Fire

Sebastian Giovinco scores twice in Fire's loss at Toronto

Sebastian Giovinco scores twice in Fire's loss at Toronto

The Chicago Fire showed improved home success in a recent three-game homestand, but road success again eluded them Friday in Toronto.

A trademark move from Sebastian Giovinco got things started for the hosts and Toronto FC cruised to a comfortable 3-1 win against the Fire at BMO Field.

Giovinco, the 2015 MLS MVP, showed why he is one of the best players in the league with his goal in the 28th minute. He got some space just outside the box, set up his right foot and drilled a low shot past goalkeeper Jorge Bava.

Four minutes later Toronto doubled the lead following a short corner kick. Justin Morrow's cross found Eriq Zavaleta, who headed in the goal.

After falling down two goals, the Fire (3-2-2, 11 points) gained a larger share of possession and finished the first half with a majority of the possession. However, Toronto (2-1-4, 10 points) was happy to play on the counter with Giovinco and the Fire were unable to get a shot on target until the 88th minute.

Giovinco added his second goal on a free kick that went in under the bottom of the crossbar in the final 10 minutes.

The Fire went 2-0-1 in the past three matches, all at home, and won consecutive matches for the first time in coach Veljko Paunovic's tenure. However, Friday's loss on the road looked like many of the 14 road defeats the Fire suffered last season. The Fire were down two goals in the first half and were unable to threaten Toronto's goal for a comeback until the final few minutes.

David Accam, who came off the bench for the second straight game, scored a consolation goal for the Fire. Him and Luis Solignac combined on a counter. Solignac centered the ball from the right and Accam scored with a first-touch finish. That was the Fire's only shot on target while Toronto had nine.

Paunovic went with the same starting lineup that started the 3-0 win against New England last weekend.

The Fire continue the road trip in eight days with a match at the New York Red Bulls.

As Fire near playoffs, Bastian Schweinsteiger's immediate and long-term futures are in question

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USA TODAY

As Fire near playoffs, Bastian Schweinsteiger's immediate and long-term futures are in question

Bastian Schweinsteiger has delivered on the promise of a big name star since joining the Fire in late March. He has produced on the field, drawn lots of attention to the club, the team has won enough to get into its first postseason since 2012 and, until recently, he stayed healthy.

However, the 33-year-old German has played 19 minutes in the previous six matches and told reporters on Wednesday that he will not play in the regular season finale in Houston on Sunday. He missed four straight matches with a calf injury before returning against New York City FC on Sept. 30 for a substitute appearance.

Schweinsteiger left practice early with what appeared to be a reaggravation of the injury on Oct. 4 and now it is known that will cost him at least two games. With the playoff picture still in flux (the Fire can finish anywhere from second to fifth in the Eastern Conference), the Fire could potentially face a three-day turnaround and travel after the Houston game or could have a first-round bye. Keeping Schweinsteiger fresher for that crunch of games could end up being a good thing, but it also runs the risk of his match fitness not being at 100 percent for the postseason.

Beyond the postseason, Schweinsteiger dropped this tease of a nugget to the Daily Herald's Orrin Schwarz just an hour before Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez spoke with reporters for almost an hour at Toyota Park.

Schweinsteiger, who was not at training, was autographing memorabilia in the form of soccer balls, posters and jerseys. Chicago Red Stars fans may get a kick out of the fact that Schweinsteiger was wearing a Red Stars hoodie.

Initially, the club said Schweinsteiger signed a one-year contract with a mutual option. Later in the day, when asked about Schweinsteiger's future, Rodriguez said the mutual option doesn't have a set number attached to it.

"That would require a negotiation," Rodriguez said. "It was mutual in a sense of we didn’t want either party to feel bound without having had the year of experience to draw on. From our perspective, our experience has been extraordinarily positive with Bastian. We think he’s delivered across all of our expectations and we hope that we have delivered against his expectations.”

So in essence, there is no mutual option. Schweinsteiger and the Fire have to come to terms again on a deal for the German to return in 2018. That's not to say Schweinsteiger can't come back, but there's nothing in writing that binds the two together for next season.

Rodriguez said talks have only begun in the very preliminary stages at this point.

“The most that Basti and I have done is, both said, hey this has gone pretty well." Rodriguez said. "You like it. I like it... So I think we want to remain with our original plan. It was to look to have the hard discussions at the end of the season. My view is in-season negotiations always prove to be a distraction, whether to the player or to me. There can be a team element if it becomes public.

"I don’t want to speak for Basti, but from what we’ve gleaned and what he shared with us, he and (wife) Ana (Ivanovic) are very comfortable in the city. They love it. I think he’s really enjoyed the locker room, the guys, the support of the fans. I think he’s really taken to the challenge of Major League Soccer. I think the signs are positive, but again we would prefer to have the season close before finalizing anything.”

Special edition of the Fire Talk Podcast: What’s wrong with U.S. Soccer?

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AP

Special edition of the Fire Talk Podcast: What’s wrong with U.S. Soccer?

It's a special edition of the Fire Talk Podcast!

Dan Santaromita, Justin O’Neil, JJ Stankevitz and Tom Cooper try to answer all the questions that surfaced after the U.S. failed to qualify for the World Cup. What went wrong in qualifying, who was at fault, what can be fixed, will things get better? Has any American soccer fan calmed down even a week after? The four on the panel sure still are plenty fired up.