Fire

Bayern Munich legend Paul Breitner 'afraid' that little has changed with U.S. soccer

Bayern Munich legend Paul Breitner 'afraid' that little has changed with U.S. soccer

Bayern Munich legend Paul Breitner is in town to promote his former club playing at Soldier Field for the International Champions Cup, but he also had some interesting things to say regarding the state of American soccer.

Breitner has such an impressive resume from his playing career that when he says something about the game it's probably worth taking note of. He won the 1974 World Cup with West Germany and won both Bundesliga titles (with Munich) and La Liga titles (with Real Madrid). He is scored in the 1974 final and also scored in the 1982 World Cup final, which West Germany lost, making him one of just four players to score in two different World Cup finals.

When asked how soccer in the U.S. has changed in recent years, Breitner gave an answer that might be slightly frightening for soccer fans in this country.

"I have a very long history and coming over to the U.S. and watching many games," Breitner said. "I was close to becoming a player of the U.S. league at the end of the 70s. I had an offer to play for the (New York) Cosmos. If I compare the situation at the 70s and 80s sometimes I get the idea that only a little bit has changed. When, I have to accept that, I read newspapers here in Chicago or in New York there is nothing, no word about soccer. So I'm a little bit afraid."

Breitner admitted he hasn't seen much of Major League Soccer due to it not being available in Germany.

However, Breitner did talk about the growing fandom in the country. Bayern Munich's trip for the ICC, which will be against AC Milan on July 27, does represent a need for the team to play in front of the growing fan base in the U.S.

"We have 30 million supporters in the United States so we have to be present sometimes," Breitner said. "First of all we have to come over to say thank you to all our fans, to all our supporters for supporting us. We want to offer our experience, our knowledge of maybe changing some kind of infrastructure of U.S. soccer. Also we can offer for example to teach some coaches to give them the newest, the most modern ideas about soccer. These are the reasons why we come over.

"We offer to teach coaches within the next years. We offer a partnership and this is also a point of view why we come to the States."

The opinionated German also talked about U.S. Men's National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who is a former player and manager of Bayern Munich.

"I think Jurgen's idea to develop his team or the entire U.S. soccer is to send as many youngsters as possible to Europe or maybe to South America to learn," Breitner said. "To learn soccer, which is the only one which is successful in these times and these years. This is the high-speed soccer created by Barcelona and now played by the best teams in the world. You only have the chance to win anything to improve if you are able to play at the same level. Therefore I think the idea of Jurgen is very good and logical that he says OK, send your talents to Europe at the age of 14, 15, 16 to come back with new ideas and to bring the ideas into all the teams that they play."

Check out the video above for more from Breitner's interview.

Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason

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USA TODAY

Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason

Coach Veljko Paunovic still went with a second-choice lineup to start the Fire's preseason match against USL expansion team Nashville SC on Wednesday, but the second half featured the first preseason action for Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Schweinsteiger came on for the second half, along with Nemanja Nikolic, Johan Kappelhof and a few other Fire regulars. The German sat out the first four preseason games, but looked sharp in his 45 minutes.

One of the highlights was this smooth move between two defenders:

Schweinsteiger also had an impressive switch pass to set up a shot for second-round pick Diego Campos in the final minutes of the game. Campos drilled the shot on target, but was unable to beat the goalkeeper.

The team did not say Schweinsteiger was injured despite the repeated absences in matches. The Fire have dealt with injuries to Matt Polster, Luis Solignac, Daniel Johnson and rookie Grant Lillard this preseason. None of those four, along with Dax McCarty, played in the 0-0 draw.

The Fire next play Saturday at Orlando in a final match in Florida before returning to Chicago. The Fire also play Tulsa, the team's USL affiliate, at Toyota Park on March 3 before taking on Sporting Kansas City in the season opener on March 10.

Injuries affecting Fire's preseason with season three weeks away

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USA TODAY

Injuries affecting Fire's preseason with season three weeks away

It may be a good thing that the Fire’s originally scheduled season opener March 3 at Colorado got moved back.

The Fire’s preseason has been riddled with injuries to key players and the extra week may end up being needed to get the team ready for the season. Four players (not counting the already known long-term injuries to Michael de Leeuw and Djordje Mihailovic) sat out Saturday’s game against Florida Gulf Coast University due to injury: Daniel Johnson (a right ankle injury suffered in a game against Philadelphia on Feb. 8), Grant Lillard (left knee), Matt Polster (left knee) and Luis Solignac (left hip).

Polster’s injury is especially notable because he has had recurring left knee problems since first suffering a sprain in the 2016 season finale at Toronto. Polster missed the first nine games of 2017 due to the injury and missed three more in August due to a related injury.

The 24-year-old, who is now the longest tenured player on the team and the only player remaining from before general manager Nelson Rodriguez’s tenure began at the end of the 2015 season, arrived with the Fire after playing with the U.S. national team in January. He played all 90 minutes on Jan. 28 against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bastian Schweinsteiger still hasn’t played in the preseason and the team hasn’t listed him as injured.

All the absences, combined with rest for some of the team’s regulars, resulted in a starting lineup against Florida Gulf Coast that featured two players who have appeared in an official match with the Fire. Three trialists and four draft picks started.

Four of the Fire’s seven scheduled preseason matches are in the books. The Fire lost 2-1 to Montreal on Feb. 14. One of the bright spots was a rare set piece goal after the Fire trailed the Impact 2-0. Dax McCarty headed in a free kick from Diego Campos. Campos has been dangerous on set pieces, hitting the post with a free kick and assisting a goal from a corner kick in Saturday’s 2-0 win against Florida Gulf Coast.

Next up is a match against USL expansion team Nashville SC on Feb. 21. Next Saturday the Fire play at Orlando to finish up play in Florida.

The Fire close out the preseason March 3 against the team’s USL affiliate, Tulsa, at Toyota Park before the season opener on March 10.