Fire

Fire try to extend home unbeaten run against Colorado on CSN+

Fire try to extend home unbeaten run against Colorado on CSN+

The Chicago Fire didn’t have much time to enjoy Saturday’s big win against Seattle.

Four days after beating the defending champs in front of a sellout crowd, the Fire host the Colorado Rapids. CSN+ has the live coverage beginning at 7 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.

The Fire’s undefeated home record will be on the line against a Rapids team which is 0-4 on the road. Colorado is coming off its second win of the season, a 3-0 win against San Jose which snapped a five-game losing streak. Colorado (2-6-1, 7 points) enters with the lowest point total in the league.

“Colorado is in need of points,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “Defensively they are tough and also have experienced players and players in attack who can be decisive.”

The Rapids have given up 12 goals, fifth fewest in the league, but have scored just eight, fewest in the league.

The Fire (4-3-3, 15 points) have lost to Colorado the last two seasons.

“They have some good players, really quality players, strong,” winger David Accam said. “They will give us a tough game. I remember playing them here my first year and we lost. I don’t want to lose them again.”

The game continues the Fire’s stretch of four games in 13 days. The Fire started the stretch with a win against Seattle and will continue it at D.C. United on Saturday. The finale is a home match against Dallas the following Thursday.

The short rest and future tight schedule could call for more squad rotation and will test the team’s depth. Goalkeeper Jorge Bava is still out with a head injury that kept him out Saturday as well and Michael Harrington is listed as questionable due to illness. Juninho, who missed the Seattle game with a sprained ankle, is not listed on the injury report and could return to the lineup.

“We now have the stretch of four games in two weeks where we have to give some guys some rest,” Paunovic said after the Seattle match. “Other guys we have to push them until we have that small break that we will have after the game against Dallas.”

This will also be a chance to find out how fit Bastian Schweinsteiger is. The 32-year-old German midfielder has started every match since joining the Fire, but even admitted a few weeks ago that he was playing at 70 percent fitness. Will he be able to start all four matches in this stretch?

“I’d love to play every single second so I hope I can play every minute,” Schweinsteiger said last week. “I am actually looking forward (to it). I love to play games. I mean training sessions are always good, but I think every player likes to play games and matches and that’s why I am actually happy about it.”

Paunovic didn’t give anything away in regards to Schweinsteiger’s playing time during this busy period.

Either way, the Fire will be expected to win against the Rapids, something which hasn’t been true often for the Fire in recent years. The Fire are 4-0-1 at home and playing the team at the bottom of the MLS standings.

“We want to win every home game,” Accam said. “We want to win every game, but when you lose at home you lose your pride and I don’t want to lose my pride. We need every game at home. It’s huge for us.”

Chicago Fire vs. Colorado Rapids

Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.

TV: CSN+

When: Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live

Records: Fire (4-3-3, 15 points), Rapids (2-6-1, 7 points)

As Fire near playoffs, Bastian Schweinsteiger's immediate and long-term futures are in question

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USA TODAY

As Fire near playoffs, Bastian Schweinsteiger's immediate and long-term futures are in question

Bastian Schweinsteiger has delivered on the promise of a big name star since joining the Fire in late March. He has produced on the field, drawn lots of attention to the club, the team has won enough to get into its first postseason since 2012 and, until recently, he stayed healthy.

However, the 33-year-old German has played 19 minutes in the previous six matches and told reporters on Wednesday that he will not play in the regular season finale in Houston on Sunday. He missed four straight matches with a calf injury before returning against New York City FC on Sept. 30 for a substitute appearance.

Schweinsteiger left practice early with what appeared to be a reaggravation of the injury on Oct. 4 and now it is known that will cost him at least two games. With the playoff picture still in flux (the Fire can finish anywhere from second to fifth in the Eastern Conference), the Fire could potentially face a three-day turnaround and travel after the Houston game or could have a first-round bye. Keeping Schweinsteiger fresher for that crunch of games could end up being a good thing, but it also runs the risk of his match fitness not being at 100 percent for the postseason.

Beyond the postseason, Schweinsteiger dropped this tease of a nugget to the Daily Herald's Orrin Schwarz just an hour before Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez spoke with reporters for almost an hour at Toyota Park.

Schweinsteiger, who was not at training, was autographing memorabilia in the form of soccer balls, posters and jerseys. Chicago Red Stars fans may get a kick out of the fact that Schweinsteiger was wearing a Red Stars hoodie.

Initially, the club said Schweinsteiger signed a one-year contract with a mutual option. Later in the day, when asked about Schweinsteiger's future, Rodriguez said the mutual option doesn't have a set number attached to it.

"That would require a negotiation," Rodriguez said. "It was mutual in a sense of we didn’t want either party to feel bound without having had the year of experience to draw on. From our perspective, our experience has been extraordinarily positive with Bastian. We think he’s delivered across all of our expectations and we hope that we have delivered against his expectations.”

So in essence, there is no mutual option. Schweinsteiger and the Fire have to come to terms again on a deal for the German to return in 2018. That's not to say Schweinsteiger can't come back, but there's nothing in writing that binds the two together for next season.

Rodriguez said talks have only begun in the very preliminary stages at this point.

“The most that Basti and I have done is, both said, hey this has gone pretty well." Rodriguez said. "You like it. I like it... So I think we want to remain with our original plan. It was to look to have the hard discussions at the end of the season. My view is in-season negotiations always prove to be a distraction, whether to the player or to me. There can be a team element if it becomes public.

"I don’t want to speak for Basti, but from what we’ve gleaned and what he shared with us, he and (wife) Ana (Ivanovic) are very comfortable in the city. They love it. I think he’s really enjoyed the locker room, the guys, the support of the fans. I think he’s really taken to the challenge of Major League Soccer. I think the signs are positive, but again we would prefer to have the season close before finalizing anything.”

Special edition of the Fire Talk Podcast: What’s wrong with U.S. Soccer?

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AP

Special edition of the Fire Talk Podcast: What’s wrong with U.S. Soccer?

It's a special edition of the Fire Talk Podcast!

Dan Santaromita, Justin O’Neil, JJ Stankevitz and Tom Cooper try to answer all the questions that surfaced after the U.S. failed to qualify for the World Cup. What went wrong in qualifying, who was at fault, what can be fixed, will things get better? Has any American soccer fan calmed down even a week after? The four on the panel sure still are plenty fired up.