Finally some substance to go with all the hype.
Bastian Schweinsteiger made his much-anticipated Chicago Fire debut in Saturday's 2-2 draw against Montreal. He started the match, played all 90 minutes and scored a goal on a header in the 17th minute.
The German played as one of three midfielders in a 4-3-3 formation, sliding in alongside Dax McCarty and Juninho. It was just his first appearance, but it was clear that Schweinsteiger can produce in MLS.
"You can just tell an amazing player when you see one," McCarty said. "Obviously he's capable of scoring goals, getting assists. More than that he put in a lot of work on the defensive side of the ball and a lot of the good attacking play we had went through him. Clearly he's going to help us."
Coach Veljko Paunovic didn't plan to have Schweinsteiger play the full game, but things changed with the Fire losing the lead in the 61st minute, Juninho getting a red card 10 minutes later and Michael de Leeuw suffering an injury in the second half after entering the match as a sub.
"What we planned is to manage the minutes, but obviously the circumstances dictated something different," Paunovic said. "We had to make our decision based on what was happening on the field. The red card and adjustments in the end. Michael's unfortunate injury. All these kind of things you cannot predict."
From a fitness standpoint, the German said earlier in the week that he felt good. After going the full 90 minutes, the 32-year-old was less positive, saying he sometimes felt tired.
"It's not easy when I got here four or five days ago, but it was OK," Schweinsteiger said. "I was actually prepared and also the training session here was very good so I will definitely also work on my fitness, to put more power and more energy into the game. I am actually satisfied. It was OK, but everyone can improve."
Schweinsteiger got his first taste of the physical nature of MLS in the second minute when he got tripped by Adrian Arregui, drawing his first foul in a league noted for its physical play. He drew a few more fouls including a yellow card foul from Adrian Arregui in the second half.
He took corner kicks from the left side and his first delivery found McCarty on the far side. McCarty's volley attempted was blocked. It was an obvious upgrade in corner delivery for a team which has had notable struggles from corners.
Good thing for the Fire that Schweinsteiger didn't take a corner kick from the right side as well though. He headed in David Accam's cross following a short corner from the right.
In the second half, Schweinsteiger began to show his ability to create chances. He made a few key passes to start breakaways, including the one that led to a red card on Victor Cabrera in the 81st minute.
Sliding into a starting role after just meeting his teammates four days earlier isn't ideal, but as McCarty put it, he knew what he was doing so it made things easier.
"Soccer is an easy game to understand if you play with good players," McCarty said. "He's a guy that doesn't get by on athleticism. He doesn't get by on speed. He gets by on his soccer brain. Obviously he's a little bit older now, but he's played at the highest level for a long time and he's still a world-class player. Any time you play with a guy that has a good soccer brain and sees the game the way that you see it, which I see the game the way he sees it and Juninho (too). I think all three of us see the game similarly. It's easy to play together.
"Obviously there's going to be a couple times where we're kind of in each other's way because we're still trying to figure out each other's tendencies. It's still early in the season so we've only known each other for a couple days. It'll be a work in progress, but I think for the most part we dominated the game in the midfield, but gave up some extremely soft, sloppy goals defensively to make this game a frustrating one."
It wasn't just Schweinsteiger's ability to fit in on the field, it was also his confidence in commanding the team. There were moments throughout the match when he was signaling to players where to pass to or to slow it down at times.
When asked about the style and level of MLS, Schweinsteiger didn't want to say much after his first game. He had mentioned the importance of better finishing from the team. Some of his passes led to breakaways that went unconverted.
"I think it's intense, but it's not easy after the first match to speak about the level of the MLS," Schweinsteiger said. "I am more focused on our game… that we improve, that we control the games, that we are effective, that we use our chances, that we stay compact. We didn't give so many chances away today, but they scored two goals. I like to have clean sheet and score two or three goals."
Schweinsteiger's debut came with a goal and a man of the match honor. If his first performance is anything to go by, the German will be a boost to results, even if that did not happen on Saturday.