Nelson Rodriguez says Gilberto is staying with the Fire, for now

Nelson Rodriguez says Gilberto is staying with the Fire, for now

It’s no secret Gilberto has struggled to score goals for the Chicago Fire this season.

The Brazilian forward hasn’t scored yet and was absent in the Fire’s last game before the Copa America break for “personal reasons.”

During a conference call with media on Monday, general manager Nelson Rodriguez addressed the rumors concerning what Gilberto’s absence against Portland on May 28 means for his future. The team took a week off from training during the past week and returned to practice on Monday.

“Over the course of the break, I checked in with Gilberto again,” Rodriguez said. “At that time he still indicated to me that he was not in a state of mind that was his best. He has left me to draw the conclusion that for the moment, we need to continue to try to work with him as a person.”

Whether this is simply a buildup of frustration over his or the team’s performance or is genuinely a personal matter that is affecting Gilberto was not made clear.

“We will work with Gilberto individually as we try to get him back into a form that can help us,” Rodriguez said. “Our preference has always been to be scoring goals for our team. That’s always been our preference. That’s something that I expressed to his agent not long ago. There’s a human side to this and a professional side to it. They get blurred a little bit in this situation as well.

“We’ll see what we can do to help Gilberto.”

Rodriguez does make it sound like a personal matter, but rumors have surfaced about a possible exit, either via transfer to another club or a buyout. For now, Rodriguez said there has been no contact with any teams in Gilberto’s native Brazil.

“Gilberto has from time-to-time expressed his desire to return to Brazil and play in Brazil,” Rodriguez said. “It’s unclear whether that’s now or at the end of his contract or in the future, but we have not spoken to any clubs in Brazil about Gilberto’s services.”

Gilberto is in Chicago as the team returns to training. The team plays an intrasquad scrimmage on Thursday, which will also feature the Fire’s PDL team, and how much he participates in that could be an indication of how close he is or is not to returning to game action.

His absence in the short-term would at the very least hurt the forward depth for the Fire, which is already thin in terms of sheer numbers. Michael de Leeuw is expected to join the team in training later this week, but isn’t eligible to play until July 9.

“I would just say we move on when we can,” coach Veljko Paunovic said regarding Gilberto’s absence. “We have guys who can perform.”

Rodriguez did leave an opening, if only in a roundabout way, to a potential Gilberto exit when asked if the team had explored trying to buy out his contract. Gilberto is one of 23 players in Major League Soccer who makes more than $1 million annually according to the MLS Players Union.

“We’ve not had that discussion with Gilberto or his representatives,” Rodriguez said. “Every option always has to be on the table. At some point if we can’t get him to be productive and scoring goals for us, we have to look at anything that is available to us or that we create for ourselves.”

Dax McCarty has 'fingers crossed' in hopes of playing in Gold Cup

Dax McCarty has 'fingers crossed' in hopes of playing in Gold Cup

Since Bruce Arena took over as national team coach, Dax McCarty has been regularly called in to join the Americans.

The Chicago Fire's 30-year-old midfielder was recently with the U.S. for a pair of World Cup qualifiers. He didn't play in either game, a 2-0 win against Trinidad & Tobago and a 1-1 draw at Mexico, but got to enjoy the experience of the famous Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

“Awesome experience. Definitely a game that doesn’t matter if you play or don’t play," McCarty said. "Definitely a game you’ll never forget. I think it’s probably one of the most historic stadiums in the world. A lot of history there. A lot of bad memories for the U.S., but I’d say the reason you go down there is to try to make good, new memories."

Michael Bradley scored a jaw-dropping goal with a chip from just inside the halfway line before Mexico answered later in the half. The U.S. has never won at the Azteca, but this was a second straight draw in World Cup qualifying there.

McCarty hasn't played in a qualifier yet, but has been included on each of the three rosters Arena has been able to call in since replacing Jurgen Klinsmann. The U.S. is 2-0-2 in qualifiers under Arena and appears back on track to make the 2018 World Cup.

