Fire

With the transfer window open, moves could loom for the Fire

With the transfer window open, moves could loom for the Fire

It’s transfer season again in Major League Soccer, but will the Chicago Fire be active?

The summer transfer window in MLS opened on the Fourth of July. The first thing that means for the Fire is that Michael de Leeuw is finally eligible to play.

The Dutch forward is set to make his debut Saturday in Toronto. Coach Veljko Paunovic kept things close to the vest when asked how much de Leeuw will be used and how he will fit into the team.

“Michael is in his last week of preseason, if I can say it like that, in preparation for the competition,” Paunovic said. “He is doing very well. He will be for sure in the roster for the next game. We will see how we are going to manage his load for this game.”

De Leeuw’s debut comes at a time when the Fire’s roster is as healthy as it has been all season. Paunovic said during his conference call with media on Tuesday that Matt Polster, Collin Fernandez and Arturo Alvarez, all players who missed the win against San Jose, are fully cleared to play.

In addition players like John Goossens and Rodrigo Ramos, who was named to the MLS Team of the Week, are playing their best soccer of the season. Paunovic has his full roster to pick from and a highly-paid addition in de Leeuw ready to debut.

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Is there anything else brewing for the Fire? General manager Nelson Rodriguez previously said he didn’t expect the team to be very active in this summer window. However, that was before Gilberto and the team started down the path that led to the mutual termination of the Brazilian’s contract.

The Fire now have cap room and an open Designated Player spot to work with. For now, Paunovic, who usually doesn’t give away much when it comes to player acquisitions, stayed quiet.

“Of course there are some interesting players around the league, but right now we are focused on our team and our players,” Paunovic said.

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MLSSoccer.com’s Matthew Doyle wrote instructions for each team in the summer window. For the Fire, Doyle said the biggest need was midfield creativity, but said the team should remain patient and build towards next year.

Fire fans probably don’t like the idea of being more patient, but it makes sense for any move the Fire make to be geared towards the future and any short-term boosts the team can get this year should be viewed as secondary.

Time will tell if the Fire decide to make a big move this window, in the winter or at all.

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.