Fire

How Michael de Leeuw is being valuable to the Fire without scoring goals

How Michael de Leeuw is being valuable to the Fire without scoring goals

Goal scorers want to score goals and Michael de Leeuw is a goal scorer who is not scoring goals right now.

De Leeuw scored seven goals in 18 games after joining the Chicago Fire in the middle of last season. This season he has not scored yet in 14 games.

However, the Chicago Fire’s Dutch forward is still happy because the team is winning.

“Of course, I’m a player who scores,” de Leeuw said after the 2-0 win against Atlanta. “That’s what gives me confidence. That’s how you grow in a season and at this point I didn’t score a goal. Sometimes I think about it and I think (damn) I didn’t score for 14, 15 games. Sometimes it’s eating inside. On the other hand I know I’m important in other things at this moment. We’re playing as a team, we’re playing good and everybody is taking his role.”

After being played as either an all-out striker or a supporting striker, de Leeuw has often played as one of the three attacking players supporting main striker Nemanja Nikolic. Nikolic leads the league with 12 goals. De Leeuw has played wide right, a new position to him, and, more recently, in a central attacking midfielder type role.

De Leeuw was named the Fire’s man of the match despite not factoring into either goal on Saturday. His work rate, willingness to make plays defensively and challenge to win balls in midfield has helped the team, even if he is further from the goal.

“Michael is so generous in his effort for the team and working for the team and for his teammates,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “At the same time he is dangerous. He had opportunities to score in the games before, but when you have that approach and you are working the way he does, it helps the team.”

Paunovic is convinced de Leeuw remains a key part of the team.

“He has to be on the field,” Paunovic said. “It’s just that. On the side where he’s not scoring goals, he’s helping other score goals, he’s helping the team win. That also counts. I know he is a little bit upset with not scoring. Be patient, it’s going to come. You’re going to surprise yourself when you score two or three goals in one game and say I have it, finally.”

De Leeuw said he is adjusting to not being in front of goal so much. He also admitted that he wasn’t playing well earlier in the season, but thinks that has changed.

"Now we have some other players who are stepping up,” de Leeuw said. “I think in the end the goals will come, I know that the goals will come. The most important thing is that we’re winning and that the team is playing good and that’s the most important thing. Then your personal things come in.”

Fire rumored to be connected to former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas

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AP

Fire rumored to be connected to former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas

They don’t call it silly season in Europe for nothing.

The offseason rumors that pop up and, in some cases, happen make for good entertainment around the world of soccer. Sometimes those rumors are connected to MLS, whether or not the chances of them coming to fruition are high.

The latest example of this is Steven Goff of the Washington Post tweeting out a juicy rumor involving the Chicago Fire and former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Goff doesn’t sound very confident in it happening and there are plenty of reasons why, but there are also reasons why it could make sense. In this case, it makes sense for Casillas to be looking for a home to continue his career. When his contract at FC Porto expires at the end of this European season in June, he will be 37 years old.

It’s been two and a half years since he left Real Madrid, where he spent the rest of his career, and he’s not the elite goalkeeper he once was. If Casillas wants to keep playing he may not be able to stick at a Champions League club like Porto, and that’s where the MLS rumors come into play. It makes sense for Casillas to have interest in joining MLS.

On the Fire’s end, the team isn’t loaded at goalkeeper, although there are three keeprs under contract (Matt Lampson, Jorge Bava, Stefan Cleveland) with the possibility of a fourth (Richard Sanchez) also returning. The numbers logjam could be rectified without much problem if the Fire have a chance to snag Casillas.

His experience as a World Cup and Champions League winner (like Bastian Schweinsteiger), would be a nice addition to the team, regardless of age. Casillas was one of the best goalkeepers in the world and won Spain's La Liga five times and the Champions League three times in addition to winning the 2010 World Cup.

The question from the Fire’s perspective is if he could justify the high cost he would likely come with. Goalkeepers aren’t often highly paid players in MLS with the way the salary cap works. More flexibility has been added with more and more resources being given to teams from the league, but the cost of a player like Casillas may be difficult to justify at goalkeeper, even if he would provide another marketing and attendance boost like Schweinsteiger did.

This rumor makes for a good headline, but may not have much basis in reality. Still, there's a decent chance Casillas' name will continue to be connected with a move to MLS until he signs his next deal.

Fire's protected list for expansion draft hints at possible moves

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USA TODAY

Fire's protected list for expansion draft hints at possible moves

The MLS offseason doesn't take long to get in gear.

The Fire traded Arturo Alvarez earlier on Sunday, the same day which the list of protected players was to be announced ahead of Tuesday's expansion draft for Los Angeles FC.

LAFC will take five players in the expansion draft, which is set for 1 p.m. on Tuesday. A team can only lose one player. Each team can protect 11 players and homegrown players aren't eligible for selection. For the Fire that means Drew Conner and Djordje Mihailovic can't be taken.

The Fire protected David Accam, Jonathan Campbell, Johan Kappelhof, Dax McCarty, Nemanja Nikolic, Juninho, Matt Polster, Richard Sanchez, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luis Solignac and Brandon Vincent.

While Sanchez and Schweinsteiger are out of contract, the Fire have said they are negotiating with both players. Protecting Juninho is a bit of a surprise because it implies that the Fire have some intention of keeping him for next year, or at least keeping his rights to be traded.

The Fire left David Arshakyan, Jorge Bava, Brandt Bronico, Stefan Cleveland, Jorge Corrales, Michael de Leeuw, Christian Dean, Daniel Johnson and Matt Lampson unprotected. De Leeuw would be a worthwhile pickup for LA if it thinks he is worth it after his ACL tear suffered late in the season.

With only five players being selected it's fairly likely no Fire players are taken by LAFC, but it's arguable that de Leeuw will end up being one of the best five players available. The 31-year-old tied for the team lead with eight assists and scored three goals.