Fire

USMNT opens CONCACAF Gold Cup play vs. Honduras

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USMNT opens CONCACAF Gold Cup play vs. Honduras

With Jill Ellis and the U.S. women's national team answering their critics and fulfilling expectations in an unforgettable World Cup triumph over Japan on Sunday, the onus is now on Jurgen Klinsmann and the men's national team to safeguard their regional supremacy.

The U.S. launches the defense of its 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup crown Tuesday night against Honduras, a match denoting the team's first competitive outing since falling at the hands of Belgium in last summer's World Cup Round of 16. 

The Americans trumped Guatemala in their final tune-up with a 4-0 victory in a friendly Friday night. After an own goal, Timmy Chandler, Clint Dempsey and Chris Wondolowski chipped in to complete the scoring onslaught.

[SHOP: Get your USMNT gear here]

Klinsmann's side, with a 1-0 dispatch of Panama on July 28, 2013 at Soldier Field to capture the 2013 title, could clinch a berth to the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia by defending the cup in Philadelphia later this month, without the need for a playoff.

The 2015 23-man roster boasts the return of 16 players that were a part of last year's World Cup squad, and six that lifted the Gold Cup trophy two years ago, with Michael Bradley captaining the team and set to make his 100th appearance for the Red, White and Blue.

U.S.-Honduras spotlights the Group A pool, which also features Panama and Haiti. The U.S. has advanced to five straight Gold Cup finals leading in to the 2015 edition, and is seeking its first back-to-back laurels since winning in 2005 and 2007. 

[MORE: Chicago soccer fans go wild over USWNT World Cup title

Following the conclusion of Tuesday's Group A fixtures, Costa Rica and Jamaica lead off Group B Wednesday night in Los Angeles (7 p.m. CT), followed by Canada vs. El Salvador (9:30 p.m. CT). Group C follows Thursday with Trinidad & Tobago vs. Guatemala (6 p.m. CT) and Mexico vs. Cuba (8:30 p.m. CT) at Soldier Field in Chicago.  

Viewing information:

United States vs. Honduras

Kickoff time: 8:30 p.m. CT

Where: Toyota Stadium; Frisco, Texas

HOW TO WATCH
TV information: FOX Sports 1, Univision Deportes
Live stream: FOX Soccer 2Go

UP NEXT
The United States faces Haiti at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass on Friday, which is slated for a 7:30 p.m. CT kickoff on FOX Sports 1.

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.