Fire

Stoppage time goal denies Fire a win in home draw with D.C.

Stoppage time goal denies Fire a win in home draw with D.C.

The Chicago Fire were so close to getting back on track with a home win, but were denied by a 92nd minute goal from D.C. United's Bobby Boswell.

After falling behind in the 19th minute, the Fire led for most of the match only to settle for a 2-2 draw when Boswell scored following a flurry of three shots in one sequence for D.C.

D.C. had 59 percent of the possession and 12 shots in the second half after the Fire had a slight edge in both categories in the first half. Fire coach Veljko Paunovic didn't think his team took too defensive of an approach with the lead.

“We never give excuses," Paunovic said. "There is no reason to fail even when you have the result like today. It’s tough for us, but small defeats lead to great victories. That’s how we look at this game. It’s something we learn from because that’s something that will make us better in the future if we have that approach."

D.C. piled the pressure on late and was able to find the equalizer. Luciano Acosta started the chaotic sequence by drilling a shot off the crossbar. Sean Johnson made an acrobatic diving save on Patrick Nyarko's rebound, but Boswell converted on the third attempt.

Failing to keep a lead late in a match at home is nothing new for the Fire. The New York Red Bulls scored in the 90th minute to force a 2-2 draw at Toyota Park on July 31. The last time D.C. played in Bridgeview on April 30, Nyarko scored in the second half of a 1-1 draw after the Fire took a lead into halftime. On the other side, it is the third straight match D.C. has scored in stoppage time to equalize.

“They can smell that they can score and they can feel that," Fire defender Johan Kappelhof said. "They had the ball all the time so we were defending and losing our energy without the ball. That’s a thing we have to do better next time even if you’re one goal ahead. You have to keep playing football. Now we are losing too much energy without the ball and you can see at the end that they had more energy to press us. That’s something we have to do better next time.”

Things got off to a rocky start for the Fire (6-13-9, 27 points) when D.C. (7-9-13, 34 points) was given an indirect free kick on the edge of the 6-yard box. Sean Johnson punched away a ball that was judged to be an intentional back pass. The ensuing indirect kick saw all of the Fire players standing on the goal line, but none could stop Rob Vincent’s hammered shot, which was roofed into the top netting.

The Fire had a quick answer three minutes later when Razvan Cocis headed in a corner kick. His flick header came from inside the near post. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid was able to get a touch on it, but couldn’t keep it out of the goal.

“There’s things we practice of course and it’s one of those," Cocis said of the goal. "It's my spot. It’s my best spot where I can be and it’s either a flick or a shot to score the goal. Today it was a goal."

Arturo Alvarez picked up his team-leading sixth assist by delivering the corner.

David Accam gave the Fire the lead just before the half hour mark with one of his familiar quick, weaving runs through the defense. Accam took on multiple defenders and drilled a low shot that gave the Fire the lead. It was Accam’s team-leading eighth goal of the season.

“I thought we were not as tuned in in the first half as they were,” D.C. United coach Ben Olsen said. “Accam’s special. He’s going to make his plays.”

David Arshakyan made his first start for the Fire. He was credited with four shots, one on target, before being subbed off in the 70th minute. Khaly Thiam replaced him to make his first appearance since being red carded in the match at D.C. on Aug. 27.

Michael de Leeuw, who had scored in each of the past three matches, was out with an ankle injury and John Goossens missed the game with a back injury.

The Fire finished the three-game homestand with a 1-1-1 record. Next up is a three-game road trip, beginning next Friday at New York City FC.

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.