(Photo courtesy Martin Meissner, Associated Press)
Last week, the Chicago Fire completed the long-awaited deal to bring German international icon Bastian Schweinsteiger to MLS. Schweinsteiger signed for the 2017 season with a mutual option for 2018. His salary for this season was reported to be $4.5 million, making him the highest-paid player in club history. The midfielder represents the first high-profile player to join the Fire since Cuauhtemoc Blanco in 2007.
It didn’t take long for the naysayers to offer their criticism of Schweinsteiger’s arrival: he’s too old, he’s too injury-prone, he’s a bad fit in a crowded midfield. Typical of the negative reaction was this piece written by Nate Scott at Fox Sports. Is such a reaction valid? Can a team who has “won” the Wooden Spoon two years running really turn their back on a player like Bastian Schweinsteiger?
(Photo courtesy chicago-fire.com)
When Chicago Fire Equipment Manager Brian Sauer packed up the gear for the road trip to Atlanta, he likely did not put life preservers on the list of things to bring. Too bad, because the Fire looked like castaways floating at sea for much of the 4:0 hammering administered by the home team. The Fire were beaten soundly in every phase of the game. Clearly, Atlanta is not your typical MLS expansion team.
The match blew up in the Fire’s faces within the first quarter hour. Brandon Vincent’s unfortunate own goal in the fourth minute gave Atlanta a huge emotional boost and the unwarranted dismissal of Johan Kappelhof in the eleventh minute threw Veljko Paunovic’s lineup into chaos. No one can say for sure how the Fire might have played at even strength, but the ferocity and relentlessness with which Atlanta attacked the Fire was draining and debilitating. Continue reading
Seeing The Men in Red play at home is really just half the fun, but not all Fire fans are able to see them anywhere else. To experience the joys of an Away Game by proxy, OTF contributor Jacob Peters provides us some background on Fire supporter group history on-the-road, established rivalries, and some footnotes on how to effectively criticize, troll, and generally enjoy Fire away games. First up, Saturday’s match-up against MLS newbies Atlanta United FC.
Sing in full voice. Hate with reason…
Most rundowns of Fire matches this season come with some history of why particular trips are marked on fan schedules far in advance, and how memories of past trips deepen Fire fandom. But this is Atlanta United FC—a team as new as their name is unoriginal (and nonsensical if you’ve ever experienced the disconnected sprawl that is metro Atlanta). So, in lieu of actual history, here’s a brief history of why first trips have a special spot in the hearts of many a Fire fan.
The Chicago Fire won’t win awards for stylish soccer after their first two matches of the 2017 campaign, but there are plenty of indications that they are on the right path. Their 2:0 win on Saturday over Real Salt Lake at Toyota Park was built on pragmatism, hard work, and taking advantage of opportunity.
On the day, RSL won just about every statistical battle, generating more shots, generating more corner kicks, and coming out on top in the possession battle. All of their possession amounted to precious little, as only one of their twelve shots was on target. Their mostly toothless attack was missing that final decisivetouch and it makes one wonder whether they jettisoned Javier Morales too soon.
Both the Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew come into 2017 looking to turn a page and forget about their respective dismal 2016 campaigns. They squared off on Saturday at MAPFRE Stadium in the season opener on a chilly afternoon and battled to a 1:1 draw. Based on the soccer on display it’s unlikely that either side learned much about whether 2017 will bring more joy than 2016 did, but both teams have a lot of work ahead if they want to be competitive. The Crew controlled play in the first half, while the Fire were the better team in the second. Given the sparse number of shots that found the target the 1:1 result can be considered a fair one.
(Photo courtesy of mlssoccer.com)
Chicago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic was adamant that his team reward the home fans with a victory in the team’s final home game on Sunday, and his players did not disappoint, knocking off the New England Revolution 2:1. The Fire played simple and fluid football and were not far away from finding the back of the net on several occasions. The victory also reversed an ugly trend of dropping points when playing from a winning position. After taking an early lead, the Fire gave away a poor equalizer, but shook off that setback by delivering a winner ten minutes from the end.
With the Fire resigned long ago that they would not be playing playoff soccer, fans and media alike have wondered why Paunovic would not allocate some playing time for younger players who have not featured much this season. Paunovic stuck to his plan and chose not to hand out minutes like they were a Cracker Jack prize.
(Photo courtesy of chicago-fire.com)
The Fire fought back from an early deficit, took the lead, but ultimately failed to hang on, and they shared the points with Columbus on Thursday at Toyota Park. Here are two quick thoughts about the match.
Pauno ain’t playing the kids
Speculation has been raised in the media on whether Veljko Paunovic would provide playing opportunities to his younger, less experienced players once the Fire were officially eliminated from the playoffs. The Fire’s lineups in recent matches have shown no indication of a youth movement. Paunovic wants to win games, regardless of the circumstances, and he’s putting his first-choice players out there. Whether his approach is the best one is ripe source for debate.