Fire's all-time leader in goals to be inducted into Ring of Fire


Fire's all-time leader in goals to be inducted into Ring of Fire

The Chicago Fire Soccer Club announced Wednesday that Fire Original Ante Razov will be inducted into the club's Hall of Fame, better referred to as the Ring of Fire.

The announcement comes 12 years after the tradition began with former midfielder and captain Peter Nowak being the first member to be recognized.

"We are excited to induct Ante Razov into the Ring of Fire, the Club’s highest honor," said Chicago Fire Owner Andrew Hauptman in the club's press release. "Ante was not only an incredible striker for the Fire, but was one of the most prolific goal-scorers in MLS history. His passion and dedication helped instill a hard-working mentality in this Club since 1998 and we are pleased to honor his contributions with an induction into the Ring of Fire."

Razov, who plied his trade in Chicago in two separate stints (1998-2000, 2001-2004), joins an esteemed group of fellow Ring of Fire members: Nowak, former defender Lubos Kubik, former forward and head coach Frank Klopas, former General Manager Peter Wilt, former head coach Bob Bradley, former midfielder Chris Armas and former defender and assistant coach C.J. Brown.

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A native of Whittier, Calif., Razov is currently the Fire's all-time leading goalscorer (76) and is fourth all-time in MLS history with 114 career goals.

"I am truly honored to be selected as one of the few men in the Ring of Fire,” Razov added. "To be among the greats of the Fire is the most gratifying feeling. We had a very special group of people during my time and this feeling has never escaped me. This recognition brings back the best memories of my playing career.  

"I would like to thank Andrew Hauptman, whom personally called, members of the Ring of Fire, my former teammates and coaches, as well as the wonderful fans of the Chicago Fire! I am humbled."

Razov, who serves as an assistant coach for Seattle Sounders FC, will be honored in a ceremony prior to the Men in Red's home match against the New England Revolution on Saturday, Oct. 3.   

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.