SAN JOSE, Calif. – The chase has lasted years, spanning two continents. But Florian Jungwirth, the San Jose Earthquakes’ new German import, is getting closer than ever to his quarry: countryman and fellow MLS rookie Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Schweinsteiger was an idol of Jungwirth, who grew up as a midfielder some four years younger than the former Germany captain. Like Schweinsteiger, Jungwirth worked his way up through the German national youth teams, captaining the 2008 U-19s to the European championship, but the two have never met on the field.
That was set to change in 2015, when Jungwirth’s Darmstadt side earned promotion to the Bundesliga’s top flight – only to find Schweinsteiger leaving his longtime home at Bayern Munich that summer for new digs at Manchester United.
“I was so happy to play against him, and he moved away to Manchester,” Jungwirth said after training 176643986" tabindex="0">Tuesday. “But then my first interview when I came here, they asked me about Schweinsteiger, and I said, ‘Yeah, I really hope that he will come to an MLS team.’ And now it’s come true.”
Jungwirth said he always had an eye on America, even as he worked his way into the Bundesliga. A move across the Atlantic became a realistic possibility once Jesse Fioranelli took over as general manager of the Quakes in January.
Fioranelli knew the coach from Jungwirth’s time on the youth team for 1860 Munich, giving the 28-year-old a critical contact in the US market. After watching some of Jungwirth’s work with Darmstadt, Fioranelli called to ask if he was prepared to make the move in time for the Quakes’ 2017 season.
The short answer: Yes.
“I was ready, ready to go,” Jungwirth said. “I didn’t have to think about it for a long time. … It was totally clear for me to come here. I think from the whole package, it’s one of the best places in the world you can live.”
Jungwirth’s versatility was prized by the Quakes, and he has been a critical component of San Jose’s early-season defense. Primarily a defensive-minded midfielder, Jungwirth hadn’t played center back with any regularity since 2012. He was forced to cover there, however, after newcomer and presumed starter Harold Cummings, a Panamanian international, suffered a sports hernia in preseason and then a broken tibia in March.
With MLS veteran Marvell Wynne recovering from open-heart surgery last month, the Quakes have relied on Jungwirth to partner Victor Bernardez in the back. This Saturday, with Bernardez suspended due to a red card picked up at New York City FC, Jungwirth is scheduled to work with either Andres Imperiale or Fatai Alashe as the Quakes try to slow down Clint Dempsey, Jordan Morris, Nicolas Lodeiro and the defending champion Seattle Sounders(10:30 pm ET; MLS LIVE).
“I think he’s done pretty good,” Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear said. “He’s learning on the job. … He’s a responsible player, does a lot of the simple things well. Him reading the game puts him in good spots.”
As for a potential Jungwirth-Schweinsteiger showdown, it will take a few more months to come to fruition; San Jose’s lone match against Chicago doesn’t take place until 176643987" tabindex="0">Sept. 27, when the Fire visit Avaya Stadium.
“Maybe you can send a message,” Jungwirth said, laughing. “Please, don’t be injured and stay healthy. I want to play against you.”