Sports Ajenda: Ljungberg set for Fire debut

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Sports Ajenda: Ljungberg set for Fire debut

Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010
4:58 PM

By Jen Patterson
CSNChicago.com

The Chicago Fire were back at it this week in preparation for their match vs. the New York Red Bulls at Toyota Park. On Wednesday, two-time Swedish World Cup star Freddie Ljungberg practiced with his new team for the first since being acquired in a trade with the Seattle Sounders, marking the first trade of a designated player in MLS history.

I think he brings quality, knowledge, and understanding of the game at the highest level. He shows that he sees the field extremely well. He can add a lot of possession for us, said Fire captain Brian McBride.

Although Ljungberg met up with his new teammates for the 3-2 victory in Los Angeles, he didnt come into the game till the 58th minute. Technical director Frank Klopas hinted that we will see more of Ljungberg this coming Sunday.

Last Sunday was a big match. In that match you always have to consider his fitness level and when was the last time he played. Obviously it takes some time for everyone to get to know their teammates and adjust to the style we try to play. Hopefully the preparation leading up to this match will help both him and Nery Castillo to get more accustomed to the team. We expect both of those players to be on the field, said Klopas.

Coach Carlos De Los Cobos expressed the importance of having both designated players, Castillo and Ljungberg, playing on the field together. De Los Cobos also hinted that Sean Johnson will make his return to the goal against the Red Bulls after his stellar performance in his MLS debut.

The men in red currently hold a 5-5-5 record with 20 points and will be looking to close in on the gap between them and the Red Bulls, who are sporting a 8-6-3 record with 27 points. Sundays tilt should draw a lot of fans with the debuts of Castillo and Ljungberg at Toyota Park.

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."