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Americans Abroad: Polster, Gutman trials in Scotland take Old Firm turn

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The tale of a pair of Chicago Fire products taking their talents to Scotland has taken an interesting turn.

Steven Gerrard brought Matt Polster and Andrew Gutman to Rangers for a trial in December, and was said to be hopeful of signing both. Polster was reported as the less likely to leave the United States, but is now said to be negotiating with the Glaswegian outfit.

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The same report, from The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio, says Rangers’ bitter rivals at Celtic have pulled into pole position to sweep left back Gutman out from under them.

There’s something interesting here aside from Gutman choosing Celtic over his initial trial club Rangers, two of the fiercest rivals in the world: The 22-year-old Fire academy product isn’t as highly viewed by Chicago as he is by several other MLS sides, Celtic, and the league itself.

From The Athletic:

Sources say the Fire initially offered Gutman a minimum-value contract and that Chicago has been shopping the left back’s homegrown rights within the league. Sources indicate MLS has upped the offer to Gutman in order to try to keep him in the league, and there is interest from multiple teams within MLS. Gutman is mulling both offers, but sources indicate he is leaning toward going overseas with Celtic.

So… it’ll be a little alarming for Fire supporters, an already beleaguered bunch, if Gutman turns out to be a starter for Celtic (or another European club) and Chicago simply offered the minimum to keep him.

Gutman won the MAC Hermann Trophy as the best player in college soccer this season, and left back has been a perennial question for the USMNT. That said, the top-heavy Scottish Premiership may be a physical grind, but isn’t a guarantee to be a better testing ground than Major League Soccer. It’s certainly a better gateway to Europe, though.

Veljko Paunovic signs contract extension with Chicago

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The Chicago Fire announced head coach Veljko Paunovic has signed a three-year contract extension at the club.

The club release states the extension is for two seasons, with a club option for a third. Before signing back on, he was out of contract at the end of the 2018 season.

Chicago finished 10th in the Eastern Conference this past season, but it’s clear the Fire ownership group sees its current situation as a work in progress. In fact, Paunovic used the word “project” to describe where he is currently at with the club.

“I feel excited about this project as I was the very first day three years ago when I became a part of the Chicago Fire Football family,” said Paunovic. “I’m also very grateful for this new opportunity with the club and the values that I’m fully aligned and committed to representing in every city and field around the globe and US.”

That said, he’s making some bold predictions for the coming year. “Get ready to lift the trophy this year,” Paunovic said.

“We believe the foundation we are setting and the standards we are demanding are the right ones in developing our championship program,” Fire president and general manager Nelson Rodriguez said in the club release. “Continuity is a critical element in that process and retaining Pauno for the next few years as a leader in that effort was an important off-season objective.”

Paunovic’s managerial position is his first with a professional club. Before coming to Chicago, the 41-year-old was in charge of the Serbian national team’s youth squad, managing their U-18, U-19, and U-20 teams at various stages. Before managing, Paunovic was a player with a number of clubs, mostly in the Spanish league with Atletico Madrid, Mallorca, and Oviedo. He also finished his career with the Philadelphia Union, making 17 appearances for the MLS club.

Reports: USMNT’s Weah visits Celtic; Gutman, Polster offered Rangers deals

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As the Old Firm rages this morning, Rangers and Celtic are in the news with some very American subjects.

Celtic’s links with Paris Saint-Germain and USMNT youngster Timothy Weah are quite real.

[ REPORT: Pulisic to Chelsea ]

Weah opted to stay at PSG for the first half of the season under new manager Thomas Tuchel, but has not been in the squad since scoring two goals in three appearances to open the season.

Such is the problem for forwards at the Parc des Princes.

Brendan Rodgers gave a lowdown on the 18-year-old’s recent visit to Scotland ahead of a possible loan for the rest of the season. From Sky Sports:

“He had a great day here. We have good relations with PSG, so he came over. He sent me a lovely message afterwards, thanking everyone and saying he enjoyed it, so we will see.

“PSG clearly want him to go on loan to get experience. He is a good kid, a great boy and a great profile in terms of his game.”

Weah would have a chance to toughen up in the contact-heavy Scottish Premiership, and could just find himself staring across the Old Firm Derby field at a couple of fellow Americans in Andrew Gutman and Matt Polster.

The Scottish Daily Record reported Saturday that Rangers have offered deals to the Chicago Fire products after a trial in Glasgow. The report says Gutman will accept if given a work permit, while Polster is trying to decide whether to make the jump overseas.

Gerrard taking long look at U.S. players Polster, Gutman

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A pair of American full backs are on trial with Steven Gerrard‘s Glasgow Rangers, and could be joining the club soon if they impress the boss.

The players in question are versatile Chicago Fire veteran Matt Polster, 25, and Indiana University senior Andrew Gutman, a potential Homegrown player for the Fire.

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Gerrard spoke of both on Tuesday, mentioning the good impression Polster made on him while both were in Major League Soccer. From The Daily Mail:

“I know one of them because I played against him in MLS – Matt Polster, who played for Chicago Fire and who I know is a good player.

“Andrew Gutman is from the college system and very highly thought of so we’re going to have a look at the two of them for seven or eight days. We’ll see how they do and if we like them we’ll try and do it as soon as possible.”

Polster has one cap with the USMNT and has 91 appearances as a fullback and midfielder with the Fire, though he missed most of the 2018 season with a knee injury. He’s out of contract with the Fire on New Year’s Eve.

Gutman scored 20 goals with 17 assists in 90 appearances over four years for the Hoosiers, but is viewed as a left back by Rangers.

Both are vying to become the latest American on Rangers and the first since Emerson Hyndman‘s loan to the Glaswegian outfit from Bournemouth last season. Rangers have seen USMNT stars Carlos Bocanegra, DaMarcus Beasley, Maurice Edu, and Claudio Reyna on their books.

Fire re-sign Schweinsteiger as designated player for 2019

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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (AP) The Chicago Fire have re-signed Bastian Schweinsteiger as a designated player for 2019, keeping the German star for at least one more season.

The team announced the deal on Wednesday. Schweinsteiger earned $6.1 million last season, according to the MLS players union.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

In a statement, Schweinsteiger insists Chicago can win a championship and says “let’s raise a trophy.”

The 34-year-old midfielder has seven goals and 12 assists in 55 regular-season games over two seasons with the Fire.

A World Cup champion with Germany in 2014, Schweinsteiger helped the Fire reach the playoffs after joining them in 2017. But Chicago finished with eight wins, 18 losses and eight draws this year.

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