Fire hope to be healthier after off week


Fire hope to be healthier after off week

With a number of nagging injuries, the off week for the Chicago Fire may have come at a good time.

A week ago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said he had only 14 players for a training session. The combination of injuries and players being away on international duty left the coach short-handed.

The biggest injury concern, of course, is David Accam. Accam missed the match against Columbus and his status remains up in the air.

“David is recovering well," Paunovic said in his weekly conference call with media. "We still don’t know if he will be able to be on time for Saturday’s game, but he is recovering well and we are happy with that. We have to check his status day-by-day and see how he will recover for the game. At this point we can’t say if he will be able to play the game against Philly.”

[SHOP FIRE: Get your Fire gear right here]

Two other injuries from last week were Arturo Alvarez and John Goossens. Paunovic said both trained with the full group today so it sounds like both will be available Saturday against the Philadelphia Union.

Paunovic said he expects Brandon Vincent and Matt Polster to be available Saturday upon returning from the U.S. U-23 team, but will have to see how they feel when they return to Chicago. The U-23s can qualify for the Olympics with a win Tuesday against Colombia in Frisco, Tex., after a 1-1 draw on the road.

In other news, Paunovic talked about the loans of Patrick Doody and Drew Conner to Saint Louis FC. Doody, in his second loan stint with the Fire's USL affiliate, started the season-opening 1-0 loss at the Real Monarchs on Saturday. He was subbed out in the 89th minute. Conner came on as a sub in the 84th minute.

Paunovic said the club had decided to loan out Doody and Conner "a long time ago."

“We believe that young players need to play," Paunovic said. "In order to develop well they have to have games, playing in real games with competition. That’s very important."

The two Fire Homegrown players will be joined by teammate Eric Gehrig when Saint Louis FC visits LA Galaxy II on Wednesday. Gehrig is fit after surgery last season, but needs game action.

"We expect that he can get some minutes in order so that he can be better prepared and eligible in the game against Philly or the next game," Paunovic said. "We are not putting any deadline in front of him or us. We just want Eric to recover well, build some minutes in the game and after that we can evaluate how he feels."

More temporary loans like Gehrig's could occur in 2016.

“In the future we are thinking about sending more players there back and forth in order to get more minutes," Paunovic said. "The last game a lot of players that we have, young players, the last game they played 90 minutes was maybe six or four months ago."

Finally, the last nugget Paunovic gave was more of a hint than an actual piece of information. When asked about any potential player additions to the roster before the first MLS transfer window closes on May 11, Paunovic said, "We are working on that."

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.