy, the team's going to take some time to mold. They’ll hope they take another step towards that goal on Saturday night.