While the temperature certainly isn’t going down for a while, we’ve entered the latter end of the year and the latter half of the MLS season for the Chicago Fire. And, whether surprisingly or unsurprisingly, it looks like the Fire’s entire season is now riding on this one game. If the Chicago Fire can get a win against a struggling New York Red Bulls team at home, then they might stand a chance to use that momentum on what would have to be a miracle run to the playoffs. If not, then it’s time to start shopping for new players for the offseason. But for now, let’s check who is here for this one.
Earlier in the week, Bobby Shuttleworth got a well-deserved break after getting absolutely battered against the Philadelphia Union. However, I don’t think he’ll be out for too long and we’ll see him back in for this one. The same might not be able to be said for Miguel Navarro, who also missed the game against New York City FC, but might not be as “essential” to the team’s success. For New York Red Bulls, Aaron Long and Youba Diarra appear to be the only major players that are likely missing this one. Although, they’ve been playing with the same exact starters for three straight games now and might be considering some changes.
Here are three things to think about going into Sunday.
I’m not gonna waste your time and spread out this point over the course of three different “points.” Right here, right now, this is the season for the Chicago Fire. They need to get 7 points out of this three game home-stand. Their horrible record on the road and the high-flying antics of the rest of the Eastern Conference has Chicago pinned back to the wall. The only way to even imagine this team finding it in themselves to go on a tear on a six-game road trip is if they can win at home in a convincing fashion against three teams that are difficult, but reasonable enough to beat if you are a team with playoff hopes.
The New York Red Bulls do not look like a good team right now, but neither does the Chicago Fire. This is a game that the Fire should have every chance of winning. And if they don’t, then it’s time to pack it up. Even a draw would basically mean the end of the season. So if you enjoy seeing how teams deal with being in “Do or Die” moments, this is it. And even if they win here, it’d still be “Do or Die” the rest of the way.
I want you to imagine that you are a last place team. Choose any sport you want, because honestly I think that any major professional sport is going to have a similar answer. You’re a last place team and the trade deadline/transfer deadline is coming up. This team has a lot of clear holes and dead-weight contracts and while you can wait until the offseason to deal with everything, there’s still this window where you can try to do something. How many roster moves would you consider? Specifically, how many signings or trades would you at least be looking into at this point to acquire something to build on going forward?
Okay, I can’t hear you because that was a rhetorical question; but if your answer was anything over 1 signings/trades, that’s better than the Chicago Fire. Maybe it’s unfair to put the number at 1, so let me specify. The Fire traded away an allocation order spot to the LA Galaxy for $50k in General Allocation Money and they also sold Przemyslaw Frankowski to RC Lens for what is estimated to be around $3M. So money is good, but only 1 actual player joined. And while the jury has yet to even convene to decide if Federico Navarro will be worth it, it’s a bit disappointing seeing the rest of the league stocking up on talent while the Fire maintain stability at the bottom of the table.
Il Futuro del Fuoco
Something that might go under the radar for many who mostly just follow the Chicago Fire for signings and results is a quote from owner Joe Mansueto a few weeks back about wanting to find a foreign farm team. Recently, that quote appears to be solidifying in an actual purchase of Swiss side FC Lugano. In a reversal of the usual “foreign club invests in MLS team” situation, it appears that Joe Mansueto is planning on using FC Lugano as a way to develop foreign players that would normally take up international slots. This allows the Fire to not only have a place to offload less-than-useful prospects that would take up international slots while they’re developing, but it also allows the Fire to have access to a solid European academy that can lead to a direct pipeline to the club back in Chicago.
Things are still incredibly weird at the moment, with a situation that involves some guy owning the academy, but not the team, but he’s got an option to buy the team and everything is a mess. But, according to an article from a site that covers Lugano in the local language of Italian (long story), it looks like Mansueto is just about ready to finish the deal. If and when that deal is completed, I’ll discuss the implications in more detail. But for now, that’s really the biggest thing the Chicago Fire are up to this weekend.
Chicago Fire (5-2-2-1): Bobby Shuttleworth; Francisco Calvo, Jonathan Bornstein, Mauricio Pineda, Johan Kappelhof, Boris Sekulic; Alvaro Medran, Gaston Gimenez; Ignacio Aliseda, Stanislaw Ivanov; Chinonso Offor
New York Red Bulls (4-1-2-1-2): Carlos Coronel; Andrew Gutman, Amro Tarek, Tom Edwards, Kyle Duncan; Sean Davis; Caden Clark, Cristian Casseres Jr; Wikelman Carmona; Patryk Klimala, Fabio
How To Watch
Sunday, August 8th, 5:00PM CDT; At Soldier Field in Chicago, IL, broadcasting on WGN and online through the Chicago Fire website