Despite risks, Fire officials see better days ahead with Schweinsteiger
The former German international came back for a second season with the Chicago Fire after leading the club back to the MLS playoffs, but the second season didn't go well.
His balky back sidelined him early in the season, eventually forcing him to retire. Without its best player, the Fire missed the playoffs again and the technical staff was fired.
That German was Arne Friedrich, and the year was 2013. That's not to say the same thing will happen to the Fire this year now that it has re-signed 33-year-old Bastian Schweinsteiger for 2018, but there are parallels. They start with the player's relatively advanced age -- Friedrich turned 33 during the 2013 season -- and a history of injuries.
The Fire has a lot more money invested in Schweinsteiger than it did in Friedrich. Schweinsteiger doesn't have one chronic injury to be wary of, though, like Friedrich's back.
The Fire believes it is making a safe bet bringing Schweinsteiger back for 2018.
"No one seems to speak about David Villa's age," Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez said of the 36-year-old Spanish forward playing for New York City FC. "I think Bastian demonstrated when he was on the field enormous qualities."
Rodriguez said Schweinsteiger's injury in 2017 was a special situation, and won't necessarily be repeated in 2018.
"I also have to admit that we the soccer operations staff didn't do a great job," he said. "We let Bastian convince us that he was ready to return, where we should have been more conservative and he reaggravated the same injury. So I don't see that as injury risk.
"I also think he'll benefit by having a full preseason with us. I think he'll benefit by understanding the nuance of the league this year having gone through it last year. So we're very comfortable."
The Fire still has other needs, but Rodriguez said the club has the resources to address those needs even after spending big on Schweinsteiger, who again will be a designated player. The terms of his 2018 deal were not disclosed, but he was paid $5.4 million for 2017.
"It was a priority to bring Bastian back for what he enables our team to do and the impact he had on the field and in the locker room," Rodriguez said.
Lindley, Bava gone: Fire officials also announced they traded the rights to highly regarded academy product Cam Lindley to Orlando City for right back Rafael Ramos and targeted allocation money. Lindley didn't want to play for the Fire, Rodriguez said.
"Cameron indicated he would prefer to begin his career outside of Chicago," said Rodriguez, adding he didn't ask Lindley to elaborate. "We were able to fulfill that wish for him, but in the process we thought we did very well for ourselves in acquiring a very talented young player (Ramos) with professional experience."
Fire officials, who have the 15th pick in the first round of Friday's MLS SuperDraft, also said they have agreed with veteran goalkeeper Jorge Bava to mutually terminate his contract. The move leaves the Fire with holdover goalkeepers Matt Lampson, Richard Sanchez and Stefan Cleveland, though Rodriguez said it's possible the club could bring in more competition.
Finally, Rodriguez said the Fire will not work out a transfer with Tijuana for Juninho, but it would be interested in having the Brazilian midfielder back for a second season if he can get out of his Tijuana contract.
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