On short rest, Fire head to D.C. in search of first road win

On short rest, Fire head to D.C. in search of first road win

In the first answer of coach Veljko Paunovic's press conference after Wednesday's win against Colorado, Paunovic was already looking ahead to the next game.

"We want to win the next game," he said. "That’s the attitude we were looking for for a long time and the guys are confident. The guys are really happy and enjoying soccer and winning games. I believe we are doing a good job with the team and the team believes it so now we have to keep it up. We just have to think about the next game against DC, how to recover, how to prepare well and go and compete there.”

Part of the reason to look ahead so soon was that the next game was coming so soon after the Chicago Fire beat the Rapids 3-0. The Fire will play for the third time in eight games in a match at D.C. United on Saturday.

The Fire also have another midweek game after traveling to the nation's capital, Thursday against undefeated FC Dallas. This could be squad rotation is in order, but Paunovic tends to stick with similar lineups after good performances. He made just one change in the starting lineup from the Seattle game to the Colorado game (Matt Polster started in place of Dre Conner). Bastian Schweinsteiger and David Accam were both subbed out in the second half on Wednesday, likely in anticipation of having them start in this upcoming road match.

Either way, the Fire (5-3-3, 18 points) have played two of its best games of the season in the past two matches and D.C. (3-5-2, 11 points) has been shutout in its past two home matches. The Fire enter 0-3-2 on the road.

"We make 18 points until now so it’s a fantastic job," Fire forward Nemanja Nikolic said. "To keep doing this we need to improve our game away so the chance is going to be against D.C. We need to prepare. We don’t have too much time for this, but we’ll try to give our best and be 100 percent for that game.”

Luciano Acosta leads United with three goals, but will be serving a red card suspension against the Fire. Former Fire winger Patrick Nyarko will miss the game with a hamstring injury. Regular starters Sean Franklin and Nick DeLeon are also out injured.

Even though D.C. comes in with a full week of rest and the Fire are not, D.C. is shorthanded and struggling at home. This appears to be a good opportunity for the Fire to get a first road win in 2017. Multiple players on the Fire have said some of the recent road performances have warranted better results than they have received.

"In away games we need to improve," Nikolic said. "We played really good against New York, against LA, so we need to keep doing the same things and start getting points in away games.”

Familiar problems for Fire in loss at New York City FC

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USA TODAY

Familiar problems for Fire in loss at New York City FC

A game which paired two of the top teams in the MLS standings didn’t deliver in a traditional sense, but did produce a wild game on Saturday.

The Chicago Fire looked like a team coming off a break in Saturday’s 2-1 loss at New York City FC. The Fire played up a man from the 12th minute on, but defensive lapses throughout and a lack of crispness in front of goal cost the Fire.

After a first half in which the Fire (11-4-5, 38 points) were outshot 7-4 despite the man advantage, NYCFC (11-6-4, 37 points) scored twice in the first five minutes of the second half and held off the Fire’s late surge.

For much of the match, the Fire struggled to complete passes and couldn’t even put shorthanded New York City under pressure. Once the Fire fell behind 2-0, David Accam, who entered the match as a halftime sub, got the Fire within one with a long-range effort that slammed in off the bottom off the crossbar.

The final 30 or so minutes resembled the Fire’s previous struggles this season of playing against teams defending deeply. The Fire couldn’t score against Orlando when the Lions were down two players on June 4. Later in June in the U.S. Open Cup, the Fire couldn’t score against USL opponent FC Cincinnati which defended deep the entire match.

NYCFC took the lead two minutes into the second half on a David Villa volley where Fire goalkeeper Matt Lampson was screened on the shot. A few minutes later Frederic Brillant rebounded his own header on a set piece to double the lead.

Accam’s goal finished off a stretch of three goals in eight minutes, but the Fire couldn’t beat former goalkeeper Sean Johnson again despite 25 shots.

The loss snapped the Fire’s 11-match MLS unbeaten run and tightened up the Eastern Conference race. Toronto FC, which tied NYCFC in Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, is up a point on the Fire. NYCFC is now a point behind the Fire with an extra game played.

Before the red card, the Fire caught a big break when a Bastian Schweinsteiger turnover nearly led to a penalty kick. Johan Kappelhof slid to knock the ball away from Herrera in the fourth minute, and appeared to miss the ball, but the ref did not give the penalty to the hosts.

Fire defender Brandon Vincent was announced as a starter before the match, but the club said he suffered a left quad strain in warmups and was replaced by Michael Harrington in the lineup.

Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez rings NASDAQ closing bell

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Chicago Fire

Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez rings NASDAQ closing bell

As part of the hype for the MLS All-Star Game, Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez and a handful of Major League Soccer cohorts made a trip to New York on Friday.

Rodriguez rang NASDAQ's closing bell. The MLS All-Star Game will take place at Soldier Field on Aug. 2.

Check out the photos from the occasion.