OTF Roundtable: Chicago Fire Week 33
Each and every Wednesday, OTF contributors have their say on our Men in Red…
This week, it’s freestyle…
If you were hoping for the sweet release of finality, you’re going to have to wait at least one more week. After a sloppy win against the worst team in the league’s B-team, it is possible the Fire will be one of those rare teams that concludes a season without anyone knowing how good or bad they actually were.
Frustrating for fans, sure, but more frustrating for management who has to make decisions about the franchise based on a 2013 campaign best described as “inconclusive” so far. But there’s still time…inexplicably.
Against FC Dallas this weekend the Men in Red will be sans Arévalo Ríos and Joel Lindpere, which means Jeff Larentowicz takes over defensive midfield duties.
The other central midfield selection will show Frank Klopas’s hand: If it includes Logan Pause he intends to tread carefully, which will mean the Fire will most likely be out of the playoff hunt, Mike Magee will cease to be an MVP candidate, and Klopas himself may be out of a job.
Expect to see the offensive-minded Alex pair up with Larentowicz to push the ball forward (in his own manic way). Duka will most likely take the left mid position, but I expect Duka or Alex to be pulled for Rolfe at half if either prove myopic in attack, as both have shown a tendency to blast a 25-yarder into the stands and not pick out a sound pass in crucial moments.
It’s now or never folks.
Here’s a little ditty about the new third kit that was unveiled last night at Chicago Fire’s 16th anniversary party.
Back in February, MLS unveiled “Jersey Week,” an event that saw 12 of its 19 clubs add a kit to their respective wardrobes. Some of these kits, Colorado and Philadelphia for example, were designed and made with regional culture and pride in mind. The former takes its look from the Colorado state flag (and has season ticket holders’ names embossed in it) and the latter finds its inspiration from America’s original super club, Bethlehem Steel.
As you know, the Fire did not take part in the inaugural edition of MLS Jersey Week last winter. Unsurprisingly, passionate, knowledgeable Chicago fans were not pleased. Thus began a grassroots movement to bring back the classic Chicago Flag jersey, a kit folks have clamored for for years. The blogs wrote about it, and folks left comments here, here, and here. Social media was ablaze for weeks before Chief Operating Officer Atul Khosla spoke to Jeff Crandall about fans’ wishes on chicago-fire.com
Fast forward to yesterday. After much hoopla, and supposed democratic means (Did we ever see the percentages in real-time after voting for one of the five finalists? Honestly, I can’t remember. And why allow folks the ability to stuff the virtual ballot boxes with more than one vote anyway?), the following kit was revealed and will make its field debut next season during the Fire’s 17th anniversary game:
So, instead of a third kit rooted in TRADITION, one that wholly pays homage to our beloved city’s flag (you know, kinda like this one), Fire fans get a variation on a theme known as the San Jose Earthquakes.
I know, I know, many will criticize me and say I’m not being fair. Many will say the fan contest was the right thing to do, and assume it was transparent. Some will even say I’m criticizing a fellow fan’s hard work. Let me be clear: This is a criticism of the front office, not of the guy who won the design contest. But of course, you dear reader are certainly entitled to your own opinions about what I’m saying and why.
In the end though, it was real simple. We just wanted a flag kit. But instead of listening to our grassroots movement in the first place, instead of huddling with a group of supporters who have their finger on the pulse of this club’s TRADITIONS, Mr. Khosla decided to usurp the process and institute a flawed, diluted system (which, by the way, excluded fans who lived more than 75 miles away from Bridgeview) that produced something his hardcore fan base loathes and which will, ironically, not allow him to profit as handsomely as he would have otherwise.
Congratulations Mr. Khosla. Your meddling has made Fire Nation look silly yet again.
And by the way, a year from now, don’t turn around and point the finger at us when your Goonies knock-off doesn’t sell as well as you’d hoped.
