Fire

Fire's Brandon Vincent trying to 'enjoy the moment' at MLS All-Star Game

Fire's Brandon Vincent trying to 'enjoy the moment' at MLS All-Star Game

All-star games always come with extra hoopla and attention and bring the biggest stars together in one place for a few days.

The national soccer media has descended upon San Jose for the MLS All-Star Game, which will take place Thursday. For Chicago Fire rookie defender Brandon Vincent, who was selected to the MLS All-Stars, he gets to fly a bit under the radar.

“I’m not one of the superstars so I’m not one of the top guys for the media, but there has been a lot of fanfare,” Vincent said. “I had a couple appearances out playing soccer tennis with a couple fans. It’s been great. Having the open training in front of the fans has been really cool.”

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For Vincent, the trip to San Jose is a bit of a homecoming as well. Vincent just completed a standout four-year career at Stanford in the fall, capped off by a national title. He said he has seen some friends and that his family will be in town for the game.

“This is my first go at a big thing like this,” Vincent said. “It’s a lot to take in. Obviously I’m really lucky to be a part of it and it’s really exciting and I’m happy to be here.”

The MLS All-Stars have had two training sessions ahead of Thursday’s game against Arsenal. This meant Vincent has been training alongside Kaka, Andrea Pirlo and David Villa among other MLS stars.

“I’ve pinched myself sometimes seeing these players who are absolutely legendary players and world-class,” Vincent said. “It’s pretty crazy to think that I’ve grown up watching these guys on TV and I get to take the field with them one time. It’s amazing.”

Because Vincent is a rookie this can be viewed as more of a learning experience. At least that’s how Fire coach Veljko Paunovic has talked about his left back’s selection.

“It’s a great achievement and we are very happy for him to be there,” Paunovic said. “It’s going to help him also having that experience to learn from, the more experienced guys on the All-Star team.

“The only thing is that whatever minutes (he plays are) for him and for us to build his overall performance, his experience and become the player that we are all looking for.”

Paunovic said he spoke with Dom Kinnear, who is coaching the All-Stars, on Monday during meetings in San Jose. Paunovic didn’t want to influence Kinnear’s decision on how much to play Vincent. Vincent said the players haven’t heard much about how much they will play other than that there will be a lot of rotation as they game goes on.

The All-Star nod goes along with Vincent’s recent senior national team call up and appearance back in early February. Comparing the two is tough, but Vincent was able to break it down.

“The national team has been something that’s been a dream of mine so getting that call up was I think the biggest, but this has been just as cool honestly,” he said. “I had no idea this was coming. It was such a pleasant surprise that I can’t help but enjoy it and enjoy the moment.”

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.