Fire

Despite playing up two men, Fire fail to score in Orlando

Despite playing up two men, Fire fail to score in Orlando

The Chicago Fire had the advantage of Orlando receiving not just one, but two red cards on Sunday, but still couldn’t turn that advantage into a goal.

The Fire played up a man for more than 60 minutes and up two men for the final quarter of the match, but couldn’t break through Orlando’s defense in a scoreless draw at Orlando City Stadium.

The draw snapped the Fire’s four-game winning streak, but did extend the team’s unbeaten run to six matches.

Orlando right back Rafael Ramos was handed a red card in the 26th minute for a foul on Brandon Vincent at the edge of the penalty box. Even after replays it wasn’t clear why the red card was given.

The Fire (7-3-4, 25 points) already had the edge in possession before the red card and continued to control the ball after it, but couldn’t score in the first half despite putting five shots on target.

Things got worse for Orlando (7-5-3, 24 points) when Antonio Nocerino was given the Lions’ second red card in the 66th minute. Nocerino led with his cleats into the back of Matt Polster.

Orlando went into an all-out defensive shell for the final quarter of the match. The Fire had all the ball possession, but had to try to break down a tight unit of eight players defending in the final third.

The game’s stats were understandably one-sided. The Fire outshot Orlando 21-5 and put six of those shots on target. In addition, the Fire had nine corners, attempted 27 crosses and finished with 66 percent of the possession.

After Orlando went down to nine men, the Fire were unable to put another shot on target. Matt Polster came the closest in the 92nd minute with a hard-hit first-touch shot that hit the bottom of the crossbar, bounced down and then was cleared. A couple minutes later, David Arshakyan had a shot deflect off a defender and then the crossbar before being cleared from danger.

A win against Orlando, especially on the road, could have proved valuable come the end of the season with both teams looking like playoff contenders. Given the two red cards, it will look like a missed opportunity for the Fire, but a draw on the road against a playoff contender isn’t such a bad thing without context.

The Fire were without both Dax McCarty and Juninho. Polster moved to midfield for the first time this season. With Polster in midfield, Drew Conner got his third start at right back.

Juninho did not travel after his wife gave birth to a boy earlier in the weekend.

The Fire return to Toyota Park next Saturday against Atlanta United FC.

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

iker-1214.jpg
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

juninho-1210.jpg
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.