Chicago Fire's hectic schedule made to order for Schweinsteiger
To Chicago Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez, the club's upcoming stretch of four matches in 13 days is an opportunity for the team to sharpen its focus.
Ask Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger about the team's hectic MLS schedule the next two weeks -- which begins with Saturday's game against defending MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders FC (8 p.m., ESPN2) -- and his eyes light up. The 32-year-old German superstar doesn't see it as too much.
"For you maybe, but for me actually it's quite normal," Schweinsteiger said with a laugh. "In the beginning (of the season), when we were playing Saturday, Saturday, Saturday, I didn't know what to do on Tuesday. It was a little bit strange for me.
"I'm actually looking forward (to it). I love to play games. I mean training sessions are always good, but I think every player loves to play games and matches, and that's why I'm actually happy about it."
With three of those matches at home, where the Fire (3-3-3, 12 points) is 3-0-1 this year, the team has an opportunity to move up the Eastern Conference standings. The Fire is expecting a good crowd Saturday and could sell out Toyota Park for the first time this season, said club officials, who also are urging fans to arrive early because of slow lines through security at gates.
The short turnarounds before games against Colorado (home Wednesday), D.C. United (away May 20) and FC Dallas (home May 25) likely will require coach Veljko Paunovic to juggle his lineup to keep players fresh.
Just don't expect Schweinsteiger to ask to sit out.
"I hope I can play every minute," he said.
Still, perhaps midfielder Matt Polster, if his knee and fitness level are match-ready, and Naperville native Patrick Doody will make their season debuts. Promising rookie Daniel Johnson might get his first pro start.
Veteran midfielder Arturo Alvarez, one of the Fire's best players in 2016, could briefly return to the starting lineup, as might forward Michael de Leeuw and second-year defender Jonathan Campbell.
"We have the depth for it," midfielder Dax McCarty said. "We have a lot of guys on the bench now who are itching to get a couple of opportunities to play. I think we're a lot deeper than this team has been in the past."
For regulars who can expect to get plenty of playing time, special times require special measures.
"You've got to take care of your body," McCarty said. "You have to get your mind right. But we're professionals. I mean, every team goes through a tough stretch.
"Obviously, this is a really tough stretch coming from three games on the road and now four games in 13 days, like you said. So we just have to be mentally prepared and you can't make any excuses. There are no excuses when it comes to winning and losing in MLS. You just have to grind it out and look to get some good results."