Bastian Schweinsteiger has won soccer’s biggest trophies. He earned a Champions League medal with Bayern Munich and was part of Germany’s 2014 World Cup championship team. Over the course of his career, the German midfielder, 33, also became one of the most recognized athletes in the world.

Yet, it doesn’t take much time to figure out that Schweinsteiger still has the urge to win. He wants the Fire to be more consistent and he wants soccer to continue to grow in Chicago.

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“If you talk about what it means for Chicago, I just hope that more people love playing soccer and they love watching us,” Schweinsteiger said. “We want the people getting in the car, drive 45 minutes to Toyota Park, sometimes an hour. Go there with the expectation that this team is enjoyable to watch.”

Schweinsteiger and the Fire, who open the season Saturday against Sporting Kansas City, made progress last year before a first-round playoff loss to the New York Red Bulls. They finished with the third-best record in the league and flirted with first place.

But there were too many moments when the Fire’s level of play dipped. Schweinsteiger says that that needs to change.

“The first goal is reaching the next level of our game. Last year, we had a very good season, but we still had [ups and downs], which you would say is normal, but for me, it’s not normal,” Schwein-steiger said. “My biggest wish would be if we didn’t have so many downs. Keep it more consistent at that high level a little bit longer. That’s my first goal. If we play like that, and we understand those kind of things, we will reach the playoffs and maybe be more competitive for the playoffs.”

Considering his resume, it is not shocking Schweinsteiger has high standards. And though the Fire and Major League Soccer have made strides, Schwein-
steiger is playing a level or two below what he is used to.

There are times he has to remember that.

“Understanding is a very important word to describe [it]. Of course, my brain is sometimes thinking different, but I’m here to help the team as much as I can,” Schweinsteiger said. “You need to have, for that, a little bit of patience, even if I’m not a patient guy.”

Schweinsteiger might not be patient, but he clearly cares and is happy to be here.

“I have to say it was the right choice to come over here. We have a great coach to work with and the players have the right attitude and character,” he said. “I have to say I enjoy it a lot, being here and playing soccer and also experiencing a new league.”

Charging up

After winning five consecutive games, the Wolves are the AHL’s hottest team. They are a league-best 27-7-2-1 since Dec. 6 and have risen to second in the Central Division. They’ve won 15 of their last 16 at Allstate Arena and their .722 home-points percentage is the best in the Western Conference.

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