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updated: 9/14/2017 7:23 PM

Chicago Fire's Campbell enjoying his return to starting lineup

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  • Chicago Fire central defender Jonathan Campbell, right, has made five starts this season, including the past two games. He'll be needed Saturday when the Fire hosts D.C. United.

    Chicago Fire central defender Jonathan Campbell, right, has made five starts this season, including the past two games. He'll be needed Saturday when the Fire hosts D.C. United.
    Associated Press

 
 

Central defender Jonathan Campbell was a bright spot in a dreary 2016 Fire season.

The team is performing much better in 2017, but Campbell only recently found himself back in the starting lineup. It took injuries to Joao Meira and Christian Dean for Campbell to get the call.

"It feels good," Campbell, a second-year pro out of the University of North Carolina, said after training Wednesday. "It always feels good to just be able to help the team and get out there, and obviously getting some starts has been good for me."

Campbell saw action in 33 games last year (30 starts). This year he has played in 19, starting five.

"It's just a learning curve," he said. "I feel like I've grown a lot this season, and learning to be ready when needed."

Meira, a reserve much of 2016, assumed Campbell's starting spot in 2017. When Meira injured his calf, the newly acquired Dean made two starts until his season ended with a foot injury. Campbell then joined the starting lineup, looking like he was set to regain his 2016 form.

"He did well," coach Veljko Paunovic said. "He helped the team. After every game he built his confidence more and more. He's very helpful obviously in his role, what he was doing so far, and we're looking forward to see more."

Meira trained with his teammates Wednesday, but Paunovic didn't sound confident he would be ready to start in Saturday's home game against D.C. United (7:30 p.m., CSN Plus).

Missing from action:

Meira isn't the only player who could miss Saturday's game. Central midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger could miss a second straight game with a leg injury. He worked on the side Wednesday with a trainer but didn't run much.

"We'll still have to see if Basti can make it for this game and if he's fitness-wise also ready for 90 minutes," Paunovic said.

The club has struggled lately, and being without its highest-paid player doesn't help.

"Basti is very important, but everyone is important," Paunovic said. "The team knows very well to play with and without Basti, and the team is solid. At this point I think the team understands very well that we have to be at our best."

Juninho, another central midfielder, spent Wednesday taking treatment, so he might not be available either. Forward Michael de Leeuw is suspended Saturday due to yellow-card accumulation.

One more addition:

Just a day before the MLS roster freeze date, Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez signed Cuban defender Jorge Corrales from the Tulsa Roughnecks of the USL on a free transfer, then loaned Corrales back to Tulsa.

Rodriguez said Corrales will be "an insurance policy." Corrales can be recalled to Chicago at any time.

Corrales is signed through the 2018 season with team options for 2019 and 2020.

Drought-buster:

After going nine games without a goal, Nemanja Nikolic finally scored his team-leading 17th of the season in Saturday's 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls.

"Of course I am happy that I score again, but to be honest I was not thinking on this when I will score or something like this because I know that in my career, or all strikers' career, they have this kind of up and down momentum," the 29-year-old Serbian-born Nikolic said.

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