BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The first three months of Bastian Schweinsteiger’s time in Major League Soccer have been a rebuke to those who worried health or fitness might be concerns for the 32-year-old, or that he might be over the hill after two years struggling to get on the field for Manchester United.
Since arriving in Chicago, the German legend had started all 14 of the Fire’s matches and played the entire 90 minutes 11 times heading into Saturday’s match against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Schweinsteiger sat out the Fire’s U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round win over St. Louis FC, but went all 120 minutes in the Round of 16 on Wednesday in Cincinnati.
On short rest he was right back in the lineup against Vancouver on Saturday at Toyota Park, but late in the first half came the first cause for concern in what has been a stellar MLS start.
In the 43rd minute of a 4-0 victory that catapulted the Fire atop the Supporters' Shield standings, Schweinsteiger came out of the match and walked straight up the tunnel. On replay it looked like the injury occurred as Schweinsteiger stumbled, stretching to challenge for a ball with Tony Tchani. The club announced the injury as “right hip pain.”
“Basti, we will still have to see how it goes, but we had to pull him out of the game because he felt a little bit of very sharp soreness,” said Fire coach Veljko Paunovic. “So he was actually smart when the result was 3-0 and he asked for the substitution. We will see, we will evaluate in the next couple of days how he recovers and we expect him to be ready for Portland. But we will know more on Monday.”
Schweinsteiger joined teammates on the field after the Fire’s eighth consecutive home win before tweeting:
Another great performance by our team. Fortunately my injury shouldn't be too bad and I am looking forward to our next matches. @ChicagoFire— Basti Schweinsteiger (@BSchweinsteiger) July 2, 2017
Despite the optimistic words, a cross-country trip to Portland for a short-rest match on turf Wednesday could be a recipe for the “day-to-day” Schweinsteiger to miss his first MLS match.
Arturo Alvarez made the most of his spot start, striking a clean volley for the third goal; Michael de Leeuw scored his first goal of the season; and Homegrown Player Drew Conner, who came on for Schweinsteiger, put in his longest shift in nearly a month after being used mostly as an outside back this season.
That depth will be tested even further on Wednesday as the Fire play their fourth match in 12 days.
“I think we have a very good group, very good talented players in this group where, in situations like this where we’re missing players, they have to step up,” said Fire captain Juninho. “The opportunity was out there for them and they did a very good job. That’s the way we are building up as a team. That’s the way we have to continue. Looking forward for more kind of situations like this where they need to step up.”