Fire

Yallop on Fire win over NYCFC: 'We were on our game tonight'

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Yallop on Fire win over NYCFC: 'We were on our game tonight'

In front of a standing-room only crowd of 19,124 at Toyota Park on Friday night, the Chicago Fire held on against a 10-man New York City FC side to win 1-0 and claim their third consecutive victory.

David Accam pulverized Jason Kreis' side all night and got his reward in the 20th minute, capitalizing on some lackadaisical play from goalkeeper Ryan Meara to give the Fire all they needed to climb to fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

"It feels great to be on the scoresheet," Accam said. "For me, I know I should've scored maybe two or three, but we got three points today so that's what we'll keep working on."

Behind another sharp-witted performance from Harry Shipp in the midfield, the Men in Red took Frank Yallop's message of getting on the front foot early to heart, with Accam spearheading the Fire attack. 

The Homegrown midfielder threaded the needle and ignited most of the running in the early stages, while interchanging with the Ghanaian international on the flanks.

"For me, I love just showing up anywhere on the field and I think he's the same," Shipp said. "He likes testing both outside backs and it forces the defense to always be on their toes because they never know when either of us is going pop up. It's something we'll hopefully continue to do." 

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A slick surface gave way to some misplaced passes, leading to lapses in possession for both sides, one of which nearly gifted Accam his first MLS goal. In the 20th minute, after dazzling and dangling his way past stranded NYCFC defenders, his shot from inside the box clanked off the post, the Fire's first clear-cut chance of the match.

Four minutes later, Accam used his speed to carve through the City defense and run clean through on goal, leaving midfielder Andrew Jacobson no option but to take the Designated Player down from behind, earning a straight red card in the process.

Despite being reduced to 10 men before the half hour mark, Kreis' outfit didn't go into the halftime break quietly. After skipping through the Fire midfield and evading a few challenges, Mix Diskerud unleashed a knuckling shot in the 41st minute that stung the fingertips of Sean Johnson.

The halftime talk from Frank Yallop paid dividends as the Men in Red came out flying at the start of the second half, with Shipp belting a shot off the post in the 51st minute. For Yallop, a monumental aspect of the Fire's second half success was getting Shaun Maloney to retreat from his position higher up the field to cope with NYCFC's midfield setup.

"New York played well till the end of the half," Yallop said in his post-match press conference. "I just said, 'We've got the extra guy, we can't be sitting back.'

"I wanted Shaun to drop underneath a little bit more to get an extra guy in midfield because they do overload the midfield. They play a diamond, they play tight. I think Shaun did a good job in the second half of dropping in and creating a lot of play in possession for us to break on them.

[RELATED: Fire host NYCFC on Friday, seeking third consecutive win]

"A halftime talk is always good when you're winning, but you're always looking for that extra goal to make a difference in the game to make it 2-0. Credit to New York, they kept going and didn't buckle under, but we were on our game tonight and that was pleasing to see."

With Guly do Prado playing his part despite a lack of playing time this season, an injection of pace and energy beckoned with the introduction of Quincy Amarikwa, who was released in behind the City defense, keeping the visitors on their toes.

"I thought he [do Prado] did well tonight," Yallop said. "He held the ball up and played a good role in our attack. Quincy had an ankle injury and missed 12 days of training.

"We're on top of that now where if guys don't train, they won't be able to last 90 minutes. Our fitness coach Adrian Lamb has done a fantastic job and it showed tonight."  

By the 83rd minute, Meara continued to make strides toward atoning for his costly mistake in setting up the lone goal of the match, parrying a diving header from Accam on the line and following up with a string of saves shortly after.

The Men in Red persisted in applying pressure as the rain poured down on the Toyota Park pitch in the waning moments, but Accam's 20th-minute tally proved to be the difference as Yallop's side ran out winners against the visiting expansion side.

The Fire return to action on Sunday, May 3 as they take on Sporting Kansas City at Sporting Park. Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m. 

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs):

(4-4-1-1): Sean Johnson; Eric Gehrig, Jeff Larentowicz, Adailton, Joevin Jones; Harry Shipp, Matt Watson, Matt Polster, David Accam; Shaun Maloney; Guly do Prado (Quincy Amarikwa, 66')

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.