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Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution - MLS #33 - Fireside Chat with The Bent Musket

Chicago Fire action is finally almost back! After what has seemed like eons, the Men in Red are back in action this weekend and looking to earn another 3 points. The Fire can even overtake 1st with a win and a Sporting KC loss, so the stakes are still very large heading into the final 2 games of the season


I want to give a tip of the cap to Corey Major over at The Bent Musket for his help in putting together another illuminating Fireside Chat. Although on paper the Fire have the clear advantage, we all know that the games are played for a reason. Gillette Stadium hasn't always been kind to the Men in Red, so the team must come out and control the match from the start.

I have seen a few Fire fans mention this as a "trap game", and I must admit this is something I am worried about. This almost feels like the Philly game, where we are heading into a matchup that we should and are expected to win. It's not always that easy however, as the Union showed us. The team must take care to treat this as a tough match just like any other and not take 3 points for granted. If we can come out win a win, we could be in 1st place by the end of the weekend if New York can knock off KC.

Enjoy the Fireside Chat. As the indomitable Tweed Thornton would say, the Beat Rolls On...

Hot Time In Old Town Asks The Bent Musket

1. How big of an impact has Ryan Guy had this season? (via Stephen Piggott)

Ryan Guy has actually been a huge impact. But, not just on the pitch where he of course can (and has) played basically any position other than goalkeeper. Perhaps more importantly is the attitude that Guy brings to the club. He embodies what Revolution fans are desperate to see out of their team: hard work, confidence, accountability, and leadership. If he were a lock for the starting XI then there's no question in my mind that he should be wearing the captain's armband next season.

2. How has the offense suffered without Saer Sene? (via Rudy Gomez)

Sene's absence hasn't really hurt the team all that much. His injury happened right around when we were pretty sure that the playoffs weren't going to be happening for us this season, so, if anything, it allowed Jay Heaps the flexibility to get some other guys some minutes like Dimitry Imbongo and Diego Fagundez. Sene was also having a hard time adjusting to various positional shifts that Heaps was playing around with and his goal-scoring form was not as hot as it was in the beginning of the season.

3. Going off the last question, has Jerry Bengtson stepped up to help fill the gap left by Sene? (via Rudy Gomez)

I can't really say that Jerry has filled the void left by Sene all that much. By all means, Jerry has shown a lot of endurance and a willingness to adapt and learn on the fly, but he's certainly not yet had the appropriate amount of adjustment time needed to acclimate to the MLS style of play nor his teammates around him. Plus he has been away from the team quite a bit due to international duty with Honduras. That said, he has made significant strides and has shown Revs fans very promising glimpses of what they can expect in 2013. I think a pre-season under his belt will be just what the doctor ordered.

4. The Mayor of Fall River is pitching a "perfect site" for owner Robert Kraft to build a new soccer stadium. How likely is it that this happens? If not there, are there any other legit targets for a new stadium and what timetable is the club looking at? (via Ryan Sealock)

A stadium in Fall River, Massachusetts is just straight up not going to happen. The Revs front office has stressed the importance of an urban stadium with easy access to public transportation more than any other factor that would go into this stadium deal. It's going to be either Somerville or Revere and it was only ever between these two all along. For a timetable, well, there is none. Revs president Brian Bilello has expressed a desire to get something done very soon so that the Revolution are playing in their new home come 2015. That's about as close to a timetable as we've got.

5. In many people's eyes (myself included), Robert Kraft is a detached owner that is running the club poorly. Would you describe this as an accurate statement? What is the opinion of Kraft in the eyes of the fans? Do you think he is holding the club back at all? (via Ryan Sealock)

Couldn't be a more accurate statement. And believe you me, there are PLENTY of Revs fans who will say just that and more (seriously, go check out our Big Soccer forum). Is he holding the club back? In a word: absolutely. Revs fans (myself included) feel they deserve an owner who is invested in their team. Nobody likes being constantly reminded that they are merely a side project. The Revolution organization has a lot of great people running the show who really truly care about the franchise, but there is one huge handicap keeping them from being as great as they could be, and that's the man who writes the checks. It's a catch 22 really, because without Kraft we wouldn't have a team to begin with (probably), but with him we feel like we don't have much of a team these days anyway. It's a sad state of affairs, but getting a stadium deal pushed through would go a LONG WAY towards changing that feeling.

