Stefan Antonijevic in action for Valparaiso University in 2011. | Photo credit: valpoathletics.com
The path toward achieving a dream isn’t always clear-cut. In January, Stefan Antonijevic became the first ever player from Valparaiso University to be drafted into Major League Soccer when Sporting Kansas City used the 43rd pick in the MLS Supplemental Draft to acquire the 2011 Horizon League Defensive player of the year.
Unfortunately for Antonijevic, SKC decided they already had enough depth in defense and opted against offering the former Valparaiso University defender a place on the team. In fairness, SKC is one of the most talented teams in the league and has a perfect record to show for it so far this season.
“Stefan gets judged because of his size. He’s six to seven feet and not as big as everyone else,” said VU Men’s Soccer Head Coach Mike Avery. “He was the last cut at Sporting Kansas City, so that was disappointing. But it’s no insult to him. They are arguably the best team in the league, at least so far this season, and have two really good young central defenders.”
Sporting Kansas City’s defense has been a significant reason for their unbeaten record, as the league leaders have conceded just two goals in seven matches, meaning breaking into a defense like that would have been a tall order for rookie. As a result, Antonijevic was granted the opportunity to pursue an MLS contract elsewhere.
Antonijevic (far left) celebrates with the rest of the U-20 squad after winning the 2008 USL Super-20 title. | Photo credit: United Soccer Leagues
And Antonijevic is working on doing just that. Last month, the Serbian defender began training with the Chicago Fire as a guest player. Continue reading
Chris Rolfe: Good to have you back.
The headlines have all been about Chris Rolfe this week and they have the potential to be the same this weekend with the 29-year-old in line for a first appearance in a Chicago Fire uniform since 2009. Rolfe told Chicago-Fire.com that he is “excited and ready to play” on Saturday. It remains to be seen whether Rolfe will be handed the start up front alongside Dominic Oduro or if he will be brought on as a substitute – or if he will even play at all – but hopes are high that he will be given the start and add some much needed attacking fuel. After all, the Fire’s new #18 has a history of scoring against Toronto FC.
One of those goals against the reds came at a crucial time in the 2008 season (Remember those days with Dennis Hamlett?) In the midst of a five game winless streak, the Fire welcomed Toronto FC to Toyota Park on July 12th, 2008 in hopes of regaining sole possession of third place in the Eastern Conference standings. John Thorrington was the hero that day with a fantastic 92nd minute winner, but Rolfe’s contributions can hardly be downplayed. Watch his stunning sixth minute goal and the rest of the highlights from that match. Let’s hope we see a repeat of this on Saturday. Continue reading
The return of a legend and the Fire's new #18.
As if a 2009 Eastern Conference final loss to Real Salt Lake at Toyota Park wasn’t hard enough to swallow, the departure of Chris Rolfe – a true Fire original – two months earlier was also a major low point of the 2009 campaign. Rolfe took up the opportunity in September that year to prove himself in Europe with Aalborg BK in the Danish Superliga and the move was understandable.
It’s quite common for American players to grasp the first chance to play in Europe that comes their way, but it was still disappointing to lose a player who established himself as an integral member of the club during his five seasons from 2005-2009, as well as with the Chicago Fire Premier in the Premier Development League. Continue reading
Photo credit: mlssoccer.com
It wasn’t exactly a night to remember for the Chicago Fire as heavy rain and lightening brought Sunday night’s match against Houston to an early finish at 1-1, but it was certainly an experience and a debut German defender Arne Friedrich won’t soon forget.
“It was a crazy game. It was the first time for me and it was unusual… and it was sad because we still had 25 minutes to go and it’s just a draw so we’re not happy,” Friedrich said.
Friedrich started alongside Jalil Anibaba and the German international hardly looked like he hadn’t played a match since last summer (barring the friendly vs. Louisville last week). Friedrich was composed on the ball, vocal, and looked extremely comfortable against Will Bruin and Brian Ching. Friedrich’s passing range and technical skills were also on display throughout the shortened match and the 32-year-old looks like he will be a huge factor for the Fire this season – as you would expect from a player of his caliber. Continue reading
Who will be the Fire's go-to-guy this season? | (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
There can be little denying that soccer is as much of a team sport as any, but often times a single player can help define a season for a club. If you look back to 2000, Mamadou Diallo was that factor for the Tampa Bay Mutiny as the Senegalese striker notched an outstanding 26 goals for the now defunct franchise. We’ve also seen it with Landon Donovan in 2008, who scored 20 goals in 25 games in a season that somehow still resulted in the LA Galaxy still missing out on the MLS playoffs. Jeff Cunningham provided a similar story for FC Dallas in 2009 by scoring for fun but still seeing his side miss out on the postseason.
In similar fashion, Houston Dynamo reject Dominic Oduro was absolutely stellar for the Chicago Fire last season in his debut season for the men in red. The Ghanaian scored 12 goals as he and the rest of the team fell agonizingly short of a playoff spot. Regardless, his team MVP honors and impressive play throughout the season were a huge reason for the team’s success both in the US Open Cup and in the latter stages of the MLS season.
So who will step up and make their mark this year for the Fire? Continue reading