Bastian Schweinsteiger signed with the Chicago Fire in 2017 knowing that the team was coming off two consecutive wooden spoon seasons, and that there was work to be done with a team who had not reached the playoffs since 2012. After a mostly successful campaign earned them a third place finish in the league and a return to the playoffs resulting in a first round exit against New York Red Bulls, the Fire's woes experienced at the end of 2017 have continued in 2018. The team's struggles were on display Sunday afternoon via a 3-2 home loss to the Houston Dynamo.
The Fire surrendered an early goal at the hands of Romell Quioto in the 4th minute, but then hit back with two unanswered goals in the first half to take a 2-1 lead. That advantage evaporated as the Fire came out flat in the second half, managing just one shot on target in the final 45 minutes while surrendering two unanswered goals of their own by Alberth Elis to give Houston the full three points. The loss left the Fire at 3-6-2 overall with a record at home of 2-4-1.
The match and the post-game commentary is beginning to reveal just how frustrating this season has been for the 33-year old midfielder.
"We were leading 2-1, we came back I think in a good way," Schweinsteiger said after Sunday's loss. "We gave away the penalty in the game. And that's not good enough, that's clear. We play at home, too many losses. There are some situations in the game where you have a feeling, 'okay, we're in a good way,' but then we kill our self unnecessarily."
Part of the Fire's problem this year has certainly been a lack of reinforcements in the offseason and addressing holes in the roster, despite bringing seven players in since the end of the 2017 season. Schweinsteiger has not hidden his displeasure on the pitch with players throughout the team's first eleven games, often gesturing and throwing his hands up in frustration at his teammates' lack of acumen. Rumors have also circulated that veteran players were unhappy with the lack of significant additions to the roster during the winter transfer window, and most hope has now been placed on the summer window to help the Fire get the players they need to stem the tide that has them on track to miss the playoffs once again.
After Sunday's loss, Schweinsteiger seemed to indicate that another issue in the club's struggle to gain results thus far this season also stemmed from the club's overall mentality.
"Everyone has to step up. It doesn't matter if it's a guy like Alan Gordon or a rookie. Everyone has to give their best performance, not only on the weekend but also during the week. I've played soccer professionally since 2002 and I try to improve every single day and that is my attitude, everyone has to have that attitude. Not only the players but the kit man, the physios, the coaches, everyone has to have that otherwise you will be stuck and that's not good. Of course, we can always say week to week, 'we have to look forward, we have to look forward and forget about that,' but I disagree. At the moment, we have to step up, everyone has to take responsibility. Should not always be the veteran players, every player on the field has to step up."
With the Fire currently on pace to win just nine games in 2018, one would hope that both the club's mentality as well as their roster experience a dramatic shift in the coming weeks if they want to stay on target and come close to reaching a milestone in General Manager Nelson Rodriguez's three-year plan of becoming a championship contender once again.