BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Bastian Schweinsteiger called on his Chicago Fire teammates to be more “Italian like” after throwing away a 3-2 lead in a 4-3 defeat to Sporting Kansas City at Toyota Park on Saturday.
The German midfielder was instrumental as the Fire scored three times in 12 minutes to overcome a 2-0 halftime with eight minutes to go, but late goals from Jimmy Medranda and Felipe Gutierrez saw Peter Vermes’ side emerge victorious.
“When you are 2-0 down and you come back and you are leading 3-2 10 minutes before the end and you lose 3-4, of course it feels like you gave it away,” Schweinsteiger told MLSsoccer.com. “But I liked the reaction, we were not satisfied after the first half. We came back, we were leading 3-2, but we have to work on our defensive work of the whole team to make it easier for our backline. So maybe being a little bit more Italian like, you know what I mean?”
Perhaps with Juventus’ midweek Champions League win at Tottenham Hotspur fresh in his mind, Schweinsteiger said the team needed to show more “awareness,” while head coach Veljko Paunovic called for greater “concentration” from everyone — not just the backline.
“I think lack of awareness but that's the whole team,” Paunovic said, explaining how Chicago lost a grip on their late lead. “All of us. We all have to do a better job defending because if we're not consistent this is what is going to happen. We can score a lot of goals. We proved that in the past and we did it today. But if we don't defend well, if we commit those innocent mistakes, it's just going to come back over and over again.”
Nemanja Nikolic, last year’s MLS Golden Boot winner, scored two of his side’s comeback goals, with impressive newcomer Aleksandar Katai scoring in his MLS debut as the Fire just fell short in a wildly entertaining game. Schweinsteiger himself also stepped up in a more impactful second half to drive his side on, setting up Katai’s header.
Paunovic insisted both Schweinsteiger and Nikolic will need to be at their best if the Men in Red are to contend again this year.
“This will be expected from them, especially with the way we work our offense," the Fire coach said. "We have to, you know, in the modern game, you have to kill. Our opportunities, we had more than three, we should have scored five goals. That's what we expect.”
And while Nikolic is confident of continuing the prolific goal-scoring form that saw him claim the Golden Boot in his first year in MLS, the Hungarian international conceded he’s not focused on that yet.
“It’s not time to think about this, now in this moment,” he said. ‘It’s just the first game, we have a lot of games until the end. Of course I am looking forward to scoring a lot of goals this season, but I also know that I need to work a lot to achieve this.”
Shane Murray is a contributor to MLSsoccer.com.