Fire head to Yankee Stadium for big Eastern Conference clash

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USA TODAY

Fire head to Yankee Stadium for big Eastern Conference clash

There’s no easing out of the break for the Chicago Fire.

The Fire return after having two and a half weeks between games to take on one of the top rivals in the Eastern Conference race. The Fire head to Yankee Stadium to take on New York City FC on Saturday.

The match will be televised on CSN+ with coverage beginning at 12:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.

The Fire last played July 5 in Portland, taking time off while the Gold Cup group stage took place. Bastian Schweinsteiger missed that match with a hip injury that caused him to leave the previous match against Vancouver early, but he says he is ready to go in The Bronx.

“I was a little bit unlucky that I had this injury and I couldn’t play against Portland,” Schweinsteiger said. “If the game would be on a Saturday (three days after the match took place) I probably could play the game. The break was nice. It was good to recover. Not only for the body, but also for the head. Actually more for the head. I’m ready for the second part of the season. We have a good position in the standings, but it’s going to be more tough for us. I think other teams, they analyze us as well now. They play maybe in a different style against us so we have to find solutions and prepare ourselves.”

The Fire return from the break with a mostly clean bill of health. Defender Jonathan Campbell is listed as questionable with a right ankle injury.

New York City is in the middle of a crucial stretch for the race at the top of the conference. Toronto FC, which currently leads the league with 39 points, just earned a 2-2 draw in Yankee Stadium on Wednesday. NYCFC is four points behind the Fire (11-3-5, 38 points) with a 10-6-4 record (34 points).

Fire coach Veljko Paunovic always hypes up the upcoming match, but wasn’t shy to speak of the extra importance of Saturday’s clash of playoff contenders.

“It’s everything, this game is everything,” Paunovic said. “We are now in a good spot. We have time to prepare. We have time to see them, but also we have to know that we have to work.”

Schweinsteiger called NYCFC one of the best teams in the league, along with Toronto. He also praised the style the team plays with under coach Patrick Vieira.

“I really appreciate how they play and how they behave also on the pitch,” Schweinsteiger said. “It’s going to be not an easy match for us away, but we are confident. We are confident. We are trying to find solutions to prepare ourselves during the week for that game and I’m very looking forward to play in Yankee Stadium. It’s a little bit different, it looks a little bit different when I saw it on TV, but I’m looking forward to this match.”

When set up for soccer, Yankee Stadium features a small field. The tight dimensions could make it tougher for the Fire’s preferred style of building out of the back with possession.

“You have to prepare for that,” Schweinsteiger said. “The pitch is smaller than, for example, let’s say I played in Barcelona in Nou Camp. It’s a huge field over there so it’s different. We have to know that and obviously we have to focus of course on our game, but also on the other team. They have David Villa, one of the best players in the league.”

Villa, who was voted into the All-Star Game as part of the Fan XI alongside Schweinsteiger and Fire forward Nemanja Nikolic, is second to Nikolic with 13 goals and also has seven assists.

Chicago Fire at New York City FC

Where: Yankee Stadium, New York

TV: CSN+

When: Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live

Records: Fire (11-3-5, 38 points), NYCFC (10-6-4, 34 points)

Blackhawks: Tommy Wingels fractures foot, will be ready for training camp

Blackhawks: Tommy Wingels fractures foot, will be ready for training camp

Tommy Wingels, who the Blackhawks acquired earlier this month, will miss 6-8 weeks after suffering a left-foot fracture during his offseason training. Team physician Dr. Michael Terry said in a statement that the Blackhawks, “anticipate a full recovery in 6-8 weeks and in time for training camp. We do not anticipate any long-term issues.”

The Blackhawks signed Wingels, a Wilmette native, to a one-year deal on July 1. Wingels will still be at this weekend’s convention.