OTF Roundtable: Chicago Fire Week 23
This week, OTF’s contributors reflect on the 1-1 draw at Houston, look ahead to Philly, and ponder the Fire’s playoff chances…
Normally, now is when we all start huffing and puffing about how Chicago Fire are “just not good enough”, how they need to win in situations like last weekend’s, but let’s get realistic here — they should’ve received no points in the match. Nada. Hell, I’ll take one point from a sweaty mess of a game in Houston where both teams played (and probably smelled) like hot garbage.
Maybe it was because I was watching it on DVR delay slightly intoxicated, but the game felt like it was played in slow-motion. All I saw was sluggish exhibition-like work rates with too much muddled midfield play and some real slop defending. With the point in hand, my takeaways are like the insights a head coach might scribble in his note pad during an exhibition.
Paolo Tornaghi is steadily improving, which is helpful now that Sean Johnson may start looking for bigger-stage opportunities.
Joel “Party” Lindpere will send in some good crosses here and there, but is wholly unreliable game-to-game.
Quincy Amarikwa continues to be instant offense.
Chris Rolfe is in trubbs. His shift to the midfield (which is where he may be positioned when Juan Luis Anangonó is ready to go) coincided with the Fire completely losing their shape. Then, Logan Pause was promptly subbed in.
I’m Increasingly worried about our back line — Berry and Soumare both had pass-back disasters that could have been goals.
If I had a Sony CD Walkman with 10-second skip protection, I would name it Mix Diskerud.
A draw on the road at Houston is a good result, but it’s not what Chicago needed. Now, the Fire enters August sitting at 7th place in the East, thus the pressure to win this Saturday in Philadelphia has skyrocketed.
If they lose to Philly (for the third time this season), the Men in Red will find themselves 12 points behind the Union, and probably 6 points behind both Houston and New England, further increasing the growing gap between the Fire and a playoff spot. Philadelphia hasn’t lost a game at home since May 15, and should be confident coming off a win at Vancouver.
Saturday’s game against Philadelphia is a must-win. Kevin Egan said it best during the latest episode of The Centerback on chicago-fire.com: “This is our season, in my opinion…It’s time for the players to get angry about this one.”
Finally, if the Fire are going to make the playoffs, Bakary Soumare needs to stop being lazy. Last weekend it was his awful pass to Tornaghi that almost led to a Houston goal, but Baky’s dangerous piddling has put the club at risk in every single game he’s played.
This is not practice, Baky. This is MLS. This is August. You said you were passionate about Chicago, so the Fire believed you and spent the money necessary to get you back. Now you have to do your job, every game, every minute you’re on the field. No leisurely passes. No aimless clearings. No half-hearted jogs. Earn your salary and prove yourself worthy of a starting spot.
Last weekend, the Fire again showed that when it comes to playing top Eastern Conference teams, they’re still second fiddle. The only difference this time is the Men in Red actually looked dangerous at Houston, a place where visiting teams rarely come out with all three points. So despite wasting some great chances, the Fire did enough to earn the draw.
During this next stretch of games, I’m already expecting the Fire to give up at least one goal every game. It has nothing to do with the quality of Chicago’s back line, rather, it’s Frank Klopas. The Gaffer refuses to rest any of his defenders and tired legs already kicked in weeks ago. If Klopas does put in Shaun Francis, Hunter Jumper, or Mike Videira every now and then, maybe my mind will change, but until then, the back four will just have to gut it out.
The Fire will continue its attempt to climb out of its grave with another crucial match in Philadelphia this weekend. I’m convinced Chicago has more than enough to take three points away from PPL Park. They’ve lost twice already to the Union this season (both 1-0 results) and must be thinking of how sweet revenge will taste.
A healthier Logan Pause alongside Daniel Paladini should help “freshen” the midfield and the possible insertion of Juan Anangonó could provide danger. Perhaps Mike Magee will be the All-Star Game MVP and then return to continue his close race with Vancouver’s Camilo for the MLS Golden Boot…
Now that the Gold Cup is over, it’s time to refocus our energy back to Chicago Fire and take stock in the team’s playoff aspirations. The Fire have 14 games remaining this season, which equates to a total of 42 possible points. Currently, the team has 25 points and sits in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, five points adrift of the playoff pack. In the end, I believe the team will need 55 points to qualify for the postseason.
30 points is a hill to climb, but this is the type of challenge that solidifies locker rooms and perhaps gets players to believe in destiny. Certainly, it will be hard for Chicago to place in the East’s top three, but with some determination and grit, the Men in Red can still make it to that (increasingly elusive) 35th game.
There are some tough games ahead. Arguably, the most challenging portion of this season will be August. With matches against Philly, Montreal, New England, KC, and Houston looming, Fire Nation will know whether its club is playoff-worthy within a span of about 30 days. Each of these teams are current playoff contenders, and the Fire must gain victories against them. On the upside, Sean Johnson returns from Gold Cup duty and new Designated Player Juan Luis Anangonó should transition into the target striker role.
Do you believe in destiny?
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.