When the Chicago Fire host New York City FC Saturday night in an Eastern Conference clash (7 PM, TICKETS), there’ll be a pregame player-coach reunion that would have seemed unlikely as recently as three weeks ago.
Domènec Torrent was installed as Patrick Vieira’s replacement as NYCFC manager after the latter departed on June 10 to take the reins at Ligue 1's OGC Nice. The Spaniard has served for the last decade as the righthand man to decorated manager Pep Guardiola, collecting 24 trophies at a trio of Europe’s biggest clubs along the way. That, of course, includes a three-season stint at FC Bayern Munich, a run which coincided with the final two years of Bastian Schweinsteiger’s legendary tenure at the German superclub.
As the Fire began preparation Tuesday for their matchup with Torrent’s second-place NYCFC side, Schweinsteiger -- perhaps uniquely qualified among opposing MLS players and coaches to size up NYCFC's new boss -- said he was looking forward to catching up with Torrent.
“I'm very glad that he came over and made a step to Major League Soccer -- he took over a great team, very smart move," Schweinsteiger said with a laugh. "But first of all he's a good person, obviously he knows about soccer everything, he was with Pep I don't know how many years together but they're very successful. It's great for MLS to have this kind of coach in the league and I'm glad to see him on the weekend."
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Torrent earned three points in his first match in MLS, as NYCFC came from behind to top Toronto FC, 2-1, at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. The Bronx-based club completed their comeback despite the 28th-minute departure of star striker David Villa -- whom Torrent coached during his time at FC Barcelona -- as Villa exited early with a right knee injury that’s expected to keep him out of action Saturday night.
Last September, it was Schweinsteiger who was absent for much of NYCFC's visit to Toyota Park, entering the game as a 71st-minute substitute while recovering from a leg injury and seeing the match played out to a 1-1 draw. Now, an in-form Schweinsteiger is looking forward to the opportunity that Saturday's return to Toyota Park represents for the Men In Red.
"New York City is doing a really good job at the moment and they're not easy to play against," he said. "But we try to believe in ourselves and our game philosophy. The last games, we've played better and we have confidence, but we have to show it on the field on Saturday."