I exchanged Three Questions with RSL Soapbox in anticipation of tomorrow's match vs. Real Salt Lake. Below are the answers to the questions I asked. After the jump you can read my answers to their questions. Three Questions are exchanged among MLS bloggers before every match at SB Nation and ideally I'd like to send our opposing bloggers questions that you the readers have. For next week against Seattle Sounders, please send any questions you would like answered to HotTimeInOldTown@gmail.com. I'll sort through them, pick the three best, and even see about getting some insight on anything left over. Without further Adu:
1. So what is the deal with Marco Pappa? He clearly is the offensive mastermind (the new Blanco) for the Fire, and in the last 3 matches in which he hasn't played the Fire have scored just one goal and not gotten a win. He isn't on the injured list, so what is the deal?
Marco Pappa missed the LA Galaxy and Toronto FC games because he was on national team duty for Guatemala. He missed last Saturday's game against Philadelphia because of hamstring tightness. He might have been able to go but I think the team leaned on the cautious side with Philly being a weaker opponent and Pappa having played on Tuesday in the international friendly. If it was a gamble, clearly it came up snake eyes.
I can see how you would look at the stat sheet and think that Pappa is the new Blanco but Pappa doesn't have Blanco's creative flair. Pappa also doesn't run the ball in the center like Blanco would. Often Pappa's success comes from plays that start out on the wings and move diagonally into the box. His assists are more his ability to create dangerous opportunities for himself first. Once he is boxed in or a shot becomes impossible, then he passes the ball. I don't want to make him sound selfish and if anything that tells you about the offensive players that have surrounded him this year - he has to look to shoot first. No one else is going to get the job done.
If there is a new Blanco, it is Freddie Ljungberg. Since his arrival, he plays right in the center of the field. If the defense or Logan Pause can collect the ball and make a controlled pass up the field, they look for Freddie. Freddie lacks Blanco's flair and fancy passes but he makes good technical passes and has the speed to burn defenders (Would you expect anything less from ex-Arsenal?).
We are very excited that Pappa will be back. Hopefully he gets back to adding goals to his 2010 campaign.
2. Most experts say it will take 42 points to make the playoffs this year, Chicago has 26, when I look at your remaining schedule (@RSL, Seattle, @ San Jose, @ FC Dallas, Columbus, KC, DC United, and @Chivas USA) I see 4 wins and a draw, 13 points where do you think the 16 points will come from, or are the playoff hopes for the Fire already extinguished?
Many fans think that the Fire's playoff chances are gone but I'm like the guy in the sports underdog movie who keeps telling everyone not to give up. I had this formula worked out that at the beginning of September that put us in good standing... but that formula also involved beating Philadelphia. Taking 2 combined points from LA and Toronto keeps us alive but it's pretty dark. Barring a complete change of fortune, any Fire playoff scenario will require beating KC, DC United and Chivas USA to finish the season. That is 9 points right there. If we can't beat those three teams when it counts the most, I wouldn't want to see them in the playoffs anyway.
For the final 6 points, we pretty much have to beat Seattle to keep them down. Handing them another 3 points next week might even end the season right there. Even if we lose tomorrow's game but Seattle loses to Columbus and we beat Seattle next weekend, we would just be 4 points behind with 2 games in hand on Seattle. Toronto is a mess and beating KC later on would hopefully leap frog us over them so it is not entirely impossible. Do the Fire have a long road ahead of them? Sure, but a win tomorrow in the Rio Tinto would be a huge jumpstart to the 2010 chances.
3. The matches between Chicago and RSL over the last few years have been tight matches with often set pieces making the difference, in the past that has meant Blanco, but he is gone and the Fire only have 1 player on their current roster (Patrick Nyarko) who has ever scored a goal against RSL. Who will be the guy taking the set pieces against RSL and who do you think can add their name to Nyarko's as someone who has scored against RSL?
The fact that Nyarko is the only guy on the roster who has scored against RSL is fairly ironic. Nyarko hasn't scored all season and it is quite puzzling. He has gotten much better at breaking down defenses and he has been the catalyst for a lot of our offense this year but he can't score this year to save his life. Teams are starting to give him more room to defend against his quick ball movements and sharp passes. The times that he has shot the ball, it hasn't gone very far or been very threatening. If Marco Pappa is always looking to take a shot this year, Nyarko is always looking to make a pass. If they could combine into the same player, they would be a leading EPL hero for sure.
In the RSL game tomorrow, Nery Castillo will likely be taking the set pieces. He has been taking them since the Seattle game and gotten better with each attempt. Depending on the situation, Collins John or Freddie Ljungberg might take the kick. Collins John did of course have that beauty of a free kick against LA Galaxy on September 4th. As for who will open up their scoring account against RSL? That is the frustrating part about this team, they all look brilliant at times. Pappa is our leading goal scorer, Ljungberg has been very close to scoring, Castillo improves with every game, Calen Carr has provided two substitution goals, Brian McBride still has world class headers, even Wilman Conde is incredibly dangerous on corner kicks. The potential for this team to start steamrolling teams like a locomotive is there, and it's there, and it's there every week but so far the train hasn't even left the station. It's why I hold out hope for the playoffs but it's also why I fear the Fire could lose 3-0 or 4-0 tomorrow. Get ready for the Chicago Fire - we'll be like a bomb. We are either going to explode and cause havoc on RSL or we'll explode in the process of being ignited and I'll turn the TV off before the game is even over.