Fire

Fire: Igboananike opener vs. OCSC up for MLS Goal of the Week

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Fire: Igboananike opener vs. OCSC up for MLS Goal of the Week

Lacking in confidence and bereft of a killer instinct in front of goal during the early stages of his first season in Major League Soccer, the Chicago Fire's first Designated Player signing of the offseason is beginning to find his goal-scoring touch.

Last week, his goal and assist - a Man of the Match-worthy performance - in the Men in Red's 3-0 rout of the Montreal Impact landed him on the MLS Team of the Week (Week 13). Now, Kennedy Igboananike is in the running for MLS Goal of the Week, the league announced Monday, thanks to a well-orchestrated corner kick routine that emanated straight from the Fire training ground to give Frank Yallop's side an early 1-0 lead in the 3-2 loss to Orlando City SC.

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Fellow Designated Player David Accam, who departed for international duty following Saturday's match, launched the sequence with a short corner to Harry Shipp. The Homegrown midfielder, who would later assist on the Fire's second goal, dished to Razvan Cocis. The Romanian delivered a one-time ball to Accam inside the area. The Ghanaian capped off the elaborate play with a low cross to Igboananike, who calmly tapped in for his second goal of the campaign.

Also in the hunt for Goal of the Week honors are Fanendo Adi (Portland Timbers), Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), Cyle Larin (Orlando City SC) and Thomas McNamara (New York City FC). 

[MORE: Ex-Fire star Blanco apparent winner of mayoral race in Mexico]

Cast your ballot for Igboananike's goal in the Week 14 Goal of the Week here. Voting runs until 11:59 pm PT on Thursday. The winner will be announced on Friday. 

Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason

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USA TODAY

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

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USA TODAY

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.