Saturday afternoon brought with it a big announcement for both the league and the city of Chicago. Current La Liga leaders Real Madrid will be the team headed to Chicago to take on some of the league’s finest in the 2017 MLS All Star Game presented by Target on Wednesday, August 2.
As it turns out, a trio of current Men In Red have connections to the Spanish giants, each of which will look to be involved in the late-summer showdown come August.
Chicago Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic -- who will coach the MLS All Stars -- not only faced off twice annually against Real Madrid twice as a member of cross-town rivals Atletico, he scored his team's lone goal on a penalty kick in a 2-1 Atleti defeat at the Estadio Vicente Calderón in April of 2004.
(Video clip via YouTube)
Victories against a club like Real Madrid are rare for teams the world over, something Paunovic experienced during his playing career in Spain. His Mallorca, Atletico, and Getafe sides only took down Los Blancos once over eight attempts during his tenure with the clubs from 1999-2005. He’ll have plenty of motivation to take down his former Madrid rivals come August.
Midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger’s Bayern Munich side faced off against Real Madrid six times in UEFA Champions League play during Schweinsteiger’s time with the club. The Bavarian giants won only twice in those occasions, 2-1 wins in 2007 and in 2012. The Fire’s newest Designated Player featured against Real Madrid as recently as 2014, having played in both legs of a Champions League home-and-away series, one that Real would take 5-0 on aggregate.
The Fire player to have faced Real Madrid most recently is forward Nemanja Nikolic, who also made appearances in both of Legia Warsaw’s home and away legs in UEFA Champions League play back in October and November of last year. Madrid took the first leg 5-1, but Legia admirably battled to a 3-3 draw in November of 2016’s final leg, less than two months prior to his move stateside.
From an opposing team standpoint, this will be just the second time that Real have played in Chicago. They made their Windy City debut back in July of 2005 in a friendly against Mexican giants Chivas de Guadalajara at Soldier Field, a match that ended 3-1 in the Spanish side’s favor.