OTF Roundtable: Chicago Fire Week 32
Each and every Wednesday, OTF contributors have their say on our Men in Red…
The roller coaster ride continues. Amazingly, despite an emotionally draining, disappointing result on Saturday, our 8th place Chicago Fire finds itself a mere two points behind and even on the first two tie breakers with 5th place Philadelphia Union in the Eastern Conference.
With a favorable schedule to close out the season beginning this Friday, do the Men in Red truly have what it takes to make the MLS playoffs?
A playoff team takes the three points and an also-ran walks away with a point. Now the Fire play the game of math and fate, and the fact of such a numerology dominating my Fire-fandom is maddening. To my mind, Chicago, New England, and Philadelphia are behind the momentum of Columbus for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Right now, Chicago is a fifteenth placed team. If the playoffs are made by the skin of the teeth this season, then good. But I doubt it. So, we all need to start discussing what moves should be made for next season.
Now is the time to let it go, to make peace with the season. Now is the time to play the youth in the first team. Now is the time to experiment with formations. Now is the time to make demands on the future and set clear-cut consequences for failure. Chicago is staring into the abyss of a Toronto FC-like maelstrom needing Odyssean skill to navigate this Scylla and Charybdis…look it up.
You know that idiom, that turn of phrase used to describe the difference between success and failure? You know, “the little things”. Or perhaps you prefer “the devil’s in the details,” which, if you think about it, is a tad cynical because it implies that evil wins over good. Anyway, I don’t think the Fire will make the playoffs this season. Why? Because they’re not good at accomplishing the little things, the details that make or break a middling team in MLS’s land of parity.
Sure, Chicago’s next three of their four remaining opponents are relatively soft. Indeed, DC United, Toronto FC, and FC Dallas are all “should” and “must” wins for the Men in Red. The problem is though, Chicago Fire, for whatever reason (I have my theories), cannot get the job done when it needs to most. The team just can’t seal the deal – especially against teams of lesser talent.
But let’s say Frank Klopas and company find it within themselves to turn around what’s been an inconsistent, irksome, and disappointing latter third of the season. Let’s say they take the maximum nine points from their next three fixtures, two of which are on the road. This will put the Fire at 49 points with one game left to play – in New York, against a Red Bulls team fighting for the Supporters Shield and the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Given our hypothetical, it’s likely the Fire’s playoff hopes would hinge upon this final contest.
Would you believe then?
The Fire has the most favorable schedule of the teams battling for the fourth and fifth playoff spots, but they don’t have enough consistency to actually make it to the postseason. Moreover, Chicago is one of the worst away teams in MLS (2-4-8, 10 pts., -14 GD) and will be in the road for three of its remaining four games. I am not confident the Men in Red will be able to grab enough points to make the playoffs and keep Frank Klopas’s head off the chopping block this off-season.
The result of the Fire’s next game at DC United will either put a fork in the Fire or keep it livin’ on a prayer. To Chicago’s advantage, Ben Olson’s choice XI should be gassed after gutting out an astounding US Open Cup final win against Western Conference leaders Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto on Tuesday night. If the Fire don’t take three points from the worst team in MLS this Friday, the final curtain will fall on the 2013 season.
Finally, if the Fire’s remaining fixtures combined with its poor road form doesn’t convince you they won’t make the playoffs, check out this link: http://www.sportsclubstats.com/USA/MLS.html According to their projection model, Chicago now has a 15% chance of making it above the ” Red Line”.
The simple answer to this week’s question posed to the roundtable is, no. The Fire will not make the playoffs, nor should they make the playoffs. They’ve left too many points on the table with terrible finishes to matches and haven’t played to their potential often enough against teams they should beat. Moreover, there are too many teams ahead of them in better form at the moment. Chicago’s up and down nature leads me to believe they will earn one or maybe two more results out of their last four. Problem is, they’ll need more than that to make the playoffs.
If you look back at my predictions in the Week 28 Roundtable for the final nine games, I’ve been spot on in terms of predicted total points during the last five games (results for NE and Columbus were reversed). What has the team shown that makes me think the last four games will be anything other than the L, L, W, L I predicted? Not much at all.
The Fire have won twice all year and taken only 10 points in 14 games away from Toyota Park. Furthermore, they’ve looked terrible in those matches. Therefore, I think the team MAY pick up one more point on the road at best, but I won’t hold my breath. At best, this team will finish 7th in the Eastern Conference, and Frank will get the sack.
I’ve tried being optimistic, but after the game last Saturday night I need genuine results to bring me back on board with the few remaining believers.
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.