Add my name to the exhaustive list of columnists who dismissed Bastian Schweinsteiger long before he stepped off the plane.
A quick Google search reveals the glut of reasons – most of them unfounded hunches – pundits gave. Not only was the Manchester United import "declining," but he was also apparently tiring and close to retiring. The Chicago Fire, some said, were suckers for believing he’d contribute in the ways we’ve seen.
But now he has. And all of us – including myself – once again have proven our reactionary takes and inferiority complexes are sometimes blinding.
We’re too eager to latch onto whatever narrative people around the world are perpetuating, often times nonsensically.
It’s how North American media somehow turned a 32-year-old, World Cup-winner into a broken down, one-way midfielder with nothing left to give.
I'm told the overwhelming negative response “surprised” the Chicago Fire, which didn’t expect the MLS community to “lump in” Schweinsteiger with previous over-the-hill signings, which the league was moving away from (the headlines this week pointed out how "MLS clubs have no interest in signing John Terry").
But many did. And for few other reasons than the long-running narrative that began last year when Fire bench boss Veljko Paunovic was spotted meeting with the German.
Five months and a trio of positive performances later, Schweinsteiger – after two goals and an assist in 270 minutes – is making doubters look silly.
The tacticians also are having a difficult time explaining how their X’s and O’s have so far failed them after many thought Schweinsteiger was too similar to Chicago’s veterans. However, the eye test and the analytics appear to completely discredit the notion that Schweinsteiger is incapable of being a consistent playmaker.
MLSsoccer.com’s Ben Baer crunched some numbers and found that since his arrival Schweinsteiger is among the league leaders in completed passes (60) in the final third of the field, trailing only Seattle’s Nicolas Lodeiro and New York Red Bull’s Sacha Kljestan. He’s also completed the fourth most passes league-wide since joining MLS.
The somewhat small sample size has shown Schweinsteiger to be a productive complement to Fire midfield bulldog Dax McCarty, whose discipline and eagerness do the dirty work has allowed Chicago’s Designated Player to roam and cheat defensively and find the space that opens up when the Fire are and aren’t in possession.
The next question is whether it will work this Friday in Toronto (7:30 pm ET on TSN4 in Canada; MLS LIVE in USA), where the Fire won’t enjoy the same amount of possession they have through the previous three weeks.
In those three weeks, though, Schweinsteiger already has outpaced the extremely low expectations most set for him. It’s what led me to playfully mock the masses last month in the hours after Chicago announced his signing.
I'm now rooting for Schweinsteiger following 24 hours of literally everybody telling me this is the worst move in MLS history. #CF97— Kurtis Larson (@KurtLarSUN) March 22, 2017
Barring a string of never-ending injuries, it very likely won’t be.
By all accounts, Schweinsteiger has completely bought in – the less-talked-about aspect of these multi-million dollar signings:
I’m told it also has culminated in “demand” (inbound calls, web traffic and other growth analytics) expanding by three-times year-over-year. There's also been a significant bump in coverage from local outlets in the Windy City.
Yet the number of “Hey, this guy might just pan out” columns hasn’t been proportional to the number of rash stories that were frantically written four weeks ago.
Perhaps we’re all just waiting for something to go horribly wrong with a signing that seemed doomed from the start.
Or, perhaps, some of us are just afraid we might have been wrong.
Kurt Larson covers Toronto FC for the Toronto Sun and the Canadian national teams for Postmedia in Canada.