Perez struggling to earn playing time for Fire
It was just a training scrimmage, but it might have been a good indication of why touted Spanish midfielder Victor Perez is having trouble seeing the field for the Chicago Fire.
Rookie midfielder Matt Polster stripped Perez of the ball Thursday and started a break the other way, with Harry Shipp scoring at the end of the play.
About six weeks after his much-anticipated arrival, the former La Liga player has played just two minutes for the Fire, in the April 4 game vs. Toronto FC, and seems to be behind Polster, Michael Stephens, Chris Ritter and Razvan Cocis on the depth chart.
"It's not really Victor's fault, and like I said before, the emergence of Polster and the guys coming in have done pretty well," coach Frank Yallop said.
The Fire doesn't seem likely to extend Perez's loan past June 30 at this point, though Yallop isn't ready to make a decision just yet.
"It's a long time till his loan's up, so we'll see what happens," Yallop said.
While Polster has been the pleasant surprise of the season so far for the Fire, it hasn't all been positive reviews for the first-round draft pick from SIU-Edwardsville.
"On Saturday he played not good on the first half of the game," Yallop said of the 1-0 loss at Sporting Kansas City. "It probably was his worst game for us, I would think. What I did like about it, halftime comes and he hadn't played well at all, but I thought he did pretty well second half. That's a good sign."
Following a sprained ankle suffered April 4, Michael Stephens "is pretty close to being OK," Yallop said, and could be in the game-day 18 Saturday when the Fire hosts Real Salt Lake (2 p.m. at Toyota Park, Comcast SportsNet).
"I trained full all week," Stephens said. "I'm ready to go on the weekend."
Meanwhile, Patrick Nyarko and Mike Magee continue to slowly work their way back from knee and hip surgeries last fall. While their teammates trained, Nyarko and Magee ran the sideline together under the watchful eye of new strength and conditioning coach Adrian Lamb.
"I've stepped up my training and fitness," said Nyarko, who suffered a torn ACL last fall.
The anticipation of playing in a game again was apparent in the broad smile on Nyarko's face as he spoke. Both he and Magee hope to be back sometime in June.
"I'm being cautious about cutting and stuff like that in soccer-specific exercises. ... It's going great so far, feels real good. The anticipation and the frustration of being out, I'm itching to be back."
The forgotten man:
Lovel Palmer was a regular at right back for the Fire a season ago, but now he finds himself on the bench behind Eric Gehrig. Palmer laughed as he talked about staying positive.
"When you're in a situation like I am, either you're going to sink or you're going to swim, and I'm a Caribbean guy, we're surrounded by water, so I'm swimming," the 30-year-old Jamaican said. "All I can do is keep working hard in practice. My time is going to come, and whenever that time comes I have to be ready."
Palmer said he's not frustrated.
"Anything for the Chicago Fire to win," he said. "I'm a team player and I just want us to win."
Palmer especially wants a win Saturday against his former team, Real Salt Lake. Bragging rights with friends are at stake.
Follow Orrin on Twitter @Orrin_Schwarz