Chicago Fire happy for another chance to compete
Whether it's an MLS match or a post-practice game of soccer tennis, Chicago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic hates to lose.
Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, a World Cup champion, just loves to compete.
So with Tuesday's Leagues Cup opener (7:30 p.m., SeatGeek Stadium, ESPN+) against visiting Liga MX side Cruz Azul added to an already hectic July, Paunovic and Schweinsteiger welcomed the challenge.
"Definitely, we have a busy schedule, as you know, but I love playing games. It doesn't matter if it's Wednesday-Saturday, Wednesday-Saturday, this kind of rhythm. I actually love games more than training sessions," Schweinsteiger said, smiling at his coach seated next to him at Monday's news conference to promote the inaugural tournament between teams in MLS and the Mexican first division.
"That's why we should be happy to have this chance and this opportunity to play in this Cup and take it. A big chance to win a title. … We will give everything. All the players who will be on the field (Tuesday) will give everything to win."
Paunovic, whose team is enduring a difficult MLS season, agreed.
"We always want to compete," he said. "Same as Basti, I love games. I love these kind of challenges, and I think it's going to be also a great opportunity for us to learn and grow. Grow as a team and as a club. And also I think it's going to help the league grow and also it's going to help our fan base grow too."
Cruz Azul, which just started its preseason, features Orbelin Pineda and Roberto Alvarado, both members of Mexico's Gold Cup championship squad, plus Yoshimar Yotun and Milton Caraglio.
"The teams from Mexico are very tactical, very good technical, very good, so it's going to be an interesting game for us, but I'm looking forward to it," Schweinsteiger said.
The Fire's 23-man roster for the tournament includes 34-year-old left back Jonathan Bornstein, a former U.S. national team player. The Fire signed Bornstein from Israeli club Maccabi Netanya on Monday. He is under contract through 2020, with a club option for 2021.
The Fire hopes to get Bornstein's International Transfer Certificate in time for him to play against Cruz Azul. Bornstein spent eight seasons playing in Mexico for Tigres, Atlante and Queretaro.
To complete the deal, the Fire sent $50,000 in 2020 targeted allocation money to Columbus for the top spot in the MLS waiver order. Separately, the Fire sent $50,000 in 2020 general allocation money to Real Salt Lake for $75,000 in 2019 TAM.
Midfielders Dax McCarty and Nico Gaitan probably will miss Tuesday's quarterfinal due to injury. Neither played Saturday at Philadelphia, a 2-0 defeat.