Fire goalkeeper Matt Lampson named MLS Humanitarian of the Year


Fire goalkeeper Matt Lampson named MLS Humanitarian of the Year

In what could very well be the least surprising winner of Major League Soccer's postseason awards, Chicago Fire goalkeeper Matt Lampson was named the league's Humanitarian of the Year.

Lampson, 27, had Stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, but has been cancer free for nine years. He started his own charity, the Lampstrong Foundation, in 2014 and has hosted kids going through similar situations at Fire games this season.

After each game Lampson would go up to his "heros", talk with them and take pictures with them in the tunnel at Toyota Park or at away stadiums. Lampson, often a joking, sarcastic character, would have his most serious moments with these kids going through difficult times. Of course, he would still share some jokes to try to brighten the kids' days.

Lampson joined the Fire this offseason after beginning his career in his native Ohio with the Columbus Crew. He beat out the other two finalists for the award, Gyasi Zardes of the LA Galaxy and Luis Robles of the New York Red Bulls.

Lampson released a full statement on winning the award that is posted on the Fire's website.

"I am humbled and overwhelmingly thankful for this tremendous honor bestowed upon me," Lampson said in the statement. "However, this distinction is not mine alone. The reality is that I would never be able to reach as many lives as I do without the tremendous efforts of those close to me."

After thanking his family, the Fire and MLS, Lampson directed his attention to the patients he has worked with.

"This merit belongs to every single cancer patient, survivor, and family member that have taken the time to read my story, and be inspired to make a difference within the world," he said. "These people are the reason that I have such a passion, and they are the reason I will not stop until there is no longer cancer to be conquered. I did not initiate this ardent undertaking with accolades or awards in mind, but I am particularly grateful in this instance, as those that have made this possible, have had the opportunity to be recognized."

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.