Fire

Fire take on league-leading FC Dallas on the road

Fire take on league-leading FC Dallas on the road

Things have been better at home lately for the Chicago Fire, but playing on the road remains a different story.

The Fire have won three straight at home, including the U.S. Open Cup win against Columbus, and are unbeaten at Toyota Park in seven matches across all competitions. However, that road winless streak just won't go away.

The Fire (4-8-5, 17 points) head to Frisco, Tex., to take on FC Dallas (11-6-4, 37 points) on Saturday. The match will be televised on CSN+ with coverage beginning at 7:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live and kickoff coming just shortly after 8 p.m.

Dallas currently leads the Supporters' Shield race and is 7-0-3 at home this season. The Fire haven't won a road game in more than two years and have lost six straight road matches. Only in a parity-filled league like Major League Soccer, is it even plausible to think the Fire can pull off the upset. Even still, it remains a longshot.

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It's worth mentioning that Dallas is coming off a bizarre 5-0 loss at Seattle on Wednesday. It was the second time Dallas had lost a 5-0 game (the other was in Houston in March). However, the lopsided score was fueled by an early red card for Dallas. Defender Maynor Figueroa was called for an intentional handball in the box, which resulted in a red card and a penalty kick less than 10 minutes into the match. The onslaught continued, even after Sounders' forward Clint Dempsey was sent off later in the first half.

“Regardless of the result, Dallas is a good team," goalkeeper Sean Johnson said after the Fire's 1-0 win against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday. "They showed they're one of the best in the league, game in, game out. Every team has a one-off so you can’t look at the result and think you can go in relaxed and complacent. It’s the last thing you can do with a team like Dallas, especially at home. We’ll take our time, do regen and prepare for the weekend and come out and look to go down there and get a result again. I think we’ve got some decent momentum going now. We’ve got to look to keep building and keep moving up the table.”

Figueroa will serve his suspension against the Fire and fellow defender Zach Loyd is out with a concussion. Rookie Joey Calistri is the only Fire player listed on the injury report. He is listed as questionable due to an ankle sprain.

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Dallas did not start key attacking players in Mauro Diaz (2 goals, 9 assists), Fabian Castillo (5 goals, 3 assists) and Maxi Urruti (4 goals, 3 assists) in Seattle. All this adds up to Dallas looking to get back on track while coming home with its best players rested, which could add to how tough of a game this appears to be for the Fire.

"I think we are performing well," Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. "We are winning games. Keep that and now focus, recover and focused on the next game.”

 

Fire at FC Dallas

When: 8 p.m. Saturday (coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live)

TV: CSN+

Where: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Tex.

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.