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Fire suffers bad loss but makes a huge deal

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

A few days after suffering a 4-0 loss to expansion Atlanta, the Chicago Fire expanded its roster with a huge signing.

The Chicago Fire signed one of the biggest names to ever don a Fire uniform on Monday when they inked German and Manchester United star Bastian Schweinsteiger to a one-year contract worth a reported $4.5 million. There is also a mutual option for 2018.

“This is a very big day for our club,’’ Fire General Manager Nelson Rodriguez said. “And I believe it’s big for Major League Soccer by acquiring one of our sport’s great champions. It’s not often you can add a player not just of Bastian’s pedigree but also one who represents our values.

“This is a historic moment for our club.’’

Mixing the 32-year-old scoring threat in a roster that already features David Accam, Juninho, Michael de Leeuw, Dax McCarty and Nemanja Nikolic gives the Fire some offensive firepower after averaging just 1.1 goals per match in the 2015 and 2016 campaigns.

The MLS has an off week this week and Rodriguez said it’s possible Schweinsteiger could make his Fire debut April 1 at Toyota Park.

The new Fire star is ready to help make the team elite again.

“Through my conversations with Nelson and (coach Veljko Paunovic) I’m convinced by the club’s vision and philosophy and I want to help them with this project,’’ Schweinsteiger said.

Schweinsteiger has 24 goals in 121 international matches for Germany, had 70 goals and 103 assists in 535 first team games and has been a part of 23 major domestic and international cups – more than any previous player entering their first season in MLS.

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Photo by Jeff Vorva

Fire coach Veljko Paunovic had plenty to applaud with his team the first two weeks, but suffered one of the worst defeats in his young tenure on Saturday with a 4-0 loss to expansion-team Atlanta.

 

ATLANTA 4, FIRE 0

Ouch.

This one hurt.

The Chicago Fire, puffed up from salvaging a 1-1 tie to open the season at Columbus and a 2-0 home-opening victory over Real Salt Lake, went to Atlanta on Saturday and stunk up the joint in a 4-0 loss to Atlanta United FC in front of an announced crowd of 45,922 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Now, a 4-0 spanking would be humiliating against any opponent, even an elite team in Major League Soccer.

But this came against an expansion team that had just two games under its belt.

Time will tell if Atlanta (2-1-0 with 11 goals in three matches) is the real deal or not. If so, a lot of veteran general managers are going to be scratching their heads wondering how a team can build a power from scratch while their teams are scratching for respectability.

That includes the Fire and general manager Nelson Rodriguez.

Rodriguez spent time and money this offseason to build a team that is supposed to be vastly improved over the past two seasons, when the Fire had the worst record in the league.

For two weeks, things looked good for the Fire. The team was even named the MSL Team of the Week after salting away Salt Lake. And it’s not right to freak out over the third game of the season.

But, again, this came against an expansion team that had just two games under its belt.

One could argue that the Fire deserves some slack because it played this game with only 10 men most of the way after Johan Kappelhof received a red card for clipping Josef Martinez in the 11th minute. It’s debatable whether a yellow or red card should have been issued.

But ultimately, the Fire defender put his team in a bad spot.

Martinez may have been denied a goal in the 11th minute, but he scored against the Chicago 10 in the 60th and 82nd minutes in the game and set the MLS record for scoring five goals in his first three games.

The Fire was able to put together an impressive first half after the red card, shutting Atlanta out for the final 34 minutes. But damage was already done in the fourth minute when a shot when off of defender Brendan Vincent’s foot for an own goal.

It didn’t look good that 10 men were going to stop a high-octane offense in the second half and they didn’t.

For us, this was a hard lesson that we learned and we have to fix a lot of things,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. “But I also want to appreciate the effort and hard work that all of our team had.’’

The Fire returns to action April 1 for a home game with Montreal.

The team has a long time to try to fix this.

It's tough when you don't get a result,” Fire midfielder Juninho said. “It's hard to say something, but we had a system to start, we tried to score on the counter but their team was better today. We lost a guy in the beginning of the game and it made everything complicated. But you have to move on, you have to adjust on what we did bad in this game and move on to the next one.

"This is our third game of the season and we played against a good team. They have their system and their different mission and style so we're getting to know them for the first time. Our experience was not the best, but we have to fix a lot of things. Our coaches will talk to us throughout these two weeks. We won't have a game because of the FIFA break, but it's going to help us to take this time to put everything in place."