BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The Bastian Schweinsteiger Show continues apace in Chicago, with the German scoring his second goal in three games as the Fire pushed aside the challenge of the New England Revolution to climb to second place in the East.
Schweinsteiger broke the deadlock in the 45th minute with a composed finish from a tight angle after breaking through the Revs rearguard following a Luis Solignac pass, and was involved in the build-up to Nemanja Nikolic’s second and final goal in a 3-0 rout of Jay Heaps’ men to move to 3-1-2 on the season.
Nikolic’s brace took his tally to four goals in six games, and with Schweinsteiger making an immediate impact with another goal-scoring performance, the Fire’s offense has quickly forged an identity, and an impressive, potent one at that.
“I’m not surprised [by their immediate impact],” head coach Veljko Paunovic told reporters after the game. “I think since the day we met and we had our conversations, Nelson [Rodriguez], myself and obviously the players, we saw guys who are ready to come and win, guys who are givers and guys who just know how to compete and win. It took some time, and it always takes time for everyone to adjust, but it’s every day work, every day communication, every day trying to be better.”
“That’s our mentality now and that’s something we were looking for to build, and at this point I think the pieces are coming together, better and better, and they fit better,” he added.
Offseason signing Juninho, who captained the side again on his return from suspension, meshed seamlessly into a deeper-lying defensive midfield tandem with Dax McCarty, and it was that foundation that allowed the forward play of Schweinsteiger, Michael de Leeuw, Solignac and Nikolic to flourish, especially in the second half with the Revs down to 10 men following the dismissal of Je-Vaughan Watson in the 27th minute.
Their 75.8 percent share of possession is the most enjoyed by a Fire side in a very long time, and with the defensive line of Michael Harrington, Johan Kappelhof, Joao Meira and Brandon Vincent on top of their game, the visitors were restricted to just one, harmless shot on target over the 90 minutes.
“Those guys understand the game very well, so it’s easier when you know the guy next to you knows the game the same as you,” Juninho said of Schweinsteiger and McCarty. “With a better relationship and experience we can reach a lot of things this year.”
David Accam, who was sprung from the bench in the 72nd minute and made an immediate impression with a perfectly-weighted square ball for Nikolic to slot home within a minute, insisted the increased competition for places will help the Fire to improve and maintain their momentum over the difficult three-game road swing which begins with Toronto FC next Friday (6:30 pm CT).
“In every position we have a lot of good players that can play every week,” Accam told MLSsoccer.com. “For me, it’s a good thing there’s such good competition in the team because you have to work harder to take a spot in the first eleven, and that will make everyone much, much better. And especially with having this experience and good players in the team, you need to play to your level, you want to play well, you don’t want to be the guy that’s letting the team down.”
Shane Murray is a contributor to MLSsoccer.com.