Fire, NYCFC scoreless in Yankee Stadium


Fire, NYCFC scoreless in Yankee Stadium

After a 4-3 game was played between these two teams just over a month ago, it seems odd that it was a scoreless draw in the rematch.

Yet, that's exactly what happened on Sunday. The Chicago Fire traveled to Yankee Stadium to play New York City FC for the second time in the young 2016 season and came away with a 0-0 draw.

From a recordkeeping standpoint the draw will go down as the match that extended the Fire's winless streak on the road to 27 matches, which equaled the league record set by the New York Red Bulls franchise in 2009. However, from a 2016 standpoint it extended the Fire's unbeaten run to four matches and was a second road draw in two trips away from Toyota Park.

Both the Fire and NYCFC have matching 1-1-3 records through five matches. The six points both clubs have keep them on the good side of the playoff line in the early part of the season.

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From a tactical standpoint Fire coach Veljko Paunovic went with the same starting lineup he sent out in the 1-0 win against Philadelphia eight days ago. Arturo Alvarez showed some skill moves in the first half, but nothing led to a direct chance on goal. The Fire didn't even register a shot on goal through the 90 minutes.

In the second half the Fire appeared to score a goal in the 60th minute, but it was called back for offside. A long free kick was lobbed into the box and an initial header by the Fire kept the ball moving towards the goal and finally Jonathan Campbell headed in a goal. After a lengthy delay the players finally realized the goal had been called back for offside on the initial header. Replays showed that Johan Kappelhof appeared offside but Campbell appeared to be onside. Unless Kappelhof affected the play by getting a touch on the ball or affecting the goalkeeper, the goal should have stood.

Almost immediately after the goal was called back, NYCFC came right back with a shot on goal by Mix Diskerud.

Over the final 20 minutes the Fire were able to hold on for the draw and clearly had that in mind as a desirable result with some minor stalling tactics down the stretch. Goalkeeper Matt Lampson was able to deny David Villa in the 84th minute and the Fire survived some chaos in their own penalty box a minute later. Lampson was credited with eight saves.

[MORE: Veljko Paunovic's coaching tendencies starting to emerge]

Rookie Alex Morrell made his MLS debut as an 84th minute substitute for Gilberto. Defender Eric Gehrig, who has been out due to injury to start the season, was available on the substitute list for the first time this season.

The Fire return to action Saturday at 4 p.m. against the Montreal Impact, which will be aired on CSN Chicago.

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.