Chicago gets to play a part in epic summer for soccer

Chicago gets to play a part in epic summer for soccer

This summer is about to get very good for soccer fans and it all starts tonight.

The U.S. takes on Colombia in the opener of the Copa America Centenario at Levi's Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers. That kicks off the biggest tournament to be played on American soil since the 1994 World Cup.

There’s been plenty of hype about the Copa America, from ads featuring Kobe Bryant to hype videos. Leo Messi, Luis Suarez, James Rodriguez and Javier Hernandez are among the world superstars that will be taking part in the tournament. Huge crowds creating fun atmospheres will flock to the games and there will be cool watch parties, including one the Chicago Fire are hosting for the U.S. opener.

A few of the big ones will take place right here in Chicago at Soldier Field. The first game at Soldier Field is Sunday with Jamaica taking on Venezuela. In terms of prestige, this game is more of the warm-up to the main events that follow. On June 7, the U.S. will play Costa Rica in its first game in Chicago since the 2013 Gold Cup final against Panama, a 1-0 American victory.

Three days after that Messi's Argentina takes on Panama. If Messi plays it will mark the first, and possibly only, time arguably the greatest player of his generation will play a competitive match in Chicago. That’s something worth seeing. The entire tournament could be the only competitive matches Messi will play on this continent in his career.

Sure, Messi has been in Chicago before. He brought an exhibition to Soldier Field in 2013, but that was more of an All-Star game than something resembling a real match and the best highlight came from an out of contract Northwestern grad.

On top of that, Soldier Field will also host one of the semifinals on June 22. Unless one of the baseball teams makes the World Series, that will probably be the biggest event hosted at a Chicago venue in 2016.

If you’re a true soccer junkie and the Copa America isn’t enough, there’s also Euro 2016 going from June 10-July 10 and the Olympics from August 3-20. The U.S. Women can follow up on their World Cup title, but the men won’t be involved. will have coverage of this crazy summer of soccer, including coverage from Soldier Field of the Copa America games in Chicago.

Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason


Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason

Coach Veljko Paunovic still went with a second-choice lineup to start the Fire's preseason match against USL expansion team Nashville SC on Wednesday, but the second half featured the first preseason action for Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Schweinsteiger came on for the second half, along with Nemanja Nikolic, Johan Kappelhof and a few other Fire regulars. The German sat out the first four preseason games, but looked sharp in his 45 minutes.

One of the highlights was this smooth move between two defenders:

Schweinsteiger also had an impressive switch pass to set up a shot for second-round pick Diego Campos in the final minutes of the game. Campos drilled the shot on target, but was unable to beat the goalkeeper.

The team did not say Schweinsteiger was injured despite the repeated absences in matches. The Fire have dealt with injuries to Matt Polster, Luis Solignac, Daniel Johnson and rookie Grant Lillard this preseason. None of those four, along with Dax McCarty, played in the 0-0 draw.

The Fire next play Saturday at Orlando in a final match in Florida before returning to Chicago. The Fire also play Tulsa, the team's USL affiliate, at Toyota Park on March 3 before taking on Sporting Kansas City in the season opener on March 10.

Injuries affecting Fire's preseason with season three weeks away


Injuries affecting Fire's preseason with season three weeks away

It may be a good thing that the Fire’s originally scheduled season opener March 3 at Colorado got moved back.

The Fire’s preseason has been riddled with injuries to key players and the extra week may end up being needed to get the team ready for the season. Four players (not counting the already known long-term injuries to Michael de Leeuw and Djordje Mihailovic) sat out Saturday’s game against Florida Gulf Coast University due to injury: Daniel Johnson (a right ankle injury suffered in a game against Philadelphia on Feb. 8), Grant Lillard (left knee), Matt Polster (left knee) and Luis Solignac (left hip).

Polster’s injury is especially notable because he has had recurring left knee problems since first suffering a sprain in the 2016 season finale at Toronto. Polster missed the first nine games of 2017 due to the injury and missed three more in August due to a related injury.

The 24-year-old, who is now the longest tenured player on the team and the only player remaining from before general manager Nelson Rodriguez’s tenure began at the end of the 2015 season, arrived with the Fire after playing with the U.S. national team in January. He played all 90 minutes on Jan. 28 against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bastian Schweinsteiger still hasn’t played in the preseason and the team hasn’t listed him as injured.

All the absences, combined with rest for some of the team’s regulars, resulted in a starting lineup against Florida Gulf Coast that featured two players who have appeared in an official match with the Fire. Three trialists and four draft picks started.

Four of the Fire’s seven scheduled preseason matches are in the books. The Fire lost 2-1 to Montreal on Feb. 14. One of the bright spots was a rare set piece goal after the Fire trailed the Impact 2-0. Dax McCarty headed in a free kick from Diego Campos. Campos has been dangerous on set pieces, hitting the post with a free kick and assisting a goal from a corner kick in Saturday’s 2-0 win against Florida Gulf Coast.

Next up is a match against USL expansion team Nashville SC on Feb. 21. Next Saturday the Fire play at Orlando to finish up play in Florida.

The Fire close out the preseason March 3 against the team’s USL affiliate, Tulsa, at Toyota Park before the season opener on March 10.