Following an injury-laden nine months, the man they call ‘Magic Mike’ is closing in on a return to the pitch.
On Thursday, the Chicago Fire announced forward Mike Magee and midfielder Kingsley Bryce will be dispatched to USL affiliate Saint Louis FC - the former on a three-day loan - with head coach Frank Yallop confirming the news at Fire training.
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“He’s going to go play in St. Louis and get a game under his belt - about 60 minutes,” Yallop said. “We’ll see how he’s feeling for [next] Wednesday. [He] probably won’t be good for the D.C. game, but we’re hoping for the Orlando home game next Saturday.
The news marks the latest breakthrough in the Chicago native’s resurgence toward a MLS appearance for the Men in Red after hip and knee injuries in 2014 kept Magee out of contention since last September. Although he initially targeted his return in the Fire's Eastern Conference battle against the Montreal Impact on Saturday, Magee's return to MLS play will be put on ice for now.
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Meanwhile, Bryce's loan will encompass a more prolonged period as Yallop intends for the former Saint Louis University Billiken to get an extended run of games. The Plano, Texas native made one start and logged five substitute appearances in the Men in Red's six preseason matches.
"This loan is a great opportunity for Kingsley to get meaningful games under his belt," Yallop added. "He's a young player and this move can only help him as he continues to develop."
Magee and Bryce represent the newest additions for the USL outfit, which has welcomed current loanees Alec Kann and Patrick Doody into its fold this season. The 2013 MLS MVP will feature in the club’s match against Louisville City FC Saturday night.
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.
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.