Fire

Patrick Nyarko haunts former team, Fire settle for draw against D.C. United

Patrick Nyarko haunts former team, Fire settle for draw against D.C. United

Patrick Nyarko has made a number of big plays in Toyota Park over the years. He added another one Saturday, but did so for the visiting team.

Nyarko, who played eight seasons with the Chicago Fire, scored on a header following a corner kick in the 65th minute to deny the Fire three crucial points at home.

Jonathan Campbell's first professional goal had given the Fire the lead, but the match finished 1-1.

“It’s just kind of how soccer works," D.C. United coach Ben Olsen said. "You know he’s going to come back and get something.

"It seems that’s how this league goes."

The Fire (1-2-4, 7 points) needed to get some points before heading into a three-game road trip that will take place over the span of eight days. A draw at home isn't what the team needed heading into that road trip.

It's also the second consecutive match the Fire have held a lead at halftime at home and not been able to hold on.

"We have to make sure we close games," Fire midfielder Arturo Alvarez said. "That comes with us scoring the second goal. Us just being up one goal gives the other team the confidence to get back into the game."

Campbell's goal came following an Alvarez free kick in the 41st minute. Alvarez curled in a quality delivery that Campbell flicked into the goal with the outside of his foot. D.C. (2-3-4, 10 points) goalkeeper Travis Worra got a hand on it, but wasn't able to keep it out.

"All credit to Arturo for playing that ball in behind," Campbell said. "I just had to flick it on, but it was a great feeling.”

Nyarko's goal was the only serious threat for either team in the second half.

Entering the match, the Fire had to deal with a number of injuries leading up to the match. David Accam is still out with a knee injury. Rookie Alex Morrell, who was been used as a substitute the past two matches, was ruled out with a calf injury late in the week. On Friday John Goossens suffered a sprained LCL in training and is expected out 1-4 weeks. Matt Polster was a gameday scratch due to a calf injury of his own.

All those injuries led to the Fire having just 15 healthy field players to choose from. Accam made the sub list to fill out the lineup, but was likely never going to play.

With all that working against them the Fire weren't able to hold onto the win in wet and windy conditions. Nick LaBrocca made his first start with the Fire and was subbed out for Joey Calistri in the 53rd minute, who had his longest appearance of the season. Defender Joao Meira saw the field for the first time since March 19. He came on as a substitute in midfield, which shows how thin the Fire were. Collin Fernandez also came on as a sub for his first appearance of the season.

The Fire return to action Wednesday, May 11, in Vancouver.

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.