Fire notes: Razov ROF induction, CHIvNE preview, Nyarko fit


Fire notes: Razov ROF induction, CHIvNE preview, Nyarko fit

Saturday's Eastern Conference bout at Toyota Park between the Fire and New England Revolution is an opportunity for the Men in Red to salvage self-pride from a displeasing season.

But for the fans who have endured the ups and downs in recent years and remember the team's successful run during the early 2000s, a special halftime ceremony will accompany matchday proceedings to commemorate a player who championed the club's three, core values: tradition, honor and passion.

Former Fire Original and forward Ante Razov will become the eighth inductee into the Ring of Fire, and will be joined by fellow members Peter Nowak (inducted in 2003), Frank Klopas (2004), Luboš Kubík (2005) and Peter Wilt (2006). The image of his No. 9 jersey, in which Razov netted a club-record 76 goals in two stints in Chicago, will hang from the east façade of the stadium for all to see.

“He was ice-cold around the box. He could finish," Fire interim head coach Brian Bliss said Thursday. "When we talk about guys whose pulse goes up around the box, I think his went down in the box. He was calm, cool and could bury the difficult shot, but he could also hit the precision and placement shot as well. Decent size, always, and could get his head on a few balls as well. We all like lefties, so anything a lefty does always looks better.”

A key component of head coach Bob Bradley's group in 1998, Razov helped the Fire win MLS Cup and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in the inaugural year. Razov currently serves as the assistant coach for Seattle Sounders FC.  

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Preview: Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution (Saturday, Oct. 3; 7:30 p.m. CT on My50 Chicago)

With postseason aspirations out of the picture, the Fire return to Toyota Park for the penultimate home match of the 2015 campaign.

Having just two days to work with players prior to a two-game road swing (a 2-1 loss to the Montreal Impact and 3-2 defeat to Toronto FC), Bliss is more reassured this time around after getting a full week of training under his belt. 

“I’d call it a luxury, yeah,” he said after training Thursday, “because we’re able to implement a little bit more on the mindset. We’re not moving mountains in the short amount of time, but we’re trying to get the collective group to be thinking in the same way about the game, and about how we want to play the game. You’re not going to execute everything, but if we can get the majority thinking the same way, it’s very helpful.”

The Fire's 21-19-11 all-time regular season record against the Revolution includes a 12-5-8 record in fixtures played at home. Saturday marks the third and final meeting between both sides this season. Jay Heaps' group dealt the Men in Red a comprehensive 2-0 defeat in Foxborough on June 13 before escaping from Toyota Park with a point in the teams' 2-2 draw on July 25.

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Injury update

- Midfielder Patrick Nyarko emerged from the setback at Toronto with a knock to his knee, but will be fit and available against New England. "He took two days off here to take the pressure off a little bit," Bliss said. "He came back out today (Thursday) and looked fine.”

- Defender Ty Harden was a late scratch with an adductor strain, and will be held out of Saturday's encounter vs. the Revolution. “He probably could suit up, but I don’t think it makes sense to run him out there," Bliss said. "We’ll give him the extra time needed, and hopefully he’s available for selection the next game.”

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.