Fire

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

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.”

Chicago Fire permanently sign midfielder Aleksandar Katai

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USA TODAY

Chicago Fire permanently sign midfielder Aleksandar Katai

The Fire have secured the transfer of midfielder Aleksandar Katai from Deportivo Alavés of the Spanish La Liga, the team announced Wednesday afternoon.

This season’s breakout playmaker has been signed with Chicago through 2019, with a 2020 club option. Before the transfer, Katai was on loan from Alavés, which was set to expire after July.

The Serbian player has emerged as one of the most important pieces of the Fire’s offense this season. Since joining the club on Feb. 6, Katai has scored eight goals in 18 league matches, tying forward Nemanja Nikolić for the most on the team. Katai also has three assists in 2018.

The 27-year-old’s biggest game of the year came against New York City FC last month when he scored two goals to lead the Fire to 3-2 victory. His production this season in the MLS has been much more significant than it was in 23 matches with Alavés, where Katai only tallied three goals and four assists.

His transfer fee is unknown but, according to Sam Stejskal of MLSsoccer.com, he will be a “Targeted Allocation Money player” for the rest of this season and will not be a Designated Player until 2019. Whatever the official price was, acquiring Katai for a lengthier amount of time seemed like a must.

Throughout this season, the Fire were rumored to be in talks with legendary Spanish striker Fernando Torres. On Tuesday, he signed with Sagan Tosu, a Japanese club. The Fire signed Katai the next day, showing that the team was possibly waiting for Torres to leave the market.

Chicago will face the Philadelphia Union Wednesday night at Toyota Park, where Katai will look to continue his impressive season.

Chicago Fire defender Johan Kappelhof involved in car crash on Thursday morning

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USA TODAY

Chicago Fire defender Johan Kappelhof involved in car crash on Thursday morning

Chicago Fire defender Johan Kappelhof was involved in a car accident on his way to practice Thursday morning that sent him to the hospital with minor injuries.

According to authorities and the Secretary of State’s Office, a box truck crashed into the Dutch player’s 2013 Volkswagen and another vehicle in the 5900 block of South Harlem. Kappelhof’s vehicle rolled over and two people fled from the scene.

The driver ran on foot and the passenger moved into the driver’s seat before driving the truck onto the Stevenson Expressway after the crash, officials said. After the damaged vehicle broke down, police say the same passenger tried to jump into the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Both were taken into custody.

Team officials said Kappelhof was treated and released from the hospital without indicators of a concussion. The 27-year-old was reportedly seen at Toyota Park after the crash and did not have any serious injuries. The other driver who was hit by the box truck was also treated, police said.

This season in league play with the Fire, Kappelhof has three assists in 16 games. The international product was a 2017 MLS All-Star and the Defensive Player of the Year for the Fire last season. He was signed in 2016 and has made one MLS Cup Playoffs appearance.