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.

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

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USA TODAY

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?

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AP

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.