Fire return home to take on Sporting Kansas City

Fire return home to take on Sporting Kansas City

After the Chicago Fire suffered a sixth straight road loss on Saturday, the Fire get to return home.

The Fire host Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday. The match will be televised on CSN with coverage starting at 7 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live before the game starts at approximately 7:30 p.m. The match will also be simulcast with a Spanish language call on CSN+.

While the Fire (3-8-5, 14 points) are coming off a forgettable 1-0 loss in Toronto, Sporting KC (8-8-4, 28 points) has won two in a row and is 3-1-1 in its last five matches.

“They’ve had a lot of success over the last few years,” midfielder Michael Stephens said. “They’ve been a playoff team, played in championships, they have some international players in Graham Zusi and Matt Besler so we got to be ready for a tough game.”

Zusi and Besler have not been at the heart of Sporting’s recent run and may not even factor in at Toyota Park. Zusi is listed as questionable with a hamstring strain and did not play in Sunday’s 3-1 win against New York City FC. Besler came on as a sub in the July 3 win against Columbus in his first game back from the Copa America Centenario, but did not play against New York City.

Leading goal-scorer Dom Dwyer (eight goals) also didn’t play on Sunday due to suspension, but will be available on Wednesday. Benny Feilhaber, Brad Davis and Roger Espinoza are the marquee names in Sporting’s midfield.

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“I think they play very good as a team,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. “I think they have very good pace. In every line they are very well balanced. They have that toughness that we are also looking for. I think we have it, too, but the level they have and especially a team that plays together for a long time.”

As for the Fire, Matt Polster is expected to return, either in a starting role or off the bench, after being out since suffering a concussion in the U.S. Open Cup against the Indy Eleven on June 15. Michael de Leeuw could make his first start for the Fire after debuting as a sub in Saturday’s loss.

Chicago Fire vs. Sporting Kansas City

When: 7:30 p.m. (coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live)

TV: CSN (simulcast on CSN+ in Spanish; 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.