When the Chicago Fire return home for only their second match in front of their supporters, they will be without one of their Designated Players.
Shaun Maloney has unsurprisingly been called up to play in a friendly for Scotland as well as a Euro 2016 qualifying match. The friendly will take place Wednesday against Northern Ireland while the crucial Euro qualifying match takes place March 29 against Gibraltar. He will miss the March 29 match against the Philadelphia Union.
Scotland currently sits in third-place in its qualifying group after four of 10 matches played. Scotland will push for the unlikely accomplishment of being the best third-place team among all nine groups, which would book the country an automatic place into the finals.
Maloney's Scotland currently is the top ranked third place team in Euro qualifying, but with countries such as Russia, Netherlands and Switzerland in the mix, it could be difficult to maintain. If Scotland holds on to the third-place position in its group but is not ranked as the overall highest, it could still qualify for a playoff against the other third-place teams to book a place in the finals.
The diminutive midfielder will be with the Fire for their trip to San Jose Sunday, where they have the tough task of facing the high-flying Earthquakes, who are coming off a win over Seattle and (oh, by the way) opening a new stadium. If Maloney fails to shine in that moment, the big game against Gibraltar could be the spark he needs to get going at the club level. Gibraltar is a team Scotland should handle and one would have to believe Maloney will have the chance to create big chances or score goals of his own. That potential confidence-building match just may be the needed remedy to Maloney's slow start.
Doody to St. Louis
While one of the Fire's key cogs heads to international duty, a fringe homegrown player will officially open the pipeline to St. Louis FC.
The team announced Friday that homegrown defender Patrick Doody would be sent on loan to St. Louis FC to start the season and more players would follow after the injury situations on the first team are cleared up.
The Naperville native and Nequa Valley High School graduate will get some needed playing time. The Fire have seemingly settled into a comfortable five-man rotation on the back line, with Greg Cochrane likely leading for the sixth spot. Doody, who joined the Fire's youth system at 15 years old, impressed at the collegiate level with six goals and 12 assists at Indiana University. He was a captain of the Hoosiers, a Big Ten All-Tournament selection and national champion during his time with Indiana.
It should take little time for Doody to be a standout on a St. Louis FC side light on star power or big prospects. Yallop hinted more would follow Doody. One would have to think 18-year-old midfielder Collin Fernandez could use the experience and potentially goalkeeper Alec Kann as well depending on Sean Johnson's injury status and national team future.