Honestly, the reaction on Twitter last night was nothing like I was feeling. There was way more optimism than I was feeling on the 1hr 10 min drive home.
I saw several tweets immediately after the game saying things like "Remember where we were last season." I do remember. Frank came in mid-season and turned this team around with some big midseason signings and a new mentality that the we could sense from the stands. This was a completely different team than the one under De Los Cobos. We were no longer playing for ties, we were going for the throat, and I LOVED it. We narrowly missed the playoffs, and when we didn’t lose anyone to the expansion draft, I was thinking we could make a deep playoff run.
The thing I was really ticked about last night and am still smoldering about today is that we’ve seen this team play better than they have the last month. How is it that a team that went 8-2-1 after the international break closes out final month of the season 1-3-1? Was it that the league finally figured out how to play Chris Rolfe? Maybe, but with the other signings, we (at least should have) had the tools to overcome that. I never fully realized how big he and other midseason signings were. Check out the results map: http://www.mlssoccer.com/results. The Fire were 12-7-3 since Rolfe returned to the field against NE on June 2nd. Up until his return, the Fire were spotty and weren’t consistent. Big Mac came in on July 28th and then we really started clicking. I think it is essential to find out why we started sagging against teams who were not contending. I know when teams are out of the race they love to play spoiler, but the losses to Philly and New England still should not have happed. We should have been able to trounce New England especially when Matt Reis, possibly my most hated MLS keeper, was not in the net! Maybe with a full preseason, the forwards will really get to know and gel with the midfield and we can work out better options.
I think that with the right moves this offseason, we can properly utilize Chris and get back where we belong: MLS Cup Finals.
Post-Season Roster thoughts:
Note: I do not have much information on how long we have most of these players under contract for, so where I don’t know, I am assuming we need to resign them.
GK Sean Johnson – Lock him up in a long term contact now, if it hasn’t been done already! SJ looked great after coming back from… well, most of us know it wasn’t his fault, so I’m going to leave it at that. It’s been widely predicted he’s going to go far and I hope we see him between the pipes in Bridgeview for the foreseeable future.
GK Paolo Tornaghi – I loved what I saw of this guy when he played, its safe to say we had one of the best backup keepers in the league. But with SJ no longer eligible for the U-23 team, (pretty sure) and not getting minutes on the senior team, do we need to keep him and take up an international slot? Also, IMO, this guy deserves first team minutes and is being wasted in the Reserves. Maybe we could resign and trade him? We should be able to get someone good for his skills.
D Cory Gibbs – If Arne comes back next year, I think Gibbs is done in Chicago.
D Austin Berry – Give him a 3-4 year contact with a decent raise and watch him continue to get better. Could he be the next CJ Brown? Ok, that may be an exaggeration (right now J), but Berry has got to be one of the best draft picks we’ve made.
D Arne Friedrich – Absolutely must resign him this season. Frank wants him back, he wants to come back, this should be a no brainer.
M Corben Bone – Scott at OnTheFire tweeted base and guaranteed salaries for this year and Bone has a base salary of $100k with about $160k guaranteed. Once his Generation Adidas status is up, unless he REALLY starts impressing people, he’s gone.
M Alvaro Fernandez – Say it with me now: Hey hey, hey, GOODBYE! Ditch this guy any way you can. When news of his signing was announced, I was optimistic. A DP mid that we got for allocation money (probably some of what we got for Conde’s rights) who has a green card and didn’t take up an international slot. What could go wrong, right? I had posted a comment on an MLS article asking why Seattle let him go and a Sounder supporter said essentially that he was benched and inconsistent. I thought a change in scenery might do him good, but unfortunately, Flaco never found his groove with the Fire. In 13 matches with the Fire, Fernandez averaged a rating of 5.15 from Guillermo Rivera on Fire Confidential. Granted this is not scientific, but you want a guy holding a DP slot to earn some more confidence from fans. Unfortunately, I don’t know who will take him. After shaky performances with Seattle and now us, who’s going to want to waste a DP slot on him? I know he’s under contract for next year, so we may be stuck with him. I was ok with the gamble we took on him: Funny money we got for a defender we weren’t going to sign anyway. Unfortunately, Flaco’s been a bust.
M Alex – I didn’t get a chance to see Alex at the preseason games, so when someone said he was Grazzini minus 8 years, I was encouraged. (This was before the whole Grazzini debacle.) Unfortunately, the arrival of Flaco kept him on the bench and I don’t think we’ve seen Alex’s full potential. Keep him around.
M Wells Thompson – Signed him for the playoff push, didn’t use him much, wasn’t impressed with what I did see.
F Chris Rolfe – The first Fire signing that I was actually excited about in a very long time! Unfortunately, after the departure of Grazzini, they tried to put him in the playmaker role. Chris Rolfe is a forward! That’s not to say that he didn’t make some wonderful passes this year, though. Play him as the forward he is, and that would be a huge boost to the offense.
F Sherjill MacDonald – I think with a full preseason with the Fire under his belt, the Dutchman will improve and become a target up top. If it comes down to him and Franco, I think his age and speed have us keep him over Franco. However, if we do keep him, there are other questions that have to be answered.
F Guillermo Franco – Another signing for playoff run that we didn’t see much of, but this was due to his own poor decision. A lot will depend on how long his contract is for, not sure if it was just through the end of the season.
The $64,000 question is, what do we do to fix the offense? Do we try to fix it with what we have now, or do we sign a big name forward? We can’t keep MacDonald and Rolfe and sign a new forward. If we do, we have a three man midfield, and good luck trying to figure out who to start in a three man midfield. Plus, every time I’ve seen a three-man backline in MLS, it’s ended badly.
Fire To Do List:
<!--[if !supportLists]-->1) <!--[endif]-->Figure out how to fix the offense. If we sign a striker , he needs to be a bone fide scorer. Go out there and spend that Keane money! No more Bargain Basement unknown DP’s! (I will grant that it did pay off somewhat with Sherjill.)
<!--[if !supportLists]-->2) <!--[endif]-->Resign Friedrich and secure the back line.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->3) <!--[endif]-->Unload Flaco
<!--[if !supportLists]-->4) <!--[endif]-->Find the playmaker mid. Whether it be Alex or someone else, don’t try to force Rolfe in that role.