OTF Roundtable: Chicago Fire Week 31

Not so fast, Fire. (photo: chicago-fire.com)

Playoffs? Not so fast, Fire. (photo: chicago-fire.com)

Each and every Wednesday, OTF contributors have their say on our Men in Red…

This week, what’s your preferred tactical formation and starting XI? What do you think the outcome will be on Saturday night vs. Montreal?

Brian Howe Battle

Okay, WHY does Chicago want to make the playoffs?

In a league where more than half the teams make the playoffs, reaching the postseason should never be a legitimate team goal — it should be absolutely expected. The Fire making it above the thin red line this year will only reward an organization that should be considering an all-out overhaul right now.

With the team’s best XI still anyone’s guess, and a wealth of inactive talent, a swift removal from the playoff race would allow the Men in Red to give opportunity to Hunter Jumper, Yazid Atouba, Brendan King, Victor Pineda, and the not-so-young-anymore Corben Bone. Meanwhile, Paolo Tornaghi needs to see more first team reps too, as Sean Johnson will surely be headed across the pond soon. Next season should start now: Evaluate your assets, decide who should stay, who should go, and who is trade bait.

Until the impending loss that puts the Fire out of the playoffs (be it Montreal or soon after), I want to see a 4-1-4-1 with Rios as the single pivot and Anongonó up top.  Duka/Magee and Paladini/Nyarko as pairs are capable, and can swap duties to go wide or cut inside. I’d push for a 4-4-2 diamond, but neither of the Fire’s fullbacks are offensive threats, nor is there an appropriate “10” at the top of this diamond with Rolfe such in poor form.


Lucas Hammer

My starting XI doesn’t inspire a lot of hope. Trust me, I know. That said, it’s about as good as the Fire can do with the players available. Mike Magee and Juan Luis Anongano up top is the best combination they can offer, but if you back it with Daniel Paladini, you end up with a decent attack.

Paladini still isn’t starting, and although scoring in reserve games doesn’t necessarily mean you are better than the current starters, netting a hat trick in a reserve game while the first team gets dismantled 3-0 has to mean something. I like Rios, but right now, the Fire need a goal-scorer in the middle, someone who can push up and play off Magee in a rougher style that we aren’t used to seeing. I’m hoping and praying the Fire surprise us again this weekend.


Chicago can’t be that hopeful with a game against Montreal coming up, especially after the beating placed on them by Columbus, but if there’s one thing that’s been consistently true during the last two years, it’s that you never know when the Fire will come through. If you had told me after the first five games that Chicago would be in a playoff position (even if only for one week), I would’ve never believed you.

I’m hoping and praying the Fire surprise us all again this weekend.

It's in the game. (image: owengoal.tumblr.com)

Special OPA! edition available in Chicagoland only. Hurry, supplies are limited! (image: owengoal.tumblr.com)

Juan Santoliva

It’s hard for me to optimistic in another “must-win” game for the Fire, but our neighbors to the north haven’t exactly been the dominant team they once were, so this gives me some hope.

In my formation and starting XI, personnel hasn’t changed much except for putting Magic Mike up top by himself with Alex right behind him, taking shots and feeding Magee through balls. I’d be okay with sticking Anangonó up top, but Magee will always get the starting nod from me.

I’d still like to see Nyarko and Duka down the wings, taking on defenders and getting shots and crosses in. Rios is a no-brainer and I think he and Larentowicz compliment each other well when it comes to switching back and forth between offense and defense.

Obviously, the back line needs a break and even though I don’t think Francis should ever start, Segares needs rest badly and Frank Klopas (I assume) signed the Jamaican to spell Sega once in awhile. Soumare has pissed me off in every way possible and his recent play has become unimpressive and lazy. Hunter Jumper has potential and already had a couple solid performances as a starter this season, so sticking him in Soumare’s place isn’t a risk at this point.

