Fire

Fire take on banged up San Jose on Friday

Fire take on banged up San Jose on Friday

A quick look at the injury list for Friday’s match between the Chicago Fire and the San Jose Earthquakes tells two different stories.

The Fire (2-7-5, 11 points) have a few players who are coming back from injury and may be limited, but no players are listed as out, which has been rare this season. Matt Polster could make his return from a concussion suffered June 15 against Indy Eleven. Arturo Alvarez, Collin Fernandez and Khaly Thiam are also listed as questionable for Friday.

Visiting San Jose (5-4-7, 22 points) would love to trade injury lists and have just a few banged up bodies. The Earthquakes have seven players listed as out, including the typical starting centerback pair of Clarence Goodson and Victor Bernardez.

Goodson has been out with a back injury since starting the first two matches of the season and Bernardez went down in the Earthquakes’ 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy on June 25. When Bernandez left in the ninth minute, Fatai Alashe, typically a midfielder, played at centerback next to Marvell Wynne, who has played centerback but usually plays as a right back.

“You’ve just got to deal with it,” San Jose coach Dominic Kinnear said after the LA game. “Looking down the bench, we don’t really have a center back, per se, so Fatai is the next one in line. It’s just the thought of, ‘What’s the best combination?’ and Fatai was the easy [choice].”

Andres Imperiale, another defender, is also out along with Jordan Stewart, Mark Sherrod, Marc Pelosi and Bryan Meredith.

The good news for San Jose is that Chris Wondolowski is expected to make his return after playing with the U.S. in the Copa America.

“We will have to have the possession, be smart,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said of Friday’s game. “I think they have a very narrow style of play.”

Paunovic spoke of how important Wondolowski is to San Jose. Wondolowski has seven goals in 12 games this season. Next to him up top has typically been former Fire striker Quincy Amarikwa, who has a goal and three assists.

The Earthquakes went winless in the five matches without Wondolowski, including a U.S. Open loss at Portland, and are 0-4-4 on the road this season.

While the Fire don’t have as many injuries, they are coming off shorter rest. The Fire played Tuesday against Columbus in the Open Cup while the Earthquakes were already out of the tournament so they had a few extra days rest.

The Fire are coming off one of the team’s better performances of the year, a 2-1 win against Columbus. Confidence should be high against a wounded San Jose team.

“I think to be fair we’re playing some good football,” Fire forward David Accam said. “For us, even though we’re not getting results I have confidence in my teammates and confidence in this team and I know for sure we will start getting results. For now we just have to keep enjoying what we’re doing and the results will come.”

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.