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Bastian Schweinsteiger "Kramers" Chicago Fire Debut

Tuesday 4th April 2017
Some people naturally know how to make an entrance. As his crashing header to open the scoring against Montreal Impact in his Chicago Fire debut proved, Bastian Schweinsteiger is one.

Awarded a corner from the right side, Arturo Ávarez played short to David Accam, who relayed to Juninho. The former LA Galaxy midfielder hesitated momentarily, then sent it back to Accam. The Ghanaian stepped into a corner labeled low and hard for the far post.

Schweinsteiger timed his run perfectly. With inside position on his defender, he met the ball in the air, heading back against the grain. So powerful was his connection, the ball bounced into his arms like a happy puppy as he crossed the goalmouth in celebration. Cradling it, he accepted his teammates congratulations, then handed it off to a Fire assistant to be fed, walked, and groomed for the World Cup legend's trophy cabinet.
The ball will surely be runt of the litter when it arrives in its new home. Yet, it's a testament to Basti's love for the game that a first MLS goal, and not just the accompanying $4.5 million contract, holds value for him.

The goal itself was a big hello for Chicagoland fans who have largely suffered in Major League Soccer's lower reaches for the last decade. It was also a big "I told you so" to Manchester United manager José Mourinho. The Portuguese couldn't or wouldn't find a role for Schweini despite the player impressing on rare occasions he was in the lineup. There is no arguing the strike was a perfect entrance.
I wish I could claim credit for the verb "Kramers" but the honor goes to Taylor Twellman. Reporting for ESPNFC on the wild 2-2 draw, which ended with both sides down to ten men, Twellman repeated the phrase two or three times as he marveled at the German's immediate impact on the under-performing Fire.

His colleague, retired US international Hérculez Gómez, admitted the player had "shut me up for now." Gómez had previously criticized Schweinsteiger and echoed a particular description from those who doubted him at United, claiming he spends more time waving directions to teammates than running.

If the Premier League and MLS have any commonality, it's in each competition's emphasis on work rate. Yet, as I noted when comparing two other thirty-somethings, USMNT midfielder Jermaine Jones and United forward Zlatan Ibrahimović, lungbusting runs aren't always the most effective way to get the job done. Jones rampages like a bull but is too often caught out of position. Ibra lets the action come to him, then strikes like a cobra.

Like his former teammate, Schweinsteiger picks his moments. As the Impact learned to its detriment, he has the experience to tell others where they should be, then know when to kick it into gear himself.

His strike also serves a third purpose. It will help erase his previous first appearance as a Fire player from memory. I'm referencing his media unveiling.

Schweini's celebrity status transcends football, even in the US. Things like bouncing back from a failed relationship with a supermodel by romancing a sexy tennis star can do that for you. So, one Second City media outlet sent its society page writer to cover Basti's introductory presser. The fella promptly asked the Fire's new star how he rated the club's chances to win the World Cup. Twice.

Schweinsteiger's English is passable. Not fluent, but still a step above Antonio Conte's. Nevertheless, the German handled the question in much the same manner as the Italian. First, a deer in the headlights expression. Not so much "Who is Joey Barton?" as "Did this guy really just mention an MLS club and the World Cup in the same sentence?" Next came a beseeching look to one side and a lean-in to consult with his interpreter. You can just hear him saying "but he said World Cup?" Finally, the Fire's PR guy rescued the situation by suggesting Basti address the club's MLS Cup prospects instead.
Not the best moment for a league trying to establish its global bonafides.

The Fire will happily shift its attention to further integrating Schweinsteiger into an already stacked midfield that had yet to impress. Former New York Red Bull, Dax McCarty will act as bouncer for the club's center half pairing, not letting attackers in and transitioning into attack. Juninho and Schweini will take more advanced positions. The duo will make life difficult for opposing defenses, forcing them to play wider, no longer able to focus on a lone playmaker.

The Brazilian is more in the Michael Carrick mold. He will play from box to box, calmly picking out open teammates. Schweini will wave his arms about, directing traffic until opponents decide he's not going anywhere. Then, as with Montreal, he'll bomb forward and, should he not do it for them, they'll be picking the ball out from their net.

If Schweinsteiger's debut is any indication, it may not be long before José Mourinho begins receiving thank you cards postmarked from the American Midwest.
Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin authored the short story collection strange bOUnce. He appeared in several other blogs which no longer exist. Old, he likes to bring out defunct. If outdated sport and pop-cultural references intrude on his meanderings for It's Round and It's White, don't be alarmed. He's harmless.


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