Fire

Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez hints at potential summer moves

Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez hints at potential summer moves

Chicago Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez gave some rain delay theater to some members of the media during Wednesday’s weather delay at Toyota Park. Rodriguez gave updates on where the team stands and what might happen in the current transfer window.

First, he said the team could end up being more active in this transfer window than originally planned. The later than hoped arrival of Michael de Leeuw and the departure of Gilberto have changed things since Rodriguez said the Fire wouldn’t be active in this summer window.

“We had some targets that we had identified for January and we are looking to see if we can accelerate any of those targets,” Rodriguez said. “That’s a little trickier because some of the clubs we’ve spoken to, we’ve spoken to on the basis of January. Do they have enough time to find a reinforcement if they make the move with us? The second thing that we’re trying to do is look within the league. I don’t want to say we’ve had advanced discussions, but we’ve had lengthy discussions on a few players within the league to see if we can reinforce the squad that way.”

Rodriguez said in some ways he prefers to acquire players from within Major League Soccer because of their familiarity with the league. He described those players as “potential starters” for the Fire.

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As he has said before, Rodriguez talked about the team’s need for a “bigger personality.” He cited de Leeuw’s competitiveness as something that goes along with that, but believes the Fire need more in that area.

As for the big question of the moment, the team’s open Designated Player spot, Rodriguez said it was possible the team could add a DP before the end of the season.

“If and when we find the right match, my answer is yes,” Rodriguez said. “I think one of the nice things that we have right now is that ability to strike with budget space, allocation, TAM (targeted allocation money), DP slot, international slot. Everything is available to us that if we find the right player, the right circumstance and if it fits in this window we can do it if we choose to.”

Rodriguez said a lot of the players from outside MLS the Fire are looking at have contracts that would expire in a year. Those players would have had only six months left on their contracts in the MLS offseason in January, meaning that transfer window would have been the last window for the current clubs to get anything in return for them before the contract expires.

As for what position the Fire need, Rodriguez mentioned a playmaker type is high on the list.

“I do believe that we need another provider in midfield,” Rodriguez said. “We’re also looking for a midfielder who creates and scores goals. Both. Those tend to be more expensive, those tend to be harder to get but I think that that is a piece that would really accelerate our improvement as a team if we could find it.”

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.