Every team goes through injuries in the course of a season, but the Chicago Fire are in the middle of a rough stretch by most standards.
Dax McCarty’s halftime exit in Saturday’s 3-0 loss at Columbus added to an injury list that already included six names. McCarty left with a hamstring injury that coach Veljko Paunović said will keep him out “a couple of weeks.” That’s not even the worst news on the injury front for the Fire.
Matt Polster, who has been out since the March 10 season opener with a right MCL sprain, suffered a setback. Paunović said things don’t look good.
“It’s going to be long,” Paunović said of Polster’s injury. “I’m really sorry to see when our players going through serious injuries and how difficult it is to work in those circumstances, then you know that it’s not going to happen soon. He’s been through a lot of injuries last year and especially this year he barely could play and train normally. Last Sunday he had another setback and we’ll see what’s to come.”
Polster suffered a left knee injury in the season finale back in 2016 that cost him the first nine games of 2017. The Fire went 7-0-2 in his first nine starts of the season. He later missed three games last August with another left knee injury, all three Fire losses. He started the last nine games and the playoff loss to the New York Red Bulls.
This time it is a right knee injury, and it sounds like he will be out of action for a while longer.
Polster was one of eight field players the Fire brought back from 2017 who started a majority of the regular season games last year. Five of them are currently dealing with injuries. Beyond Polster and McCarty, that group includes Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luis Solignac and Michael de Leeuw.
Schweinsteiger missed the Columbus game with what the team is calling a precautionary measure. Paunović said barring setbacks he should be ready and recovered for the upcoming game against Houston on Sunday. The German was a full participant in training Wednesday.
Solignac has been out since the second game of the season with a quad injury. The Argentine said he hopes to be back in training next week.
De Leeuw and 19-year-old academy product Djordje Mihailovic are both recovering from ACL tears suffered late last season. De Leeuw said he hopes to return in August.
“You never know, but at this point I’m right on schedule,” de Leeuw said. “I’m aiming a little for August. I don’t know when in August. That’s my goal.”
De Leeuw and Mihailovic have become close while being on similar rehab timelines. Mihailovic jokingly said “He’s my dad” about de Leeuw.
“It’s feeling pretty normal for six and a half months post-surgery,” Mihailovic said. “Every day is a hard day now, getting back to full fitness and looking forward to the next two months and seeing where that takes me.”