Fire brings back three midfielders

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Fire brings back three midfielders

AVE MARIA, FL. The Fire opened preseason training Monday at Ave Maria University with some notable off-the-field developments.
The club announced that it has brought back three midfielders from last years team and also gained an international roster spot. The latter materialized when Arne Friedrich, the German defender who played so well in his first Major League Soccer season in 2012, obtained his green card.
The green card means the clubs Defender-of-the-Year wont be counted among the international slots. Those will go to Brazilian medfielder Alex, Italian goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi and Dutch striker Sherjill MacDonald.
Friedrich let it be known that he wanted to return to the Fire immediately after last season ended and the club was quick to make that possible. Not only did Friedrich speed the development of eventual MLS Rookie-of-the-Year Austin Berry, he also helped make the Fire one of the best defensive teams in the circuit. The Fire allowed 41 goals in 34 matches, second-best in the Eastern Conference.
Alex was among the midfielders brought back by the club. The Fire picked up the option year on Alex and Mike Videira, who will enter his fourth MLS season and third with the Fire. The Fire also re-signed Corben Bone, the clubs first-round draft choice (13th overall) in 2010. Bone had earlier entered the re-entry draft, but withdrew his name from consideration at the last minute in anticipation of returning to the Fire.
None of the midfield trio has played all that much. Videira made seven starts in 12 matches for the Fire over his two campaigns and Bone played in 17 matches in three seasons.
Alex, who joined the Fire from Swiss club Wohlen FC, was a late-season starter after Sebastian Grazzini returned to Argentina. Alex had two goals in 17 appearances.
HERE AND THERE:The Fire will add to its training camp roster on Tuesday in the MLS supplemental draft. The Fire has the 30th, 49th and 68th selections.
-- Coach Frank Klopas and forward Patrick Nyarko have been named among the honorees at the 15th annual CSN Awards dinner on Jan. 24 at the Chicago Hilton & Towers.
-- At least one more player wont return to the club this season. The club decided not to bring back Mexican forward Guillermo Franco, a late season acquisition in 2012. The veteran played in three matches, for a combined 43 minutes, during the stretch run but made little impact.

Bastian Schweinsteiger happy with Manchester United's Europa League win

Bastian Schweinsteiger happy with Manchester United's Europa League win

Bastian Schweinsteiger's time with Manchester United wound down with him being essentially frozen out of the team for an extended period, but he was still happy to see his former teammates win a European trophy on Wednesday.

Man U beat Ajax 2-0 to win the Europa League final in Stockholm. The win sealed a berth in next year's Champions League for the Red Devils.

Despite the way Schweinsteiger's tenure in England ended, the German midfielder has still said positive things about the club since leaving for the Chicago Fire in March. He tweeted out a good luck message to the team ahead of the final.

Paul Pogba scored in the first half and Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored in the second half to seal United's win and the trophy to end a season that included a sixth-place finish in the Premier League.

Schweinsteiger didn't play in any Premier League matches this season, but his last appearance for the Manchester club was as a subtitute in the Europa League round of 32 at French club Saint-Etienne.

Training with the Fire on Wednesday kept him from watching the whole final, but he said he did watch what he could.

“I’m happy for United," Schweinsteiger said after the Fire's 2-1 win against Dallas. "I’m happy for them. They are a good team and I’m happy they can play in Champions League next year.”

Still streaking: Fire beat Dallas for fourth straight win

Still streaking: Fire beat Dallas for fourth straight win

The tough test the Chicago Fire was supposed to receive Thursday didn’t exactly materialize the way it looked on paper, but the Fire still picked up a fourth straight win.

The Fire were leading after a frantic first 10 minutes and rode out a subdued second half to pick up a 2-1 win against an FC Dallas team, which sat six players who have started a majority of the team’s matches.

Nemanja Nikolic scored his 11th goal of the season, adding to his league lead, and it took less than three minutes to get it. Nikolic redirected Brandon Vincent’s cross from the left into the far post for an early Fire lead.

Dallas (5-2-4, 19 points) responded in the sixth minute. Joao Meira scuffed a clearance and then Johan Kappelhof’s attempted clearance was blocked right into the path of Roland Lamah, who tapped the ball in.

The crazy start continued with David Accam cutting in on his right foot from the left wing and scoring with a shot from outside the box to give the Fire (7-3-3, 24 points) the lead again. The ball skipped under the arms of Dallas goalkeeper Chris Seitz. Accam became the first Fire player to score in five straight games.

After that wild start neither team managed a shot on target until Juninho fired a shot at Seitz in the 89th minute. Nikolic had a penalty kick saved in the final minute of added time.

“From what I’ve heard this team had a long way to go in the leadership and maturity department and that’s how you get results in MLS," midfielder Dax McCarty said. "It’s not about always skill, it’s not always about who’s got the best players. Sometimes it’s just about grinding it out. Sometimes it’s about being mature and being professional and seeing games out that aren’t easy to win and this is the toughest game in this stretch and that’s not an easy game to win.”

With another game against Houston on Sunday, Dallas manager Oscar Pareja elected to sit a number of regulars. Kellyn Acosta, Walker Zimmerman and leading goal-scorer Maxi Urruti are among Dallas’ best players and were not included in the Dallas matchday roster. Michael Barrios, Maynor Figueroa and Hernan Grana also have started a majority of Dallas’ matches this season and did not start on Thursday. Barrios did enter in the 74th minute.

Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said he expected some rotations in Dallas' lineup after looking at the team's schedule.

"Maybe not so many, but I think with so many rotations actually what they achieved is to be fresher than we were," Paunovic said. "That was very important after the first 30 minutes of the game when we obviously we dropped a little bit in our intensity, in our freshness. Then in that moment what stepped up was our character, managing the game, finishing the first half well, then adjusting.

“We were tested in a different way and we saw the different face of our team that is capable with these kind of situations.”

McCarty said even playing with a rotated lineup, Dallas is still a "well-coached, organized" team.

"It could be really easy for us to look at their lineup and say, 'Hey this is going to be an easy night,'" McCarty said. "I think we have the maturity now in this locker room that in reality when you play a team with players that haven’t played as much they’re going to be hungrier and it’s even going to be a harder game. So for me this was the hardest game we played in this four-game stretch by far."

In March, McCarty was talking about how the Fire had a long way to go. After this win, he said things are better, but there is still more improvement needed.

"I think the main difference that this team is playing with a lot of confidence," McCarty said. "I think what happens when you get a couple results in a row, the belief just grows even more. So now instead of thinking, 'Hey we might be able to make the playoffs,' the belief turns into, 'Hey, we might be able to do something special this year.' We might be able to start thinking about winning some trophies, being a championship team.

“This is the evolution of going from a bad team to becoming a great team. We’re not there yet, but we’re somewhere in the middle.”

The Fire now have the second-best record in MLS after finishing a stretch of four games in 13 days with a 4-0 record. It was the first time the Fire have won four games in a row since 2012. The Fire have not won five in a row since the league abandoned the old shootout and allowed ties.

Last year the Fire won seven matches. This team has done so in 13 games. The Fire also matched the best start in club history through 13 games, equaling 1998 and 2001.

The Fire next play June 4 at Orlando.