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VIDEO: Schweinsteiger asked if Chicago Fire can win World Cup

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Big press conferences bring unusual media members out of the woodwork, and this can be pretty embarrassing when it comes to sports.

I remember a few years ago in Buffalo, when the NHL’s Sabres had not resigned Chris Drury and Daniel Briere. A TV newsman, not known for his sports coverage, asked the general manager what they would say to fans who bought Drury and Briere jerseys.

The awkward reply: “Sorry?”

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There was no exception when the Chicago Fire unveiled Bastian Schweinsteiger on Wednesday. The World Cup winning midfielder faced the press and was asked if his arrival would help Chicago win the World Cup.

You read that right. Here’s the video, even as the communications man jumped in to try and save the reporter by suggesting he meant the FIFA Club World Cup.

Woof. The media overseas are having a field day with this one, but it doesn’t have anything to do with American soccer fans, perhaps even sports media. I’d be stunned if the reporter spent a ton of time around the game.

But man, oh man.

Amid fanfare, Bastian Schweinsteiger arrives in Chicago

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Arriving at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, it is clear Bastian Schweinsteiger is kind of a big deal…

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Posing for photos with fans as he stepped off the flight with his wife, former Serbian tennis star Ana Ivanovic, the former Bayern Munich midfielder was mobbed by Chicago Fire fans who are delighted he has arrived in Major League Soccer as the newest Designated Player.

The German legend has completed his move from Manchester United to the Fire and will be officially unveiled to the media on Wednesday after signing a one-year deal.

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Schweinsteiger, 32, has already had a training session in the books and the World Cup winner is expected to make his debut in Chicago’s home clash with the Montreal Impact on Saturday at Toyota Park.

Below is a video of Schweinsteiger’s arrival in Chicago, his first training session and a collection of photos he took with ecstatic Fire fans.


Schweinsteiger waiting on visa, training in Mallorca

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Bastian Schweinsteiger is waiting on a visa to make his trip to Chicago official.

It’s a formality, albeit a bit trickier now given the political climate in the United States. The former Manchester United midfielder is training at Real Mallorca ahead of the move.

The transfer was announced one week ago, and Schweinsteiger is anxious to get back on the pitch. Set for a 1-year, $4.5 million deal, the midfielder has not missed any Chicago matches yet.

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The Fire is 1-1-1 to start the new season under Veljko Paunovic, and has three home matches next: Montreal (Saturday), Columbus (Apr. 8), and New England (Apr. 15)

What risk? Making sense of Schweinsteiger to Chicago in post-DP MLS

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Quick, how old were the best performers in Major League Soccer last season?

Rather than rattle off the players we think were the best, let’s use a couple advanced stats sites to double down (Squawka and WhoScored).

According to the former, the Top Ten “performance scores” were posted by Sebastian Giovinco (29), Osvaldo Alonso (30), David Villa (34), Ignacio Piatti (31), Gio dos Santos (27), Benny Feilhaber (31), Chad Marshall (32), Chris Pontius (29), Walker Zimmerman (23), and Lee Nguyen (29).

As for the latter, you’ll see a lot of the same faces at the top. Giovinco, Alonso, and Piatti remain 1-2-3, but the Top Ten is filled out by Nicolas Lodeiro (28), Sacha Kljestan (31), Michael Bradley (29), Gyasi Zardes (25), Jozy Altidore (27), and Bradley Wright-Phillips (31). Obviously, WhoScored favors the attack.

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For comparison’s sake, the Premier League doesn’t boast a player in its Top Ten over the age of 30, Serie A has two (Dzeko and Fazio), La Liga four (Suarez, Ronaldo, Modric, and Luis), and the Bundesliga one (Robben). And any of those names would thrive in MLS, I imagine.

That’s an awful long preamble to say this: Bastian Schweinsteiger is likely do just fine at Chicago Fire, even in an advanced position.

The rise in young Designated Players in Major League Soccer is no joke, which has directly led to a big mistake amongst many MLS supporters. That is the assumption that older elite players, many who would wrongly earn the league “retirement league” jeers, are going to fail.

Before taking on the idea of Schweinsteiger, it’s important to note that many MLS fans bristle so much at the retirement league gloss that they are quick to lash out when superstar imports begin slowly in MLS. I emphasize “slowly” because stardom is understandably expected given the players’ lofty standards, and poor play is really anything below that standard.

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Consider:

Frank Lampard began his MLS tenure as a failure because he was hurt to start his tenure at NYCFC; The Chelsea legend got healthy and was as productive as almost any MLS attacking mid last season. In fact, look at NYC’s Top Five in per-game Squawka stats last season… pretty old.

Steven Gerrard is considered even worse because he didn’t put up gaudy offensive numbers. It’s important to note he was still one of LA’s best all-around per-game weapons in 2016 (and that they, too, were older at the top).

Which brings us to Schweinsteiger. I’ve read two well-read commentaries that question the move by two colleagues I respect a great deal: Andy Edwards’ MLS acumen is almost unrivaled, and Joe Prince-Wright has a great feel for our domestic league.

That’s fine, and he may flop. Any player could flop, of course.

Let’s compare Lampard and Schweinsteiger, as far as we can. The former arrived on the shores of MLS directly in which he managed only 989 minutes in league play for Man City, and three seasons since he was counted on for 2,000-plus minutes at Chelsea.

