Fire noncommittal about Bastian Schweinsteiger's status for Knockout Round

Bastian Schweinsteiger - Chicago Fire - vs. NYCFC

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Bastian Schweinsteiger has played on the biggest stages in the world, a level of experience that has helped lead Chicago Fire in their drastic turnaround this season.

Now, however, on the eve of the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs, it’s unclear whether the World Cup-winning midfielder will be available for Fire’s biggest match since 2012.

A right thigh injury has limited Schweinsteiger to just 19 minutes over the past seven matches. On Tuesday, following the team’s final training session ahead of Wednesday night’s Eastern Conference Knockout Round match against New York Red Bulls (8:30 pm ET; FS1 and UniMas in the US, TSN3/5 and TVAS in Canada), neither Schweinsteiger nor his coach would say whether the German will play.

“It’s not clear yet, the coach will probably decide tomorrow,” Schweinsteiger said.

When asked if he expected Schweinsteiger to be in the 18-man matchday roster against New York, Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic was similarly noncommittal.“We obviously will evaluate today in our daily meeting after the training, so we will see how he feels, we have to talk to him,” Paunovic said. “Today is the last day where we can evaluate his input and the input of doctors and medical staff, it’s very important so we will decide today.”

After missing the last two matches entirely, Schweinsteiger has returned to full training and said he “feels OK” but wouldn’t say what role he will play in Wednesday’s playoff opener.

“We will see if I play from the beginning or maybe from the bench, we will see,” Schweinsteiger said. “The coach will decide it and most important is that we have tomorrow a team on the field which has fire in the eyes and are ready for this tough opponent.”

Schweinsteiger played a big role in helping the Fire reach the playoffs, adding skill and veteran presence in the midfield along with six assists and three goals.

He also surprised some with his reliability and durability upon entering the league. After joining the Fire in late March, Schweinsteiger started 23 of 24 MLS matches before suffering the injury against Montreal on Sept. 2. He then missed four consecutive matches before coming on for a 19-minute substitute appearance against New York City FC on Sept. 30. It looked like the injury might be behind him, but Schweinsteiger suffered a setback in training the following week and the Fire, already locked into a playoff berth, cautiously held him out of the final two regular season matches.

“I felt great against New York City,” Schweinsteiger said Tuesday. “I had an issue during the week at a training session, that’s why I had to step back and I had to be a little bit smart and be patient because I know this kind of games are coming up. I hope we are going to win this match as well so we have two more.”

Now, however, there’s no more time for patience. Schweinsteiger played a key role in helping the Fire reach the playoffs, but will have to wait and see whether he can contribute now that they’re in the postseason.

“It’s for me frustrating, because I was playing the whole season. … Now the playoff game is coming, so I’m happy that I could train with the team but I know that I don’t have game rhythm,” Schweinsteiger said. “So we will see tomorrow, the coach will decide, he’s the one and I will not be frustrated towards him or someone else. I want to help the team as much as I can, if it is during the game or however, I will give my best for the club.”