MLS Weekend Results: What do they mean to the Fire?

SuperLiga 2009 Final Tigres UANL v Chicago Fire

With the Fire starting off their second (and last) bye week of the season today, I thought it would be good to update the MLS playoff picture for you guys. So, with that, here we go...

This weekend, the Galaxy (44 points, 2 games remaining) and the Dynamo (44 points, 2 games remaining) became the second and third teams, respectively, to clinch a 2009 playoff spot. The two Western Conference sides join the Crew (46 points, 3 games remaining) as teams to have clinched a playoff berth.

Speaking of the Crew, they unexpectedly lost a home game this past weekend, falling to Seattle 1-0 on Saturday night. Reigning MVP Guillermos Barros Schelotto missed what would have been an equalizing penalty kick in the 83rd minute. The loss, which ironically came at the hands of former Head Coach Sigi Schmid, snaps a 24-game home unbeaten streak for the Crew.
With the win, Seattle (2 games remaining) moves up to 41 points, good enough to pull even with both Chivas USA (4 games remaining) and the Fire (2 games left).

Rounding out the bottom of the playoff picture are Colorado (40 points, 2 games left) and New England (38 points, 3 games remaining), who played to a 1-1 draw this weekend.

So what do this weekend's results mean for the Fire? Well, to put it bluntly, it was bad. New England, who has a game in hand on the Fire, is nipping at Chicago's heels for the second seed in the East and the two sides' October 17th match (which is at New England...) looks like it will be a very important one - especially if New England is able to defeat Columbus this weekend.

Falling to third place in the East would obviously be bad news for the Fire. The consequences of a potential drop? Well, the team wouldn't receive home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs (though given the Fire's play at Toyota Park this year that could be a good thing...) and they would have to play a higher seed (and better/hotter team) in the opening round.

But despite the Fire possibly losing out on the East's second seed, I'm more concerned with the club's recent form. The Fire hasn't won in five games (a stretch that dates back to the side's August 23rd, 3-2, come from behind victory over the Rapids) and they've only picked up three points in the process. Simply put, the Fire is simply too talented of a team to finish the season behind the likes of New England (who have dealt with a ton of injuries this year) and Chivas USA (who simply don't have the personnel the Fire do). But if the Fire doesn't take their play up a notch, playoff positioning won't matter one bit. I mean, last time I checked, it doesn't matter what seed you have if you're not playing well enough to get past the first round...

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  • "the Fire is simply too talented of a team to finish the season behind the likes of New England"

    Really, Sam? I guess I don't see it. This is a team full of mediocre players, and it has been fortunate to spend time near the top of the table for a long stretch. If I'm a manager planning for a match against the Fire, who scares me? Thorrington? Nyarko? Pappa? What I see is a squad with little to distinguish it. No outstanding pace, or power, or ball skills, or accuracy, or creativity, or set-piece savvy. There's the occasional nice pass from a Blanco, or the stellar one-off strike from a Rolfe. But it's nothing like a potent squad which is effective at doing what it wants to do even when everyone sees it coming. We all know how Columbus will produce goals, but they do it anyway. Same goes for L.A. or even DC. And those clubs are good only by MLS standards. So where is all this talent the Fire is supposed to have? What, exactly, are Fire players good at?

  • In reply to tribhater:

    Welcome to Sam's blog Chris M.!

  • Their good at running around, and forgetting to cover the counter attack. Oh wait, that was one thing Baky was great at, protecting against the counter attack, and the one thing Conde can't do since he can't catch up to the forwards since he's busy trying to head the ball in. Atleast Thorrington chased them down, but he isn't playing.

  • I agree with Sam, the Fire are too talented a team to finish behind the likes of New England. LA and DC are not better squads than the Fire either. You have to compare the Fire by MLS standards. You can't compare the rest of the league by MLS standards and still hold the Fire to some loftier perception. Thorrington, Nyarko, Pappa?......are guys like Lenhart, Moreno, and Gaven really that much better. Are Klein, MaGee, and Gordon in LA really that much better. DC has the same problems you mentioned as the Fire. They will get an occasional beauty from Emilio or a great half from Gomez but the rest of their team is not very good. Come to think of it, Emilio and Gomez haven't been that good either.

