Fire

Fire Visit DC United Seeking First Victory

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Fire Visit DC United Seeking First Victory

Saturday, Apr. 17,2010
9:27 A.M.

By Tom Cooper
Special to CSNChicago.com

There's a lot of head scratching going on among MLS fans in Chicago and DC so far this season. Both clubs entered the season in retooling-mode but it might start looking like a rebuilding mode if things don't change soon. Through three matches, the Fire have only a point to show for their efforts while DC United are still looking for their first result. It might be too early, but this match between the bottom two sides on the Eastern Conference table could go a long way in deciding the direction of this season for both clubs.

Saturday's match could be decided on the wing. Patrick Nyarko made the Earthquake defenders shake (Ha! Get it?) running down the right last Saturday at Toyota Park. With DC United missing key players to injury as well as the suspension of defender Dejan Jakovic for his red card last week in Philadelphia, Nyarko could cause havoc on the side and help set up Brian McBride and Collins John in the box. Plus, DC United have the worst defense in the league so far this season (nine goals allowed in three games). This could be the opportunity the Fire need.

Meanwhile, it's tough to say there is something positive in a 3-2 loss against an expansion team, but DC might have found it in the second half. Head coach Curt Onalfo moved Santino Quaranta from the center of the midfield out to the wing and replaced him with United-original Jaime Moreno. (Yes, he's still playing!) The move worked as the red and black attack improved and netted two goals. though the league said later that Moreno's goal shouldn't have stood- Ah, details!

This match is the best chance for both sides to pick up a much-needed win. And if the Fire can finally pick up three points in front of DC's Barra Brava, it could spark them to finally get this season rolling.

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.