Fire

Fire try to contain Montreal's Didier Drogba, Ignacio Piatti on the road

Fire try to contain Montreal's Didier Drogba, Ignacio Piatti on the road

The Chicago Fire are well aware of what Didier Drogba and Ignacio Piatti can do.

Drogba and Piatti make one of the best attack pairings in Major League Soccer for the Montreal Impact and already showed the Fire why.

Back on April 16, Drogba and Piatti both scored at Toyota Park to hand the Fire one of the most disappointing losses of the season. The Fire entered the match at Toyota Park with three straight shutouts and took 1-0 a lead into halftime. Drogba, who subbed on early in the second half, tied it before Piatti scored the game-winner in the 91st minute.

“Of course Drogba and Piatti I think they are really good players so we have to stop them and try to play a bit of counterattack and try to score an early goal,” Fire forward Luis Solignac said. “I think that’s the main key.”

Solignac and the Fire will try to score that early goal in Montreal on Saturday. The match will be televised on CSN+ with coverage beginning at 6 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.

Midfielder Matt Polster echoed some of Solignac’s words by emphasizing how important it was to limit how many touches Drogba and Piatti receive in space.

“They obviously have a good front line with Drogba and Piatti,” Polster said. “I think if we can break plays up quickly, which would probably be the midfielders’ job when we lose possession, we need to try to win it back quickly or maybe foul right away so they don’t get a quick rhythm or a quick counter on us. I think that’s been a little bit of a key this week.”

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Former Fire midfielder Harry Shipp will be out with a groin injury. Andres Romero and Patrice Bernier are also listed as out with injuries. Defender Ambroise Oyongo will be out due to a yellow card accumulation suspension.

For the Fire, Eric Gehrig is out with a hamstring injury. Nick LaBrocca (quad) and Joao Meira (hamstring) are both listed as questionable.

Montreal (8-6-9, 33 points) is firmly in a playoff position in the Eastern Conference, but is looking to move up to a better spot. Meanwhile, the Fire (4-11-7, 19 points) are still in search of a road win this season and haven’t earned a point on the road in more than four months.

“As long as we have possibilities for playoffs, that’s always going to stay our main goal, especially now after the disappointment of the Open Cup,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We still have 12 games in the league that we have possibilities to get to the playoffs. We will do our best to do that.”

Chicago Fire at Montreal Impact

Where: Stade Saputo, Montreal

TV: CSN+ (channel finder)

When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday (coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live)

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.