Chicago Fire well represented in tonight’s MLS All-Star Game at Soldier Field
CHICAGO – It’s a little bit of history in what is looking like a campaign for the record books for professional soccer in the Windy City.
It’s early August and the Chicago Fire are in the thick of the race for the best record in Major League Soccer. Their quick rise from rebuilding to title contender has been one of the biggest stories in North American soccer this season.
Because of that, a few members of the team are getting the chance to take part in the first mid-season MLS to be held in their home city.
On Wednesday night, Soldier Field will host the league’s annual All-Star Game as part of the franchise’s 20th season celebration. The best of the league will take the field against international power Real Madrid at 8 PM in a highly anticipated match-up that figures to give Chicago fans a taste of high-level soccer.
“To have the game at Soldier Field, especially for us, means a lot, and I think also for the people of Chicago” said Bastian Schweinsteiger, the captain of the MLS All-Stars and one of four players on the team that will take part in the game. “I just looking forward to these kind of games on the highest level, I’m happy to play and before with the best players in the MLS, I always enjoy in my career to play with the best players.”
Not only does that include three of his teammates – midfielder Dax McCarty, forward Nemanja Nikolic and defender Johan Kappelhof – but also his head coach, Veljko Paunovic. He took over the Fire in 2016 and in his second season has helped the Fire to the second best record in the entire MLS.
The turnaround has been aided by an influx of international talent – like Schweinsteiger, Nikolic and forward David Accam – along with some younger talent. Since the team hasn’t been competitive for the better part of the decade, some of the success by the Fire has snuck under the radar during the spring and summer.
Paunovic hopes Wednesday night’s game, featuring a number of local players against an iconic opponent, can generate more excitement as the team enters a new era of the franchise.
“We are building something very sustainable in the long term. I think we did a good job so far,” said Paunovic. “But we also have to know that we need the whole community to be engaged and I think these kind of games help a lot. They can see it.”