Fire

Fire hold on to hand New England its first home loss

Fire hold on to hand New England its first home loss

The evolution of the Chicago Fire from doormat to championship contender took another big step on Saturday.

The Fire beat the New England Revolution 2-1 at Gillette Stadium with goals from Nemanja Nikolic and Luis Solignac.

It’s an impressive win because New England (5-6-5, 20 points) is a playoff contender which was undefeated at home.

The Fire (9-3-4, 31 points) took the lead in the 18th minute with Nemanja Nikolic getting behind New England’s defense and finishing his own rebound.


Both teams had chances in an open first half, but the Fire maintained control and added the second goal after a series of nice passes before Solignac finished it off in the 61st minute.


The Fire also won without David Accam, who was not even among the list of substitutes. With Accam out, Juninho stepped into the starting lineup and Bastian Schweinsteiger played a different role than his typical central midfield spot. Schweinsteiger played as a central defender, a bit of a sweeper/libero role, between Johan Kappelhof and Joao Meira.

New England adjusted at halftime, switching formations with forward Juan Agudelo replacing midfielder Scott Caldwell. The Revs had most of the possession in the second half and scored with a goal from Antonio Mlinar Delamea in the 70th minute. Schweinsteiger moved back to midfield soon after the goal when Jonathan Campbell entered the match and became the third central defender.

It was an all-out onslaught on the Fire’s goal in the final 15 minutes, but New England missed chance after chance that seemed destined to be the equalizing goal. The Revs finished with 24 shots, 18 of which came in the second half.

“Wins like this, suffering a little bit, but taking the three points is really important for the spirit of the group as well,” Solignac said on the CSN broadcast after the match.

The Fire are now unbeaten in nine straight games across all competitions and have matched last season’s point total with still a majority of the season remaining.

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.