By the numbers: Gauging Fire defender Adailton's effectiveness


By the numbers: Gauging Fire defender Adailton's effectiveness

When Adaílton made the switch from Brazilian Série A's Esporte Clube Bahia to the Fire last December, a dream came true. When the Salvador native was forced to come to grips with an injury midway through 2015 that derailed any hopes of getting a full season under his belt, he knew it would be difficult to accomplish his objective - to renew his contract automatically.

Adaílton, 32, last featured in a 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution on July 25, and first emerged with what was diagnosed as an adductor strain. He received an injection, and later underwent core muscle repair surgery on Sept. 1. Daneil Cyrus, Eric Gehrig, Ty Harden, Jeff Larentowicz and Matt Polster have all contributed at center back in his absence.

The Brazilian defender's future in MLS will be unresolved come the end of the month with regard to contract negotiations, but at the moment, he's relieved to be involved with the group again.    

"The progress is going very well," said Adaílton, who has engaged in warmups and light ball work as recently as Wednesday. "I think that I just need one more week to be ready. Unfortunately, the season is over, and it was something that I was counting on. [It's been] a long time [since] I trained with the guys, and I miss that so much. ... I'm just happy to be healthy again."

[RELATED: Fire notes: Bliss urging Men in Red to play spoiler to Red Bulls]

Through his first year with the Men in Red, Adaílton was able to forge a competent partnership with Larentowicz - both were paired 13 times together during the regular season - and briefly with Gehrig. The results? 

“When you look at statistics, and again, statistics don’t always tell the story, but they can give you a trend," interim coach Brian Bliss told reporters Tuesday via teleconference. "When he played, and whether he was paired with Jeff or whether he was paired with Eric Gehrig, our overall goals against and chances yielded was better. When he exited with his injury and surgery we definitely, on a statistical side, took a nosedive in terms of chances conceded and goals conceded. Can you pin it all on that, and him? Maybe, but he was, I would say relatively effective for us up until he got hurt."

Per, the numbers bear out Bliss' assertion, and a marked disparity in the Fire's defensive output with and without Adaílton's presence.

[MORE FIRE: Bliss talks 2016 roster outlook; CHIvNY start time pushed back]

WITH Adaílton

Games: 17

Record (W-L-D): 5-8-4 (19 points)

Average chances conceded: 119/17 games = 7 per game

Average goals conceded: 23/17 games = 1.35 goals/game  

WITHOUT Adaílton

Games: 16

Record (W-L-D): 3-11-2 (11 points)

Average chances conceded: 160/16 games = 10 per game  

Average goals conceded: 32/16 games = 2 goals/game

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With the Fire's regular season finale against Supporters' Shield contender New York Red Bulls (17-10-6, 57 points) on the horizon, Bliss said the Brazilian is not healthy and ready enough to play, however.

Asked if he envisions Adaílton, who made $244,500 in guaranteed compensation this year, according to the MLS Players' Union, as part of the team's plans come 2016, Bliss said it's possible. He has an option that could be exercised, but no concrete decisions have been made on that front. 

“Could we have him back at potentially a lower number? That’s a possibility, too," Bliss answered. "Could he part completely? That’s also a possibility. He’s made a contribution here. I think he’s been effective at times, but we’ll have to evaluate that once Nelson [Rodríguez] gets on board this week, and talk through it.”

Added Adaílton, who acquired his U.S. green card earlier this month: "My wife, too, she said one thing for me this weekend, that the only time she's going to cry is when we are going to leave USA. Nothing is lost. I still hope something's going to happen. I really want to stay, [but] it doesn't depend on me. ... I cannot do anything else, just pray and wait for [the coaches'] decision." 

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.