Fire

Fire go cross-country while Bastian Schweinsteiger's injury looms

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Fire go cross-country while Bastian Schweinsteiger's injury looms

On Saturday the Fire played at Philadelphia, a team out of the playoff race with an average home record, and lost. Now the Fire head to San Jose, a team with plenty to play for and only one loss at home this year.

The Earthquakes are 8-1-5 at home this season and square on the playoff bubble with less than a month remaining in the regular season. San Jose (11-13-6, 39 points) is tied with Houston on points for the sixth and final playoff spot, but the Dynamo hold a game in hand.

The Fire play at San Jose Wednesday on CSN+ (channel finder) with coverage beginning at 9 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.

Both teams played three times zones away from San Jose on Saturday. While the Fire lost at the Union, the Earthquakes got smoked 4-0 by D.C. United in RFK Stadium’s second to last MLS game.

The long travel on short rest makes the game tricky for both, but that’s not how Fire midfielder Dax McCarty sees it.

“I think it’s good to have a lot of games back-to-back,” McCarty said last week. “You want to continue to gain positive momentum. The more games you can play and the less you can train, the better the players feel.

“Obviously this is crunch time now. This is the most important part of the season where you want to have the right balance between getting guys games, getting guys fitness, making sure the results are there, but also making sure guys are getting rest because this is where you start to see heavy legs if you have a team that hasn’t rotated a lot. I think we’ve done a good job of getting young guys on the field, getting a lot of guys minutes and rotating.”

Much of the rotation within the Fire’s lineup recently has been due to injury. The team had three starters on defense come back from injury in the past four games and is currently without midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger, who has missed the last three games, and Juninho, who has missed the last two games.

Juninho’s knee injury has kept him out yet again. Schweinsteiger was listed as questionable on the injury report. The Athletic’s Guillermo Rivera reported that Schweinsteiger will miss the game.

Schweinsteiger has had multiple minor injuries, which is why his status has been so unpredictable. He initially left the Aug. 16 game in Montreal due to a right thigh injury, but also had a nasty bruise on his calf on a hard foul. The calf injury was the primary reason he missed the next two games, but the thigh injury appears to have gotten worse and kept him from being at training in the leadup to the game at Philadelphia.

With a big game against New York City FC, which is in second place and four points ahead of the Fire, coming up on Saturday, the Fire will want Schweinsteiger back by then.

“Now, this is where you need your big players to step up and perform,” McCarty said. “Your leaders and your older players and your guys that are on the higher end of the salary spectrum. They have to step up and start to really prove their worth because this is the time of the season where it really counts and where it matters most so we’re going to need all that to fall in place for us if we’re going to have a special playoff run.”

Chicago Fire at San Jose Earthquakes

Where: Avaya Stadium (San Jose, Calif.)

TV: CSN + (channel finder)

When: Coverage begins at 9 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live

Records: Fire (14-10-6, 48 points), Earthquakes (11-13-6, 39 points)

Fire rumored to be connected to former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas

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AP

Fire rumored to be connected to former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas

They don’t call it silly season in Europe for nothing.

The offseason rumors that pop up and, in some cases, happen make for good entertainment around the world of soccer. Sometimes those rumors are connected to MLS, whether or not the chances of them coming to fruition are high.

The latest example of this is Steven Goff of the Washington Post tweeting out a juicy rumor involving the Chicago Fire and former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Goff doesn’t sound very confident in it happening and there are plenty of reasons why, but there are also reasons why it could make sense. In this case, it makes sense for Casillas to be looking for a home to continue his career. When his contract at FC Porto expires at the end of this European season in June, he will be 37 years old.

It’s been two and a half years since he left Real Madrid, where he spent the rest of his career, and he’s not the elite goalkeeper he once was. If Casillas wants to keep playing he may not be able to stick at a Champions League club like Porto, and that’s where the MLS rumors come into play. It makes sense for Casillas to have interest in joining MLS.

On the Fire’s end, the team isn’t loaded at goalkeeper, although there are three keeprs under contract (Matt Lampson, Jorge Bava, Stefan Cleveland) with the possibility of a fourth (Richard Sanchez) also returning. The numbers logjam could be rectified without much problem if the Fire have a chance to snag Casillas.

His experience as a World Cup and Champions League winner (like Bastian Schweinsteiger), would be a nice addition to the team, regardless of age. Casillas was one of the best goalkeepers in the world and won Spain's La Liga five times and the Champions League three times in addition to winning the 2010 World Cup.

The question from the Fire’s perspective is if he could justify the high cost he would likely come with. Goalkeepers aren’t often highly paid players in MLS with the way the salary cap works. More flexibility has been added with more and more resources being given to teams from the league, but the cost of a player like Casillas may be difficult to justify at goalkeeper, even if he would provide another marketing and attendance boost like Schweinsteiger did.

This rumor makes for a good headline, but may not have much basis in reality. Still, there's a decent chance Casillas' name will continue to be connected with a move to MLS until he signs his next deal.

Fire's protected list for expansion draft hints at possible moves

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USA TODAY

Fire's protected list for expansion draft hints at possible moves

The MLS offseason doesn't take long to get in gear.

The Fire traded Arturo Alvarez earlier on Sunday, the same day which the list of protected players was to be announced ahead of Tuesday's expansion draft for Los Angeles FC.

LAFC will take five players in the expansion draft, which is set for 1 p.m. on Tuesday. A team can only lose one player. Each team can protect 11 players and homegrown players aren't eligible for selection. For the Fire that means Drew Conner and Djordje Mihailovic can't be taken.

The Fire protected David Accam, Jonathan Campbell, Johan Kappelhof, Dax McCarty, Nemanja Nikolic, Juninho, Matt Polster, Richard Sanchez, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luis Solignac and Brandon Vincent.

While Sanchez and Schweinsteiger are out of contract, the Fire have said they are negotiating with both players. Protecting Juninho is a bit of a surprise because it implies that the Fire have some intention of keeping him for next year, or at least keeping his rights to be traded.

The Fire left David Arshakyan, Jorge Bava, Brandt Bronico, Stefan Cleveland, Jorge Corrales, Michael de Leeuw, Christian Dean, Daniel Johnson and Matt Lampson unprotected. De Leeuw would be a worthwhile pickup for LA if it thinks he is worth it after his ACL tear suffered late in the season.

With only five players being selected it's fairly likely no Fire players are taken by LAFC, but it's arguable that de Leeuw will end up being one of the best five players available. The 31-year-old tied for the team lead with eight assists and scored three goals.