TORONTO – Bastian Schweinsteiger will be a known quantity when he takes the pitch at BMO Field on Friday night as Toronto FC go toe-to-toe with the Chicago Fire (7:30 pm ET; TSN 4/5 in Canada | MLS LIVE in the US).
Though new to MLS, several TFC players have previously matched up against the German midfielder.
Michael Bradley faced off with Schweinsteiger on the world stage, when the US faced Germany during the group stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Victor Vazquez met him in the 2015-16 edition of the UEFA Champions League, when Club Brugge lost to Manchester United at the playoff stage of qualification.
And Benoit Cheyrou's Olympique Marseille squared off against Bayern Munich in 2011-12 Champions League quarterfinals.
All three were full of praise on Thursday for their upcoming opponent.
“He's a very good player,” said Bradley. “The career he's had, the impact he's made on the teams he's played on – it's exciting to see how he's come here, committed to give everything he has for that club. The start has been good.”
Said Vazquez: “He's an amazing player, amazing passes; always finding gaps.”
Cheyrou complimented Chicago as “one of the best teams of the league so far,” adding, “with Schweinsteiger now, they're even better. We are aware it will be a tough game.”
Labeling Schweinsteiger “world class”, Cheyrou, who himself recently made the transition from Europe to MLS, offered some insight on why the German hit the ground running: “He's smart, so he will adapt easier and faster than others.”
“His game is to make the other players around him better,” continued Cheyrou. “He has done it in Germany, but [MLS] is a different challenge. He wants to show that he's not done and has a lot of nice years in front of him.”
Whether he was with Germany, United or Bayern, Schweinsteiger got the better of the Toronto FC trio every time they squared up. Still, TFC have no fear ahead of what should be an entertaining midfield battle on Friday.
Vazquez' final bit of praise belied an ounce of menace: “A wonderful player, but [we'll] try to not let him play comfortable.”
In addition to Schweinsteiger, Chicago, who handed TFC a heavy defeat in preseason, reinforced the midfield this winter with Dax McCarty and Juninho, and added Nemanja Nikolic up top to enhance their attack.
“They've improved their team in big ways,” remarked Bradley. “Schweinsteiger, what he's about and the presence he has; he's given them a good boost. [But] they've played a bunch of games at home and we're excited to get a game on our field, where we can crank up the tempo and the pace, see if we can put them in a game they've not been in yet.
“We want to come out and play on our terms. Get after them, make [it] hard, push the tempo, and dictate the game. They'll have ideas of their own, wanting to do the same. On the day, whoever is sharper, better, more committed – whoever has more guys who have good nights – that goes a long way towards determining who wins.”