As the pre-season winds down only four more matches remain to test lineups and form team bonds. With only 19 days to the first regular season match, fan excitement and anticipation will build as each day ticks down. The Fire will officially begin the 2017 season away to bitter rivals the Columbus Crew. The rivalry has a very long history with Fire supporters traveling to Columbus or as it is called “Fire House East.” The next question is will this match ignite what Fire fans hope will be a championship season?
While that question remains to be answered on the field, thoughts begin to turn to predicting the starting lineup. Unlike previous seasons a strong core of players remain from last season so my thought is that this will lead to a more cohesive lineup. I am certain that speedy winger David Accam will be tasked with wreaking havoc on opposing defenses, his speed and skill make him a nightmare to defend. It is hoped that the new attack pairing of forwards Michael de Leeuw and Nemanja Nickolic will result in an increase in number of goals scored. We have already seen a glimpse of what could be when the two combined in the lone goal of the game against Philadelphia. This could very well be a match made in Soccer heaven. The new strong defensive midfield pairing of Juninho and McCarty is hoped will lead to more possession of the ball and fewer goals conceded. The Fire conceded 58 goals last season. It is hoped new Goal Keeper Jorge Bava will be a rock in net. On the defensive end with last year’s starters Johann Kapplehoff, Jonathon Campbell, Brandon Vincent all returning it seems that they will patrol the area in front of goal again in 2017. The only big question is that of the right back positon with Michael Harrington being the only player in the roster in that position. I believe that will be addressed before the season opener.
As the days count down and the excitement and anticipation builds to feverish pitch, every Fire Fan’s soccer heart begins to gain cautious optimism. So the new question is will Fire fans be treated to true soccer euphoria or will hearts once again be wooden? A trophy would be a wonderful 20th anniversary present.