AVE MARIA, Fla. – The FGCU men’s soccer team’s offseason training will have a professional component again this year as the Eagles will face off against MLS member Chicago Fire for the fourth straight year on Sunday, Feb. 2, at Ave Maria University.
The game, a preseason friendly which will culminate the Fire’s eight-day SWFL training, is scheduled for an 11 a.m. kickoff at North Park – about 40 miles from FGCU’s campus. The friendly has become a yearly tradition for the 1999 MLS Cup Champions and four-time defending Atlantic Sun Conference regular-season champions.
“We really appreciate the invitation extended by the Chicago Fire,” head coach Bob Butehorn said. “It will give our team a great experience, especially being as young as we are. It’s a good opportunity for us to compete at a high level, and it’s a great event for Southwest Florida as well.”
The Fire beat FGCU last January, 2-0, in three 30-minute periods, but three years ago – the first time the two clubs met in 2011 – the match ended in a 2-2 draw. Chicago finished last year 14-13-7, but missed out on the playoffs due to a second tiebreaker to Montreal. After the season ended, the club’s forward Mike Magee was the named the MLS Most Valuable Player.
Following their weeklong stay in SWFL, the Fire will head to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. from Feb. 5-12 for the second leg of preseason. For the final leg, Chicago will close out its preseason from Feb. 15-Mar. 2 in Tucson, Ariz.
FGCU assistant coach Alec Dufty was a goalkeeper for the Chicago Fire during the 2011 season, signing a contract with the club on March 1, 2011, after training with the team all preseason, including its visit to Ave Maria.
The Eagles became the first program in A-Sun history to win four straight regular-season championships this past fall courtesy of a 6-1-1 league record. The Green and Blue has a 28-3-2 record in A-Sun games since the start of the 2010 season. All three of its conference losses have come on the road, and out of a possible 99 points that could have been earned in that time, the Eagles have claimed an impressive 86 of them (86.9 percent).
After starting the season 0-5-1, the young Eagles – who do not have a senior on the roster – went 8-1-1 over their final 10 regular-season games. During that span FGCU out-scored its opponents 14-6, including 12-4 in A-Sun action.
Isaiah Madrid (Albuquerque, N.M./El Dorado HS) was named the A-Sun Freshman of the Year, highlighting a list of seven Eagles who garnered A-Sun honors in 2013. Madrid finished the regular season tied for 5th in the A-Sun with 11 points on four goals and three assists. In total, three Eagles landed on the A-Sun First Team, two were on the Second Team and two more, including Madrid, finished on the All-Freshman Team.
Playing professional competition to prepare for the regular season is nothing new to FGCU as the Eagles last offseason alone faced off against the under-17 US National, European, MLS, NASL and USL teams.
More information about the game will be available as the date draws closer, including on Twitter by following @FGCU_MSoccer.