Fire

Fire begin ‘big stretch’ of home games tonight vs. Union on CSN+

Fire begin ‘big stretch’ of home games tonight vs. Union on CSN+

Coming off playing three games in eight days, with two road games in that mix, the Chicago Fire have a much more friendly schedule upcoming.

The Fire have three straight matches at home and no midweek matches that stretch the depth and fitness of the roster.

First up is a meeting on Saturday against the Philadelphia Union. The match will be televised on CSN+ (check channel locations here) with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.

“It’s a really big stretch for us,” goalkeeper Sean Johnson said. “We obviously have these three games at home. It’s important for us to get back on track. It’s a big opportunity to come home and play in front of our fans and we’ve been good at home this year. It’s going to take an effort from everybody, every single player on the team to get back in the playoff race.”

A week after playing Philadelphia (11-9-7, 40 points), the Fire host Toronto FC. Six days after the Toronto match, D.C. United comes to Toyota Park on Sept. 16. All three teams are currently in playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

Even if the Fire (5-12-8, 23 points) likely need to win all three to get back into the playoff race, it is a chance for the Fire to get some positive momentum back after the 6-2 loss to D.C. last weekend. The Fire went down a man in the first half due to a Khaly Thiam red card. Thiam will serve his red card suspension Saturday against the Union.

“For me it’s the same as a loss,” midfielder Razvan Cocis said of the lopsided score. “It was pretty tight until (the red card). It’s not too much time to think about. We have to learn from our mistakes, but we also have to keep going. Our next goal is the next game. I think most of the players learned a lot from that game and we just have to think about the next game.”

[SHOP: Get your own Fire home jersey here]

Both the Fire and the Union will endure absences due to international play. David Accam (Ghana) and David Arshakyan (Armenia) will be missing for the Fire. Goalkeeper Andre Blake (Jamaica) and midfielder Alejandro Bedoya (USA) won’t be there for Philly. John McCarthy will start in goal for the Union in place of Blake. Injury-wise, Luis Solignac is the only Fire player listed on the injury report. He is questionable with ‘right hip pain.’

These two teams played twice already this season with the Fire winning 1-0 at Toyota Park back on April 2 and the Union winning a 4-3 affair at Talen Energy Stadium on June 22. Roland Alberg, who scored a hat trick against the Fire in the second meeting, hasn’t started in the past five matches.

“They were two close games so we analyze them,” Cocis said. “We know their players, we know their style and we just have to work on that.”

Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday (coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live)

TV: CSN+ (channel finder)

Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.

Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason

schwein-221.jpg
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

polster-217.jpg
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.