Fire return home to take on Houston

Fire return home to take on Houston

The Chicago Fire endured an 0-3 road trip, but get to come back home Saturday against Houston.

The Fire traveled to both coasts over the course of nine days and lost all three games so the return home was probably welcome by the team. Awaiting the Fire (1-5-4, 7 points), which sit in last place in the Eastern Conference, is the last place team in the Western Conference, the Houston Dynamo (3-6-2, 11 points).

The game will be televised on CSN+ with a 4 p.m. kickoff. Coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live. Check out the channel finder to see how to find CSN+.

Despite the recent losing streak and a six-match winless streak, Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez didn't call it a must-win while hosting media at Toyota Park on Friday.

"Must-win to me is when you’re facing elimination in playoffs," Rodriguez said. "In sports vernacular that to me is the only must-win game. A win would help. A loss makes it more difficult. I can’t deny those things, but it’s not must-win.”

Regardless of how important stopping the current slide is, the Fire will have to do so without a number of players. First, David Accam received a one-game suspension and a fine from the MLS Disciplinary Committee for an elbow against Connor Lade in the first half against the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday. This comes just after Accam made his first start in that match on his way back from injury.

Additionally, John Goossens (knee), Michael Harrington (adductor strain) and Collin Fernandez (ankle sprain) will also be out. Arturo Alvarez was listed as questionable due to hip pain in the injury report.

That obviously limits coach Veljko Paunovic's options. None of those four injured players played on Wednesday so it's possible Paunovic opts for a similar lineup with Gilberto taking Accam's place in the lineup.

The Dynamo began the season with 11 goals in the first three matches of 2016, but have scored more than one goal in a match just once in the eight games since. Giles Barnes (4 goals, 2 assists), Will Bruin (3 goals, 2 assists) and Andrew Wenger (3 goals, 2 assists) led the Dynamo's attack.

Houston also features former Fire players DaMarcus Beasley, Jalil Anibaba and Alex.

Chicago Fire vs. Houston Dynamo

When: 4 p.m.; coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live

TV: CSN+ (Channel finder)

Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.

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.