Since leaving Manchester United in March to sign with the MLS club, he has started all 12 of his league appearances, scored two goals and registered four assists. He’s played a vital if not dominant role in a transformation of the Fire, which won just seven of 34 games and finished last in the Eastern Conference last season, and by beating Atlanta United, 2-0, last weekend has already surpassed that win total.
The Fire is 8-3-4 (28 points) and is just one point behind Eastern Conference front-runner and overall points leader Toronto FC.
Fire big four offseason signings:
GP/GS PLAYER (STATS)
15/15 Nemanja Nikolic (12 goals, 1 assist)
13/13 Dax McCarty (3 assists)
12/12 Bastian Schweinsteiger (3 goals, 1 assist)
10/8 Juninho (1 assist)
Speaking to Die Welt, the 32-year-old former German international said, “I'm really happy here and everything fits. The club is making progress and has helped my family and me a lot. The team wants to improve and the training staff are super. The Chicago people are also really nice and I'm having a lot of fun here. I don't know how long I'll play in the MLS, but at least this season.”
Schweinsteiger signed a one-year contract with a one-year option. For the 2017 season, he is being paid a salary of $5.4 million, which is the sixth-largest figure earned by a player according to figures released by the MLS Players’ Union. He has proven to be as versatile as he is talented.
He played as an attacking conduit early in the season, then slid to a deeper position alongside Dax McCarty when an ankle injury sidelined Juninho. He played alongside Juninho against Atlanta and among his three clearances was one from the goal area. He also provided a lot of the linking play that sent forward the Fire attacking quartet into good positions.
"Bastian is a difference-maker in terms of dictating the pace of the game, dictating the tempo of the game, setting the rhythm for the team along with myself,” McCarty told goal.com after a 1-0 defeat of D.C. United May 21. “That's our job, and that's what we try to do in possession — make the other team run, get them tired. And once gaps open up, Bastian is a guy who can find any pass on the field.
“I always know that if I'm in trouble, he'll be one showing up between the lines or around defenders because he wants the ball in hard spots. His understanding of space, time, when to play fast, when to slow the game down, it's at a different level than a lot of players I've played with.”
That level didn’t serve Schweinsteiger well at Manchester United, which he joined two years ago to play for manager Louis Van Gaal in a $10-million transfer from Bayern Munich. He had played for Van Gaal at Bayern but when the pairing was severed by the hiring of Jose Mourinho as Van Gaal’s replacement, he dropped out of the first time entirely. Banished by Mourhino, he trained with United’s U-23 squad as he and the team searched for a way out of the impasse.
Months of discussions and negotiations opened a pathway to Chicago, where his midfield presence has meshed snugly with the abilities of winger David Accam, attackers Luis Solignac and Michael de Leeuw,and striker Nemanja Nikolic, who leads MLS in goals with 12.
In just the second season under head coach Veljko Paunovic, the club has forged a team of attacking potency balanced by defensive resilience. It is unbeaten at home (7-0-1) and tied for second in goal difference at plus 9.
“Whether a player moves abroad, or specifically to the United States, it always has something to do with your character,” Schweinsteiger said. “I can only report my experiences abroad in England and Chicago have been positive. You get to know a different culture and new people. Of course, as I had never moved before it was a little strange at first. Nevertheless, I must say, I settled in Manchester very quickly and made new friends. It's just the same in Chicago.”