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Chicago Fire snap losing streak before traveling to Germany

Aug 23, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Fire forward Nemanja Nikolic (23) celebrates his goal against the Columbus Crew during the first half at Toyota Park. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — The Chicago Fire snapped an eight-match losing streak on Thursday, but didn’t do so with a win and now head to Germany.

Is that still progress? Here’s a look at that as well as Stefan Cleveland’s second career MLS start and the team’s upcoming trip to Munich.

Is a home draw actually progress?

The Fire got the monkey off their back, but not with authority. It was a tight match that didn’t open up until Columbus put on a frantic push in the final 10 minutes, even after tying the match. It’s hard to say the performance was a good one from the Fire, but it was markedly improved from many of the matches during the losing streak.

The eight-match losing streak is over, but the Fire’s season is as well. They are nine points behind Philadelphia and Montreal for the final playoff spots and those teams have more games remaining.

With that in mind, the results almost don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Important things can still be learned in the final seven matches with 2019 in mind.

How effective are Michael de Leeuw and Djordje Mihailovic after coming back from injury? Can they be counted on next year? Will summer additions Raheem Edwards and Nico Hasler cement their places in the starting lineup for next year? Can any of the younger centerbacks show signs of improvement?

Cleveland in goal

Second-year goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland made his second MLS start. He made five saves.

Cleveland last played at Real Salt Lake on Aug. 4 when the Fire sat a number of regulars in advance of a U.S. Open Cup semifinal.

“It was OK,” Cleveland said of his performance. “I think I definitely could have closed the game out better. I think my distribution could have been a little bit better.”

He didn’t have a chance on the goal when Niko Hansen gathered a loose ball in the box and scored. Cleveland was named the Fire’s man of the match.

He did get away with a handball just outside the box in the 89th minute. Cleveland punched away a Harrison Afful cross, but didn’t clear it far. Pedro Santos took control of the ball and Cleveland continued to charge. It appeared the shot from Santos hit Cleveland in the arm, but no call was made.

Off to Germany

This was a rare Thursday match because of the Fire’s upcoming trip to Germany. The match was originally scheduled for Saturday, but the Fire are heading to Munich for a Bastian Schweinsteiger tribute match.

The Fire fly out Friday morning and will play Tuesday at the Allianz Arena against Schweinsteiger’s long time club, Bayern Munich.

“I haven’t had the chance to go back to the Allianz Arena since I left in 2015,” Schweinsteiger said. “That’s probably a very emotional moment for me. But also of course, looking forward to catching up with some people over there. Of course friends, family as well.”

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