Bastian Schweinsteiger has been a key, calming influence in the Chicago Fire's midfield this season.
However, on Saturday he spent most of his time in a different position. Schweinsteiger played as a defender in an old-school German-style sweeper role to help the Fire hand the New England Revolution a first home loss of 2017.
Here's a look at what that did for the Fire, how New England adjusted and all the incredible chances the Revolution failed to put away.
Schweinsteiger the sweeper
The Fire's announced tactical set up before the game didn't give anything away regarding Schweinsteiger's new role. With David Accam sitting out, Juninho entered the midfield in a what appeared to be a more traditional 4-3-3 formation with Luis Solignac and Michael de Leeuw flanking Nemanja Nikolic up top.
It played out that way for about six minutes. Schweinsteiger was the right center midfielder with Dax McCarty playing more on the left and Juninho centrally.
In the seventh minute Schweinsteiger dropped between centerbacks Joao Meira and Johan Kappelhof in what ended up being one of the more creative and clever ways coach Veljko Paunovic has tried to play the midfield trio of Schweinsteiger, McCarty and Juninho at the same time. The Fire have looked more comfortable with two players in central midfield this season as opposed to all three. Saturday was the first time all three started since the May 6 game at LA.
The Fire entered with a 1-2-2 record when all three start and are 6-0-1 when Schweinsteiger starts with only one of McCarty or Juninho.
By moving Schweinsteiger back, Paunovic freed up his best player to have plenty of the ball in the build up and removed any awkward clogging in central midfield. Defensively, the German spent a lot of time sticking close to big New England striker Kei Kamara, and helped limit him for the most part.
With Schweinsteiger at the point of every build up, the Fire were able to be very patient in possession and it paid off. Before Nikolic scored the first goal in the 18th minute, the Fire had two stretches of extending passing.
There was a 17-pass sequence before Juninho attempted a long ball that didn't connect. The Fire won the ball back and went back to passing, this time for 20 consecutive passes before Nikolic missed a trap on a Schweinsteiger pass. The Revolution pushed forward after Nikolic's turnover, but Matt Polster came up with an interception and four passes later he assisted Nikolic's goal.
The Fire's ability to knock the ball around and have good movement in possession eventually led to Nikolic getting behind New England's defense for the breakaway chance. Plus, Schweinsteiger got to do things like this:
New England's adjustment
New England coach Jay Heaps made an adjustment at halftime, which seemed to work. He brought on Juan Agudelo, a forward, for defensive mid Scott Caldwell. The formation change allowed the Revs to finish the match with a slight majority of the possession after the Fire had 55 percent in the first half.
The Revs pressed higher up the field to disrupt the Fire's passing out of the back. They were also able to limit Schweinsteiger's touches. He completed 44 of 48 passes in the first half, but was just 21-for-26 in the second half.
However, the first time the Fire were able to string passes together in the second half, it led to a goal. After Michael de Leeuw was fouled, the Fire connected 11 straight passes to lead to Luis Solignac’s goal in the 61st minute.
Soon after New England got its goal, a play which involved Schweinsteiger unable to beat Agudelo for a header in the box, Paunovic brought on defender Jonathan Campbell and had him play as the third center back with Schweinsteiger moving back into midfield.
Schweinsteiger as a sweeper could work against certain teams, but against New England it was a trump card. Paunovic had never used it before so it caught the Revs off guard, but Heaps had an answer for it and the Fire ended up being a bit lucky to hold onto the win.
New England's shocking misses
Why were the Fire a bit lucky to hold onto the win? Well, take a look at these:
The last four of these gifs came in the last 10 minutes of the game. The Revs had 24 shots, but somehow only one goal.