Fire

Preview: Fire hope to get first road win against struggling LA on CSN

Preview: Fire hope to get first road win against struggling LA on CSN

So far the Chicago Fire are having the same troubles on the road this season.

The Fire are 0-3-1 on the road in 2017 and have lost the last three away from Toyota Park. There will be another chance to snap that streak Saturday on CSN when the Fire travel to take on the LA Galaxy. Coverage begins at 9 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.

This might be the best chance yet for the Fire (3-3-2, 11 points) to pick up a win on the road. The Galaxy (2-5-1, 7 points) are tied for the most losses in the league and have more home losses (3) than any other team.

Perennially, the Galaxy have been one of the premier teams in Major League Soccer, but shed some big players and coach Bruce Arena, now coaching the U.S. national team, in the offseason. Gone are designated players Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, regular starter on defense A.J. DeLaGarza and veteran depth Mike Magee, Alan Gordon, Jeff Larentowicz and Leonardo.

In have been American national teamer Jermaine Jones and European additions Romain Alessandrini and Joao Pedro. Jones and Pedro have been part of a midfield that hasn’t quite clicked yet while Alessandrini has been a bright spot with four goals and two assists.

“They have good quality, (but) they are struggling at this moment and we can take advantage of that,” Fire defender Johan Kappelhof said. “They didn’t win home games the last couple of games.

“I think we have a good chance, but we have to be aware of their quality up front.”

In addition to Alessandrini, the Galaxy feature Mexican star Giovani Dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes, another U.S. national teamer, in the attack. Zardes has yet to score in four games back from a knee injury.

Dos Santos is off to a slow start with one goal in seven starts. Last season the Mexican had 14 goals and 12 assists.

“He’s got quality, he’s got pace, he’s got a good shot,” Kappelhof said of Dos Santos. “We have to avoid his shots and have each other’s back at the back because of his pace and don’t give him the confidence to come in the game.”

The Galaxy have failed to score in the past two matches, both which came at home. The last of those was a scoreless draw against winless Philadelphia.

This is the last home game for LA before a four-game road trip, which Fire coach Veljko Paunovic thinks will make LA more desperate for a win against the Fire.

“I think it’s going to be very tough,” Paunovic said. “Their mindset is going to be to win this game no matter what, which propels the different energy and motivation on the team which can work both ways. If that converts to the pressure for them, that’s something that we should take advantage of.”

The Galaxy are struggling in general and the Fire have struggled on the road. Kappelhof thinks the Fire showed improvement in the 2-1 loss at the New York Red Bulls, which was a much more competitive game than the 3-1 loss at Toronto the previous week.

“I think we improved from the Toronto game,” Kappelhof said. “We did better. I think we deserved more points. We created some chances and we have to continue like this in away games.”

The game also marks the return to LA for Fire midfielder Juninho. Juninho was a part of the Galaxy's run of three MLS Cup titles in four years (2011, 2012, 2014) and played six seasons with the Galaxy.

The Fire enter the match with a relatively clean bill of health while the Galaxy will be without defender Robbie Rogers (left ankle), midfielder Sebastian Lletget (foot) and goalkeeper Clement Diop (hip).

Chicago Fire at LA Galaxy

Where: StubHub Center, Carson, Calif.

TV: CSN

When: Coverage begins at 9 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live

Records: Fire (3-3-2, 11 points), Galaxy (2-5-1, 7 points)

Fire rumored to be connected to former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas

iker-1214.jpg
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

juninho-1210.jpg
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.