Fire trade Harry Shipp to Montreal Impact


Fire trade Harry Shipp to Montreal Impact

New Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez has made wholesale changes to the club's roster in his first year at the helm, but on Saturday morning Rodriguez may have made his biggest move to date.

Saturday, the Fire traded Harry Shipp to the Montreal Impact for a combination of both general allocation and targeted allocation money.

[SHOP FIRE: Get your Fire gear here]

Shipp became the Fire's third Homegrown Player in franchise history in 2014 after a standout collegiate career at Notre Dame. Shipp tallied seven goals and six assists in his MLS rookie season, and finished second in the MLS Rookie of the Year. His numbers dipped to just three goals and eight assists in his sophomore season in 2015.

“Pauno and I met with Harry on Saturday to give him the news,” Rodríguez said in a statement from the club. “Harry is a homegrown player and an obvious fan-favorite, which makes this trade more emotional than most. However, we believe this trade will prove to be beneficial for our club and for Harry’s career.”

The lack of a player in return likely means the Fire's offseason moves aren't as close to completed as it may have seemed in the past week. The roster appeared to be solidifying after the Fire's preseason camp in Tampa, but Shipp's exit could mean more moves are on the way before the March 6 season opener.

Collin Fernandez, who turned 19 on Saturday, could be in line to receive more playing time at the attacking midfield position. Fernandez, also a Homegrown Player, has just one MLS appearance in his career. In addition, the Fire likely wouldn't move a player of Shipp's caliber without receiving a player in return unless the money received was going to open things up for another player to come in.

Once the move becomes official, Shipp will become the first Fire homegrown signing to play for another MLS club. Shipp was also one of just two players on the current roster to have been with the Fire since the start of 2014. Now only Sean Johnson has been with the Fire since the start of the 2014 season.

Rodriguez has said multiple times throughout the offseason that adding an international central midfielder to the Fire was the second priority after acquiring center backs. International players Joao Meira and Johan Kappelhof have come in at center back, but no foreign midfielders have been added. On Jan. 14, just after the MLS SuperDraft, Rodriguez referred to the type of midfielder that the Fire were looking for was "very hard to find domestically." That implication always sounded like an attacking midfielder given the lack of playmakers in the American player pool.

After the final two rounds of the draft on Jan. 19, Rodriguez clarified the team's position on central midfield.

“If and when we close the center back spot we want to address central midfield," Rodriguez said on Jan. 19. "Now again, we’ve got some great in-house options, Harry Shipp, Matt Polster, Drew Conner, but those are very young players so we’d like to add veteran presence in the center of midfield as well to help us. That scenario we’ll be looking at. We’ve also had some young international players that we’re spying quite closely who we think have great potential and could fit in well with what we’re doing."

Perhaps the Shipp trade signals the move for one of these young international players to join the Fire.

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.