Maloney, Cocis on the scoresheet as Fire, Revs share the spoils


Maloney, Cocis on the scoresheet as Fire, Revs share the spoils

Despite rallying from a 1-0 deficit in the first half, the Fire were unable to complete their second-half comeback against the Revolution, drawing, 2-2, Saturday night. 

A 28th-minute strike from Lee Nguyen was canceled out by Shaun Maloney's penalty kick on the stroke of halftime. Razvan Cocis' tap-in 15 minutes from time was not enough, however, as Kelyn Rowe responded in the 77th minute to help the Revolution emerge with a valuable road point much to the dismay of the 14,159 on hand at Toyota Park.  

"Gutted for the guys that, as a group, we got back into the game and then we went on to score what I thought was going to be the winning goal," a disappointed Frank Yallop told reporters after the match. "The last goal is not good. I don't know what to say after that, it just cost us the game."

All three of the Fire's designated players -- David Accam, Kennedy Igboananike and Maloney -- made the cut in Yallop's Starting XI, appearing together from the get-go for the first time since May 30 and only the fourth time all year. Accam and Igboananike replaced Patrick Nyarko and the suspended Jason Johnson, respectively, while Sean Johnson reclaimed his spot in goal to round out the three changes from the team that downed Orlando City SC in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Both sides enjoyed their share of possession in the early stages, with the Revolution dictating most of the run of play. Harry Shipp's corner-kick delivery in the 23rd minute was met by Cocis, who, with the goal at his mercy, fluffed his lines from six yards out and wasted a golden opportunity to put the hosts in front.

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In a tight affair with chances few and far between, the most dangerous opening fell to the visitors, resulting in the first goal. Scott Caldwell found room to work on the left flank and whipped a ball into the six-yard box, only to be cleared as far as Nguyen, who slammed it home in the 28th minute.

Just as it appeared as though the Revolution would keep their 1-0 advantage, the Fire answered with a goal of their own. Maloney's corner kick in the 43rd minute spilled out to Accam, who was brought down by New England defender Jose Goncalves inside the area, leaving referee Ricardo Salazar no choice but to award a penalty kick. Maloney stepped up, kept his nerve and buried his effort past a diving Brad Knighton on the stroke of halftime to give the Men in Red some much-needed momentum heading into the second 45. 

Following the halftime interval, a tame opening to the second stanza was nearly turned on its head. Just past the hour mark, Cocis sidestepped a few Revolution defenders on his way toward unleashing a curling strike from outside the 18 that sailed just wide of Knighton's left post.

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With a quarter of an hour left to play, the Men in Red found their second goal, courtesy of Cocis. After Joevin Jones' initial attempt bounced to Matt Watson, the Englishman's side volley was parried by Knighton into the path of the Romanian at the back post, who dispatched from a couple yards out to net his first goal since the 2-2 draw at New York City FC on May 15.

Two minutes later, the Fire's lead was nullified. A low, bending ball from Revolution defender Chris Tierney wasn't dealt with by the back line, and made its way to Rowe to slot past a powerless Johnson at the back post, helping Jay Heaps' side steal a share of the points.

"We've got to let this go and get three points next Sunday," Yallop added. "It was right there for us and it was just disappointing that we didn't get three points. We dropped two points tonight."

Following a taxing two weeks that saw the Fire contest five matches, the Men in Red have the next eight days to prepare for next Sunday's cross-conference clash against FC Dallas. 

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-1-1): Sean Johnson; Matt Polster, Eric Gehrig, Adaílton, Joevin Jones; David Accam, Matt Watson, Razvan Cocis (C), Harry Shipp (Patrick Nyarko, 64'); Shaun Maloney (Michael Stephens, 80'); Kennedy Igboananike.

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.