Now is the time to take advantage of a struggling Montreal, so Klopas needs to trust that his defense will hold its own with a couple fresh faces in the mix. 


Rob Thompson

It’s better to just forget about the howler of a match the Fire had last weekend and just focus our attention on the upcoming match at Toyota Park this Saturday against the Montreal Impact. Montreal has not been on good form recently and I wonder if the demanding length of the season is starting to wear on some of their aging starters. Also, L’Impact are one of the worst teams on the road in playoff position with a -7 road goal difference. Another factor that should work in the Fire’s favor this weekend is Montreal had to play a Concacaf Champions League match on Tuesday.

So, there is no better time than now to face L’Impact when the Fire need all three points. I think the Fire will win 3 – 1, and this is how they will do it:


Unsurprisingly, the defensive unit stays intact except for the addition of Hunter Jumper for suspended Baky Soumare. The Fire has had good success with Jumper in the XI (read: chemistry with Berry). A key to this match will be the overlapping flank play and service from Segares and Anibaba. I see Klopas using the wide mids of Nyarko and Duka for their penetration dribbling skills into the box. Magee will play the underneath striker and Anangono will play the holding striker role. Cacha and Big Red will hold up the middle to win this match.

T.J. Zaremba

Here is my preferred tactical formation for this week’s game against Montreal. With Wells Thompson, there is no chance the Men In Red will lose…


However, since that’s not possible, here’s what I’d really roll out on Saturday night:


Seeing as Hauptman hasn’t fired Klopas yet, I think it best to keep Frankie’s base formation. Yet because three points are required, I think a high risk, high reward lineup is the way to go. The midfielders are the team’s most creative players, and the forwards are the best mix of a target forward and sniper available. Both fullbacks (Segares & Anibaba) have been exposed of late and Soumare is thankfully suspended. Therefore, it’s time to try some new blood. Putting Larentowicz in the back allows him to be a leader on the field, but out of the way of Rios and Paladini. I think Pause in the back adds another calming influence the team needs.

All that said, Jumper will likely replace Soumare and the rest of the lineup from Columbus will remain. As for the match result this weekend, here’s my initial thought:

Yet, after a bit of reflection, I will stand by the prediction I made weeks ago: This game will be a draw – even if Montreal rests starters.


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 manonthefire97@gmail.com to find out how to get in on the conversation and make your voice heard! Cheers.



5 thoughts on “OTF Roundtable: Chicago Fire Week 31

    • I don’t see him as a leader, and Paladini is more attack-minded. I thought about it for a good few minutes, but couldn’t figure out who I’d rather put in. I picked the Ginger Ninja simply because we need a captain in the middle who can hit hard and Paladini because, well, he’s shined in almost every appearance he’s had this year. I do understand the criticism though.

  1. I agree with Mr. Peraino – Rios is the only “must start” player I could name – not that it matters. I suspect our boys of spontaneous combustion will put up a decent fight because, if nothing else, they are professionals and last weeks effort was too much of an embarrassment to go unanswered.

    But In the end I suspect it doesn’t matter too much which line up is used. The sick feeling this team gives me is one of being on an overloaded plane that is losing altitude quickly, is running low on fuel and too far from an airport. The numbers just do not add up and no amount of wishful thinking can change the fact – we should not have left the airport with so much dead weight and with such a poor flight plan.

    In the cockpit the pilot is asleep at the wheel … and when awakened it is obvious he has accepted his destiny and continues drinking his vino and talking like a sage while maintaining his “deer-in-the headlights” stare.

    We may not hit the next hill and we may avoid the next mesa or elevation but the unavoidable crash and burn will soon follow. We can take it out on the sage in the cockpit and throw him off the plane. That would help a little I suppose – but we are still doomed.

    Yet, I will be at the game Saturday and I will hope for the best – but I suspect that every plane that flies overhead will quickly bring me back to reality … sadly, we are doomed lads. Doomed.

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