Chicago Fire

Weighing the chances of other Fire players making the MLS All-Star Game

Weighing the chances of other Fire players making the MLS All-Star Game

The Chicago Fire already have two All-Stars in Bastian Schweinsteiger and Nemanja Nikolic, but more may be on the way.

Nikolic and Schweinsteiger were voted into the Fan XI for the August 2 All-Star Game at Soldier Field. Fire coach Veljko Paunovic will select 11 more players and commissioner Don Garber will add the final two to make up a 23-man roster.

Who else might make that group for the Fire? Here’s a look at the chances at some other candidates for the Fire.

Dax McCarty, midfielder

Schweinsteiger is the bigger name and has the better career resume, but a strong argument can be made for McCarty being the Fire’s MVP this year.

McCarty has helped provide key defensive cover for the backline. The Fire’s defensive personnel is almost identical to last year with only Matt Polster, who has started just under half the team’s games, different from the defensive unit a year ago. Despite having similar personnel, the Fire have gone from a team that allowed the second most goals in the league in 2016 (58 in 34 matches) to one of just four teams that is allowing a goal or less per match. McCarty should get a lot of credit for that.

In the attack he has added three assists from a deep position in midfield and is regularly one of the highest-percentage passers on the team. He has helped turn the Fire into a team that was last in the league in possession last year to one that typically has a majority of the ball now.

On top of his two-way contributions, McCarty has been a positive voice in the locker room, always raising expectations and demanding more of the team in postgame comments. Plus, he has become a national team regular under coach Bruce Arena, giving him more cachet.

All-Star Game chances: Lock

David Accam, winger

Accam was good with the Fire his first two years, but he is having a breakout season. He has 10 goals and seven assists, putting him in elite goal-production territory.


Attacking positions have more competition to get on the All-Star roster in MLS, but Accam’s numbers are hard to leave off. Nikolic leads the league in goals plus assists (19) and second place is another Fan XI selection in New York City FC’s David Villa (18). Accam and Portland’s Diego Valeri have identical totals in both stats and both are safe bets to be included on the final roster.

All-Star Game chances: Near-lock

Brandon Vincent, left back

Vincent got a dubious All-Star selection last year as a rookie due to the simple fact that there aren’t many good fullbacks, especially left-sided ones, in MLS. This year, Vincent has turned into a weapon in the attack, contributing a goal and three assists, while continuing to show improvement on the defensive side. McCarty called him one of the top three left backs in the league earlier this season.

The potential downside for Vincent is that the Fire should have at least four others on the roster, meaning his inclusion would give the Fire nearly a quarter of the roster. In Vincent’s favor is that the game is being played in Chicago, which means his coach is picking almost all of the remaining players, and the Fire are tied for the best record in MLS. Going against him is that three of the Fan XI picks were fullbacks (former Fire player DaMarcus Beasley, Greg Garza and Graham Zusi), meaning only one or two more might be picked while center backs take up most of the spots going to defenders.

All-Star Game chances: Bubble selection

Matt Polster, right back

Fire fans have shown appreciation for Polster’s play of late and his name has been started to come up in All-Star discussion. There are a few problems for Polster’s chances though.

For one, he has started only nine matches for the Fire after missing the first two months of the season due to injury. On top of that, he was a bit shaky in those first few starts at right back as he readjusted to a position he hasn’t played consistently in his career.

Polster has four assists, including three in the last three matches, which is a very good return for 10 appearances as a right back. He has gotten better at positioning and service from attacking positions. He may be playing at a near All-Star level lately, but he doesn’t have the same body of work as Vincent and faces the same problems Vincent does in regards to having a bunch of teammates and three fullbacks already on the roster.

All-Star Game chances: Unlikely

Fire fans are throwing a killer party for the club's 20th birthday

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Fire fans are throwing a killer party for the club's 20th birthday

Most MLS teams are too young to have substantial history, but Fire fans are doing their part to celebrate the 20 years of Chicago Fire soccer.

A group of supporters is putting the work in to throw a party for the club in the vein of a fan convention — except this one isn’t run by a team. The small group of fans from the Fire’s independent supporters’ association, Section 8, is pooling efforts to throw a killer birthday bash and inviting former players and coaches to return for the celebration.

The Chicago Fire 20th Anniversary will take place on Oct. 8 at the Chicago Cultural Center. That’s 20 years to the day since the club’s first general manager, Peter Wilt, announced the name of the then-MLS expansion team at Navy Pier. Wilt will be among the star-studded list of attendees.

“You’re basically taking a fan convention and cramming it into four hours,” said Scott Greene, the chair of Section 8’s board of directors.

Greene was at the anniversary party five years ago and the plan is to continue them every five years. He said the 15th anniversary was “pretty flawless” in the way it ran and they are hoping to replicate that this time around with a similar type of program.

“It was astounding from the fact of what the Fire means for former players,” Greene said. “I think that always takes you aback at their experience at what the Fire means... Their willingness to come out to Chicago to interact with the fans is remarkable.”

