For years, the Chicago Fire have been without a spark. Now, they’re turning to a World Cup champion in the hopes of resurrecting a once-solid MLS franchise.
The Fire announced on Tuesday morning that they will bring in German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger for the 2017 MLS season, acquiring him from Manchester United just three matches into the MLS campaign.
Manchester United confirmed the move to ESPN on Tuesday, and Schweinsteiger could be in Chicago as early as next week pending his ability to obtain a visa and a work permit. The move is unusual for United to make with two months left in its season, but because the United States does not operate within the European transfer window, European teams can transfer players to American and Canadian sides outside of normal transfer rules.
That was the case for Bastian Schweinsteiger, who had been linked with the Fire for several months since the team confirmed its interest in him by holding a meeting with him in January. Schweinsteiger had been expected to be a key contributor when Manchester United brought him in from Bayern Munich in 2015, but he fell out of favor when Louis van Gaal left United and was replaced by Jose Mourinho. As his opportunities dried up, the move to the United States began to look a lot more attractive to the former world champion.
Bastian Schweinsteiger stated that throughout his career he has sought opportunities she he hoped to be a positive part of a team and help make them great. He also said that joining the Chicago Fire is not any different. The clubs vision and their philosophy is in line with his and he wants to help them become a great team.\
“This project” is the reclamation of a mess that has left the Fire as an afterthought in both the minds of their own supporters and the league as a whole. Chicago failed to reach double digits in victories for the third straight season and finished 2016 at the bottom of the MLS table for the second consecutive campaign with just 31 points and seven victories. Chicago hasn’t qualified for the main draw of the MLS postseason since 2009, which was their fourth appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals in five years.
Since then, the Fire have fallen into a tailspin, and last week brought another discouraging sign when Chicago was flattened by a 4-0 count against expansion side Atlanta United, a match marked by an article from the Chicago Tribune in the days leading up to kickoff asking what Atlanta was doing right that Chicago, home of some of MLS’ worst attendance numbers, was doing so wrong.
Bastian Schweinsteiger will attempt to change the perception of the Fire, with former teammates and coaches praising the move. One was his former national team coach, Joachim Loew, who told ESPN that he believed Schweinsteiger had more to offer Manchester United, but as he wasn’t going to get a chance at United, needed to make the move to MLS.
Readers, does this give Chicago credibility? Can Schweinsteiger have the impact on the Fire that Didier Drogba and David Villa had for their MLS sides? Or is this more likely to go down as another Fire failure? Sound off in the comments below and like and share this article!
By Dan Angell