Fire Talk Podcast Episode 3: Solid start for the Fire

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USA TODAY

Fire Talk Podcast Episode 3: Solid start for the Fire

In this episode of the Fire Talk Podcast, Dan Santaromita and Shane Murray (MLSsoccer.com) talk about the Fire's positive start to the season and look ahead to the upcoming match at Atlanta.

Dan and Shane talk about what impressed them from those two matches and what the team still needs to improve.

Meanwhile, the Bastian Schweinsteiger rumors have resurfaced. What are the chances he comes to the Fire? How would he fit in?

Next up, listen to Michael de Leeuw and Arturo Alvarez talk about what they've noticed through two games and what they expect from Atlanta.

Finally, Dan and Shane preview the match in Atlanta and look at the upcoming schedule for the Fire.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Patience and persistence were required for Fire to sign Bastian Schweinsteiger

Patience and persistence were required for Fire to sign Bastian Schweinsteiger

For many, the Bastian Schweinsteiger to Chicago Fire rumors started with a meeting in Manchester.

Fire coach Veljko Paunovic was spotted meeting with Schweinsteiger in Manchester in November. The tabloid, TMZ-like nature of how the European media covers player moves and rumors had an effect on the Fire.

However, the Fire's pursuit of Schweinsteiger started months before that. MLSsoccer.com's Sam Stejskal chronicled the timeline and how the Fire convinced the German star to come to Chicago.

General manager Nelson Rodriguez said in a conference call on Tuesday that the first pursuit of him "came late summer, early fall of last year." Things did not progress initially.

"At that time, while granted permission to make contact with the player's representatives and the player, we were kindly asked to wait and see how things went," Rodriguez said. "Ultimately we pursued Bastian harder because he is rather singular, he is rather unique in all of that vast experience that he brings along with the attitude and willingness to share it."

As the 2016-17 Premier League season started and Jose Mourinho took over at Manchester United, Schweinsteiger found himself on the outs. He ended up playing no league matches and four cup matches this season for Man U.

Rodriguez and Paunovic saw an opportunity with Schweinsteiger not playing.

"We worked on our weaknesses last season and one of them was adapting in our midfield," Paunovic said. "We had the idea with him when we saw everything was happening that he was not playing. We reached out to the team, Manchester United. We asked for the permission to speak with him and from there we started a relationship with Bastian and it went well. We were working a long time on his acquisition and we are very happy that we could make it done."

Reports of Schweinsteiger training with the Man U reserves signaled a likely departure, but he was not ready to give up.

"Bastian had nothing but good things to say about his experience at United, about his relationship with his teammates and his coaching staff," Rodriguez said. "He clearly has a great affection for the fans as well. I'm sure knowing the competitor that he is, although not wanting to speak for him, of course I imagine he felt he could have played more, should have played more, wanted to play more. But he did not exhibit frustration. In fact, some of the length of this process was due to his insistence to want to remain at United and prove himself even more valuable than he was able to show."

According to Stejskal, the infamous meeting in Manchester between Paunovic and Schweinsteiger was four hours long and the Fire were hoping to land Schweinsteiger in January. While the chances of that seemed to fade, Man U found some moderate use for him.

He still wasn't playing in the Premier League, but Schweinsteiger was high enough on the depth chart to play in some cup matches in January, including playing all 90 minutes and scoring against Wigan in the FA Cup on Jan. 29.

The Fire brass remained persistent in their pursuit of Schweinsteiger. Rodriguez said on Fire Weekly on Wednesday that they checked in with Schweisteiger about once a month, but as the Fire's season neared and ultimately began, things were getting tight. Rodriguez has said multiple times that he isn't fond of introducing players in the middle of the MLS season, saying it is difficult to fully integrate players midseason and didn't want to have to do so with Schweinsteiger.

"We would have preferred it earlier," Rodriguez said. "We would have preferred it before the window closed in England and in January and in preseason. But United, with good reason, was reluctant to let him leave. They were still competing on all fronts and they still regarded Bastian as a valuable member of their club. I think over time maybe we were able to wear them down a little bit with our persistence. Their calendar probably is thinning out as we get closer to the end of the year, but we did reach a point where we said 'It has to be now or it wouldn't happen.'"

Another meeting took place, according to Stejskal, and this time it convinced Schweinsteiger to get on board. After getting United to let him leave, the deal was on. Rodriguez said on Fire Weekly that "it all came together in early March."

"Bastian is a special case, again as a person and as a player, and so not wanting to say an ultimatum because I think that would be unfair and untrue, we made it clear that if we couldn't close it now, then we would likely move on," Rodriguez said.

Now Schweinsteiger is set to join the Fire and could do so possibly as early as the middle of next week, pending his visa, in advance of the April 1 home game against Montreal.

Did Nelson Rodriguez say the Fire went after Carlos Tevez?

Did Nelson Rodriguez say the Fire went after Carlos Tevez?

All the buzz around the Chicago Fire right now is obviously the signing of Bastian Schweinsteiger, but general manager Nelson Rodriguez offered a hint at another player that had their eyes on.

During this week's Fire Weekly, Rodriguez talked about landing impact offensive players in regards to Schweinsteiger and said the club was looking at multiple different players.

"You carry simultaneous tracks on a lot of players," Rodriguez said. "We looked at a different form of impact offensive player than Basti is. Some of those we lost out on. One we lost out on to China when he signed for $84 million. We're just not going to swim in those waters. There's no rational sense to that contract."

Naturally there aren't many players that signed for $84 million anywhere, let alone in China. By process of elimination, Rodriguez sure makes it sound like the Fire made some effort to acquire Carlos Tevez. The 33-year-old Argentine striker signed a huge deal with Shanghai Shenhua in December that was reported to be worth 84 million euros.

This isn't the first time Rodriguez has dropped a hint about other players they've targeted. At the team's season kickoff luncheon on Feb. 27, Rodriguez said the team had looked at a few players to fill the team's open designated player spot, which Schweinsteiger has now occupied.

"Two of the players that we had on our list, we didn't make offers for so I want to be clear the two players we were tracking, one signed in Mexico with a big club in Mexico and one went to China for big money so they're off our list," Rodriguez said then.

Speculation remains open as to who the player that signed in Mexico was, but what Rodriguez said on Wednesday indicates that Tevez was the player who went to China. This also indicates that the negotiations didn't progress very far if the Fire never made an offer to Tevez, but it does sound like the Fire at least 'looked at' adding Tevez.