While I wait for ChicagoNow to reload most of the previous Fire Confidential posts that featured the recap and ratings for each match which would enable me to complete my midseason grades I've decided to take a look at where the Fire stand half way through the MLS season.
Remarkably the Fire are still well within reach of a playoff spot despite only managing two wins through their first 17 matches. Of course it helps that MLS expanded the playoff field to ten this season and the Eastern Conference isn't exactly filled with clubs that will challenge for the Supporter's Shield. The top two clubs both have their issues. New York has been poor defensively and are now in the midst of reshaping their side after dealing Dwayne DeRosario to DC. Philadelphia has ridden an undefeated home record to the top of the Eastern table but they've had issues in the final third all season.
Columbus, Houston, DC, Toronto, and Sporting Kansas City are all ahead of the Fire in the table but the side currently holding the tenth and final playoff spot, Houston is only two points better than Chicago at this point. A look at the table shows a pretty closely jumbled conference.
|2||New York Red Bulls||24||17||5||3||9||27||21||6||4-1-3||1-2-6||T-W-T-L-T|
|7||Sporting Kansas City||17||15||4||6||5||19||21||-2||2-0-1||2-6-4||T-W-W-T-W|
|9||New England Revolution||15||17||3||8||6||13||21||-8||3-2-4||0-6-2||L-L-T-T-L|
The Crew have also maintained an impressive home record allowing them to stay in the hunt for the top spot in the East. How each team manages the transfer window and integrates any new additions into the side will surely tell the tale as the season winds down. DC now has DeRosario at their disposal but reports are they are planning to play him at the top of a diamond behind Josh Wolff and Charlie Davies. That may sound enticing but DeRosario is probably best utilized as a withdrawn forward at this point in his career as New York found out.
I'm not sold on Toronto FC's acquistion of Torsten Frings either. Aron Winter now has three players at the holding mid spot to sort through with Frings, Julian DeGuzman, and Tony Tchani on the squad. Unloading DeGuzman who has underperformed in his time with Toronto won't be easy due to his DP salary. Houston is in search of mid season additions, particularly up front after the Sergio Koke debacle.
Sporting Kansas City is tied on points with Chicago with 17 but they have played two fewer games and have fourteen matches remaining at home after starting the season on a perpetual road trip while waiting for their new stadium to be completed. They do however face some challenges with Davy Arnaud now injured, Ryan Smith unavailable for the rest of the season, and Stephen Auvray mysteriously missing from training.
The Fire can start the second half on the right foot by taking advantage of a Chivas side currently running through a stretch of bad form losing three consecutive matches. A look at the Western Conference shows that the balance of power is still where it was last season.
|2||Seattle Sounders FC||31||19||8||4||7||25||18||7||5-2-3||3-2-4||T-T-W-W-W|
|4||Real Salt Lake||26||15||7||3||5||18||9||9||5-1-2||2-2-3||L-T-T-T-W|
|6||San Jose Earthquakes||20||15||5||5||5||20||17||3||3-2-3||2-3-2||T-W-W-L-T|
|9||Vancouver Whitecaps FC||14||18||2||8||8||18||25||-7||2-1-5||0-7-3||L-T-W-L-L|
Three Western Conference clubs currently have accumulated more than 30 points. The Eastern Conference leaders would sit in fifth place if MLS used a single table alignment. The Fire still have difficult road games remaining at Los Angeles, at San Jose, and at Real Salt Lake while Colorado and FC Dallas visit Toyota Park later this season. Picking up points against the West won't be easy especially if central midfield isn't addressed when the transfer window opens two weeks from today.
If the playoffs were to start tomorrow the participants would be Philadelphia, New York, Columbus, and Houston from the East and six sides from the West. Los Angeles, Seattle, FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake, Colorado, and San Jose.