Fire extend winless streak to five

229341.jpg

Fire extend winless streak to five

Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010
8:26 PM

Associated Press

CHESTER, Pa. (AP) -- Sebastien Le Toux scored his 11th league goal of the season in the 36th minute, leading the Philadelphia Union over Chicago 1-0 Saturday and extending the Fire's winless streak to five.

The French-born Le Toux received a green card this year, potentially making him eligible to play for the U.S. national team. The 26-year-old midfielder and forward is third in MLS in goals, trailing Los Angeles' Edson Buddle (13) and New York's Juan Pablo Angel (12).

Le Toux beat goalkeeper Sean Johnson after receiving a pass from Justin Mapp.

Philadelphia (6-11-6) became the last MLS team with a shutout this year. In goalkeeper Brad Knighton's only previous start, he received a red card Aug. 8 at Dallas and was replaced by Chris Seitz.

Chicago (6-8-8) has three losses and two draws in its last five matches.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Fire putting finishing touches on roster as season nears

Fire putting finishing touches on roster as season nears

The preseason has finished and it's officially a match week for the Chicago Fire.

The Fire, which travel to Columbus on Saturday for the season opener, returned from preseason training in Florida on Sunday and began the team's first full day back in Chicago with the team's annual kickoff luncheon on Monday. The team's players, coaches and staff interact with fans and the media ahead of the upcoming season.

Two players, UNC-Charlotte products Brandt Bronico and Matej Dekovic, were introduced to the audience a couple hours before the club announced the two 2017 draft picks had signed contracts. Bronico, a central midfielder drafted in the third round, and Dekovic, a center back/left back taken in the fourth round, both signed one-year deals with club options for the following three years.

Dekovic could add some much needed depth in central defense, but is a logical candidate to go out on loan to USL affiliate Tulsa. Dekovic, 23, is Croatian and counts as an international player even though he played three years collegiately with the 49ers. The Fire have nine international players on the roster with eight slots for them. The Fire could trade for an international slot, but if Dekovic goes out on loan he won't count against that number. Coach Veljko Paunovic was asked about potential outgoing loans, but didn't give specifics other than to say they have "made some decisions" and "are still working on that."

Bronico and Dekovic don't figure to play major roles this season, but there could still be more moves ahead. The lone trialist in the final week of the Fire's training camp, former Columbus Crew defender Chad Barson, was not retained. General manager Nelson Rodriguez said Ryan Taylor will be the latest right back to join the Fire on trial. Taylor, 32, made 55 English Premier League appearances with Wigan Athletic from 2005-2009 and 61 more with Newcastle United from 2009-2015. This season he has made 12 appearances for Port Vale in England's third tier, the most recent of which on Jan. 20 when he scored a penalty kick.

[RELATED: Fire players downplay importance of undefeated preseason record]

"Ryan Taylor will join us this week," Rodriguez said. "He's a very experienced player, he plays a lot of different positions, which we like. We like that versatility. We love the attitude that he's expressed towards coming on trial, which is not easy for an accomplished player. We'll look at him this week, maybe look at him for two weeks. I don't know how long it will take, but he is an option for us."

The Englishman would also take up an international slot.

A potentially bigger move is the one Rodriguez hinted at regarding a third designated player. Currently, David Accam and Nemanja Nikolic are the Fire's two DPs, meaning one more DP spot is available.

"We have the latitude, we have the cap space, the budget space and the resources within MLS and within our ownership to add another DP," Rodriguez said. "We've looked at a few players. Two of the players that we had on our list, we didn't make offers for so I want to be clear the two players we were tracking, one signed in Mexico with a big club in Mexico and one went to China for big money so they're off our list.

"There are still two players that we're tracking. I think as we get deeper into the start of the season, even though the first window is open, it's tougher. I would say we would likely look at the summer, or, as we did last year, forego the summer and concentrate on January. I still think it's hard to integrate players midseason."

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.