Fire

Larentowicz: 'The belief is there, the result and the product isn't'

jeff-larentowicz-fire-captain.png

Larentowicz: 'The belief is there, the result and the product isn't'

Eight games through the 2015 MLS regular season, the Chicago Fire already have five losses to their name and have failed to score from the run of play since a first-ever goal from David Accam against New York City FC on April 24 lifted the Men in Red to a third win on the trot.

Since then, a dispiriting 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City in a hostile environment followed by Saturday's home defeat to Real Salt Lake without the suspended Ghanaian has casted even more doubt over the team's dearth in goal production from open play, which, discounting Jeff Larentowicz's penalty kick, has stretched to a span of 250 minutes. What's more, the Fire were strapped for vim and vigor, an unabating narrative that still overhangs Frank Yallop's side.

"I thought we had chances, and limited them to not much, but I thought our energy wasn't there like we've had the last three home games," Yallop told reporters in his post-match press conference. "I told them at halftime that we have to pick it up, and felt like the effort was there in the end, but it was kind of too late. We didn't really make that final pass again, and not just the final pass, but the calmness to finish too. They maybe had three chances, we probably had similar, four or five chances, but they had two goals and we don't get any.

"We just have to figure out as a group, and I'm the leader of that, of getting a way of grinding results and getting back into games, and not giving up goals when you're kind of on the front foot, I think we did that today. We're pushing a little bit and then giving up the goal, and we did the same in the second goal."

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Get your Fire gear]

Over the course of 90 minutes against Jeff Cassar's delegation, the Men in Red fired 14 shots at Nick Rimando's goal, three of which hit the target and two that called for top-notch saves from the U.S. international to complement a plucky performance from the visitors and deny any chance of a late Fire equalizer by day's end.

Larentowicz, whose 88th minute goal sent him to the top of the Fire's scoring chart, reaffirmed Yallop's sentiments in the locker room following the match while brushing aside feelings of a sapped morale within the team.        

"The belief is there, the result and the product isn't," he said. "I think that at times, we're a little naive in thinking that we're better than we are. But we're playing better, together as a group, this week and last week, there are lessons we have to learn to move forward.

"At times we're a little naive, I think that there's times when we feel like we're on top of the game, we take our foot off the pedal, and we don't score that goal. You have to reward yourself when you're on top of the game, and we haven't done that."

[RELATED: Fire fall to Real Salt Lake despite late rally at Toyota Park]

In the face of adversity amid a season laden with moving parts, Yallop still finds comfort in knowing the Fire have leadership aplenty — beginning with the club's captain — ahead of two impending away fixtures at NYCFC and Columbus Crew SC.

"We've got Jeff and he's been around the block a lot," Yallop said of Larentowicz. "He's very positive, he'll come out of this game with positive thoughts and we don't get too high when you win and too low when you lose. People like Jeff will realize that it was one of those games were we couldn't just get it together, we lost, you got to pick yourself and get ready for the next two games, which are away from home and that's always tough in our league. Funny things happen, we'll have two games away and maybe get a result like Salt Lake did to us."

Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason

schwein-221.jpg
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

polster-217.jpg
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.