OTF Roundtable: Chicago Fire Week 35
Each and every Wednesday, OTF contributors have their say on our Men in Red…
Congrats on making the playoffs. What’s that you say? It’s still the regular season? I disagree. It is most-certainly “win or go home” from here on out for the Men in Red, so it IS the playoffs (and arguably, it’s been ‘the playoffs’ since the FC Dallas game two weeks ago). Competing with table-topping New York Red Bull is not going to be easy, especially with three other teams gunning for the Supporters Shield. That said, even if Chicago does make the official second season, it’s only going to get harder. So, deal with it.
So how can the Fire win this game? Attack. Attack, attack. Please God, Frank, play some offensive football. High frontline pressure has proved to be an excellent substitute for actual offense, so once again look to see Anangono, Magee, and Nyarko apply pressure and try to make things happen. Also, look for an uncomfortably high line as the back four try to work the offside trap. It worked in the Fire’s unlikely 3-1 win year earlier this year against NYRB, and judging by New York’s sky-high offsides tally this year it seems to be the fashionable way to lose to them too. It should be interesting (read: torture) to watch Bakary “Caboose” Soumare try to stay in communication with the rest of the defense.
The squad is without Jeff Larentowicz this week (yellow card accumulation), so, if Alex is not in the starting XI, it’s probably safe to book the rest of your autumn weekends.
I’ll keep it simple this week.
Dear Frank Klopas:
Let’s forget about how Chicago Fire barely squeaked by a poor team at home on a soft penalty call last weekend and focus on why Mike Magee deserves to win Major League Soccer’s Most Valuable Player award.
Since Magee returned to his Chicago roots in late May, the Fire has forged a complete turnaround from a disastrous start to the season. “Magic Mike” has scored a team-high 14 goals since becoming a Man in Red and is tied for the Golden Boot lead with 20 goals.
Unquestionably, no MLS player has meant more to his team than Mike Magee this season. When he first arrived, Magee scored seven goals in seven appearances, brought cowering fans out of the shadows, and showed them what Chicago could be.
Perhaps that rich, spoiled team in California’s Keane is worthy of MVP honors, but I don’t buy it. The Irishman is surrounded by talent (mainly Donovan) that only LA money can buy.
Mike Magee alone has completely changed the attitude and performance of Chicago Fire Soccer Club. He has put fans back in the seats and restored a bit of hope in Bridgeview. Now, with one game left, he and his teammates have a chance to make some noise in New York and grab a playoff spot; to make the once impossible, possible.
Ultimately, the only thing standing in Magee’s way of the MVP award is his team’s playoff fate. If Chicago Fire’s season ends this Sunday, Magee’s chances of winning the accolade will diminish. If it doesn’t, and the Men in Red move on, he’s a shoo-in.
So, it comes down to the last game of the MLS regular season to determine whether Chicago Fire will stay above the “red line” and launch themselves into the MLS playoffs. This game with New York Red Bulls has plenty of narratives: a New York team on the verge of winning its first MLS trophy (Supporters Shield), Chicago’s chance to earn a playoff spot despite their abysmal start, and Mike Magee’s hunt for the Golden Boot award and league MVP award. Indeed, there is plenty at stake for both teams.
This final game really scares the hell out of me. The Fire (49 pts.) know they must dig deep and perform at their best if they are going to defeat the Red Bulls for the second time this season. Also, other teams with playoff hopes (New England, Montreal, Houston) have somewhat favorable match-ups this week. Montreal (49 pts.) faces Toronto at BMO Field. The best we can expect from TFC is they’ll play for Canadian pride against their rival. The Revs (48 pts.), however, have a slightly trickier match with the Crew in Columbus. Fire fans must hols their noses and pull for the Barbasol bananas in this one. Finally, we have Houston (48 pts.) visiting DC United in a match that surely looks like a win for the Dynamo.
Given the slim margins, the Men in Red cannot rely on favors from the East’s underdogs to propel them into the postseason. Klopas and company must take the bull by the horns in this match (pardon the pun) and get a result. Anything less and the Fire’s fat lady may be singing her ode to 2013 come 5pm on Sunday.
As we approach the end of the season, I feel like this past week’s performance by the Men in Red was a typical rinse, wash, and repeat performance we have witnessed all season long. They played a sloppy game using two defensive midfielders looking to generate offense on the counterattack. After pulling ahead, Frank starts making some substitutions just for the sake of substitutions and the Fire hold on for dear life. In most games like last week’s, the Fire concedes a late goal or two and settles with a draw. The difference in this game was they actually kept a clean sheet for the necessary three points, and remained above the red line.
Considering the level of talent the Fire has, I typically dislike Klopas’s usual approach. When playing a team with lesser talent, such as Toronto FC, the gaffer’s tactics make for a nearly unwatchable game and allow a bad team to hang around. However, against a more talented team, especially on the road, such as Red Bull New York (or is it the New York Red Bulls?), this style is necessary. Last week, MVP Mike McGee and Juan Luis Anangono generated some great chances with very little midfield support help, and the Fire got the shutout. Honestly, rinse, wash, repeat is the best chance for the Fire to take points this Sunday.
That said, I am going to continue with my negative ways and say this approach will fail and the Fire will leave Red Bull Arena with zero points. However, I predict Chicago will still make the play-in game thanks to the generosity of others who will leave points on the table.
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.