Chicago Fire and Red Stars: What went wrong?

he Chicago Fire - (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
he Chicago Fire - (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /
3 of 5
Chicago Fire
C. J. Sapong #9 and Robert Beric #27 of the Chicago Fire – (Photo by Jeremy Reper/ISI Photos/Getty Images). /

Reason One for Similar Outcomes for the Fire and Red Stars – Schedule Changes

In a strange turn of fate, both teams had their schedules impacted by a team withdrawing from the tournament. I had said in my tournament preview for the Chicago Red Stars that they had possibly the easiest schedule to face, going up against four of the weakest teams in the league based on the previous season’s standings.

After multiple Orlando Pride players tested positive for COVID-19, that schedule was no longer usable. Instead, the strength of schedule was seemingly flipped, with the Red Stars now facing four of the toughest teams in the league.

A similar thing happened for the Chicago Fire, although it was less impactful on the final outcome. The Fire were initially placed in Group A along with two expansion teams, Nashville and Miami, and an NYCFC team that didn’t seem too threatening.

After Nashville’s positive tests caused them to withdraw, the Chicago Fire were moved to Group B to replace FC Dallas, who was also withdrawing. This pitted the Fire against the reigning champs in Seattle and an increasingly potent San Jose Earthquakes. As I said, this change was less impactful on the outcome, as the Fire won against the highly-rated Sounders and lost to a Vancouver Whitecaps team that had no business scoring.

Still, that rapid change disrupts a coach’s tactical plans, and the sudden jump in the quality of your opponents is hard to come back from.