Bastian Schweinsteiger enjoyed Chicago Fire teammate Drew Conner's singing last week, but not as much as he enjoyed Conner's play Saturday at right back.
"He is actually have very good qualities as a singer," said German superstar Schweinsteiger, who joined Conner and Dax McCarty in singing the seventh-inning stretch last week at Wrigley Field. "I was really impressed about his performance. But for me he's more important at the fullback position."
Conner, 23, who grew up in Northwest suburban Cary, got his first MLS start in Saturday's 2-2 draw at the Los Angeles Galaxy, playing a little bit out of position at right back. Conner is naturally a defensive midfielder.
"Yeah, I thought Drew played really well," McCarty added. "First start on the road in L.A. against some really, really talented attacking players in (Giovani) dos Santos and (Gyasi) Zardes and (Romain) Alessandrini.
"I thought he held his own really well. Probably saved a goal for us in the first half on the cross where he stayed with the runner and put a lot of pressure on him."
Conner was signed out of the University of Wisconsin as a homegrown player through the Fire's youth academy. The second-year pro did not get into a MLS game in 2016. He has played in five MLS matches in 2017.
"Getting a couple of games under my belt beforehand definitely helped," Conner said.
Coach Veljko Paunovic told him of his first start in the airport on the way to Los Angeles.
"I was excited," Conner said. "I kind of had an idea it was coming just because of where I was playing in training and whatnot. But just excited and focused. I think I played pretty well. I thought my positioning was pretty good."
The new Matt Lampson:
Drew Conner wasn't the only new face in the starting lineup at L.A.
Matt Lampson made his season debut at goalkeeper, in place of Jorge Bava.
"I've been hoping for this the entire year," said Lampson, who played in 11 matches last year, his first in Chicago.
Lampson added he came into preseason training "vastly improved on last year" with a lot more confidence.
For instance, Lampson said, he feels his footwork is better, which he attributes more to confidence than technique.
"I'm not afraid to make mistakes anymore. Last year with Sean (Johnson, since traded) behind me," Lampson said -- pausing to jokingly glare at teammate Bastian Schweinsteiger, who kicked a soccer ball at him -- "with Sean behind me I knew that there was a ton of pressure for him to play, and at this point (as another soccer ball launched by the prankster Schweinsteiger hit Lampson in the back of the legs, causing another brief pause) I'm just confident and I'm just out there playing.
"I'm not afraid to make mistakes, and that's when I'm at my best. I'm just playing, and playing the game that I love to play and doing what I know I can do well."
Lampson, who played college soccer at Northern Illinois before transferring to Ohio State, said he learned Monday last week that he would start Saturday, but coach Veljko Paunovic hasn't said anything about this week's game yet.
Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez opted not to make any moves before the MLS primary transfer window closed Monday night. In fact it was a quiet night around the league, and he said he's not sure why.
"We had inquired about, I'd say, a half-dozen players," Rodriguez said. "We received two inquiries. But it was quiet."
The roster is pretty much set until the secondary transfer window opens July 10.
"We're happy with the group. I still think that this group can improve, and if it does, then I think some of the recent heartache of not quite getting what we're after will be fixed. We're still looking at some international targets for the second window," he said.
Piecing it together:
Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said his team will keep working on its set-piece defense after giving up 2 goals that way in last Saturday's 2-2 draw at Los Angeles.
"It's not normal, especially not two times, to concede goals on set pieces," Paunovic said. " … It happens sometimes, and we addressed that, of course."