Fire

One mistake costs Fire in loss at Red Bulls

One mistake costs Fire in loss at Red Bulls

The New York Red Bulls had just one shot on target against the Chicago Fire on Wednesday, but that was all the Red Bulls needed.

Mike Grella scored on the Red Bulls' only shot on target in the 58th minute and that goal stood as the game-winner in a 1-0 game at Red Bull Arena.

A Jonathan Campbell back pass was intercepted by Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips just outside the box. Within two passes Mike Grella was all alone in front of Sean Johnson and Grella scored.

Despite dominating possession, the Red Bulls (4-7-1, 13 points) weren't able to test Johnson, who made his first start of the season. The Fire (1-5-4, 7 points) had just 35.3 percent of the possession and had less than 30 percent at halftime.

With David Accam making his first start since March 11, the Fire tried to play on the counter. Kennedy Igboananike and Joey Calistri joined him in the attack and the trio was able to create some chances, but the Fire had just two shots on target.

Johnson, Accam and Calistri were three of the five changes in the starting lineup from coach Veljko Paunovic. Accam returned from injury Saturday in New England, but came off the bench. On Wednesday, he played 72 minutes before Gilberto replaced him.

In addition, Rodrigo Ramos and Razvan Cocis moved into the starting lineup. Arturo Alvarez, Michael Harrington, Matt Polster, Gilberto and Matt Lampson were the five who started in New England that did not against the Red Bulls. In the case of Polster and Harrington, both were not even included on the bench to give them rest after minor injures in the New England game.

The only shot on target for either team in the first half was a Razvan Cocis header that Luis Robles easily saved. Accam had the best chance of the half when he unleashed a 35-yard strike following a short free kick that hit the crossbar.

The loss marked the end of the Fire's three-game road trip. All three were losses. The Fire return home Saturday against the Houston Dynamo, which sit in last place in the Western Conference.

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.