Fire hold U.S. Open Cup in high regard: 'It's got history here'


Fire hold U.S. Open Cup in high regard: 'It's got history here'

En route to last year's run-in to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal, the Chicago Fire dispatched the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Columbus Crew SC and Atlanta Silverbacks before slumping at the penultimate hurdle, losing out to eventual champion Seattle Sounders FC 6-0 at CenturyLink Field.

Ten months on from appearing in the club's 10th Open Cup semifinal - a modern era record - and his first with the Men in Red, Homegrown midfielder Harry Shipp knows a victory in Tuesday night's fourth round encounter with USL's Louisville City FC could help rekindle the hunger required to recapture Open Cup glory.     

"It's tough especially in the summer months, the games are close together," Shipp said. "Last year we were able to win a few games and make it pretty far. Once you win a game or two in that, your competitive drive starts to come out and you want to win it all. I think some organizations take it more seriously than others and this is one that fortunately puts it on par with league play."

[RELATED: Fire to host Louisville City FC in fourth round of U.S. Open Cup]

Following a third round that saw all seven USL-NASL fixtures result in victories for the former, upsets were aplenty and the ensuing round promises for some entertaining clashes as 17 MLS outfits join in. Though it remains to be seen, four-time winners of the tournament - in its 102nd year - Frank Yallop's side certainly isn't taking it lightly. 

"We've got to win the game," Yallop said via teleconference Monday. "It's a tournament that this club's really taking seriously; I'm taking it seriously, as is the whole coaching staff and the players. We want to get on the right track; we want to get a win, especially at home, and get into the next round.

"It's no different to any year. I'm putting as much into this as all the other games we've tried to win this season. It's a tournament we want to do well in because it's got history here. We're desperate to do well; we want to win this first game, but do well in the tournament as a whole."

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On the back of their third straight league defeat - a 2-0 decision against the New England Revolution - the Fire were forced to operate without Shaun Maloney (Scotland), David Accam (Ghana) and Joevin Jones (Trinidad and Tobago), who were all away on international duty. Maloney and Accam both scored for their national sides against the Republic of Ireland and Mauritius, respectively, while Jones and the Soca Warriors still await Tuesday's friendly against Jordan.

With the match against Louisville looming, Yallop confirmed Accam, Jones and Mike Magee - still nursing a slight hamstring tweak - would be unavailable, while Maloney would possibly make the bench.

Meanwhile, Collin Fernandez, who was loaned to James O'Connor's group last week, was summoned back by the Fire. The 18-year-old made his professional debut last Wednesday, entering as an 88th-minute substitute against the Montreal Impact, and followed up with 76 minutes in the 2-0 loss to the Rochester Rhinos.  

[MORE - Larentowicz: 'It's the players' obligation to get things done']     

Even with a somewhat depleted and fatigued group, Yallop hinted at deploying as strong a lineup as possible, namely a similar corps to the one that emerged fruitless from Foxborough. A win against the first-year franchise at Toyota Park, moreover, would do wonders to make amends for poor form in the recent string of Eastern Conference defeats.      

"Losing three in a row to conference opponents is not good," added Yallop. "Two have been away, but the one at home is the one you've got to get maximum points from. If you do well at home - like most teams do in our league - that's where you get most of your maximum points and we didn't do that.

"At some point, you can get points and wins on the road, but your home form has to be the one that drives you on. We've won four and lost three at home, which is not good. Big game tomorrow night, but big game the following Wednesday against D.C. again."

Fire vs. Louisville, slated for a 7:30 p.m. CT kickoff, will be available via live web stream on with Dan Kelly and Kevin Egan on the call. To watch the stream, click here

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.