"Win your home games, you draw on the road, that’s a recipe for qualifying," McCarty said. "We’re back on track now and I think everyone has really good spirits heading into the next round of qualifiers and the Gold Cup.”

The Gold Cup is a chance for McCarty to not only be on the team, but get some playing time with the national team. In early June, he was included on the 40-player preliminary roster for the Gold Cup (along with Fire teammate Matt Polster). That group will be cut down to 23 for the final roster, but does not feature many of the European-based national team regulars, meaning players like McCarty could see bigger roles.

McCarty said he doesn't yet know if he will be included in the final Gold Cup roster, which is expected to be announced this weekend.

“The coaches gave me great feedback, but until a final roster comes out or until I’m notified that I’m part of the roster you never know for sure," McCarty said. "Fingers crossed. I’m hoping to be there and I guess we’ll find out in the next week.”

Training camp for the Gold Cup will begin on June 25 with a friendly against David Accam's Ghana on July 1 before the tournament opener takes place July 8.

Bastian Schweinsteiger talks about playing sweeper in the Fire's win at New England

Bastian Schweinsteiger talks about playing sweeper in the Fire's win at New England

The Chicago Fire keep winning and Bastian Schweinsteiger continues to be at the heart of the team’s success.

The German played a new role in the Fire 2-1 win Saturday at the New England Revolution. Instead of his typical central midfield spot, Schweinsteiger lined up between the two central defenders, Johan Kappelhof and Joao Meira, as a sweeper or libero.

At its base, a sweeper was initially known as a last line of defense, someone who would clean up any attacks that got past other defenders. However, as the position evolved it started to be used more as a tool to create possession and attack play.

Schweinsteiger played this role for most of the match on Saturday. He had defensive responsibilities, largely marking New England striker Kei Kamara, but also started most of the Fire’s build up play. He became the point man who started and controlled things when the Fire were in possession.

In the Wikipedia entry for sweeper, the first player named is Franz Beckenbauer. Beckenbauer, who finished his career with the New York Cosmos in 1983, helped Germany win the 1974 World Cup and is widely regarded as one of the best players of his generation. He was one of the key players in changing the sweeper position from a solely defensive role into one that has attacking responsibilities as well.


Beckenbauer retired before Schweinsteiger was born so Schweinsteiger never got to see him play live, but has seen some old videos of him on TV. When asked about playing Beckenbauer’s position, Schweinsteiger said it’s a “big honor,” but hadn’t thought about that previously.

“I can’t really speak about it because I didn’t know exactly,” Schweinsteiger said. “I knew that he was also playing in the center sometimes as a libero or a midfield player, but I think a lot of teams are actually playing this system. I think Juventus, Chelsea, there are some teams, even Bayern Munich, that are playing it. It’s just a different playing style. Some more defenders, some more midfield players so it depends a little, but I like it.”

Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said the decision to go with the move was based on a few factors, mostly New England’s narrow attack with Kamara, Lee Nguyen and Diego Fagundez as the primary attackers.

“Three guys that play very narrow,” Paunovic said. “We thought that could be a good solution. Obviously he has qualities to play (as a sweeper). The experience, the vision as a midfielder and I spoke with him and he did play in the past that position. He agreed also that he could play it because we also needed it for this game.”

Paunovic said the plan was in place in advance of the game and he liked how it looked in practice. He called it “another weapon” that the Fire can use in the future.

“We played out of the back,” Paunovic said. “We could see clearly that he is our man that created superiority for the build up. Everything went well.”

It doesn’t sound like utilizing Schweinsteiger in this way is something the Fire will use regularly, but it could be used again.

“Sometimes you have to play different,” Schweinsteiger said. “We always try to make it difficult for the opponent obviously. That’s the goal in every match. It always changes. It depends. Sometimes we play like this, sometimes we play different. Let’s see what’s next.”