Fire notes: Bliss urging Men in Red to play spoiler to Red Bulls


Fire notes: Bliss urging Men in Red to play spoiler to Red Bulls

When the New York Red Bulls (17-10-6, 57 points) walk into Toyota Park, and step onto the field to face the Fire (8-19-6, 30 points) for the third and final time this season, the thought of playing spoiler to Jesse Marsch's group would be a fitting conclusion in the eyes of interim coach Brian Bliss.

The last time the Fire tasted a home loss against the Red Bulls, Bob Bradley, the Men in Red's inaugural head coach and then-New York/New Jersey MetroStars marched into Soldier Field, and walked away with a 3-0 victory on May 14, 2005.

A Fire win against the Red Bulls, who've already clinched the No. 1 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, could shake up the MLS Supporters' Shield race on #DecisionDay.

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"That would be great," said Bliss, whose training session Wednesday was attended by newly appointed General Manager Nelson Rodríguez. "Obviously it would be a win, if we can win at home, for ourselves and for our fans who have supported us all year. There's nothing better than upsetting somebody else's tea party. If we can do that and play that role, I think guys can walk off the field and say they at least accomplished something at the end of the season."

Some notes from training...  

- Whether younger players enter the fold come Sunday's regular-season finale is still up for debate. Bliss was receptive to the notion when it was first broached prior to the Fire's convincing 3-1 win over the New England Revolution on Oct. 3. The likes of Homegrown midfielder Collin Fernandez, goalkeeper Alec Kann and others come to mind, but Bliss may be up against the wall.      

“I’d like to," Bliss added. "Look, the league is built for a reason the way it is and when you’ve got New York and Dallas fighting for the Supporters’ Shield, it’s tough to say, ‘Alright, I’m going to throw three guys in there.’ I think we’d be disingenuous to Dallas. I’m not even saying that the younger guys wouldn’t give the performance that a senior guy would.”

[RELATED: Bliss talks 2016 Fire roster outlook; CHIvNY start time pushed back]

- Two USL players were invited to train with the club this week: Saint Louis FC centerback James Musa rejoined after enjoying a stint during the previous international break; and Louisville City FC midfielder Charlie Adams was brought in as a guest player.

- Midfielder Razvan Cocis took a couple knocks in the 4-0 loss at D.C. United over the weekend, and was held out of practice along with defender Ty Harden and forward Mike Magee, who did not travel. Cocis should return to full training on Thursday.

- With the Fire missing out on the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six seasons and the 2015 campaign nearing its end, contract talks are fast approaching. Deals for Harden, Magee and midfielder Matt Watson are set to expire, and "a handful" of others have options that could be exercised. 

“I would say 50 percent, maybe, that are either out-of-contract or on an option, and 50 percent are guaranteed [for 2016]," Bliss said.

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.