Fire brings back three midfielders

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Fire brings back three midfielders

AVE MARIA, FL. The Fire opened preseason training Monday at Ave Maria University with some notable off-the-field developments.
The club announced that it has brought back three midfielders from last years team and also gained an international roster spot. The latter materialized when Arne Friedrich, the German defender who played so well in his first Major League Soccer season in 2012, obtained his green card.
The green card means the clubs Defender-of-the-Year wont be counted among the international slots. Those will go to Brazilian medfielder Alex, Italian goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi and Dutch striker Sherjill MacDonald.
Friedrich let it be known that he wanted to return to the Fire immediately after last season ended and the club was quick to make that possible. Not only did Friedrich speed the development of eventual MLS Rookie-of-the-Year Austin Berry, he also helped make the Fire one of the best defensive teams in the circuit. The Fire allowed 41 goals in 34 matches, second-best in the Eastern Conference.
Alex was among the midfielders brought back by the club. The Fire picked up the option year on Alex and Mike Videira, who will enter his fourth MLS season and third with the Fire. The Fire also re-signed Corben Bone, the clubs first-round draft choice (13th overall) in 2010. Bone had earlier entered the re-entry draft, but withdrew his name from consideration at the last minute in anticipation of returning to the Fire.
None of the midfield trio has played all that much. Videira made seven starts in 12 matches for the Fire over his two campaigns and Bone played in 17 matches in three seasons.
Alex, who joined the Fire from Swiss club Wohlen FC, was a late-season starter after Sebastian Grazzini returned to Argentina. Alex had two goals in 17 appearances.
HERE AND THERE:The Fire will add to its training camp roster on Tuesday in the MLS supplemental draft. The Fire has the 30th, 49th and 68th selections.
-- Coach Frank Klopas and forward Patrick Nyarko have been named among the honorees at the 15th annual CSN Awards dinner on Jan. 24 at the Chicago Hilton & Towers.
-- At least one more player wont return to the club this season. The club decided not to bring back Mexican forward Guillermo Franco, a late season acquisition in 2012. The veteran played in three matches, for a combined 43 minutes, during the stretch run but made little impact.

WATCH: Bastian Schweinsteiger asked if the Fire can win the World Cup

WATCH: Bastian Schweinsteiger asked if the Fire can win the World Cup

The Chicago Fire expected to get plenty of attention from Bastian Schweinsteiger's introductory press conference on Wednesday, but maybe not like this.

In a moment of viral infamy, the German was asked if the Fire could win the World Cup. Now of course, the World Cup is for national teams and the Fire are a club team.

It's cringeworthy comedy that has to be seen to be truly appreciated. Check it out in the video above.

To the Fire's credit, the team's official twitter account got in on the act by sharing a photo from Schweinsteiger's first training session with the team earlier on Wednesday. It had the caption #RoadtoRussia, which is a nod to the upcoming 2018 World Cup.

Bastian Schweinsteiger says he is ready for new challenge with the Fire

Bastian Schweinsteiger says he is ready for new challenge with the Fire

As far as first impressions go, Bastian Schweinsteiger made a good one on Wednesday.

The Chicago Fire's new German star smiled at every opportunity, said all the right things about playing hard and wanting to fit in with his new team and even elegantly danced around some 'tricky' questions.

Schweinsteiger opened by thanking fans for showing up to greet him at O'Hare on Tuesday and later said he has plenty left to give on the field.

"I'm 32 years old, I'm ready," Schweinsteiger said. "Of course I need more training sessions to have the right rhythm where I want to see myself. I want to use every minute to feel how it is, how the teammates are playing, which kind of runs they make, which kind of rhythm they have. So to know each other better, that is very important for me step-by-step and I hope you will get results soon because I don't like to lose or to draw."

The German's addition is a big deal to the Fire because he is a big name player who is drawing more attention to the team. That means the Fire will have to win more to capitalize and show the team is deserving of the extra attention.

Despite that extra attention, words of adoration from general manager Nelson Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic saying he "can be the icon of the MLS in the future," Schweinsteiger said he is ready for the attention, but does not want to stand apart from his teammates.

"I had a lot of pressure in my career," Schweinsteiger said. "When you play a World Cup final or a Champions League final and the third time you have to win against Borussia Dortmund there is a lot of pressure on your shoulders so I can handle that. I don't want to say I'm a key player of Chicago Fire. Every player on the pitch has to be a key player and has to take the responsibility on the pitch and I would like just to get comfortable with myself and into the team so much as I can."

Talking about the importance of winning and showing humility? Check.

[Watch or listen to Bastian Schweinsteiger's full press conference here]

As for some of those 'tricky' questions, he was able to stay clean there as well. Will you root for the Cubs or Sox?

"First of all I like the Fire the most, of course," Schweinsteiger said.

Well played, Bastian.

But what about this one: Is the World Cup a realistic expectation for the Fire?

Sorry, what was that? Schweinsteiger smiled politely, said he didn't understand the question and avoided getting egg on his face while the Internet exploded in laughter that he was asked about the chances a club team winning an international competition.

Schweinsteiger is the new face of the Fire and that face smiled, waved and shook hands on Wednesday amid all the pageantry.

Media savvy? Check.

As for how he will perform on the field, that's to come soon. Paunovic only gave a subtle hint as to whether Schweinsteiger will play in Saturday's home match against Montreal.

"Obviously he is going to be available," Paunovic said. "We are not going to reveal our plans here, but we still have a talk to have and discuss how he feels and more things about the team and how we want to play. Be ready, just be ready. We'll see."