Fire

In beating Montreal, Fire get most important win of the season

In beating Montreal, Fire get most important win of the season

As the Fire's losing streak continued, the chasing playoff pack got closer and closer in the standings.

The Fire entered Saturday’s match in Montreal in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and only five points ahead of the Impact, currently in seventh place, and Montreal had a game in hand. Simply earning a draw on the road to prevent a close playoff rival from gaining ground would have been a very positive result for the Fire. The 1-0 win they got? That’s the most important one of the season so far.

Bastian Schweinsteiger came up with the goal less than 10 minutes after Montreal’s Deian Boldor was given a red card, which required video review. Matt Polster, who made his first appearance since Aug. 12, had the assist on the play.

“It’s massive for us to get back into the flow of things and get back on that right path of winning and trying to hit (our) stride in the playoffs,” Polster said on the CSN+ broadcast.

It wasn't a pretty performance. The Fire's issues in the attack were still present with just two shots on target, but the defense held up, even surviving an 80th minute shot off the post by Ignacio Piatti.

The Fire ended a four-game losing streak, leaped ahead of Columbus to take over third place again and are now eight points above the playoff line. Another big one is at Toyota Park next week when the fifth-place New York Red Bulls come to town, but, for now, the Fire are back in the win column and have some separation above the teams below them.

This is the third road win of the year for the Fire and it is the best team the Fire have beaten away from home.

Polster wasn’t the only player to return. Brandon Vincent came on as a sub in the 89th minute to replace a cramping Patrick Doody. Vincent hadn’t played since July 5.

David Accam missed the match with an ankle injury. Accam has been nursing a hip injury in recent weeks and has been leaving training early in an effort to ease the workload on his body.

With no Accam, Dax McCarty (national team duty), Joao Meira and Vincent still only coming off the bench, the Fire delivered three points against an also shorthanded Montreal team which was missing six players due to international call-ups.

The Fire still may not catch New York City FC, which is three points ahead of the Fire with a game in hand, for second place and a first-round bye. At least now, the Fire’s playoff spot once again appears secure and a home playoff game in the first round is more likely than it was before tonight.

Fire rumored to be connected to former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas

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AP

Fire rumored to be connected to former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas

They don’t call it silly season in Europe for nothing.

The offseason rumors that pop up and, in some cases, happen make for good entertainment around the world of soccer. Sometimes those rumors are connected to MLS, whether or not the chances of them coming to fruition are high.

The latest example of this is Steven Goff of the Washington Post tweeting out a juicy rumor involving the Chicago Fire and former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Goff doesn’t sound very confident in it happening and there are plenty of reasons why, but there are also reasons why it could make sense. In this case, it makes sense for Casillas to be looking for a home to continue his career. When his contract at FC Porto expires at the end of this European season in June, he will be 37 years old.

It’s been two and a half years since he left Real Madrid, where he spent the rest of his career, and he’s not the elite goalkeeper he once was. If Casillas wants to keep playing he may not be able to stick at a Champions League club like Porto, and that’s where the MLS rumors come into play. It makes sense for Casillas to have interest in joining MLS.

On the Fire’s end, the team isn’t loaded at goalkeeper, although there are three keeprs under contract (Matt Lampson, Jorge Bava, Stefan Cleveland) with the possibility of a fourth (Richard Sanchez) also returning. The numbers logjam could be rectified without much problem if the Fire have a chance to snag Casillas.

His experience as a World Cup and Champions League winner (like Bastian Schweinsteiger), would be a nice addition to the team, regardless of age. Casillas was one of the best goalkeepers in the world and won Spain's La Liga five times and the Champions League three times in addition to winning the 2010 World Cup.

The question from the Fire’s perspective is if he could justify the high cost he would likely come with. Goalkeepers aren’t often highly paid players in MLS with the way the salary cap works. More flexibility has been added with more and more resources being given to teams from the league, but the cost of a player like Casillas may be difficult to justify at goalkeeper, even if he would provide another marketing and attendance boost like Schweinsteiger did.

This rumor makes for a good headline, but may not have much basis in reality. Still, there's a decent chance Casillas' name will continue to be connected with a move to MLS until he signs his next deal.

Fire's protected list for expansion draft hints at possible moves

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USA TODAY

Fire's protected list for expansion draft hints at possible moves

The MLS offseason doesn't take long to get in gear.

The Fire traded Arturo Alvarez earlier on Sunday, the same day which the list of protected players was to be announced ahead of Tuesday's expansion draft for Los Angeles FC.

LAFC will take five players in the expansion draft, which is set for 1 p.m. on Tuesday. A team can only lose one player. Each team can protect 11 players and homegrown players aren't eligible for selection. For the Fire that means Drew Conner and Djordje Mihailovic can't be taken.

The Fire protected David Accam, Jonathan Campbell, Johan Kappelhof, Dax McCarty, Nemanja Nikolic, Juninho, Matt Polster, Richard Sanchez, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luis Solignac and Brandon Vincent.

While Sanchez and Schweinsteiger are out of contract, the Fire have said they are negotiating with both players. Protecting Juninho is a bit of a surprise because it implies that the Fire have some intention of keeping him for next year, or at least keeping his rights to be traded.

The Fire left David Arshakyan, Jorge Bava, Brandt Bronico, Stefan Cleveland, Jorge Corrales, Michael de Leeuw, Christian Dean, Daniel Johnson and Matt Lampson unprotected. De Leeuw would be a worthwhile pickup for LA if it thinks he is worth it after his ACL tear suffered late in the season.

With only five players being selected it's fairly likely no Fire players are taken by LAFC, but it's arguable that de Leeuw will end up being one of the best five players available. The 31-year-old tied for the team lead with eight assists and scored three goals.