Fire

David Accam scores twice in Fire's Open Cup win against Crew

David Accam scores twice in Fire's Open Cup win against Crew

David Accam seems to like the U.S. Open Cup.

The Chicago Fire forward scored a goal and the clinching penalty kick in the Fire’s win against Indy Eleven earlier this month. On Tuesday Accam added to his Open Cup goal tally with a pair of goals in the first half to lead the Fire to a 2-1 win against the Columbus Crew in the round of 16.

The Fire advanced to a quarterfinal to be played at Toyota Park on July 20. The winner of the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers and Orlando City match, to be played on Wednesday, will head to Bridgeview for that quarterfinal.

Accam gave the Fire an early lead in the seventh minute. John Goossens, making his first start since April 16 due to injury, made a driving run with the ball and found Accam on the left wing. Accam cut inside to score with his right foot from the corner of the box.

“We wanted to start the game early and we wanted them to be on the back foot," Accam said. "It paid off.”

The Ghanaian doubled the lead in the 29th minute when he redirected a well-delivered cross from Rodrigo Ramos into the net.

“I think everybody played well," Goossens said. "We found men behind their midfield line. They tried to put us under pressure, but the first half we tried to play to somebody behind their line and every time we found that man.”

The Fire fielded a full strength lineup, but the Crew did not. Already without playmaker Federico Higuain due to injury, coach Gregg Berhalter also left key players in Wil Trapp and Ethan Finlay on the bench. Both Trapp and Finlay came on at halftime, but weren’t able to spark a two-goal comeback.

Finley did get one back for the Crew when his shot in the box deflected off Johan Kappelhof’s arm for a handball and penalty kick. Finlay converted the penalty in the 79th minute, but the Fire held onto the lead.

Unlike the Philadelphia game, where Accam scored in the second minute and the Fire trailed by two goals before halftime, the Fire were able to hold onto an early lead.

“The lesson we got in the game against Philly, I can see we learned a lot," Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. "We were able to use that experience in order to perform better today defensively and have a result in our favor. These things are always helpful.”

For the Fire it was just about a perfect scenario. They got the win to advance, avoided any major injuries and were able to sub Accam, Kennedy Igboananike and Goossens off in the second half to give them some rest ahead of Friday's league match against San Jose.

Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason

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USA TODAY

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

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USA TODAY

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.