Fire

Luis Solignac hopes to settle in with Fire after hectic debut

Luis Solignac hopes to settle in with Fire after hectic debut

Luis Solignac had a tough task in his Chicago Fire debut.

The 25-year-old forward played all 90 minutes in the 3-1 loss at Real Salt Lake last Saturday while only having one limited training session with his new teammates.

Solignac was officially traded from Colorado to the Fire on the evening of Aug. 3. With the game at RSL coming just three days later, Solignac flew straight to Salt Lake and waited for his new teammates to arrive.

He did train with his new teammates on the morning before the match, but that’s hardly enough time to settle in.

“Of course I didn’t know any of the guys,” Solignac said after training on Thursday. “It was hard at the beginning, but I feel I’m going to get on track pretty fast because the guys are welcoming me very good. I’m looking forward to playing again.

“This job is like this so you have to get used to it, but hopefully we can get on track quickly.”

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The Rapids have the most points per match in MLS this season with 41 points in 22 matches, which can’t make leaving easy. However, Solignac had only played 32 minutes in four substitute appearances in the Rapids’ last six games before the trade. The Argentine thinks he has more of an opportunity with the Fire.

“I wasn’t playing that much in these late times so for me it was a great opportunity to get some minutes again,” Solignac said.

Solignac had already played with the Rapids in the U.S. Open Cup, which meant he wasn’t eligible to play in the Fire’s semifinal Tuesday in New England. Solignac took that time to head back to Colorado and pack his stuff to make the move to Chicago more permanent. He arrived in Chicago on Wednesday after what he admitted were “a tough three days.”

Now that Solignac has played with his teammates and is getting regular training sessions with the Fire, the next step is figuring out how he fits into the Fire’s attack. He played with David Accam, who Solignac knew of from when they both played in Sweden in 2013, and Michael de Leeuw in the first half at RSL. Both Accam and de Leeuw were then subbed off at halftime with the Fire trailing by two goals and the Open Cup game soon after.

Sunday’s game against Orlando could be the first extended look at how Solignac will play with the Fire’s first choice forwards. The Fire have scored 20 goals in 21 games, which is worst in the league so the Fire need help in the goal-scoring department.

“I think Luis obviously he is very good on the ball,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said when asked what Solignac brings to the team. “His pace is very important. He is fast. He moves. He is dynamic. It’s something that we need, that we lack of so far. With his addition so far I believe he is going to give us more presence in the opponent’s box and more goals for sure.”

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.