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.

Fire's protected list for expansion draft hints at possible moves

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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.

Fire open offseason by sending Arturo Alvarez home

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USA TODAY

Fire open offseason by sending Arturo Alvarez home

And they're off.

MLS Cup finished just last night with Toronto completing arguably the best season in league history, but the offseason doesn't wait long to get going. The Fire took advantage of Sunday's short trade window before Los Angeles FC's expansion draft takes place on Tuesday by trading Arturo Alvarez to the Houston Dynamo.

Alvarez, a Houston native, gets to go home and could finish his career with the Dynamo. The Fire received a second-round pick in the 2019 draft.

Alvarez, 32, made 55 regular season MLS appearances with the Fire in two years. He had five goals and nine assists in 2016, leading the team in assists. This past season he saw his minutes get nearly cut in half although he did regain a regular spot in the team towards the end of the season and finished with three goals and two assists.

“Arturo had perhaps his two best years wearing our red and we appreciate all that he gave to our club,” Fire general manager Nelson Rodríguez said in the team's statement. “We saw this as a chance to allow him to return home while opening up his minutes for some other players.”

The question is which players Rodriguez is referring to. Alvarez played primarily at right midfield, frequently cutting inside with his dangerous left foot. Two players come to mind as possible fill-ins already on the roster: Daniel Johnson and Brandt Bronico.

Johnson was the Fire's first-round pick in the 2017 draft and showed flashes of ability, but dealt with injuries through much of the season and made eight substitute appearances totaling 125 minutes. He is a wide player, but was the opposite of Alvarez, typically playing on the left and cutting in on his right foot.

Bronico was the 2017 third-round pick and made only four sub appearances adding up to 53 minutes played. With such limited action it was difficult to gauge whether he could be a wide midfielder or should be played centrally. Either way, with Alvarez gone and Michael de Leeuw and Djordje Mihailovic out for the first few months of 2018 with ACL tears, both Johnson and Bronico will have opportunities the way the roster is currently constructed.

More news is due later today with the expansion draft set for Tuesday. The Fire will announce the 11 players they are protecting. Homegrown players (Drew Conner and Mihailovic) won't need to be protected. The Fire have 17 others players that will be eligible for the expansion draft.