Harry Shipp's goal, assist helps Fire to win over Revolution


Harry Shipp's goal, assist helps Fire to win over Revolution

Last week's 3-2 setback against Toronto FC saw a prevailing narrative come back to haunt the Chicago Fire. After taking two leads, both were wiped out and by the end of the night, the defeat officially eliminated the team from playoff contention.

On Saturday night, the self-pride that interim head coach Brian Bliss called for in the days building up to the Fire's penultimate home match of the regular season against the New England Revolution was on full display.

After conceding Juan Agudelo's headed goal against the run of play in the 31st minute, the Fire turned on in the second half. David Accam's near-post finish - his team-leading 10th of 2015 - followed by tallies from Harry Shipp and Gilberto helped the Fire (8-18-6, 30 points) snap a five-match losing streak in a 3-1 victory over the Revolution (13-11-8, 47 points) in front of an announced crowd of 16,694 at Toyota Park.   

Bliss trotted out three changes from the side that fell in Toronto last time out. Joevin Jones made his return to the starting lineup at left back for Patrick Doody. Razvan Cocis partnered Michael Stephens in central midfield and Shipp deputized for Mike Magee underneath Gilberto.

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The hosts struggled to find their feet in the early going, allowing New England midfielders Jermaine Jones and Kelyn Rowe to unleash the opening shots toward Jon Busch's net.

With more and more possession garnered in the final third, the Fire were able to carve out the game's first notable opportunity via Accam in the 21st minute. The Ghanaian collected the ball on the edge of the area and tantalized Andrew Farrell in a one-versus-one scenario before sending a curling right-footed effort at New England 'keeper Bobby Shuttleworth, who expertly palmed aside.

A minute shy of the half-hour mark, the Fire saw a flurry of chances go awry. First, Patrick Nyarko dished to Gilberto, whose volley was stopped by Shuttleworth. The Brazilian hit the post on the ensuing corner kick, and, seconds later, was found by Accam at the back post but couldn't direct a shot on target.

Seconds later, the visitors charged toward the other end, exposed the Fire back four and broke the deadlock. Lovel Palmer failed to close down Chris Tierney's cross, which found Agudelo, who powerfully headed past a stranded Busch from close range.    

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With 58 percent of possession yet little to show for in the opening 45, the Fire emerged from the halftime interval with an incentive to level the score, and they did just that.

Accam drove through the center of midfield and into the box and found an opening, muscling free of Jose Goncalves and squeezing a low shot inside the near post to level the score in the 51st minute. Eight minutes later, Shipp capitalized on a slip by Farrell and ran through on goal. The Homegrown midfielder kept his cool and slotted a shot through the legs of Shuttleworth for a 2-1 Fire lead.

As the second half wore on, Busch was called upon to make a number of saves to keep the Men in Red's advantage in check, most notably denying Agudelo and Rowe on the doorstep in the 66th minute.

Five minutes from time, second-half substitute Matt Watson beat Lee Nguyen to the endline and connected with Gilberto at the corner of the six-yard box. The Brazilian spun, turned and finished past Shuttleworth to seal all three points for the Fire.   

Next up for the Fire is a trip to face D.C. United at RFK Stadium on Oct. 18.  

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-1-1) - Jon Busch; Lovel Palmer, Jeff Larentowicz (C), Daneil Cyrus, Joevin Jones; Patrick Nyarko, Michael Stephens, Razvan Cocis (Matt Watson, 80'), David Accam; Harry Shipp (Patrick Doody, 72'); Gilberto

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.