Fire announce signing of Dutch forward Michael de Leeuw

Fire announce signing of Dutch forward Michael de Leeuw

The Fire have been desperate for some scoring help and added some on Tuesday, but it will have to wait until July.

The team announced the signing of Dutch forward Michael de Leeuw using Targeted Allocation Money, inking him to a three-year deal through 2018 with a club option for 2019.

de Leeuw's contract with Groningen does not expire until June 30 and he can't be officially transferred to the Fire until then. In the meantime he will train with the Fire.

He will not be available to play until MLS' secondary transfer window opens up on July 4. This means the first game he should be eligible to play will be on July 9 in Toronto, the Fire's 16th MLS game. The Fire play six more MLS games before de Leeuw will be eligible.

"Michael hungers to score goals and to win," Fire general manager Nelson Rodríguez said in the announcement. "That mentality as well as his versatility to play several of the attacking roles will be valuable additions to our club."

Rodriguez teased two signings back in early April. The first one turned out to be Khaly Thiam, who debuted in Saturday's 2-0 loss in New England. de Leeuw is the other signing Rodriguez teased. Rodriguez, who will host a media roundtable on Friday to address the state of the club, also said he expects the Fire to be relatively quiet in the summer transfer window.

The 29-year-old de Leeuw spent the past four seasons with FC Groningen, appearing in 117 league matches and scoring 46 goals. Current Fire defender Johan Kappelhof joined the Fire from Groningen in February.

The Fire could certainly use the scoring boost, given they rank last in the league with eight goals in nine games.

"The conversations that I had with Nelson and (head coach Veljko Paunovic) were very good," de Leeuw said in the announcement. "What they told me about their desired style of play, what they expect from players and the way that they work all appealed to me. To be a team that adapts to other teams was good to hear. I spoke with Johan Kappelhof many times, and he had good things to say about the club and the city of Chicago, which all makes me excited to be joining the Fire."

The Fire had to ship $50,000 in General Allocation Money to the Philadelphia Union, who had de Leeuw's Discovery rights.

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.