The list of confirmed guests already boasts some of the biggest names in the team’s history and more are expected, although still unconfirmed. Five players from the original 1998 team, which won both the U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup, are already confirmed to be attending: Lubos Kubik, Diego Gutierrez, Jerzy Podbrozny, Roman Kosecki and current broadcaster Frank Klopas.

“It’s always great, the ability now to reconnect with all the old friends,” Klopas said during the broadcast of the D.C. United match this past Saturday. “I pretty much run into a lot of my old teammates that are still involved in the league here, but the ability to spend some time with Kosecki and Podbrozny, guys that you don’t see that much. It’s fantastic to reconnect with some of our old fans and some of the new fans and talk about some great moments from the past, but also some fantastic moments where the team is now.”

Longtime Fire defender Gonzalo Segares, 2013 MLS MVP Mike Magee and 1994 Ballon d’Or winner Hristo Stoichkov also will be attending.

In order to get the players to come to Chicago, Section 8 has worked to raise funds to fly the players in, which is especially tricky with those coming in from out of the country. Greene said ticket sales are the main revenue portion, but they are also accepting donations and there is a silent auction.

The auction includes a game-worn Michael Bradley national team jersey from a Gold Cup semifinal this year. Bradley is the son of the Fire’s first coach, Bob Bradley, and grew up in Chicagoland while his dad coached the team. There is also the press of the Bastian Schweinsteiger poster that ran in the Chicago Tribune.


“It’s a ton of coordination, but from a fan’s point of view it’s pretty awesome to email people,” Greene said. “I sponsored Andy Herron and it’s really cool to interact with him. I’m interacting with my sporting heroes. That’s really cool from being a volunteer and organizing this, the logistics of who’s coming.”

The club has helped provide videos and photos as part of the program and the beer list would make some brew fests envious. Chicagoland breweries Half Acre, BuckleDown (which has a Section 8 Pale Ale), Two Brothers (which will have a 20 Twenty-Plus Pilsner Lager which is named for the founding year of the brewery, which matches the Fire’s founding year) and Goose Island will have beers at the party. Goose Island is making a black lager made exclusively for the party.

Tickets and more information are available through the Fire 20th Anniversary website.

With playoff spot nearly secure, 'now it’s about how good' Fire can be

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USA TODAY

With playoff spot nearly secure, 'now it’s about how good' Fire can be

Things have been on the upswing for the Fire for the past couple weeks, but the players recognize the sharpness of the team’s unbeaten run earlier in the season still eludes them.

The 3-0 win against D.C. United on Saturday wasn’t all-out domination, but was the only comfortable win in the past seven games. With five games remaining in the regular season, and a playoff spot virtually locked up, the Fire is hoping to reach its heights from earlier in the year.

“We can start mentally getting ready to treat I think these next five games like they are playoff games, mentally getting ready for it,” midfielder Dax McCarty said. “We haven’t clinched anything yet so I don’t think we can take any of that for granted, but obviously with a couple good results in a row now, we’re feeling pretty comfortable about making the playoffs. Now it’s about positioning. We want to get a first-round bye so, like I said, these last five games for us, from my perspective, are playoff games.”

New York City FC is three points ahead of the Fire for second place in the Eastern Conference. The two teams play at Toyota Park on Sept. 30.

They already met in Yankee Stadium on July 22. That game was the first in a stretch of seven games in which the Fire lost six. NYCFC suffered an early red card and still managed to beat the Fire. The Fire’s struggles to create and convert quality chances was evident in that game and continued for many of the next several games.

The three-goal outburst against D.C. was a sign that the Fire may be getting the attack back in gear. David Accam, whose six chances created were most in MLS this past weekend, said the attack is not quite back to its peak.

“At the moment we are creating more chances,” Accam said. “We’re not sharp in front of goal. Before we were. We were creating, we were sharp, but now we are only creating. We’re not sharp. We are still working in training at trying to be sharper in front of goal in games.”

Defensively, the Fire has allowed one goal in the past three matches. In the previous eight matches, the team allowed 19 goals. As Brandon Vincent and Matt Polster returned from injury, and Joao Meira is right behind after coming off the bench against D.C., the Fire’s defensive record seems to have improved.

That doesn’t mean the team has a clean bill of health. Both Bastian Schweinsteiger (calf) and Juninho (knee) were not at training on Tuesday. Luis Solignac (thigh) and Daniel Johnson (knee) were both limited to running. Even without Schweinsteiger and Juninho, the Fire produced in a convincing win against D.C.

McCarty wasn’t worried the team would turn things around, but he has noticed more confidence in the team after getting seven points from the last three games.

“Certainly there’s more confidence in the group,” McCarty said. “We know we’re a good team. We know we can win games. Now it’s about how good can we be? We’re going to have to play our best if we’re going to be successful because I think we’ve shown that if we drop our level, even just a little bit, we’re just not good enough to win games in this league. We have to be very good every time we step on the field because other teams have certain aspects where maybe they’re stronger than us in, but if we can be at our best I like our chances against anyone.”