Fire

Video review is coming to MLS and here's what you need to know

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Major League Soccer

Video review is coming to MLS and here's what you need to know

Major League Soccer fans should prepare themselves to try to sound like rules experts because video review is coming to the league this weekend.

While goal line technology has been used in international FIFA tournaments and some of the top leagues in Europe, video review beyond determining if a ball went over the line or not has begun seeping into the game around the world as well. For MLS, the video assistant referee (VAR) starts now that the All-Star Game in Chicago has come and gone.

The system has been tested in the USL for the psat year and was in use the Homegrown Game at Toyota Park on Tuesday. In that game, VAR was used to determine if a collision involving Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez should have resulted in a red card. The call stood as originally called with no foul being given.

“We’ve always been a proponent of using technology to make our game better,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said is a press conference Wednesday before the All-Star Game. “If it was up to us, as opposed to the governing bodies of the sport, we’d have way more technology in our game than we even have today.”

Howard Webb, a retired English referee who reffed in two World Cups including the final in 2010, is managing the VAR program. His succinct catchphrase for the desired goal of VAR is “maximum benefit for minimum interference.”

Webb wants the flow of games to remain while having the ability to correct clear and important errors. The video assistant referee is watching each match and is able to signal the head official on the field that a play should be reviewed. The ref would then head to a monitor just outside the field ot play to look at the play in question. Even after review, the final decision remains with the head referee.

“This is about trying to correct errors that are made,” Garber said. “It’s not about trying to correct judgment.”

There are four types of calls that the new system allows to go under the scrutiny of video review: goals, penalty kicks, red cards and mistaken identity.

Goals

When there are “clear and obvious” errors in the goal itself or in the buildup to the goal, the play can be reviewed. This includes goal line decisions, a handball or a foul that aided the goal scoring team or an offside call that was missed. This goes both for goals that should have counted and weren’t and goals that were counted and shouldn’t have been.

Penalty kicks

This is similar to goals except for penalty kicks. Penalties that should have been awarded can be reviewed and given. Same goes for penalties that were given and shouldn’t have been.

Red cards

Direct red cards are also something that can be reviewed under video review. It has to be a straight red card for it to be reviewed. A second yellow card that results in a red card is not reviewable. One additional note is that if no card is given and video review is called to look at a potential red card, the ref may give a yellow card instead. Yellow cards or potential yellows are not reviewable.

Mistaken identity

This is the most straightforward of the four categories. If one player commits a foul that results in a card and the ref gives the card to the wrong player, video review can help to fix such situations.

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.