Photo courtesy of the Chicago Fire
The Fire’s acquisition of German star Bastian Schweinsteiger brings the team a player who has won at several levels.
MONTREAL IMPACT AT CHICAGO FIRE
WHEN: 2 p.m., Saturday
WHERE: Toyota Park, Bridgeview
FIRE’S RECORD: 1-1-1
MONTREAL’S RECORD: 0-1-2
NOTEWORTHY: This could mark the home debut for new Fire player Bastian Schweinsteiger. Montreal’s Patrice Bernier has played 200 games and logged 15,000 minutes for the Impact. He’s been with the team since 2000.
Kicker -- CHICAGO FIRE ANALYSIS
HEADLINE – Fire’s signing of Schweinsteiger a sound soccer decision
By Jeff Vorva
Talk about a great first impression.
Chicago Fire official Doug Hicks said that in the 24-hour period after the team announced the signing of German star Bastian Schweinsteiger, the news generated two billion impressions, according to SimilarWeb.
The team had an interesting strategy to make this announcement. It took out ads in the Chicago Tribune – a paper that has largely ignored the Fire the past two seasons -- on March 20. While it created some minor buzz in Chicago, by the end of the week a heck of a lot more people were hating on new Bears backup quarterback Mark Sanchez than hailing Schweinsteiger. The Fire also put the new guy on billboards in the city.
If the Fire wants to be a major player in the Chicago sports scene, Schweinsteiger will have to do something freakishly good, like score six goals in a match. Otherwise, the organization still has a long climb uphill for that.
But when it comes to a soccer decision, this move was sound and it gives the Fire brand some instant credibility in the soccer world with his one-year, $4.5 million deal with a mutual option for 2018.
Those billions of impressions may not mean billions of people will be at Toyota Park this season, but the team now has a huge-name player playing with some pretty decent offensive weapons (David Accam, Juninho, Michael de Leeuw, Dex McCarty, Nemanja Nikolic and Arturo Alvarez).
The team that finished last in Major League Soccer the past two seasons and averaged 1.1 goals per game is now, on paper, a team that could make a playoff push. And out of those billions of impressions, there could be some more international superstars who might buy in that Fire General Manager Nelson Rodriguez and his crew are serious about building a winner.
That should bode well for the future.
There is some debate on whether the 32-year-old Schweinsteiger (who had 70 goals and 103 assists in 535 first-team games and 24 goals in 121 international matches for Germany) is past his prime. Some argue that his lack of playing time with Manchester United is a red flag.
Fire officials are confident he can thrive in the MLS and will make players around him better. But even if his on-field performance disappoints, he has been involved in 23 major and domestic international cups, which is more than any previous player entering their first season in the MLS. He knows what it takes to win and he can be a great influence in the locker room.
Schweinsteiger already passed his physical and has been working in out in Spain while he was waiting for a visa. The idea was for him to arrive in Chicago and take part in a news conference on Wednesday and there is a good chance he will make his debut in Saturday’s game against Montreal at Toyota Park. Due to his lack of practicing with the team, it’s unknown if he will start or how many minutes second-year coach Veljko Paunovic will play him.
If for some reason Schweinsteiger doesn’t get in against the Impact this weekend, there is a good possibility he will see some major minutes in an April 8 home game against Columbus.
Like many Fire fans, Rodriguez can’t wait to see him in a Fire uniform.
“We have one of the best midfields in the league,” he said last week on the SiriusXM’s The Football Show. “In my time sitting across the table and looking into his eyes…what you have is someone who loves the game, who loves to win, who loves to compete, loves to work with his fellow teammates…he’s a willing mentor.’’