Bonus: Score Prediction and who gets the goals

I have a feeling the Fire are going to have this game from the first whistle to the last. The Revs have no idea what they are playing for really and there's a smorgasbord of injuries to boot. Chicago nets three before the half and we get a lucky one back in the second half. So, 3-1... brace by McDonald and another from Nyarko. Revolution goal by Kelyn Rowe.

The Bent Musket Asks Hot Time In Old Town

1. The Fire knew they weren't going to be making the 2011 playoffs before last season was over. How important was their progress during the tail-end of last season towards preparing for this season and how have they benefited from it? What can the Revs learn from the 2011 Chicago Fire?

It was big for Fire fans I think. After another disappointing season and a second consecutive playoff miss, the whole club was feeling pretty down. Even though we didn't make the playoffs, we went on a huge run and nearly snuck in. The late season success was good for confidence and morale. We saw young players start to make an impact, and Frank Klopas showed everyone that he was the right man for the job, and his interim tag was removed. The run also re-iterated a fact about the Fire- the team never quits. They have shown that many times in the past and the fact that the team was still fighting hard and winning despite the bleak outlook spoke volumes.

We have seen this confidence and fight carry over to this year's very successful team. The Fire have been known to concede goals first a lot this year, and while it can drive fans crazy, the team is not intimidated. Many a lesser team would get discouraged, frustrated, and fall apart. Not so with this Fire team. We may not have world renowned superstar players, but we have a group that can accomplish more than many of those players can separately. And this team is showing that last year's late season run has helped play a part in the confidence and psyche of this year's team.

2. Rookie Austin Berry played 2340 minutes this season. How crucial has he been for the Chicago Fire defense this season and was he expected to be so involved when he was drafted? Does he have a spot in the starting XI locked up for the foreseeable future or has his playing time been mostly just a result of injuries?

Austin has been a revelation in Chicago. Although he was tabbed as MLS ready when drafted, the initial plans weren't to have him starting. We had Arne Friedrich and Cory Gibbs as our CB duo. Then, Cory Gibbs suffered a severe injury that would make him miss the rest of the 2012 season. This was a huge blow for the team but little did anyone know that it would open the door for the soon to be MLS Rookie of the Year. And Austin hasn't looked back. The experience he is getting playing beside Arne is invaluable. In fact, he has been so good that he has pushed Jalil Anibaba out of position. Jalil is a true CB but he is now playing RB because you just can't break up the tandem of Arne and Austin (dubbed affectionately the A-Team by many Fire fans).

I don't see Austin leaving the starting XI again unless it would be because of (knock on wood) an injury. He has been too good, and it sounds increasingly likely that Arne might stay for another year as well. For my money there isn't a better CB duo in the league than these two. To have them back together again next year would be a huge lift before the season ever starts.

3. Chicago only has two games off but has the potential to get home-field advantage for the playoffs if they can win out (to my understanding?). How is that affecting Frank Klopas' roster choices for this final stretch? Do you anticipate the Fire to go all out for these last two matches, or will some starters likely be rested for the playoffs?

I think we will see the Fire go all out. With the international break that just got over, the players got one more long stretch of rest. Right now, we are 3 points behind Sporting KC. If we win out and they lose one, we are then in the drivers seat. If we end up tied with SKC, we hold the tie breaker right now with more goals scored. Thus we would have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Even if we finish below them, we would still have the advantage against teams with lower seeds. So there is still a lot to play for in the final 2 games for us. They are both winnable, and I expect to see a full strength starting XI for both games.

4. Speaking of the roster, and not unlike the Revolution, there has been a lot of movement this season in Chicago with players leaving and new players coming in. How has that affected the club this season, generally speaking? Is there more work still to be done or is this squad, for the most part, expected to be the Chicago Fire of the next couple years?

I think the squad we see now is the squad we will have for the next couple of years. Most of the players are under contract, and the ones that aren't seem likely to come back. Of course there is always room for a big signing or addition, but we have shown we can win with the team we have and are pretty content at this moment in time. Turnover this year wasn't nearly as bad as turnover last year heading into the season. This year we added quality players in Friedrich, Sherjill MacDonald, Alex, and Flaco. We cut out useless players like Rafael Robayo and Federico Puppo. So the changes we made were greatly for the better.

5. Finally, what is your projected lineup for this Saturday's match and what is your score prediction?

Lineup: Johnson, Anibaba, Friedrich, Berry, Segares, Paladini, Pause (c), Flaco, Nyarko, Rolfe, MacDonald

Score: I will go 1-0 Fire. Chris Rolfe with the goal. I see this game more tightly played than some are thinking.