Big hardly seems to do justice to this week’s MLS Big – 5, maybe we should re-name it the Enormous – 5. No? Ok, then let’s get to it.
1) Fire Sign World Cup Star Bastian Schweinsteiger
This one nearly exploded American soccer twitter in a hail of retirement league charges, salary reveals, Chicago’s positional needs, Basti’s near complete inability to see the field at Manchester United and more!
Speaking personally, I learned that Basti is the nickname for Bastian, but perhaps it is more important to note that Chicago is paying Schweinsteiger $4.5 million on a one-year contract as pointed out by American soccer provocateur Alexis Lalas on twitter.
U.S. international McCarty and Juninho, a three-time MLS Cup winner with the L.A. Galaxy, were signed before the 2017 season to man the Fire’s central midfield, which is Schweinsteiger’s preferred patch of grass.
Chicago GM Nelson Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic are delighted to have the 13 year Bayern Munich man in the fold and are prepared to look at Basti’s desultory spell at Manchester United as a blip in an otherwise brilliant career.
Schweinsteiger played just 18 times for United and never appeared in the Premier League after Jose Mourinho took charge. Mourinho even relegated the World Cup hero to training with the MU kids. It was a shoddy way to treat such a fine player.
Still, Germany coach Joachim Low has said that the 32-year-old has much more left to give and Rodriguez apparently agrees.
2) Real Salt Lake Fires Cassar
To fire a coach, any coach, three games into the season reeks of desperation, why not make a change in the offseason? But Jeff Cassar knew he was on shaky ground when he inked a one-year contract extension prior to the 2017 season while RSL brought former New York Red Bulls coach Mike Petke on to look over his shoulder as coach of its USL club the Real Monarchs.
RSL stumbled into the playoffs in sixth place last season, ending the year with a seven-game winless streak before losing to the L.A. Galaxy in the KO round of the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Despite having Petke on deck RSL general manager Craig Waibel said the search for a new coach has already begun and cited a “sense of urgency” in firing Cassar. Urgency? Panic? Potato? Potatto?
3) Congrats to BWP!
The New York Red Bulls took one on the chin last Sunday night in Seattle but not before Bradley Wright-Phillips scored his 70th MLS goal in just his 110th game. According to Fox Sports 1, only Roy Lassiter and Robbie Keane have reached that mark in fewer MLS games.
Congrats are in order for the perennially underrated former England U20 captain.
4) Atlanta and Martinez Make it Permanent
Hey, when it’s right, it’s right. Right? That certainly seems to be the sentiment in Atlanta where red-hot expansion side Atlanta United FC has triggered the option to make Josef Martinez a full-on team member after just three games on loan from Serie A side Torino.
And why not? The 23-year-old Venezuelan international leads MLS with five goals from three games and has sparked the newcomers to a league leading 11 goals.
Sometimes you just know.
5) Play the Kids!
As we saw in item 2 it has not been a great couple of days for Real Salt Lake, what with Jeff Cassar getting the ax just three games into the season. But it is not all gloom and doom around Rio Tinto Stadium these days.
The silver lining in the 2-1 loss to the L.A. Galaxy that finished the Cassar era? A pair of U.S. U20 stars provided a much-needed glimmer of hope as Sebastian Saucedo and Brooks Lennon made their 2017 RSL debuts.
For 19-year-old Lennon, a former RSL academy prospect on loan from Liverpool FC, it was his RSL and MLS debut. Saucedo last lined out for Salt Lake in 2015, having spent last year on loan at Veracruz.
Operating as wingers the pair impressed and will give the next RSL coach options. U.S. MNT U20 fans should be pleased as well. When center back Justen Glad returns from a knee injury, RSL will have three Young Yanks gaining valuable experience ahead of the U20 World Cup this, coming up May/June in South Korea.