    Since talent in MLS is extremely close from team to team (top to bottom) I believe that the man running the show really separates the top tier from the mediocre ones. Are you going to tell me that New England and Chivas are more talented than the Fire? That would be absolutely wrong.

    Now if you told me that Steve Nicol and Preki were more competent than Hamlett, you'd have a point.

    Let's look at Houston and Columbus, IMO they are the two teams in the league for which an argument can be made to claim the title of most talented or deepest. In Houston, many thought that the loss of DeRosario would doom them to a lower finish. What happens? They have Stuart Holden come through as a player. Brad Davis has been exceptional and Ricardo Clark is a defensive mid like we wish we had. The rest of the team....Ching's always hurt or away with the Nats, Boswell was a DC reject. Cameron, Hainault, Weaver, Mullan? Do those guys impress you? The biggest difference bewtween them and the Fire now? Kinnear has put players in a position to succeed. Their talent is not appreciably better than the Fire.

    Columbus? Who really scares you besides Schelotto? The play an organized, efficient, team concept that still works even when Schelotto is not playing. Why? Because they're well coached and disciplined, exceptional on set pieces, and defend their home field. Rogers and Marshall are solid MLS players. The rest of the team? Are they really that much better than the Fire?

    The Fire has several players (just like most teams) that would play for any team in the league.....Blanco, McBride, Segares, Conde, Rolfe, are comparable to the top teams best 5.

    Btw, the Fire were 6-0-4 with BOTH Conde and Soumare starting this year. The answers lie at the top.

  • Guillermo, you are soot on in your analysis. This team isn't playing as a well-coached team which was more than evident in the past several games with players actually running into each other, taking the ball away from their own players, and generally having no sense of how to attack the goal. I have pointed out repeatedly that we were only winning earlier due to the individual brilliance of a handful of players and not the result of consistent teamwork.

    I just hope they qualify for the playoffs which is even a little in question now given their recent form. Should they qualify, I would hope that they pull it together in spite of the questionable leadership at the top.

  • Sam,

    If you hit practice later this week can you look into a rumor about Xerez in Spain purchasing Pappa's rights from CD Municipal (which holds his rights in Guatemala)? The story goes that Xerez will purchase him from Municipal after the latter buys out next year's option from the Fire.

    Maybe if Xerez buys out his contract, their coaching staff can instruct him that he needs to play with both feet in order to be effective.

  • In reply to cesba:

    I saw the article too so another player who could be leaving the club at the end of the season.

  • In reply to cesba:

    I just had a painfully good idea: Play Pappa up front or attacking mid. He's so creative, but I don't feel like he has the energy to be a winger. Think about it: Pappa and McBride, Pappa and Rolfe, Pappa and Nyarko, it's insane! Good stuff Guillermo.

  • In reply to cesba:

    I won't be at practice but I expect to talk with Denis at some point so I'll ask him about that for sure.

  • In reply to SamuelStejskal:

    I'm sure Denis' answer will be something along the lines of "I don't anything about that". Klopas would be the guy to ask.

  • In reply to SamuelStejskal:

    Do you speak to Klopas much? If so could you ask him why he doesn't return calls.

  • In reply to MythosFC:

    I don't speak to Frank very often. We'll see if I can get him on the phone this week...

  • In reply to SamuelStejskal:

    Yeah don't leave a message because he won't return the call. Very unprofessional of him.

  • In reply to MythosFC:

    you could probably get a moment of his time tomorrow night at the anniversary party. also, he has done two Q&A's with supporters this year at pubs.

  • Dichio retired and Barrett is.....well he's still Barrett. Oh, and TFC's probably not making the playoffs. Have a good time in Toronto.

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