Get a unique perspective on the game as we preview the Montreal Impact's road game against the Chicago Fire, at Toyota Park. Sean Spence of HTIOT answers our questions on the new-look Chicago Fire.
1) So Bastian Schweinsteiger... What is the general feeling around the Fire? How will he fit into the starting eleven over the rest of the 2017 MLS season?
Your two questions have vastly divergent answers. The general feeling around in Fire fandom about the Basti signing is an unfamiliar, almost cloying euphoria, mixed with a sort of slow-motion astonishment that such a move has materialized after years of failure in the transfer market. That euphoria doesn't last long into the discussion about how Schweinsteiger fits into the 2017 roster - surely this team has now devoted too great a proportion of its resources to the center of midfield, however crucial one finds that part of the pitch to be to winning games.
That said, he surely makes this an interesting tactical puzzle to assemble, and with the German legend fit and available for selection in Saturday's game, we could glean the first clues how Fire manager Velko Paunovic plans to square this circle. (link over 'interesting tactical puzzle' to my story: http://www.hottimeinoldtown.com/2017/3/21/15004834/addition-of-mufc-bastian-schweinsteiger-will-change-chicago-fire-shape-cf97-tactical-breakdown)
2) The Fire went under a bit of an overhaul in the midfield during the off season. How have the additions of Dax McCarty and Juninho been working out so far in 2017?
An interesting corollary of acquiring hardened, seasoned pros in the offseason is one doesn't really have to guess how they're going to play - and neither Dax nor Juninho have provided any unpleasant surprises in the early going this season. Each has been precisely the players they had previously shown themselves to be - McCarty combative but insightful, Juni cultured and integrative. Moreover, their ability to snuff out counters with brilliant positioning is particular balm to this writer, who has been driven slightly mad by years of watching lightning counters right through the center of the field.
What they don't offer, generally, is the final ball. They'll set the table immaculately, but the crystal sits untouched, the silver gleaming mutely as no one serves any sustenance. "Enter Schweinsteiger," goes the reasoning. We remain hopeful.
3) Who is one player that Montreal supporters might not be familiar with that could cause the Impact some trouble on Saturday?
Michael de Leeuw makes fantastic second runs and finishes when he gets a chance - which he should get against an Impact side weakened by injury and the Cameroon FA. The Dutchman plays as a second striker behind Nemanja Nikolic, and has a particular knack for finding runs that put the opposition defensive shape into distress. Watch him off the ball if you'd like to enjoy someone who plays the mental game at a high level.
Starting XI prediction:
(Lopsided 4-3-3): Jorge Bava; Brandon Vincent, Joao Meira, Jonathon Campbell, Michael Harrington; Dax McCarty, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Juninho; David Accam, Nemanja Nikolic, Michael de Leeuw.
We would like to thank our brothers and sisters from the Windy city.
Enjoy Bastian and good luck winning the World Cup :)