Chicago Fire

Fire set to participate in 2013 Carolina Challenge Cup

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Fire set to participate in 2013 Carolina Challenge Cup

Jeremy Mikula
CSNChicago.com

The Chicago Fire will once again participate in the preseason Carolina Challenge Cup in February, the team said in a statement Tuesday.

Hosted by the United Soccer Leagues Charleston Battery, the competition is a four-team round-robin tournament that will feature the Battery, the Fire and two MLS sides to be named later.

The Fire have twice participated in the Carolina Challenge Cup, now in its 10th year, having competed in both the 2011 and 2012 editions of the tournament. In 2011, the team finished third with a 1-1-1 record -- the loss coming to eventual winners DC United. In 2012, the team was second behind DC United before severe thunderstorms cancelled the remaining games.

The Men in Red will report to Toyota Park for preseason training on Jan. 18 before eventually heading to Charlestown, S.C., for the tournament to be held at Blackbaud Stadium from Feb. 16 to 23. The fixture dates are scheduled for Feb. 16, 20 and 23.

The Charlestown Battery were recently crowned the 2012 USL Pro champions in September.

Injuries racking up and causing chaos for the Fire

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USA TODAY

Injuries racking up and causing chaos for the Fire

It wasn’t that long ago that it seemed everything was breaking the Chicago Fire’s way.

The Fire’s 11-match unbeaten run from April into early July featured of plenty of impressive performances from the Fire, but also a few lucky breaks. Dallas rested most of its starting lineup when it came to Toyota Park, Atlanta brought its two best players off the bench when it played in Bridgeview, New England couldn’t get a result against the Fire despite pouring on 24 shots.

It seems that luck is evening out a bit. The Fire dropped a fourth straight game on the road on Wednesday in Montreal and, while sloppy play was evident for the second game in a row, a rash of injuries to the back line played a role in the loss.

Left back Brandon Vincent has been out since picking up a quad injury in the warmups before a July 5 game in Portland. Right back Matt Polster suffered a left knee injury this week in training and did not travel to Montreal. On top of that, Joao Meira, who was listed as questionable for the game with a calf injury, left five minutes in with an injury. That’s not a recipe for success.

Christian Dean, acquired by the Fire seven days ago, had to make his debut as an injury replacement five minutes into a game. His center back partner, Jonathan Campbell, was making his first start since April 8. Johan Kappelhof had slid over to right back to fill in for Polster.

The resulting chaos shouldn’t come as a surprise. Dean’s first touch as a Fire player was a clearance that he didn’t cleanly hit. Ignacio Piatti blocked it with his chest and was suddenly open in the box for an early goal.

A Matteo Mancosu penalty and an incredible curling shot from outside the box by Piatti within a minute of each other put the game away before the first half was over. It finished 3-0.

Injuries aren’t things that have good timing, but this definitely qualifies as poor timing as far as the Fire are concerned. Being shorthanded against a Montreal team that may be playing as well as it has all season wasn’t good. On top of that, the Fire host league-leading Toronto.

That game against Toronto had been circled by MLS fans as a meeting of two of the top teams in the league, but the Fire’s recent slide (four losses in the last five matches) has taken some of the luster off it. Toronto is six points ahead of the third-place Fire.

In one final note, Wednesday’s game was the first MLS start for 18-year-old Djordje Mihailovic. He played 82 minutes before being subbed out.

Fire Talk Podcast: Roundtable interview with GM Nelson Rodriguez

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USA TODAY

Fire Talk Podcast: Roundtable interview with GM Nelson Rodriguez

Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez hosted media in person and via conference call to talk about the state of the club. He talked about the MLS All-Star Game at Soldier Field, the team’s recent struggles, what he hopes the team can achieve in the rest of the regular season and more.

This episode includes the full 45-minute interview. Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: