Fire

After always being on dominant teams, Bastian Schweinsteiger is adjusting to the parity of MLS

Parity is one of the defining characteristics of Major League Soccer, but Bastian Schweinsteiger's former teams knew nothing of parity.

Before joining the Chicago Fire, Bastian Schweinsteiger had only played for the biggest teams in the world. In his club career he started with Bayern Munich and later joined Manchester United. Both are in the top handful of clubs in terms of success, prestige and popularity. Throw in the German national team, which has made the last three semifinals in both the Euros and the World Cup, and Schweinsteiger is used to winning.

So now that Schweinsteiger is with the Fire in MLS, a league which doesn’t have any teams as dominant or as consistent as Bayern or Germany, it’s an adjustment in terms of expectations.

“Of course it’s something maybe new, but I knew it in advance that it’s not going to happen that we win every match,” Schweinsteiger said after training on Tuesday. “It’s a new team. We have to just work on our game style.”

Schweinsteiger was recently quoted as saying the difference in quality between MLS and his previous leagues is “huge.” That won’t surprise anyone familiar with MLS, but some of the quotes do standout.

“It can be frustrating on the pitch at times when things discussed [in the team meeting] are not implemented or when somebody loses a ball or just does not have an eye for the teammate,” Schweinsteiger said in the story on ESPNFC.

Schweinsteiger also said “too many balls are lost” during games. These statements have garnered national, and even global, headlines.

That may be worth fretting over if the statements weren’t universally agreed upon as accurate. MLS is not as good as the Premier League or the Bundesliga and the Fire are not Bayern Munich or Manchester United.

There is no cause for concern that Schweinsteiger is regretting his move or is causing a rift with his teammates. He says he is enjoying his new home and his new team. Fire midfielder Dax McCarty said on Tuesday that Schweinsteiger has “raised the level of our team significantly.”

Coach Veljko Paunovic has often talked about the character that Schweinsteiger brings to the team and said he wants Schweinsteiger to be a role model for the team.

“It’s very important to have the model, the player, the champion that can also help the team on and off the field where he can influence the guys with his work ethic, with his commitment, his experience obviously and charisma that he has,” Paunovic said. “He’s a very charismatic guy and the smile, he is coming everyday with a smile to the practice and that gives the positive impact on the locker room and we also know that it’s not always just smiling, it’s (working) hard.”

The Fire went winless on a three-game road trip, finally getting a point in a draw at LA on Saturday. Schweinsteiger hasn’t had many three game winless runs in his career, but odds are he will see more this season.

“I would love to win matches, but last year I think Seattle around the first half of matches they were not so good and in the end they won,” Schweinsteiger said on Tuesday. “So it is possible, right? Our position is OK. I think of course we could have won against Montreal or LA so then it would be a little bit different. We are looking from match to match. I think that this is more important to focus on our game. It’s more important for me and when we work on our deficiencies, things which we are not doing well, when we work on that we will play better and have more victories and it will automatically come that we will be higher in the standings.”