It's just about 60 minutes before kickoff from Energy Drink Palace from the swamps of New Jersey. I've convinced myself our Fire have more than a puncher's chance against a RedBull squad who must be prohibitive favorites at home. There's just something about the Jersey/Chicago matchup - we're in their heads, somehow. They never quite play as well against us as it seems they should.
Anyway, that's what I keep telling myself. I'm aware that these are straws I'm grasping at. I'm aware this is a psychological defense mechanism. I'm aware that I won't understand these feelings in memory should #cf97 lay an egg today.
At the same time, the TBDs in the weekend are starting to get filled in: Montreal crapped down their leg, making things harder for Houston and New England. The Dynamo took care of business with an unimpressive 2-1 win over DC United - but unimpressive wins are meat and milk for Kinnear's Houston.
And so the eye starts to turn to playoff seeding, and - imagining, as I said at the start, that the Fire have this psychological edge over the Metros - it's not hard to see what lies beyond a strong performance today: A home-and-home with these very same RedBulls.
These are the kind of scheduling-oddity slogs that can raise a rivalry from ‘rude words and sarcastic internet comments' to ‘travel in packs for safety.' It's also the kind of crucible that can either cast down or reinforce narratives about a franchise.
What I'm saying is, in the next three weeks we could maintain our edge on those miserable Energy Drink Promoters - maintain it, strengthen it, add new verses to the already-epic "Tales of Cursed, Cursed Metro" - or we can be present at their destruction. The Fire can be the team that completed an astonishing turnaround by storming to the conference final over the backs of the most expensive squad in the conference, or they can be the guys standing out of depth of field in the slow-mo footage of the post-game celebration.
As much as I want the Fire to make the playoffs, I also do not want to be the team present when RedBull finally wins something. C'mon, gentlemen - let's keep them down where they belong.