Fire rue missed chances in loss to Sporting Kansas City


Fire rue missed chances in loss to Sporting Kansas City

After failing to garner any results from Western Conference opponents this season, that trend continued for the Chicago Fire on Sunday in an end-to-end and topsy-turvy encounter with Sporting Kansas City.

The 1-0 defeat in front of 19,581 at Sporting Park effectively ended the Men in Red's run of three consecutive wins coming into the match, and it leaves Frank Yallop's side in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

"We did enough to at least get a goal today and it’s just disappointing to come away with nothing out of the game," Yallop said in his post-match press conference.

Despite being held goalless for the first time since their home-opening loss to Vancouver Whitecaps FC in March and limited to 38 percent of possession in the first half, the Fire weathered the storm of Sporting KC's relentless pressure throughout the first half.

Guly do Prado, earning his second start of the season, combined well with Designated Player David Accam at the corner of the area in the 13th minute and unleashed a low, hard shot at goalkeeper Tim Melia, who palmed the effort away. Six minutes later, Chris Ritter swung in a ball that found the head of Eric Gehrig, but the defender was denied once more by an alert Melia.

[SHOP: Get your Fire gear

Vermes' side continued to pile on the pressure and their most dangerous and clear-cut chances came in a span of two minutes. A delightful scoop from Benny Feilhaber over the top of the Fire defense found an unmarked Dom Dwyer, but the forward spurned his opportunity in the 31st minute. Two minutes later, defender Kevin Ellis rocked a header off of Sean Johnson's crossbar, which sparked a Fire counter attack toward the other end, with do Prado being foiled by Melia once again.

After emerging from the halftime break on the back foot, the Men in Red showed signs of gaining momentum and working their way back into the game, but a series of poorly timed runs and mental lapses prevented them from getting a clear sight at Melia's goal.

In the 75th minute, the Fire defense unraveled when former defender Jalil Anibaba sent in a cross from the right flank and picked out substitute Paulo Nagamura, who made no mistake and sent his looping header past a diving Sean Johnson to give the home side a 1-0 lead.

"In the second half I thought we did well," Yallop said. "I thought we were on top of the game; we bossed it a little bit. The goal was kind of out of the blue and once that happens, you’re on top and think you’re going to win, and all of a sudden a goal and it changes things."

[RELATED: Fire face Sporting Kansas City in 50th all-time meeting]

The goal was followed by an increased initiative from Yallop's side to push for an equalizer, as Quincy Amarikwa and Kennedy Igboananike entered the fray, but any chance of salvaging a result was lost after David Accam was shown a straight red card in the 89th minute for a flailing arm in the face of Anibaba.

The loss leaves the Men in Red with nine points after seven games played in the Eastern Conference, but they will look to call a halt to the losing trend against Western Conference opponents when they face Real Salt Lake at Toyota Park on May 9 at 2 p.m.

"We’ve got three difficult away games coming up in-conference," captain Jeff Larentowicz said after the match. "We’ve got to have the ability to play well on the road. At this point we haven’t done that. We’ve shown we can play at home, but on the road it’s a different story."

"Our first focus is Real Salt Lake next Saturday," midfielder Harry Shipp added. "Hopefully we play well and get three points at home, then we start focusing on those conference road games."

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-1-1): Sean Johnson; Eric Gehrig (Lovel Palmer, 85'), Jeff Larentowicz (C), Adailton, Joevin Jones; Harry Shipp, Matt Polster, Chris Ritter (Kennedy Igboananike, 77'), David Accam; Shaun Maloney; Guly do Prado (Quincy Amarikwa, 72').

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.