Fire

Fire players downplay importance of undefeated preseason record

Fire players downplay importance of undefeated preseason record

Despite struggles in recent years during the regular season, the Chicago Fire have had a good run in the preseason.

In Veljko Paunovic's two years in charge, the Fire have posted two undefeated preseasons, but the February success goes further back than that. In officially listed preseason matches on the Fire's website, the Fire went 7-1 in 2014, and a less impressive, but still undefeated 1-0-4 in 2015. Last season, Paunovic's first season, the Fire posted a 5-0-1 preseason mark.

The Fire failed to make the playoffs in any of those years and were dead last in Major League Soccer in each of the last two years.

This time around the Fire went a perfect 6-0, beginning with two shutouts and finishing with four more wins in which the Fire scored 16 goals. Downplaying the relevance of preseason results seems obvious, especially with the Fire's recent track record, but is there some benefit to winning as opposed to losing?

Midfielder Dax McCarty snickered at the question when asked at the Fire's season kickoff luncheon on Monday.

"I don't think it's that valuable at all actually," McCarty said. "It's nice to win. The goal in every game you play is to win games. Preseason teams are tinkering, teams are playing different formations and players and personnel. I think the general thesis of preseason should be to try to work on the things that you want to do in the season that are going to make you a successful team. For each team that's different so we definitely put value on the results that we got, you always want to win every time you step on the field, but in terms of what it means for the regular season, it doesn't mean much. We have a lot of confidence knowing that we have a good team and we have good players and the results in preseason showed that. As far as how valuable it is, I don't think it's very valuable at all. It's definitely nice to say you went through the preseason unbeaten I guess."

The purpose of the preseason is generally to get players in shape for the season, find how certain pieces on the team fit together and to begin to form the relationships on the team, both on and off the field, that will be crucial when the games matter. Results are, with good reason, viewed as secondary.

However, general manager Nelson Rodriguez said there are intangible benefits to winning in the preseason, although he admitted thinking the same last year when the team had a good preseason and then went winless in the first three matches of 2016 and struggled throughout the year.

"Of course they matter," Rodriguez said of preseason results. "They matter during the preseason, but [season opening opponent] Columbus is not afraid of us because we went 6-0-0 in the preseason. But again what the results during preseason allow to have happened is this belief in each other, is in this trust in the style of play and the proactive nature we're trying to build at the club. Results confer legitimacy, losses erode it. So in that regard I think it was helpful."

Juninho, who like McCarty is a league veteran and new addition to the Fire this offseason, leaned more towards McCarty's sentiment.

"What we got from there was the minutes and the games," Juninho said. "That's what was the main thing. When the season starts it's another game. We all know that and we have to work and focus on the season."

Paunovic talked about the team's work in the preseason and building confidence, but wouldn't talk about the results.

"We believe that the preseason is very important, but obviously as I said, when the season starts that's where you see who can handle the difficult situations and who you can count on."

When the Fire head to Columbus for the March 4 season opener both teams will have clean slates. The Fire will be hoping to turn a winning preseason into a winning start to the regular season and go against the recent trend.

MLS announces return to play plan for tournament at Disney World

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USA Today

MLS announces return to play plan for tournament at Disney World

MLS soccer is coming back this summer.

The league announced a plan to have all 26 MLS clubs resume play on July 8 with a league-wide “MLS is Back Tournament.”

The games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World, without fans in the stands.

Here’s how it will work:

Clubs can arrive in Orlando to begin training on June 24. Then a group stage will begin July 8 followed by a knockout stage, starting July 25.

There will be six groups, three for each the Western and Eastern Conferences. The group stage draw will occur on June 11 at 2:30 p.m. CT.

Each team will play three group stage matches, and the results from those games will count in the 2020 MLS regular season standings.

Then the top two teams from each group, plus the four best third-place finishers will advance to the knockout stage. That stage starts with a round-of-16, followed by quarterfinals, semifinals and then the championship game. The championship game will be played on August 11.

In case of a tie at the end of regulation in the knockout stage, games will proceed directly to a penalty kick shootout.

The winner of the tournament will earn a berth in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League.

At the conclusion of the tournament, MLS will resume its regular season followed by the MLS Cup Playoffs and MLS Cup.

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MLS cancels three marquee events in wake of coronavirus, reschedules for 2021

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USA TODAY

MLS cancels three marquee events in wake of coronavirus, reschedules for 2021

Major League Soccer announced Tuesday the cancelation of three marquee 2020 events in wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2020 MLS All-Star Game, Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup have all been canceled, the league announced Tuesday. Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, Calif. was set to host the All-Star game on July 29, and MLS said the 2021 event is now expected to take place at the same venue. 

MLS will resume negotiations with LIGA MX with hopes of squaring off in the 2021 exhibition match.

The second annual Leagues Cup tournament was set to occur between July and September, featuring top MLS and LIGA MX teams. The two leagues canceled the event in a joint decision and plan to play the tournament next year.

Similarly, MLS and LIGA MX jointly canceled the Campeones Cup, which features the reigning MLS champion against the LIGA MX's Campeón de Campeones winner. The 2020 event was scheduled for Aug. 12 at CenturyLink field, home of Seattle Sounders FC. It will return in 2021.