Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Piotr Has Left The Building

The Chicago Fire's brightest star was at their game Sunday afternoon at Toyota Park and barely anyone knew.

Original Fire Captain and current US Olympic Team Coach Piotr Nowak was in Chicago for the Olympic Draw.

I ran into Piotr in the hallway of the suites after talking with Wizards executives Robb Heineman and Greg Cotton.

I brought Piotr down to the Chicago WPS suite to see two women who absolutely adore him - Ann, my wife and Marcia McDermott, Chicago WPS' general manager. Ann has known Piotr as long as I have and Marcia has admired him from afar since her days coaching Northwestern when she was able to witness his remarkable play at Soldier Field on a regular basis.

This was the first time Marcia had met Piotr and she was in awe. She told me she wouldn't fawn, but when I introduced him, she gushed appropriately. It was wonderful to be able to introduce two people I respect so much to each other.

Before he left, Piotr told me a humorous story about his assistant coach and fellow Ring of Fire member Lubos Kubik. After the Olympic Draw that morning, Piotr called Lubos to discuss the group. Lubos said something along the lines of: "Not bad. Japan is good, but Norway and New Zealand are not strong."

Piotr was confused and told Lubos he was crazy, that he had the group all wrong. It took awhile, but the two ex-Fire greats finally realized that Lubos had mistaken the US Women's Olympic group with the men's. Both groups include Japan, but unfortunately the men's group has Holland and Nigeria, not the Kiwis and Norwegians.

Either way, I think Piotr and Lubos will find a way to succeed in China.

This 1-0 KC victory btw, brought back (awful) memories of the2000 MLS Cup with several eerie comparisons:

* Fire vs. Kansas City
* Early Wizards goal
* KC packs it in rest of the game
* Fire dominates and turns into a shooting gallery
* KC keeper makes great saves
* Most Fire shots right at the Wizards keeper
* Fire misses a wide open net from two yards out by mysteriously shooting the ball OVER the crossbar.
* Final score in 2000, KC 1, the best professional soccer team in Chicago history* 0.

One interesting difference. Despite long and loud protests by Fire leadership (me), MLS refused to let us wear our red uniforms in the championship game. MLS broadcasting executive Michael Cohen would not permit the red uniforms, because the contrast between the red and blue was not enough on the camera operators' black and white monitors and it would cause them confusion when receiving direction in their headsets.

At least Sunday, fans were able to watch two colorful sets of uniforms on the same field.

* My personal opinion. Followed closely by:

2) 1981 Chicago Sting
3) 1998 Chicago Fire
4) 2003 Chicago Fire
5) 1984 Chicago Sting
6) 2001 Chicago Fire
7) 2008 Chicago Fire•

• With a bullet. This year's Fire squad has the potential to crack Chicago's all-time top three if it can stay healthy, develop Patrick Nyarko and Stephen King and sign one or two more players.

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