Fire

Notes from the rewatch: Luis Solignac on the wing

Notes from the rewatch: Luis Solignac on the wing

Playing with a man advantage for over an hour tends to put an asterisk on a result.

The Chicago Fire's 3-0 win against New England on Saturday came with the Revolution being shorthanded from the 27th minute on, which makes it tough to evaluate either team. However, there were still a few things that stood out, regardless of the number of players on the field.

Schweinsteiger's up and down first half

Bastian Schweinsteiger's debut was a clean performance filled with key passes and a goal. His second game was quieter, but still mostly mistake free. Against New England, the German made a number of mistakes early on, but they all went unpunished.

He had four turnovers inside the first 10 minutes. Schweinsteiger did settle down with a few nice passes and then eventually scored the goal right before halftime.

His first half ranged from this (facing his own goal):

To this:

Solignac as a winger

With David Accam nursing a hip injury, Luis Solignac got the start on the wing with him and Michael de Leeuw flanking striker Nemanja Nikolic. Neither Solignac nor de Leeuw are traditional wingers, but Solignac proved to be a pretty good fit for the position on Saturday.

He assisted Schweinsteiger's goal in the first half and had the key pass that led to Nikolic's first goal early in the second half. The Argentine was named to the MLS Team of the Week for his showing.

Solignac has speed and quickness, both key when playing as a winger. Solignac has typically played as more of a traditional striker in the past so it's no surprise that his service from the right wasn't flawless, but he did set up two goals. Solignac hasn't been an efficient finisher with the Fire, but he has speed, technical ability and is a decent passer. The wing may not be such a bad fit for him and gives coach Veljko Paunovic another wide option.

Playing against 10 men

The Fire are gradually becoming a team that can maintain possession. The additions of Dax McCarty and Juninho helped in that regard, but Schweinsteiger's addition made a big difference in the Fire's approach to possession and how to play with the ball.

When New England went down to 10 men the Fire displayed a dominance of possession, but didn't create a lot of chances at first. Schweinsteiger's goal was the first shot on target of the match and that came in the 45th minute.

The Fire may not have been particularly dangerous, but they were patient and that was rewarded. There was a 31-pass sequence that nearly led to a goal in the 20th minute, but Nikolic was correctly called offside.

The Revs sat a bit deeper down a man and put less pressure on the Fire's defenders when they had the ball. The Fire's two centerbacks, Johan Kappelhof and Joao Meira, both had pass completion percentages above 95 percent. The Fire as a whole passed at a nearly 90 percent completion rate.

Yes, the Fire were up a man for over an hour, but the personnel has changed and the Fire's desire and ability to be patient in possession has changed drastically from a year ago.

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.