We talk to them about their new signings and the start to their campaign.
LAG Confidential: What does Bastian Schweinsteiger bring to the Fire that was maybe lacking last year? Does he add creativity? Has his play directly led to goals? Or is it something else?
Hot Time In Old Town: Basti is playing, roughly, as a hybrid 8/10 in the middle of midfield, and has two goals and an assist in five games - so he’s clearly providing *something* offensively. And he’s certainly not the kind of player who needs other people to carry his water; defensively, he’s active and physical, a far cry from the soap-bubble fragility of a classic playmaker.
The feeling here is that the addition of Schweinsteiger to a center midfield that already boasted Dax McCarty and Juninho has immediately made the middle of the field tremendously difficult for the opposition to play through, while seeming to still be a bit light on ideas. The hope is that this is a matter of small adjustments; Basti, for all his pedigree, has never before been asked to function as the creative fulcrum of his side. His progress in that role will go a long way to determining whether the Fire become a legitimate contender.
LAG Confidential: The Chicago Fire sit at 3-2-3 so far this season having dropped their last two games, against some pretty good sides. Is this what the expectations were heading into the year or were you expecting the Fire to do a little better? And do you think the Fire will improve over the summer?
Hot Time In Old Town: If I’m being honest, this is about what I expected, in terms of points per game (11 from the first 8 games). The squad is clearly better than it was last year, harder to break down, more threatening going forward - but it’s still not clearly one of the better teams in MLS, which should be the aim.
The good news is that, absent major injury woes, the Fire should continue to improve over the summer, since so much of the roster is still settling into their roles in the gameday 18.
LAG Confidential: Nemanja Nikolic has five goals in eight starts. Where does he play in the starting XI? Does he have more goals in him?
Niko is the tip of the spear, a pure poacher who plays off the shoulder of the last defender. He’s constantly offside, constantly asking questions of the opposition’s awareness. This work generally earns him a few decent looks each game, and he looks increasingly comfortable banging those home.
Nemanja has averaged better than a half-goal per game over his 10-year career - hell yes, he has more goals in him. I mean, unless he gets hit by a road grader before kickoff or something. The dude’s a cold-eyed assassin.
Predicted lineup (4-3-3): Bava; Vincent, Meira, Kappelhof, Harrington; Schweinsteiger, McCarty, Juninho; Accam, Nikolic, Solignac