We caught up with Mark O'Rourke of Hot Time in Old Town, SB Nation's Chicago Fire blog, to trade questions before Wednesday night's game. We talk reliance on Mike Magee, the progress of last seasons Rookie of the Year Austin Berry, and just how important this game is to Chicago's playoff hopes.
Waking the Red: If you look at the Chicago Fire stats page it paints a picture of this team being very dependent on Mike Magee. Is it a case of the Fire only being as good as Magic Mike on any given night or is there more to their turn around this season?
When it comes to the Fire's turn around this season, it was not all Mike Magee. Bringing in Bakary Soumare has been a big part of the turn around as well. When Bakary is not shoving the assistant coaches of the New England Revolution, calling the Fire's Head Editor a muppet on Twitter and making lackadaisical back passesthat gives us all heart attacks, he is pretty good to have around.
Now that I got that out of the way, to answer your main question - The Fire have a lot of good quality players on the roster, and this team can win games without Magee (they beat Montreal earlier this year without him), but they definitely rely on him a lot. He's the leading scorer and one of the best chance creators on the team as well. If the Fire were forced to go the rest of the season without Magee, I don't think they would have a shot at making the playoffs.
WTR: Austin Berry is a player who many around TFC were hoping the club would select in 2012 but they went with Luis Silva instead. How has he done this season in building on what was without a doubt a very impressive rookie season?
The loss of Arne Friedrich to injury (and eventually retirement) this past off season has been a challenge for Austin. Arne made very few mistakes, so Austin just had to worry about Austin. Early on in this season, the back line was a disaster and Austin was forced to handle more responsibility in the back and clean up mistakes. From time to time he found himself in a few tough situations that could have been handled better. It was quite a struggle for the first few months. Adding Bakary in May definitely helped strengthen the back line and Austin has grown a pretty good partnership with Bakary. As of late, I would say he has been putting some of his best minutes over the past couple of games.
WTR: With the Fire currently on the wrong side of that red line in the Eastern Conference standings and coming off a defeat just how important is this game for them in terms of keeping their hopes of making a playoff push alive?
Very important. The Fire are 3 points out of a playoff spot and have a game in hand on the two teams immediately ahead of them - Houston and New England. Wednesday night in Toronto is the game in hand. A loss on Wednesday would not kill their playoff chances, but if the Fire do not come out pumped up and ready to play, it will be a tremendous disappointment. Some Fire fans have been critical of Frank Klopas and want him out. While I have not been happy with every Klopas decision, I do not want him out, however, a flat performance on Wednesday might sway me. There is no reason this team should not be prepared and ready to rumble on Wednesday.
Projected lineup (4-4-2):
Mike Magee, Chris Rolfe