Fire

Fire notes: Johnson back to his best; Adaílton surgery update

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Fire notes: Johnson back to his best; Adaílton surgery update

If there's anyone who's feeling the pressure of eight, consequential Eastern Conference fixtures bearing down on his team, Fire coach Frank Yallop certainly is one to understand the weight of Saturday night's clash against the Montreal Impact.

When the two sides converge at Saputo Stadium - the second of three meetings between the Impact and Fire in 2015 - both teams, which sit one and two points below the red line, respectively, can ill afford to throw away any more points with a little under two months remaining in the regular season.   

"We know it's a big game," Yallop said after training Thursday. "This one seems bigger than most because we need to get three points and so do they. ... No better time than to start this weekend in Montreal."   

With three first-choice starters out this weekend from last week's 1-1 draw with Orlando City SC - David Accam, Joevin Jones and Matt Polster - the rigors of the FIFA international window will well and truly test the technical staff's nerve to experiment with depth, particularly in the fullback positions left void through Polster and Jones' absence.

"We've got some options," Yallop added. "I think our squad's pretty strong. We've lost some players to international duty, but it gives an opportunity to other guys to get a chance to play. I have full faith in them to play well and do well."

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Sean Johnson earns 'deserved' call-up to U.S. national team

After a rocky start to his sixth season with the Men in Red, niggling injuries hindered the play of goalkeeper Sean Johnson, so much so that veteran Jon Busch was called upon to deputize for the 26-year-old seven times between mid-March and mid-June.

Since June 13, Johnson has started 12 consecutive games as the Fire's No. 1. Sprawling saves in recent weeks warranted several MLS Save of the Week nominations, performances that caught the eye of head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and justified a call-up to the U.S. national team camp.

“Sean had his differences at the start of the season, but lately, he’s been getting back to his best,” said Yallop, who spoke to Klinsmann a few weeks ago, who opened the door to have another look at the Atlanta, Ga. native. “Jurgen’s been watching that, and he deserves that spot.”

Johnson will depart following the Fire's road match against the Impact, and will replace William Yarbrough as the third goalkeeper on the 23-man roster. Yarbrough, who plies his trade with Club León, will back up Brad Guzan and Tim Howard for Friday night’s match against Peru before making way for Johnson to join ahead of next week’s friendly against five-time World Cup champions Brazil at Gillette Stadium.

[RELATED: Matt Polster adopts utility role in rookie season with Fire]

Adaílton surgery update 

Since playing all 90 minutes of the Men in Red’s 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution at Toyota Park, Adaílton’s lingering adductor issues were compounded following his operation on Tuesday.

The Brazilian centerback underwent a core muscle repair procedure - essentially equivalent to sports hernia surgery - and will be out of action for around six to eight weeks, the club announced.

“If you look at the New England game where he could have reached out and cleared the ball, he didn’t, I think, because of his groin," Yallop said of the Revolution's second goal on July 25, which spotlighted Adaílton's role in failing to clear his lines. "It was kind of after that that we really got to the bottom of it and he said he’s struggling. 

“He was injured and out, and he was always nursing it. It got to a point where [he said] ‘I can’t continue; I’ve been trying to do this thing.’ … His performances were starting to get worse."

[MORE FIRE: International window forces Fire to compensate for absent starters]

New trainee

Despite the close of the MLS summer transfer window, Yallop could still be keen on adding to his roster: 

Though rules prevent the acquisition of foreign-based talent, teams are entitled to go after out-of-contract players until the roster freeze deadline on Sept. 15. Möllering has spent the majority of his career in Regionalliga, the fourth tier in German soccer, and is currently not under contract.

For now, Yallop could only confirm the 25-year-old is "just training" with the club. 

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.