A record-setting crowd of 32,287 packed into FC Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium to watch their club take on surging MLS side Chicago Fire in the Round of 16 of the U.S. Open Cup. Perhaps there’s no greater barometer for the growth of the sport in America than the fact that this wasn’t just a quirky Wednesday night excursion to the stadium to watch Bastian Schweinsteiger for FCC faithful, this was a seething cauldron of tensions and daring expectancies.
Without trying to quantify the emotional side plots that make the U.S. Open Cup fifth round meeting between FC Cincinnati and the Chicago Fire so intriguing, we can objectively say that there’s never been a USOC match (at least outside of the final) as eagerly anticipated as this one.
For starters, a record attendance was on hand to watch Cincinnati defeat the Columbus Crew in the fourth round. With over 18,000 tickets having already been sold for Wednesday night’s match, Cincinnati are going to come close to matching or bettering that number.
In 2016, the Chicago Fire were awful. They finished last in all of Major League Soccer with 31 points from 34 games. The foundations for that pathetic season had been laid in 2015, when they finished last in MLS with 30 points from 34 games.
2017, however, has been a different story. The Fire have already matched their point total from last season, and surpassed their total from 2015, with 18 games still to play, and they're riding an eight-game unbeaten streak in league play.
"It's a very hard league to play in. It's very physical, there's a lot of running. So there is a lot of physical work and to me, in my mind, too little play."
Andrea Pirlo probably didn't have running wind sprints in mind when he planned on winding down his career in MLS, but that's what he got. Although NYCFC play on one of the smallest fields you'll ever see at the professional level, Pirlo still chases the game more than when he played in Italy. And, of course, he's 38 now, so he's likely feeling the burn a bit more.
Bastian Schweinsteiger’s comments regarding MLS the other week were less a criticism of the league than a dash of honesty — the Chicago Fire, World Cup hopefuls though they may be, are not as good as Manchester United or Bayern Munich. Dax McCarty isn’t Paul Pogba, David Accam isn’t Arjen Robben and Nemanja Nikolic isn’t Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Chicago Fire finally have their superstar and are gladly showing him off around town. Bastian Schweinsteiger seems to be adjusting well to life in the Windy City: he’s scoring goals on the field, sitting courtside at Bulls games, and even threw out the first pitch for the Cubs at Wrigley Field Tuesday night.
I’m guessing Schweinsteiger did not want to look foolish in front of the World Series champs, so he got some help from teammate Dax McCarty in preparation for his debut on the mound.
When Argentine Chicago Fire forward Luis (Lucho) Solignac left his phone unlocked, his new teammate Bastian Schweinsteiger knew just what to do with it: remind the Argentine, and his followers, who won the World Cup in 2014.
It was Germany. Germany won the World Cup in 2014. Bastian Schweinsteiger played in that game. Lucho Solignac didn't but you can imagine he had a rooting interest just the same.
As the Chicago Fire arrived at the Toronto airport for their upcoming game against Toronto FC, one lady spotted the Fire squad. She then decided to ask Bastian Schweinsteiger if he would take a picture of her with the rest of the Fire players.
Thankfully for the soccer world, the Fire's assistant head coach Eric Gehrig was able to snap a picture of the scene.
What happened next is a picture worth a thousand words — and laughs. Plenty of laughs.
Wow, five straight weeks. Nobody thought we would make it this far. It’s our wooden anniversary, but you won’t find anybody celebrating around here — we’ve got some kinetic energy to investigate.
It’s time to switch up the intro because, by now, you should know the drill. If you don’t, here’s the breakdown: the best team in MLS is still the Timber Joeys!, the worst team in MLS is now Sons By Name Of Ben. That’s the table. That’s who wins the ATL-ULTRAS-WATCH-UR-MOUTH Shield and who gets sent down to try and figure out where in the f**k Indy Eleven is.