Early goal, red card lead to lopsided loss for Fire in Atlanta

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Early goal, red card lead to lopsided loss for Fire in Atlanta

In a match between two upstart teams in the Eastern Conference, the Chicago Fire fell short in the early test.

The Fire gave up an early goal, suffered a red card soon after and were overwhelmed in a 4-0 loss in Atlanta's sold out Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday.

Atlanta midfielder Julian Gressel hit a low cross from the right in the fourth minute that bounced off Brandon Vincent and went into the goal.

The start to the match went from bad to disastrous when Johan Kappelhof was given a red card in the 11th minute. Kappelhof pulled down Josef Martinez and was ruled to be the last defender to deny a scoring opportunity. As a result, he was given the red.

Jonathan Campbell replaced Arturo Alvarez a few minutes later to give the Fire (1-1-1, 4 points) a full four-man back line the rest of the way.

Atlanta (2-1, 6 points) thoroughly dominated possession the rest of the match, but struggled to put shots on target. Despite nearly 83 percent possession in the first half, Atlanta had just one shot on target to the Fire's two.

However, the home team put the match away in the 60th minute. Highly paid designated player Miguel Almiron threaded a pass through multiple defenders to Martinez, who beat the offside trap, dribbled around goalkeeper Jorge Bava and scored into an open net.

Hector Villalba pounced on a loose ball in the box in the 67th minute to make it 3-0 and the rout was on.

Martinez scored his second goal with an impressive pair of touches. He knocked a through ball around Bava with his first touch and scored from a very tight angle to finish off the scoring.

Already down a goal, the Fire were practically out of the game when Kappelhof was sent off and Atlanta finally converted all the possession into goals in the second half. Atlanta finished with 83 percent possession for the match.

Fire forward Michael de Leeuw suffered a hamstring injury in training on Friday and was not with the team for Saturday's match. Luis Solignac took his spot in the starting lineup, which was the only change from last week's 2-0 win against Real Salt Lake.

Next weekend is an international break. The Fire next play at home on April 1 against Montreal.

Boosted by Bastian Schweinsteiger's big salary, Fire rank fourth in MLS payroll

Boosted by Bastian Schweinsteiger's big salary, Fire rank fourth in MLS payroll

The Major League Soccer Players Union releases player salaries twice a year and it always makes for good statistics and headlines.

While the numbers the Players Union release aren't always perfectly accurate, for the most part it gives a good view of who makes what and what teams are spending big or not. Some players are listed lower than their actual salary for a variety of reasons, but teams stay quiet on this matter so this remains hazy.

It's also important to note that these salaries are not what the player costs against the cap. Transfer fees factor into a player's cap hit and are among the other costs that aren’t included in the salaries listed.

With that in mind, today the MLSPU dropped the salary numbers, dated April 15, 2017. Here are some of the interesting notes on the salaries:

  • The big news from a Chicago Fire standpoint is that Bastian Schweinsteiger's $5.4 million salary is seventh-highest in the league and is a big reason why the Fire moved from 20th to fourth in payroll since the last time the Players Union released salaries. By the time the numbers were released last September, the Fire had already shed designated players Gilberto and Kennedy Igboananike. Those two combined to make just over $2 million, which would have put the Fire just outside the top 10 in the league rankings.


  • Schweinsteiger makes more than the listed payrolls of four teams (Minnesota, D.C., Montreal and Houston). Montreal was the biggest drop in payroll in terms of rank (eighth to 21st) with Didier Drogba ($2,116,667) coming off the books. The LA Galaxy shed the most amount of money from a year ago, just over $6 million, with Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard coming off the books.
  • Schweinsteiger is the fourth-highest paid midfielder.

Jorge Bava ($267,133) is sixth-highest paid among goalkeepers. Last year's Fire starter, Sean Johnson ($220,008), is ninth.

Nemanja Nikolic ($1,906,333) is the seventh-highest paid forward. David Accam ($820,937.50) is 15th and Michael de Leeuw ($564,212.50) is 25th.

Johan Kappelhof ($570,000) is ninth among defenders.

  • Among returning Fire players, Luis Solignac has the biggest listed raise. He had his option declined by the Fire in the offseason, but still re-signed, implying that the option was for more than what he ended up signing for. Solignac's listed guaranteed compensation went from $85,000 to $328,312.
  • The next biggest percentage raise is Jonathan Campbell, who went from $78,125 as a rookie to $109,875 this year. This is a bit ironic considering Campbell has already been on the bench more this season than in all of 2016, when he led the team in minutes played.
  • Homegrown player Djordje Mihailovic is the highest-paid among the rookies, coming in at $80,000.

Here are the players listed as making $2 million or more:

Kaka (Orlando): $7,167,500.00

Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto): $7,115,555.67

Michael Bradley (Toronto): $6,500,000.00

Andrea Pirlo (NYCFC): $5,915,690.00

David Villa (NYCFC): $5,610,000.00

Gio Dos Santos (LA): $5,500,000.00

Bastian Schweinsteiger (Fire): $5,400,000.00

Jozy Altidore (Toronto): $4,875,000.00

Clint Dempsey (Seattle): $3,892,933.50

Diego Valeri (Portland): $2,607,500.00

Tim Howard (Colorado): $2,475,000.00

Miguel Almiron (Atlanta): $2,297,000.00

Maxi Moralez (NYCFC): $2,000,000.04

For more number nerdiness, Jonathan Tannenwald has some league-wide numbers and charts at Philly.com. He has the MLS average salary at $326,319.23 and the median salary at $135,002.

Arturo Alvarez went nuts when Leo Messi scored El Clasico winner

Arturo Alvarez went nuts when Leo Messi scored El Clasico winner

Even professional soccer players can be fans when Barcelona and Real Madrid play each other in their epic El Clasico meetings.

Barcelona won at Real Madrid 3-2 on Sunday in one of the most entertaining games of the year (ever?). Leo Messi scored the game-winner in the final kick of the game to stun the crowd at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Given the epic rivalry between the two teams and the significance of Messi scoring his second goal of the game to score a game-winner at the home of the fans who hate him most, it was enough to excite even neutral fans.

The reaction of a Barcelona fan? Well, just see how Chicago Fire midfielder Arturo Alvarez reacted when he was watching with some teammates.

Alvarez watched with teammates McCarty, Michael Harrington and Drew Conner.

"I'm a big Messi fan," Alvarez said after training on Tuesday. "I love his game... and to win like that in the last minute.

"I had a good time watching the game with Dax and Michael and Drew. Just enjoying the game."

Some Fire teammates will get together to watch big games when they have a free weekend. The Fire played at Toronto on Friday, which meant they had an extra day free last weekend and took advantage.

"Whenever we have a chance to watch a good game like that we all get together a watch a game," Alvarez said. "If you love the game how can you not love those two teams going at it."