On a night in Munich when the focus of the festivities was anything but the soccer itself, Bastian Schweinsteiger did what Bastian Schweinsteiger does best: He dazzled us.
Bayern Munich and the Chicago Fire faced off at Allianz Arena today to celebrate the truly legendary career of Schweinsteiger. The German is one of those rare players for whom essentially no superlative is hyperbolic. Whether considering the dynamics of his game, the veritable treasure chest of trophies that he’s accrued over the years — DFB-Pokal, Bundesliga, Champions League, and of course World Cup — or even his influence in the soccer world, no line of praise seems feigned.
As the game grew noticeably less competitive in the second half — at times it felt like the Chicago Fire defense was doing everything but diving out of the way to make the path to goal easier for Batsi — the overriding feeling was that the focus of celebration would score a dinky little goal, a gimme.
Then, this happened:
David Alaba floats a delicious cross into the box, and Basti deftly, skillfully volleys the rock into the back of the net. The contradictions of the moment are kind of astounding, because while the match at this point was clearly beyond its peak competitiveness — more on that below — the level of difficulty of this finish is pretty off the charts, and Basti completes the chance with relative ease.
What a way to end your career in Germany.
Even Playing Reserves, Bayern Is Bayern
When the Bavarians released their starting 11 for the match, the signals were pretty clear: Sure, these aren’t the team’s standard first-team players, but these are still some extremely world-class players. Keeper Sven Ulreich minded the net last year while Manuel Neuer was injured. Renato Sanches has a long been one of the club’s most promising starlets; yes, he’s not quite lived up to the hype yet, but he literally just turned 21 years old! James Rodriguez started and looked electric. Mats Hummels started and was a fortress. Upstart Joshua Kimmich started and did damage on the flank.
In other words, for about 45 minutes the Germans, in typical German fashion, weren’t messing around. They dominated possession, and the players on the pitch were clearly out there to try to prove to manager Niko Kovač that they deserve more time. Sanches certainly appeared to make a statement, and winger Serge Gnabry — who scored the first goal of the game off a deflection, and who is coming off an injury — joined the young Portuguese midfielder in the statement-making department as well.
Probably goes without saying: Bavarians know how to party
Things Fall Apart And It Was Awesome
And then, as we all suspected, things fell apart in the best of ways.
Bayern threw some of Basti’s old teammates onto the field — Neuer, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry, and Thomas Müller among them — and there was an absolute party. There were jokes. There was some playful sandbagging. There was exaggerated possession and movement, and there were a heck of a lot of delighted faces on the field and in the stands.
As a quick sidebar, during this point of the game Chicago seriously threatened to score once or twice. Considering all the factors — their recent flight to Germany from the Midwest of the United States over the weekend, all the fanfair with the trip, all the photos and ceremonies and everything else — they performed pretty well. Bayern needed some timely goalkeeping and last-ditch defending to keep the clean sheet.
In the midst of the fun, Basti scored his perfectly placed volley.
Apparently the player who’s won everything had one more win up his sleeves.
Basti couldn't keep it together, and neither could we