Fire managing injuries ahead of trip to first-place Philadelphia

Arturo Alvarez

Veljko Paunovic led off his weekly media teleconference Monday with a lengthy update on a recent rash of injuries that have befallen the Chicago Fire.

The Men In Red had their endurance tested last week with a 120-minute U.S. Open Cup effort vs. Indy Eleven followed by a visit 72 hours later to the thin air of Colorado, with both matches contested in hot and humid conditions. But the injuries that came out of the back-to-back games weren’t what one might expect from that type of stretch.

“Obviously we play in a competitive league, a league that demands a lot,” Paunovic said Monday. “What we can be happy about it is that all of these injuries are mechanical, there are no soft tissue injuries, no muscle problems and other kinds of things so far. We can say we are happy about the fitness level that we have. On the other side, these kind of injuries are something that you can’t control, they happen in a game after tackles or sometimes after a difficult challenge that our players have to perform.”

In the case of second-year midfielder Matt Polster, it was an attempt to block a defensive clearance by Indy Eleven that resulted in a concussion, one which kept him from action at Colorado and will again prevent him from making the trip to Philadelphia Wednesday (6 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago Plus).

Meanwhile, midfielder Arturo Alvarez sustained a knee contusion and hyperextension that forced him to exit Saturday night’s match at halftime and will also keep him out of service in Philly. Alvarez’ replacement against the Rapids, goal-scorer Joey Calistri, sustained an ankle sprain and similarly will not play against the Union.

Midfielder Collin Fernandez, who last appeared at Vancouver on May 11, also continues to rehab an ankle sprain and is not yet ready for action.

On the flip side, John Goossens has returned to training and will be included in Chicago’s team sheet against the Union, most likely as an option off the bench. The Dutch attacking midfielder has not played since April 16 after spraining his LCL in training ahead of the match on April 30.

The recent injuries have opened a door for Homegrown signing Drew Conner to be recalled from USL affiliate Saint Louis FC.

“Drew will rejoin us today and he will travel also and be with the team for the game in Philadelphia,” Paunovic said. “The week after the break Drew was here for 10 days with the team, training and participating in every session and he played in the intrasquad game we had. We brought him here to evaluate him and see where he is now, we were very happy with his performance and now we believe it’s a good moment for him to come back. We have different circumstances also but also we believe in him and we are watching every single game in St. Louis, we know everything that is going on there because we have a very good relationship with the club. He’s a project and this is part of the project.”

The onset of new injuries has hardly been enough to quell the spirit of Paunovic, who spoke with a renewed determination and focus following Saturday's late defeat at league-leading Colorado.

“We have to deal with that,” Paunovic said of the injuries. “We have to move on, get tougher and in the future learn from these situations to improve.”