Fire search for victory against Sounders

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Fire search for victory against Sounders

The most important match for the Fire last season came against the Seattle Sounders, and the result wasnt what the Fire wanted.

The two clubs met in Seattle on Oct. 4 in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final, the Sounders winning 2-0. They scored the game-winner, by Fredy Montero in the 77th minute, and Osvaldo Alonso had an insurance goal in stoppage time as the Sounders won their third straight Open Cup and deprived the Fire of winning its fifth overall.

"When you play for a championship, to lift a trophy, its a little different than league play," said Fire captain Logan Pause. "(Seattles) a difficult play to play, going into CenturyLink Stadium, plus they were a very good team and on that day they were better. They deserved to win, but thats behind us."

But itll be a hard result for either side to forget, since 20 of the 27 players participating in the Open Cup final are still on the rosters of their respective teams as the clubs prepare for their first meeting of 2012 on Saturday night at Toyota Park.

Not all Major League Soccer clubs take the summer-long Open Cup tournament as seriously as the Fire and Sounders do.

"We put a lot into it," said Fire coach Frank Klopas, "but we were playing a good team. Its a different season now, and well be playing at home."

So far, it hasnt mattered where the Fire plays the Sounders. The Fire has yet to win, standing 0-3-3 in MLS meetings since Seattle entered the league in 2009. In those six matches the Fire scored just three goals. Both clubs come into Saturdays meeting with some momentum. Seattle is off to a 3-1-1 start, while the Fire is 2-1-1.

"Most of their team is returning, and they still play the same style very disciplined, very hard-working. Itll be a great test for us," said Pause.

The most-marked man for the Fire will have to be forward David Estrada, who has scored four of the Sounders six goals.

"Theyve got guys who understand their roles," said Pause. "What really jumps out is their midfield. Its one of the strongest in the league with Alonso, (Brad) Evans, (Leo) Gonzalez and (Alvaro) Fernandez. These guys are incredibly dynamic, incredibly mobile, and they work their tails off."

Most notable absentee is goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who retired from the Sounders after a brilliant career following last season. Hes now a TV commentator for the Sounders and his replacement, Michael Gspurning, is working on a 248-minute shutout streak. Gspurning played in Greece the last five seasons.

Seattle also has an MLS-best six-game regular season road unbeaten streak (5-0-1), dating back to last season.

The Fire is still unlikely to get newly re-acquired striker Chris Rolfe on the field. He sprained his right ankle in training shortly after leaving Denmark to join the Fire and he spent most of last week in a walking cast. Hes listed as questionable for the Seattle match.

"Theres not much swelling, but he still has pain when he walks," said Klopas. "Every day hes getting better, but hes not to the point where he can run yet."

Fire draft two Charlotte 49ers to close out draft

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USA TODAY

Fire draft two Charlotte 49ers to close out draft

The Chicago Fire drafted three players in the first two rounds of the MLS draft on Friday and added another two players in the draft's final two rounds on Tuesday.

The Fire selected two players out of Charlotte in the final two rounds. Midfielder Brandt Bronico went with the third pick in the third round, No. 47 overall, and defender Matej Dekovic was picked with the third pick in the fourth round, No. 69 overall.

Bronico was a key cog all four years at Charlotte. He was a three-time First-Team Conference USA selection and Conference USA Player of the Year as a senior. He totaled 25 goals and 23 assists in four years, including nine goals and five assists in 18 matches as a senior. He had eight goals and 10 assists as a junior.

Bronico also scored an eye-catching goal on the final day of the MLS Combine.

Dekovic is a defender born in Zagreb, Croatia. He was a First-Team Conference USA pick this fall while playing at left back. The Fire don't have much depth currently at outside back, but Dekovic's status as an international player will give him an uphill battle to make the team.

The Fire open preseason camp in six days on Monday, Jan. 23.

Fire trade for midfielder Dax McCarty

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USA TODAY

Fire trade for midfielder Dax McCarty

Midfield has been an area of focus this offseason for Chicago Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez and another new addition to that group was added on Monday.

The Fire have traded $400,000 in general allocation money in return for midfielder Dax McCarty from the New York Red Bulls. Paul Tenorio of Four Four Two first reported the trade.

McCarty was an All-Star in 2015 and part of the league's Best XI that season when he had eight assists to go with a goal. Last season he made 26 starts for the Red Bulls and totaled three goals and had five assists.

"Since the middle of 2016, we made acquiring Dax our No. 1 priority," Rodríguez said in the club's press release. "We believe adding his character and leadership in the locker room, as well as his exceptional soccer abilities on the field, dramatically improves our team."

The last time McCarty played at Toyota Park was a 2-2 draw on July 31 when a Khaly Thiam tackle caused a fractured tibia, which forced McCarty to sit out a month.

McCarty got married on Saturday, which delayed his arrival to the current U.S. national team camp. McCarty's participation in national team camp means he will join the Fire's preseason already in progress. The final match of the camp is on Feb. 3 while the Fire are set to start preseason on January 23.

McCarty, 29, has spent the past five and a half seasons with the Red Bulls. He began his career by playing five seasons for FC Dallas and was with D.C. United for part of the 2011 campaign before being traded to the Red Bulls. As an 11-year league veteran and the Red Bulls' captain, McCarty adds leadership and experience which Rodriguez has prioritized this offseason.

The Fire already added a former MLS All-Star in midfield this offseason in Juninho. The pair could line up next to each other in the preferred 4-2-3-1 coach Veljko Paunovic used for most of last season. This also could potentially put Matt Polster's role with the team in question. As the roster stands now, the third-year midfielder would be competing for two veteran All-Star caliber midfielders who were brought in at a high price.

Not to suggest a position move is in the works for Polster, but he did split time between midfield and right back with the Fire in 2015 under coach Frank Yallop and played there for the U-23 national team in Olympic qualifying. Right back remains a position of need by Rodriguez's own admission.

The trade also adds further context to the Fire trading the No. 3 pick in the draft on Friday. The Fire swapped the pick for $250,000 in general allocation money from New York City FC and Tenorio is reporting the Fire will send $400,000 to the Red Bulls for McCarty. To add those two moves together, the Fire dealt the No. 3 overall pick and $150,000 of allocation money for McCarty.