I have been long overdue for a hat trick/QOTD article, so I am pulling one out of the closet, dusting it off, and busting it out. For those unfamiliar with what this is, I pick 3 topics (usually Fire related but not always), do an analysis on each, and then come up with a poll question.
We will have a 3 questions exchange coming up this weekend, as well as our normal game preview and gamethread. Follow me after the break for the hat trick and QOTD...
1. Watching Eastern Conference Standings
I am someone that looks at the standings from game 1. Although many people don't look until at least halfway through the season, 3 dropped points in game 1 can be as deadly as 3 dropped points in game 30. Now that the playoff push is really heating up (especially with the extra 2 teams going into the playoffs), things are getting very interesting. Here's a look at the current Eastern Conference standings via the official MLS website:
|2||Sporting Kansas City||40||23||1.74||12||7||4||28||21||7||12||5||16||2|
|3||New York Red Bulls||38||23||1.65||11||7||5||38||34||4||22||12||16||-8|
|8||New England Revolution||23||22||1.05||6||11||5||26||28||-2||16||6||10||-8|
As you can see, the Fire sit only 5 points out of first. We are certainly in the thick of things as we head into the last 10 or some games. New York and Houston play each other Friday night, so this could be good for the Fire. Honestly, a draw in that game might be the best result. That way, both teams gain as minimal of an amount as possible without 1 team jumping 3 more points ahead of us. KC and DC also play each other, with KC coming off tonight's Open Cup Final game vs. Seattle. KC will obviously be playing their choice first XI, so they could be gassed come Saturday night.
The Fire have a chance to jump up the table with 3 points Sunday evening, depending upon other results. One of the biggest things to take away in the above standings is the 5th and final playoff spot we currently occupy. I expect the Fire to finish above 5th in the East and not have to fight for the last spot. However, even if that situation would occur, we have at least created a bit of space on the teams below us. The Impact sit only 5 points below us, but we have a massive 3 games in hand on them. On the flip side, Columbus is 7 points behind us but has two games in hand on us. Barring a highly unlikely unthinkable run from the Revs, Union, or TFC, the team to concentrate on that is currently out of a playoff spot is Columbus. The Impact have been playing well and could definitely make a push, but they are running out of time with 25 games played already. If the Crew get on a winning streak (and I hate to say that), there could be a slugfest for the 5th and final playoff spot.
The Fire have yet to hit a real, consistent groove like we did late last season. It would appear that the arrival of Flaco and Sherjill could finally help us to get on a hot run and distance ourselves from that 5th spot for good.
2. Marco Pappa tops MLS Castrol Rankings for Week 22
As the article states, one would think that a player who serves up an opposing goal on a silver platter would find it hard to top the rankings. However, Marco showed what he is made of and rather than just pack the rest of the game in like some players might do, he made amends. Marco scored a huge equalizing goal which gave the team momentum to go get the winner last Saturday vs. TFC courtesy of rookie Austin Berry. Berry garnered a #6 spot on this week's list as well. Not too shabby for the spirited rookie!
Awhile back, I talked to the good people over at Castrol to get some more insight as to what attributes go into the rankings. I still plan to do another piece after the season ends, to compare the players I asked about previously and how they ended their season. I will also gather info on some of the new arrivals as well. In the mean time, if you haven't read my old article yet, take a look at it to get some info. on the rankings.
Despite the info. I got, how the rankings are fully formed remain somewhat murky. This is also something i plan to ask about at the end of this year. For example, going back to the Castrol Rankings for week 21, one would expect to see Sean Johnson at the top after his highlight reel performance against San Jose. Although the team did allow an equalizer at the death, one would think his performance was still good enough to garner a top spot. As you can see on the link, he ended up 19th. As with any rankings system there will always be supporters and detractors. I think the Castrol Rankings are a good thing, but additional clarity needs to get out to the fans on exactly how things are measured. That is the only way to know why an exceptional performance may not be rated as highly as one would think. Or, vice versa, why a seemingly ok-to-good performance is rated higher than what one would normally think. I hope to get to the bottom of this in my second piece later this year.
3. Chicago Fire top 15 Most Memorable Matches
For those that may not have seen it, the official Fire website is counting down the top 15 most memorable matches. You may have seen the #Fire15 tag floating around Twitter and no doubt saw Jeff Crandall talking about compiling the list. Jeff and the rest of the Fire team have done a great job of taking so many memorable moments and whittling it down into the most famous 15. There will no doubt be good debates as to what was included and what wasn't, but that's part of the fun. I think that the rankings are spot on for the most part.
The videos are fun to watch, and for those of you that might be a bit newer to the club, it's a great read. Not only will it help familiarize you with some of the greatest moments in club history, but it will also help bring you up to speed a bit in terms of Fire lore and former players. This is a part of the buildup to the huge 15th Anniversary celebration of the Fire on October 8th. Take a look at the article linked above, you won't regret it. Some great memories lie in wait for you.
Question of the Day
I am going to use part 1 of the hat trick for the QOTD today. With only a handful of games to go, where do you think the Fire will finish in the standings to end the season?