Schweinsteiger hits Chicago having not done much at all this season at United, and a three seasons after breaking that 2,000 mark at Bayern Munich. In theory, the only difference is that Schweinsteiger will need to find fitness. On the flip side, he’s not carrying a year’s worth of battle wounds.

He’s 32, played plenty in Germany’s EURO 2016 campaign, and is three summers removed from going all but nine minutes of four elimination games in winning a World Cup. He’s two seasons removed from a 20-match, 5-goal, 4-assist season as a deep-lying midfielder in the Bundesliga.

I love MLS and Opening Weekend generally signals something special in my mind, but right now the league is about on par with Eredivisie. For a 20-year-old brand, that’s not an insult, and if Schweinsteiger joined PEC Zwolle I’d consider it a savvy move to improve a team and sell a load of uniforms.

There are definite and legitimate questions about how Chicago will fare with him sitting atop holding midfielders Juninho and Dax McCarty. But Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic have had a looooong time to sort out whether the move makes sense for their formation and plan. We’re talking last summer, well before they scooped up both of the aforementioned center mids.

Not to mention this is a one-year, $4.5 million deal that carries an incredibly minimal amount of risk. Chicago has been tabbed as a team that could surprise and make the playoffs. The question isn’t why, or can this work? It’s why wouldn’t you?

Ostracized at United, Schweinsteiger to lead Chicago offense

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Bastian Schweinsteiger arrived at Manchester United from Bayern Munich in the summer of 2015 amid plenty of promise.

[ MORE: Overhaul at Arsenal? ]

He leaves with plenty of question marks surrounding his time in the Premier League and has spent close to 12 months in the shadows.

Schweinsteiger, 32, signed for the Chicago Fire in Major League Soccer on Tuesday on a one-year deal as he brought an end to his disappointing 18 months at Old Trafford.

The German World Cup winner was signed by former United boss Louis Van Gaal and became somewhat of a scapegoat of LVG’s second season in charge which saw the Red Devils turn into a predictable, laborious team to watch as they failed to break teams down and finished fifth in the Premier League.

Nursing numerous injuries, Schweinsteiger played 31 times in his only full season at United and appeared just 18 times in the Premier League. He did win an FA Cup under Van Gaal last season but it appeared that when Jose Mourinho arrived in the summer, along with Paul Pogba, that Schweinsteiger’s big wages were not welcome at Old Trafford.

Forced to train with the reserves and left out of action until Nov. 30, 2016, Schweinsteiger got his head down and worked hard in training as many former teammates lambasted the way he was treated by Mourinho and his staff and was shown a lack of respect.

Yet, perhaps due to the humility he showed when cast outside ruthlessly by Mourinho, United’s fans took to him in recent months and cheered his every touch whenever he made brief one of his fourth brief appearances off the bench.

Schweinsteiger was greeted with many well wishes from fellow United players when news of his move to Chicago Fire was confirmed, hammering home his popularity among the squad.

With 18 months of pretty much treading water at United, Schweinsteiger is now ready to kick-start the final stage of his career.

“Throughout my career, I’ve always sought opportunities where I hoped to make a positive impact and to help make something great. My move to Chicago Fire is no different,” Schweinsteiger said. “Through my conversations with Nelson and Pauno, I’m convinced by the club’s vision and philosophy and I want to help them with this project.”

Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic explained where Schweinsteiger will fit into Chicago’s project.

“Having the strongest possible midfield is essential for how we want to play,” Paunovic said. “We see Bastian helping our organization of the attack, and impacting the final third build-up with his vision and creativity to produce the final pass, as well as his capacity to score goals. His versatility on the field, and his immense experience at the highest levels of this sport will be a great benefit to our team.”

So, Schweinsteiger will be given a free role as a No. 10. In his early days he thrived in a central or wide attacking midfield role for Bayern Munich and Germany. Yet, since the 2009-10 season he’s been deployed as a deep-lying playmaker for club and country and that’s worked out well.

Not blessed with outstanding pace, Schweinsteiger’s vision and range of passing mean this free role could suit him well. With Chicago’s duo of Dax McCarty and Juninho in defensive midfield, they could feed the ball to Schweinsteiger and let him do some damage in and around the box. All three are far from spring chickens, but it may just work…

In the Premier League Schweinsteiger’s physicality was a problem, especially defensively, and Mourinho suggested that was the main reason the former captain of the German national team was ostracized from the first team squad.

We all know MLS comes with its own challenges for ageing players and many adapt differently to the pace and power of the league.

Case in point: Steven Gerrard, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard all endured (and in Pirlo’s case, enduring) a tough time on turf pitches and came up against younger, hungry midfielders and were placed in teams were perhaps other attacking players weren’t quite on the same wavelength when it came to making runs and finishing chances. Then you look at Robbie Keane, Didier Drogba and David Villa, and those more attack-minded players have flourished regardless of their age.

Maybe playing Schweinsteiger further forward will be a masterstroke from Paunovic. Still, many in the MLS community are skeptical about bringing in a player who is far from match fit on a Designated Player deal.

We know Schweinsteiger is still a big name in world soccer and commercially this deal will be a hit for a huge media market in the U.S. but it does go against the new wave of young DP signings we’ve seen work so well at Atlanta United, Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders and other MLS clubs over the past few months.

Schweinsteiger will have to overcome all of these challenges in a Chicago side which is desperate to make a charge this season and make the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Yet, wherever he has been he seems to have overcome the doubters and prove everyone wrong.

With his nightmare at Manchester United over, Schweinsteiger seems ready to make up for lost time.