Wednesday night’s match Chicago Fire against New York Red Bulls did not go the way fans expected it to. After the men in red lost to Houston Dynamo 3-0, they failed to make it 2nd in the eastern conference, placing them in the knockout round against New York Red Bulls. Chicago Fire fans thought the odds were in their favor, with the game being at home and the great season the Fire has had at home, with a home record of 12-3-3. With the Fire losing 4-0 by the 87th minute many fans were upset and wanted to leave the match. NYRB in a matter of 5 minutes was able to destroy the Fire’s confidence, with Bradley Wright-Phillips scoring in the 7th minute and NYRB midfielder Sacha Kljestan in the 11th minute. Mistakes were made by both Matt Lampson and defenders Joao Meira, as well as Johan Kappelhof. Meira and Kappelhof not adding pressure, especially on BWP, leaving him wide open, gave New York many chances. The third goal was scored in the 71st minute by Daniel Royer from a mistake by Matt Lampson and the 4th goal was scored in the 87th minute. With New York playing with 5 in the back line, it made it very difficult for Chicago to create a counter attack, or to just get through the defense at all. The Fire didn’t study NYRB hard enough, the only player who gave his all on the pitch was former NYRB player Dax McCarty.

 

The Fire lost many players due to injury and some who just came back from injury weren’t fully recovered. Those players being Bastian Schweinsteiger and Juninho, both players played tonight but only two started, David Accam and Juninho. With Fire coach Veljko Paunovic thinking it was best to let Bastian start the second half, nevermind that Schweinsteiger had only played 17 minutes in his last 7 games, due to a calf strain. David Accam didn’t seem like his normal self, recently coming out of injury with his hip, was fouled plenty of times Wednesday night didn’t help him out. David Accam will be undergoing hip surgery during the off-season. Chicago Fire also lost a key piece of the puzzle, Michael de Leeuw, the Lion who helped the men in red roar. Michael de Leeuw having his season come to an early end due to a torn ACL injury left the Fire with 17-year-old Djordje Mihailovic to replace the Dutch midfielder. Also, midfielder John Goossens who has not played since March, due to an ankle injury.

 

Before the season started, no one knew what to expect. The Fire could only go up, there was no going down since in the past two seasons, they were in last place. After acquiring Dax McCarty, Nemanja Nikolic, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Juninho (on loan from Tijuana), it gave fans hope. It made fans believe that this can be Chicago’s year. In the start of the season the men in red played amazing, they were in 1st place, favorites for the supporter shield, thought to get the U.S. Open Cup and believed to at least surpass the semi-finals, but it’s not that easy. Last season Chicago Fire finished last place in the eastern conference with 31 points, having 17 losses and only 7 wins in their 2016 season. The Fire finished their 2015 season with 30 points, having only 8 wins with whopping 20 losses. Chicago has failed to make it into the playoffs since 2012. Their mindset was to come into the 2017 season better than their past 2-5 years, and they did. Chicago made it to the playoffs while finishing in 3rd place in the eastern conference. The Fire are in their rebuilding stage when you look at teams who are rebuilding none will win a championship right away, they might still have plenty of flaws, and the Fire had some. Chicago is missing a playmaker and someone to play the right wing, perhaps someone with similar speed as David Accam. The Fire also needs a consistent goalkeeper. It’ll take time for the Fire to win a championship, maybe 3 years, but they are close. When you look at Toronto FC, in 2015 they finished 6th place, 2016 they finished 3rd, and their 2017 season they finished in 1st place, won the supporters shields, and is one of the favorite team to win the MLS Cup. TFC slowly progressed to being the most feared team in the MLS. It took them three seasons to get to the position they are in. Perfection takes time, which we saw Chicago Fire was nowhere near perfect.

 

Now that the 2017 season is over, the Fire has major gaps to fix. In order to be stronger next year, the Fire needs to bring in better players, not just in the pitch but in the locker. We saw when Bastian Schweinsteiger came, he just didn’t impact the team on the field but he also impacted them off the field. As I stated before there have been many mistakes with the defense, midfield, attack, and in goal. The Fire needs a consistent goalkeeper. Matt Lampson has some good games, but he’s not as consistent as he should be. Chicago also needs a defender that can step up, a big man. What they also need is a playmaker. Whatever the future holds for Bastian if he stays or if he goes, the Fire needs a playmaker. Bastian had a great impact on games, he is more like the engine of the team. To piece the midfield together the Fire must recruit a playmaker. We all saw how Seattle Sounders changed when they acquired Nicolas Lodeiro, who has played 33 matches this season scoring 7 goals and 9 assists.

 

Chicago Fire has a lot to work on during the offseason if they are looking to play better than how they did in their previous seasons.

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