Fire: As injuries pile up, Yallop mulls interest in transfer window


Fire: As injuries pile up, Yallop mulls interest in transfer window

Prior to the Men in Red's 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo Friday night, Chicago Fire head coach Frank Yallop had to stomach the unwelcome news that captain Jeff Larentowicz would miss the match and an additional two weeks with a herniated disc.

That injury, preceded by Adaílton's premature exit with a groin strain, leaves the Fire shorn of both of their starting center backs, who've anchored the defense in 13 of 16 MLS regular season matches. With injuries piling up and a crucial stretch of league fixtures looming, Yallop's concentration is on his squad while gradually shifting toward the opening of Wednesday's secondary transfer window, which runs through Aug. 6.

"We've got a lot of irons in the fire right now," he said Monday via teleconference. "Sometimes your focus changes with a couple of injuries. We're looking to strengthen, for sure. We've got nothing pending or nothing that's real close yet. We're trying our best to nail it down. We're hoping Jeff gets through his thing tomorrow and then we can really focus on what we're trying to do."

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Larentowicz, who'd been afflicted with right groin tightness in recent weeks as well, had been dealing with neck pain since June 24 vs. D.C. United. He will meet with a specialist on Tuesday to determine the extent of the problem and timetable for his return, which is "up in the air," according to Yallop. 

Since succumbing to a last-place finish in the Eastern Conference with 2015's halfway point in clear view, Yallop's job security has come under some scrutiny, with various sources reporting the second-year head coach's reign in Bridgeview is nearing its end. With a somewhat underwhelming start to his second full season at the helm, his talks with Owner and Chairman Andrew Hauptman recently suggest whispers citing a rift between the Fire brass and technical staff are insubstantial.

"I'm just here doing my job, there's always going to be rumors when you're not doing well," Yallop said. "I don't worry about it. My focus is on the team. Worrying about it and thinking about it all the time is not good. I'm just going to get on with my job, make sure I do it as best I can. Maybe we need to get a doctor in rather than a coach.

"We've spoken just as normal, trying to get the team obviously in the winning column in the league and any potential moves. So no, we've not discussed my individual position, not at all."

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In the meantime - with one eye on the summer window - the attention switches to molding the injury-laiden side and those available into a formidable team that can begin to compete with the league's best, a task that begins Saturday against Western Conference-leading Seattle Sounders FC.

Ty Harden, newly acquired from the San Jose Earthquakes last week in an exchange with Quincy Amarikwa, could prove to be a timely addition as Yallop prepares to tweak his back four in the coming days. Given some of the injury setbacks, Harden, who's dealt with hamstring issues of his own, could conceivably feature in the starting lineup against Sigi Schmid's outfit alongside Eric Gehrig.

“He hasn’t been full training yet, it’s been a lot of running,” Yallop said, "but he’ll be ready to go on the weekend, I’m sure." 


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.