Fire

Fire release 2016 MLS schedule

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Fire release 2016 MLS schedule

The full Major League Soccer schedule was announced on Thursday and now Chicago Fire fans can make their plans for the 2016 season.

As was previously announced, the Fire are opening on Sunday, March 6 against New York City F.C. at 1 p.m. and the match will be televised on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The following game will take place on Friday, March 11 at Orlando.

[MORE FIRE: Draft picture clears for Fire as MLS announces Generation adidas class]

Future broadcast information will be available at a later date. CSN Chicago is the home for Chicago Fire.

Here are some facts and notable dates from the schedule:

- Three of the Fire’s first four games and five of the first seven will be at Toyota Park.

- The first seven games and nine of the first 10 will take place against Eastern Conference opponents.

- Patrick Nyarko will first return to Toyota Park with D.C. United on April 30.

- The reigning MLS Cup champion Portland Timbers come to Toyota Park on May 28.

[SHOP FIRE: Get your Fire gear right here]

- MLS will break during the Copa America Centenario. After the Portland match, the Fire will next play on June 18 at Colorado.

- Former Fire captain Jeff Larentowicz will return to Bridgeview with the LA Galaxy on Aug. 24.

- Toronto FC, featuring U.S. national team stalwarts Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, will visit Toyota Park on Sept. 10, four days after the U.S. hosts Trinidad and Tobago in a World Cup qualifier.

- Just like in 2015, the Fire will play back-to-back games against Columbus, although a Fire bye week will sit in between the two October matches.

- Teams that will not travel to Toyota Park in 2016: Colorado, Dallas, Real Salt Lake, Seattle, Vancouver

- Teams the Fire will play three times in 2016: Columbus, - The Fire will host three midweek games, two on Wednesday and one on a Thursday.

Check out the full 34-game schedule below:

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.