Fire

Fire get first road win since 2014 in rout of Montreal

Fire get first road win since 2014 in rout of Montreal

The Chicago Fire’s road winless streak is finally a thing of the past.

The Fire beat the Montreal Impact 3-0 on Saturday at Stade Saputo to end the club’s MLS-record 36-match road winless streak.

Luis Solignac scored his first goal since joining the Fire and David Accam had a goal and an assist in the win.

The Fire (5-11-7, 22 points) last won on the road on July 12, 2014. That was a 1-0 win in New England.

Saturday’s win in Quebec featured a lot of firsts for the Fire. The Fire had not led going into halftime on the road in 2016. It was the first time the Fire led by two goals in an MLS match, home or away, all season.

Solignac sparked the big victory by scoring on a counterattack in the 15th minute. Following a Montreal corner, Michael de Leeuw made a short pass from just outside the Fire’s box to David Accam. Accam went full speed to create a counter by himself before laying it off to Solignac on his left. Solignac cut inside on two defenders and curled the shot past Evan Bush.

It was one of the prettier Fire goals of the season and gave the Fire a lead on the road for just the second time this season.

“We tried to isolate them 1v1 and for me I think if I get 1v1 against anyone in this league I’m having a lot of joy,” Accam said during the halftime interview on CSN+.

The Fire got an insurance goal in the 73rd minute via Accam. De Leeuw slid a centering ball to Arturo Alvarez, who had just subbed into the match a minute before. Alvarez’s shot deflected in off Accam, slowly crawling over the line after the deflection wrong-footed Bush.

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Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson emphasized the importance of getting that second goal instead of simply defending a 1-0 lead.

“I think so often we get up a goal and then we tuck in and we sit back,” Johnson said on CSN+ broadcast. “The message was we’re in a good spot, we’ve played well, we’ve been in this position before. We have to learn how go on and score again and again and close out games… We did that tonight.”

With Montreal (8-7-9, 33 points) still pushing numbers forward to get back into the match, the Fire had even more opportunities on the counter. Matt Polster put the finishing touches by scoring one of those counters in the 89th minute.

When the match ended, the Fire moved within five points of the playoffs, but remained last in the league due to Houston and Columbus also winning this weekend. The win should be a confidence booster, but if nothing else it is a relief to not have a negative record hanging over the players’ heads.

“This is massive,” Johnson said. “I think for everybody in the locker room it’s a weight off the shoulders.”

The Fire next have a midweek game at home on Wednesday against the LA Galaxy.

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.