Bastian Schweinsteiger has made quite the early impression with the Chicago Fire.
The German midfielder, who wasn't noted for his goal-scoring ability in his European career, scored for the second time in three matches in the Fire's 3-0 win against the New England Revolution.
The Fire had a man advantage from the 27th minute on after Je-Vaughn Watson picked up his second yellow card. Still the Fire didn't have any shots on target for almost the entire first half. Then Schweinsteiger received a pass from Luis Solignac, weaved through the Revolution defense in the box and scored with a low shot to beat goalkeeper Cody Cropper in the 45th minute.
The ironic thing is that Schweinsteiger had more turnovers in the first half than he did in his first two Fire games, but all was forgotten once he scored. Nemanja Nikolic added two goals in the second half to put the game away.
This is the first time in coach Veljko Paunovic's tenure that the Fire have won consecutive league matches. It also marked the end of a three-game homestand in which the Fire gained seven points with two wins and a draw.
"We have our identity now," Nikolic said. "Everybody so badly wanted to play and of course when the atmosphere in the team is good and when the players behind me are in good form, for me it's also easier. They gave me great balls today and I scored two goals, but the most important thing is that in these three games we played at home we achieved seven points and now we have a very difficult three games away so we have to prepare for this from tomorrow."
After failing to get the second goal and put the game away against Columbus last week, the Fire didn't waste much time getting the second goal this time. Two minutes into the second half Solignac again played creator with a centering ball from the right. Initially Michael de Leeuw couldn't connect with a shot, but the ball sat right for Nikolic to finish in front.
Nikolic scored his second later in the half when David Accam, who entered off the bench just over a minute earlier, passed a ball into Nikolic's stride. Nikolic scored his fourth goal of the season with a first-time shot.
With the man advantage, the Fire (3-1-2, 11 points) controlled the game and earned a second straight shutout. The confidence within the team was apparent on the field, although playing up a man for over an hour tends to help with that.
"It goes game-by-game, you got to see what kind of battles you get into early in the game and today it turned out where they went a man down," defender Brandon Vincent said. "It made it easier on us in the back where we could have more possession and not have to defend too much. It's game-by-game, but definitely feeling more confident."
The Fire had over 75 percent of the possession, including holding a majority of the possession before the red card. New England (2-3-1, 7 points) didn't manage to get a shot on target for the first 80 minutes.
"Going back to that locker room and seeing the guys happy and confident and now feeling that we can win every single game, which wasn't the case in the past," Paunovic said. "That's something that motivates me more. That's why we have to work and work and keep on improving."
The Fire, which start a three-game road trip after this, moved into second place in the Eastern Conference with the win.