Fire

Notes from the rewatch: Bastian Schweinsteiger's debut

Notes from the rewatch: Bastian Schweinsteiger's debut

Leading into Saturday's match against Montreal, two of the big questions were how would Bastian Schweinsteiger fit into the Chicago Fire's midfield and how influential could he be.

Turns out the short answers to those two questions are next to Juninho and Dax McCarty in a three-man midfield and very influential.

The German scored a goal, but it was his passing in midfield that deservedly made him man of the match. Here's a deeper look at what made Schweinsteiger so dangerous and some other notes from the 2-2 draw against the Impact.

Turns out this Schweinsteiger guy is pretty good

The concern regarding Schweinsteiger's signing was his fitness and ability to stay healthy, not his quality. That's why it shouldn't be a big surprise that Schweinsteiger made a number of key passes and was a very influential figure in the midfield. The surprise is that he played the whole game and made some of his best plays in the final 15 minutes.

The game finishing 10v10 could have put more stress on his fitness in what became a more open game, but instead he took advantage of the extra space to spring more runners with through balls. His through ball in the 80th minute for Luis Solignac that resulted in Victor Cabrera's red card is as good as it gets anywhere in the world and is a notch above even good MLS midfielders.

The pass is just about perfectly hit, but take a closer look at that first touch. It's a simple pass from Daniel Johnson that is easy to control, but Schweinsteiger doesn't use his first touch to control the ball. He uses his first touch to set up the pass. He redirects the ball with his left foot to put it right into his stride to make that pass quickly with his right foot.

Most MLS players probably take a touch to settle the ball and another to set up the pass, which allows the defenders an extra bit of time to prepare or see it coming.

Credit also goes to Luis Solignac for making that run. Schweinsteiger was probably the only player on the field who could reliably make that pass and Solignac was there to take advantage and draw the red card.

Schweinsteiger roamed around in the midfield. At times he dropped a bit deep alongside McCarty to maintain possession. He also pushed forward occasionally as more of an attacking midfield spot. He also spent periods on the left and right side of midfield.

Overall, coach Veljko Paunovic said the team was more "patient" with the ball. The German was directing traffic and pointing things out right away even though he is new to the team.

"I saw during the game that he was adjusting to what is happening to teammates, to the opponent," Paunovic said after the match. "It's his first game. With the performance we can just expect even more. I was very happy with that, but also aware that he needs time. You guys also saw that. The player with his class, his adjustment to the league, only one game and only four or five days in the town, was amazing. Now build from here. It's a very good starting point, build from here and give him everything he needs to lead the team."

Daniel Johnson might be pretty good, too

Johnson turned some heads at the MLS combine and showed flashes of his quickness and dribbling ability in the preseason, but didn't play in the first three matches while three other Fire midfielders made their MLS debuts before him.

The first round pick finally got his chance to get on the field against Montreal when he replaced Michael de Leeuw in the 79th minute. De Leeuw, who had entered the match less than 15 minutes earlier, had to leave with his hand bleeding after getting stepped on.

Johnson didn't have a perfectly clean outing, but did show more of those flashes. He set up Schweinsteiger on the through ball that led to the red card. He also made a nice first touch on a chipped pass by Dax McCarty.

Another standout moment was this sequence, involving one-touch passes from Schweinsteiger and Solignac.

Johnson is a natural left winger, a position currently occupied by David Accam, which means starting minutes may not be easy to come by. He showed Saturday that at least he looks like a lively option off the bench.

Defensive lapses

Schweinsteiger and Johnson were positives and the Fire didn't win so there had to be some negatives. Defensive lapses allowed both of the Impact's goals to happen.

On the first goal, neither David Accam nor Brandon Vincent closed down Chris Duvall in time. He used the time and space to line up a cross. Jonathan Campbell seemed to mistime his jump or misjudge the flight of the cross and it went over his head. Matteo Mancosu was left with a straightforward header at that point.

On the second goal, Michael Harrington left Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla with a lot of space to shoot. The shot came from outside the box and probably should have been saved by Jorge Bava, but the shot likely could have been prevented with more ball pressure.

"From my view, it's just really bad lapses defensively that concede goals," McCarty said.

Chicago isn't hosting the 2026 World Cup, but fans should still be excited

Chicago isn't hosting the 2026 World Cup, but fans should still be excited

After failing to qualify to play in this summer’s World Cup, the United States’ pain was alleviated on Wednesday morning after earning a joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup.

But why is this bittersweet for Chicagoans?

Even though the World Cup will be hosted by the U.S., Mexico and Canada in eight years, matches will not be played in Chicago.

The city chose not to be one of the potential hosts of the world’s largest sporting event, despite using Soldier Field as a venue for the 1994 World Cup.

One of the reasons could be the low seating capacity of Chicago’s historic stadium. Soldier Field would be the second smallest spot out of any World Cup host option, seating only 61,500. The massive competition also draws enormous crowds, possibly causing logistical concerns for a highly-populated place like Chicago.

Ten out of 17 different cities in the United States will be gifted the opportunity to host 2026 World Cup games. The list includes Cincinnati (Paul Brown Stadium), Kansas City (Arrowhead Stadium) and Nashville (Nissan Stadium), which are the closest domestic locations to Chicago.

The bright side is that fans from the Midwest won’t have to travel very far to see a match. For bigtime soccer fans in the Chicago area, having the chance to attend world-class matches in United States could be exciting enough.

Out of the 80 games taking place in 2026, 60 of them will be located in the United States.

Can this bid with Mexico and Canada at least help the relevancy of U.S. Soccer in the Chicago area?

The U.S. men’s national team missed this year’s World Cup at a very unideal time, just when it seemed like the sport of soccer was gaining more and more popularity in the United States.

Plus, the United States might not even get an automatic bid to play in their own World Cup as hosts.

But becoming a member of the first trio in FIFA history to host the World Cup, coupled with the expanded 48-team field in 2026, could help the United States retain the fans they have across the nation and around Chicago.

The World Cup might not be coming to the Windy City, but Chicagoans will still have something to be excited about in 2026 with games being played right around the corner. If the U.S. can qualify for the upcoming World Cups, having the tournament in North America will be much sweeter.

Until then, the 2018 World Cup kicks off this Thursday night in Russia.

Ever wonder what a Portillo's soccer jersey would look like?

portillos.jpg
@JTHAZZARD

Ever wonder what a Portillo's soccer jersey would look like?

Portillo's has become a staple in the Chicagoland area due to its popular hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches and now, its soccer jerseys.

OK, maybe one of these does not belong with the others. Regardless, Twitter user @JTHazzard created mock-up soccer jerseys mashing MLS teams and restaurants based in that team's city, and the Portillo's jersey is sweet. 

From the Portillo's logo taking center-stage to the picnic blanket pattern to the discrete Chicago Fire logo, this jersey is absolutely brilliant. The only change this writer would make is including the logo below instead.

Valspar is the current sponsor featured on the Fire's uniforms. If the team ever needs a new sponsor, though, Portillo's would be an excellent replacement.