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Bastian Schweinsteiger announces retirement, leaves big hole for Chicago Fire

The 35-year-old spent three years with the Fire to close out a decorated career.

Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger waves to fans after they beat Orlando City SC at Exploria Stadium on Oct. 6, 2019. It ended up being the final game of Schweinsteiger's career as he announced his retirement two days after the match. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

CHICAGO — Change was already shaping up to be a major theme for the Chicago Fire this offseason, but Bastian Schweinsteiger’s retirement just added one more thing to that list.

The 35-year-old spent three years with the Fire to close out a decorated career that featured plenty accomplishments. The German racked up the trophies for Bayern Munich and the German national team, including a UEFA Champions League title in 2013 and a World Cup title in 2014.

He arrived with the Fire early in the 2017 season and scored on his debut. He helped the team make the playoffs for the first time in five years. However, that playoff run ended as quickly as it started with a 4-0 home loss in the first round.

Schweinsteiger transitioned from central midfield to defense in his last two seasons with the Fire. The team missed the playoffs both years.

The Fire were eliminated from playoff contention before Sunday’s season finale in Orlando, a 5-2 Fire win. According to a source, he told coach Veljko Paunović a couple hours before the match and informed his teammates after the match that he was retiring. The announcement came Tuesday with a barrage of tweets.

Schweinsteiger was the first big name signing for the Fire since Cuauhtémoc Blanco left the Fire after the 2009 season. He was a standout player on the field and a character off it.

The Fire went to Munich for a tribute match at Bayern in 2018. Schweinsteiger acted as a tour guide for the team, creating a memorable trip for players and staff.

He seemed to adopt the Chicago lifestyle with plenty of appearances at Chicago sporting events. His social media was frequently filled with photos featuring notable parts of Chicago, advertising the city to his more than 5 million Twitter and 9.5 million Instagram followers.

Both of Schweinsteiger’s kids were born in the U.S. during his tenure with the Fire. Perhaps spending more time with his growing family became more of a priority. His second child was born during this season.

As for what it means for the Fire going forward, Schweinsteiger’s absence opens up a designated player spot and a big gaping hole on and off the field. He helped stabilize the Fire’s defense since moving back there so that will become a need to address in the offseason.

More importantly, the Fire will want to replace his cachet as they move to Soldier Field. That move was formally announced an hour after Schweinsteiger’s retirement became public. Finding a big name player as the team returns to the city will be a key storyline as the team begins the offseason.

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