Brandon Vincent playing with more confidence in his second year

Brandon Vincent playing with more confidence in his second year

Brandon Vincent was not thrown into an easy situation last year.

The Chicago Fire left back was thrust into the starting lineup as a rookie and did so on a last place team.

Vincent made 26 appearances and 24 starts in MLS player last season as part of a defensive unit which allowed the second most goals in the league. This year he has played every minute for the Fire and says he has more confidence in his game.

“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things, just my own year of experience, myself just struggling last year,” Vincent said of his improvement from last year to this year. “It’s tough coming into a team, especially when you’re not doing well as a group. That takes a toll on young players. Mentally I’m in a better place. I think the guys in the locker room bring the level up so a combination of a lot of things.”

Vincent had an assist in the Fire’s 3-0 win against Colorado on Wednesday. It was his second assist of the year and the Fire’s fourth shutout of the season.

He set up Nemanja Nikolic on a cross that left Nikolic with an open header.

“Brandon gave me a fantastic ball,” Nikolic said. “In that moment I don’t have a really difficult job. The ball was perfect and in the space between the keeper and the defenders. So that ball for the defenders is the most difficult ball, for the strikers the most easiest.”

Vincent said crossing is something he worked on during the offseason.

“I worked a lot on my own,” Vincent said. “Just putting good balls in the box in good areas and knowing that guys will be in the box to try to get their head on it. The more we can put it in there and put good balls in, the higher chance we have of scoring. Niko is in there always looking so if anybody can get a decent ball in there’s always a decent chance we can score.”

As Fire near playoffs, Bastian Schweinsteiger's immediate and long-term futures are in question


As Fire near playoffs, Bastian Schweinsteiger's immediate and long-term futures are in question

Bastian Schweinsteiger has delivered on the promise of a big name star since joining the Fire in late March. He has produced on the field, drawn lots of attention to the club, the team has won enough to get into its first postseason since 2012 and, until recently, he stayed healthy.

However, the 33-year-old German has played 19 minutes in the previous six matches and told reporters on Wednesday that he will not play in the regular season finale in Houston on Sunday. He missed four straight matches with a calf injury before returning against New York City FC on Sept. 30 for a substitute appearance.

Schweinsteiger left practice early with what appeared to be a reaggravation of the injury on Oct. 4 and now it is known that will cost him at least two games. With the playoff picture still in flux (the Fire can finish anywhere from second to fifth in the Eastern Conference), the Fire could potentially face a three-day turnaround and travel after the Houston game or could have a first-round bye. Keeping Schweinsteiger fresher for that crunch of games could end up being a good thing, but it also runs the risk of his match fitness not being at 100 percent for the postseason.

Beyond the postseason, Schweinsteiger dropped this tease of a nugget to the Daily Herald's Orrin Schwarz just an hour before Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez spoke with reporters for almost an hour at Toyota Park.

Schweinsteiger, who was not at training, was autographing memorabilia in the form of soccer balls, posters and jerseys. Chicago Red Stars fans may get a kick out of the fact that Schweinsteiger was wearing a Red Stars hoodie.

Initially, the club said Schweinsteiger signed a one-year contract with a mutual option. Later in the day, when asked about Schweinsteiger's future, Rodriguez said the mutual option doesn't have a set number attached to it.

"That would require a negotiation," Rodriguez said. "It was mutual in a sense of we didn’t want either party to feel bound without having had the year of experience to draw on. From our perspective, our experience has been extraordinarily positive with Bastian. We think he’s delivered across all of our expectations and we hope that we have delivered against his expectations.”

So in essence, there is no mutual option. Schweinsteiger and the Fire have to come to terms again on a deal for the German to return in 2018. That's not to say Schweinsteiger can't come back, but there's nothing in writing that binds the two together for next season.

Rodriguez said talks have only begun in the very preliminary stages at this point.

“The most that Basti and I have done is, both said, hey this has gone pretty well." Rodriguez said. "You like it. I like it... So I think we want to remain with our original plan. It was to look to have the hard discussions at the end of the season. My view is in-season negotiations always prove to be a distraction, whether to the player or to me. There can be a team element if it becomes public.

"I don’t want to speak for Basti, but from what we’ve gleaned and what he shared with us, he and (wife) Ana (Ivanovic) are very comfortable in the city. They love it. I think he’s really enjoyed the locker room, the guys, the support of the fans. I think he’s really taken to the challenge of Major League Soccer. I think the signs are positive, but again we would prefer to have the season close before finalizing anything.”

Special edition of the Fire Talk Podcast: What’s wrong with U.S. Soccer?


Special edition of the Fire Talk Podcast: What’s wrong with U.S. Soccer?

It's a special edition of the Fire Talk Podcast!

Dan Santaromita, Justin O’Neil, JJ Stankevitz and Tom Cooper try to answer all the questions that surfaced after the U.S. failed to qualify for the World Cup. What went wrong in qualifying, who was at fault, what can be fixed, will things get better? Has any American soccer fan calmed down even a week after? The four on the panel sure still are plenty fired up.