Fire

Fire play to scoreless draw with Columbus

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Fire play to scoreless draw with Columbus

It wasn't the most exciting match, but the Chicago Fire earned a draw for the second straight match.

The Fire played to a 0-0 draw with the visiting Columbus Crew on Saturday. Neither team created many chances with just five shots on goal combined and just one of those shots coming from the Fire.

The biggest news of the game came in the lineups before the match when it was announced that David Accam had a knee sprain and was not available. Accam, who has two goals and an assist in two matches, has been the Fire's best player this season. His absence meant the Fire's attack was significantly shorthanded and it showed.

“David is very important for us," Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. "Obviously his quality in counterattack, but also his speed and also his talent is very important for us.

“We didn’t change. We played the same system. The only thing is we played against a very, very good team. This is what we have to understand. Also I believe we were very focused on our defensive game plan, which we did very well.”

It was the third straight game the Fire were playing without a regular starter, with John Goossens missing the opener and Gilberto sitting out in Orlando. Accam was recently called into Ghana's national team, but will also not play in Ghana's two upcoming qualifiers.

Without Accam sparking the attack, the Fire (0-1-2) struggled to create chances and to keep possession of the ball. Meanwhile, the Fire's five-man defense was able to hold off the Crew (0-2-1).

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Goossens also picked up an injury on Saturday, being subbed out at halftime with a hamstring injury, according to Paunovic. Once Paunovic subbed on Nick LaBrocca, who made his club debut, for Kennedy Igboananike in the 60th minute the Fire were better in possession, but still neither team could score.

"This is the defensive performance that we need," Paunovic said. "I think we needed more clarity, more possession and that’s what we missed. In order to get opportunities sometimes you have to counterattack, but you also have to have good possession of the ball and that’s what we lacked today.”

The Fire's defense has gone from poor in the first match, giving up four goals to New York City FC, to just one allowed in Orlando while playing most of the match a man down, to now a shutout. The team is putting the positive spin on the defensive side despite the lack of offense.

“I think it was very important (to get a shutout)," defender Jonathan Campbell said. "Coming from the first game then to the next game, only giving up one goal, and for this one zero. I think it’s big improvement for us and something we can build off of.”

The Fire return to action against Philadelphia on April 2, also in Toyota Park, after taking a weekend off for the international window.

Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason

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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.