Ahead of Wednesday's game against the Chicago Fire (cos that's what's on everyone's minds right now right?) I once again got in touch with Ryan Sealock of Hot Time In Old Town, SB Nation's excellent Fire related blog where you can of course go to get the Chicago viewpoint of the game, as well as later on, my answers to his questions about TFC. After the jump, we get into Sherjill MacDonald, Alvaro Fernandez and I ask him to give a depleted team some hope and talk about the Fire's weaknesses, but first up, let's get all Aretha Dangerfield and talk about respect. So, Chicago, how you doin'?
Waking the Red: Winners of 4 out of 5, and very much challenging for 2nd in the East, still no-one really talks about the Fire as a team to watch. Why the lack of respect?
Hot Time In Old Town: I think it is a mixture of things. Not getting much attention in the National Media compared to some other teams hurts. I actually had a chance to discuss this very thing with my fellow SB Nation Power Rankings voters, and this sentiment was somewhat echoed by some of them. The other major thing I think is the fact that, compared to teams like New York and LA, the Fire don't have a ton of superstar names on the roster. It sounded like many voters tend to weight a team with big name, jersey selling stars a bit more favorably than a team with a lot of hard workers but lack of big name recognition. To me, I could care less about big names as long as the team is winning. And the Fire have been doing a nice job of that lately. How many times have we seen a team spend tons of money and buy some big name stars, yet fail to put it all together and end up being a disappointment? I would argue that what is more common is a team of blue collar players coming together to form a cohesion that takes the team to the next level. How many years has New York had a star studded roster, only to fail? And look at the LA Galaxy. For all of their purchases (Beckham being the most famous), it still took them a few years to win with their pricey payroll.
In the end, the best managers don't just buy players to buy them, they bring in the right players that, added together, create a very good group. Those players then achieve more together than some of the big ego's on the same team in other places. I think Frank Klopas has been able to do this so far. Chicago Fire owner Andrew Hauptman has also gone on record saying that the money is there for a Robbie Keane like signing, IF the fit is right. This has become a running joke among Fire fan circles as the money is there, but we don't seem to spend it. The owner has made it clear that we won't splash money just to splash money. Klopas has shown that, although most of our players may not be household names, they are creating a group that is becoming very dangerous and climbing up the Eastern Conference Standings. Even if various media outlets continue to ignore the Fire, consistently winning and making some noise this postseason will speak louder than a power ranking number will.
WTR: When last we spoke, you were excited about the potential of recent additions Alvaro Fernandez and Sherjill MacDonald. How are they looking?
HTIOT: Sherjill has done very well so far I think. He has had enough time on the pitch to start to really get acclimated to the league and his teammates. He has 6 appearances so far, with a goal and 2 assists to his name. So, not a bad start at all. He has come very close to scoring multiple times, and I personally still think he is on the cusp of a big game that could really get him going.
As for Flaco, he has had flashes of brilliance, and has missed a couple of goals that he really should have scored. Overall, he has done ok, and seems to still be trying to find his footing with a new team and new system that plays differently than Seattle. The experience he bring is definitely valuable, and I think down the stretch he will start to find his normal form again.
WTR: You've beaten us twice already this year, we're wrecked by injuries and international callups, give me a shred of hope here, what are the Fire's weaknesses? How can TFC beat them?
HTIOT: I just saw the injury report for the match, and it looks like TFC has nearly been relegated to a reserve team with the injuries and callups as you mentioned. Right now the Fire have been playing well. Our midfield and defense has been strong. We are still looking to find that consistent goal scorer week in and week out, but we are getting contributions from a few players so the scores are being spread around. Although I am not sure i would call it a weakness, I would say goal scoring still. If the defense is strong like it normally is, then we should play with anyone. However, if we get in a shootout where we might need to score 3 or 4 goals to win, it makes things much tougher. I would say TFC is going to have to find a way to get multiple goals to have a shot, and with the depleted lineup I just don't see it barring some shocking defending or GK play. Sean and our backline has been so solid for most of this year that it would take a nightmare game for them to let in a few goals i think considering your normal scorers won't be available.
WTR: Scoreline and scorers prediction.
HTIOT: Considering the lineups, I will go 3-0 to the Fire. Goals from Rolfe, Sherjill, and Flaco. I just don't see anyone that will be available for TFC that has the danger of netting a time or two against us.
Thanks Ryan. Best of luck for the rest of the season.