Nobody will ever be able to say this season was boring. From the worst start I’ve ever seen to the hometown hero return of Magic Mike Magee, Chicago Fire’s had me on the edge of my seat for the better part of six months. Well, here we are with three games remaining, and I’m still at a loss for how the season will end.
Honestly, I can see the Fire taking wins in their last three and propelling themselves into playoff position. At the same time, I can see them collapsing (much like last year), and, if they do make it to the 35th game, they’ll likely get knocked out in the battle between fourth and fifth place.
For the record, I do agree the third-largest city in the U.S. (and second in the Eastern Conference) shouldn’t be in the midst of a fourth consecutive season in which its team won’t at least advance to the conference semifinals, but at least the Fire have been “entertaining” (perhaps maddening to some). On any given day, I could either tell you with certainty they will finish 7th or 8th or tell you with hope that a playoff run is on its way.
Maybe it’s the Hamm’s talking, but today at least, I’m thinking we might just see a decent end to the 2013 season and proper rebuilding this off-season so that next year, we’ll finally have the winning team we deserve as Chicago Fire fans.
It’s time to take a Fire Nation health check. The Fire keep crawling back into this playoff race. Although, they achieved a convincing win with a score of 3-0 on paper, it was actually the heroics of Sean Johnson’s nine saves during last Friday’s match that have kept playoff hopes alive. Johnson was the man of the match without a question, and I would not be surprised if he is enticed to join a higher-ranked international league in the near future.
Based upon Sports Club Stats, the Fire has jumped to a 25% chance of making the playoffs and now sits in sixth place just two points below the “Red Line” behind the Philly Union.
Next on the Fire’s docket is the Brimstone Cup match with FC Dallas. Since FC Dallas has moved into the MLS Western Conference, and the teams now only play one regular season match, this cup has lost some of its luster. Nonetheless, three points are mandatory if Chicago has any hope of pushing into the post-season.
The lowly US Open Cup winner DC United will get another opportunity to play spoiler when they host Philadelphia Union this week. The Fire faithful can only hope that DC United has one more win in it. Finally, Mike Magee must carry the Fire into the playoffs if he has any chance of winning MLS MVP.
I think the announcement of the Fire’s new third jersey was the perfect representation of its entire season to date. Everything was lined up perfectly, but the execution was mediocre at best. In the case of the jersey, they told the fans they got to pick the jersey, they chose the teams 16th anniversary party to announce it, but went their own corporate route and didn’t give the die-hard fans what they’d asked for all along. Going BFBS (Black For Black’s Sake) might make a lot of sense in the corporate world, but in the North American soccer world, where the fans are your best marketing tool, it does not.
Take the US Open Cup as another example. Everything lined up perfectly. The thunderstorms caused Columbus to put out a reserve side and a favorable draw occurred with getting Orlando City at home. Then, Chicago hosted DC United (the worst team in the league) and had very favorable odds to advance to the Final. But, after ownership promoted the heck out of the game (and took a haircut in the process), the club – from the front office, technical, and stadium staffs to the 18 players who dressed that night – showed up unprepared. Thus, the “Kings of the Cup” crashed out of the tournament.
The MLS regular season has gone much the same way. The Fire appeared to have a deep and talented roster, and even teased us with a pre-season Carolina Challenge Cup win. However, when the curtain was raised on the regular season, neither talent nor depth were there, and by the end of March, the Fire had one point out of 12 and have been in catch up mode ever since. Every time it seems like they are about to get over the proverbial hump, they crash out with a lousy result.
What does this mean for this weekend and beyond? I’m not sure. I just keep getting the sense that the team is going to get our hopes up one more time and then completely flame out. Even worse, I think this pattern of stale results on and off the field will continue until the front office figures out how to actually run a soccer team.
If you’re a die-hard Chicago Fire fan who’d like to take part in the OTF Roundtable, please send Scott Fenwick an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how to get in on the conversation and make your voice heard! Cheers.