I want to start this by saying I am still buzzing from the Fire’s road win against Montreal Saturday.
It was by far the best game of the year and it released the weight of the largest proverbial monkey that ever took to a proverbial back. Everything is sunshine and rainbows right now and I am very excited to watch the Fire play again on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
With all that being said, I feel the need to get one thing straight:
The answer is no. And that’s not meant to be a diss to the current players or Veljko Paunovic, but one road win does not equal a miracle run. And I’m not even asking for the playoffs at this point. If the Fire plays with the effort and attacking courage they showed Saturday for the rest of the year, I’ll be happy to watch. Which brings us to Wednesday’s game against the L.A. Galaxy.
I truly believe the Fire have a chance in Wednesday’s match (and even if they do win, the answer to the previous questions is still no.) The Galaxy looked lethargic Saturday and a mid-week stop in Chicago probably won’t do much to get their blood pumping. It is a good time to catch a sleeping giant.
The one concerning issue is this is pretty much the exact moment the Galaxy historically have gone on their late-season run to peak at the playoffs. LA is 4-1-3 in their last eight, which includes a winless run of four games. Even though they have a seemingly tight grip on the playoffs with 38 points, the Galaxy are not going to want to sit in fifth place and risk a team like a now red-hot Seattle sneaking up from behind.
Don’t get wrong. Bruce Arena does not salivate over Supporters’ Shield trophies and won’t empty the gas tank in chasing down Colorado and FC Dallas, but he does care about his team playing its best come playoff time. With 10 games left and no wins in the last four, now seems the time to make a move.
We all know the Galaxy and their superstars. They happen to be a big market that treats its club like a big market team. Guys like Steven Gerrard, Robbie Keane, Giovani dos Santos, Gyasi Zardes, Nigel de Jong, etc., litter the roster. And if that wasn’t enough, players like Jelle Van Damme and Sebastian Lletget are good enough to be difference makers in any given game.
But what should be the Fire’s main areas of concern heading into Wednesday’s clash?
Chicago’s own had the greatest season of his career wearing Fire red and energizing his hometown supporters along the way, bringing the Fire – sometimes single handedly it seemed – to the brink of a playoff appearance. The time that followed that MVP season went about as badly as it could’ve gone. He was injured, frustrated and frustrated by the handling of his injuries. Things did not end on good terms.
I’m not sure if you remember this about Magic Mike, but he is the kind of competitor that will rip your face off. He is the kind of guy who would take the smallest slight, insult or challenge and take it as personally as possible to fuel his desire to beat the life out of you. If he can’t do it, he almost will certainly do it.
The Fire more or less told him he could no longer be a meaningful part of what they were building and/or didn’t care enough to rectify his complaints and concerns to the point he could stay. That’s a rather large slap in the face. I have a feeling on Wednesday, he will prove a point. Whether if he starts (which he should, I mean, why wouldn’t you want to unleash that pitbull) or gets 10 minutes, he’ll make his impact.
Whatever rage or anger Magee might be playing with Wednesday is the same kind of rage and anger Keane has toward afternoon games in August. This man was just forced to run up and (let’s be honest, probably halfway down) a field in hot and humid conditions in New York on Saturday smack dab in the afternoon.
If that wasn’t bad enough he has only seven goals in 13 games this year and has not scored since July 23! This man is starving for goals and has 10 games left to rack up as many as he can. When he walks out into the more welcoming conditions of a Chicago evening at 7:30 p.m., he is going to yell SEE WHAT I CAN DO WHEN YOU DON’T SCHEDULE ME TO DIE IN THE SUN!? after he scores three goals. He is going to be a handful.
Before Saturday, I would’ve said who? After Saturday, I am concerned about Diop if I am an attacking player. The Galaxy’s 22-year-old, French goalkeeper made his debut Saturday and was pretty spectacular, turning away a number of dangerous chances before David Villa finally broke through.
He’s young, hungry and athletic. He seems to have the physical tools to be a good one and he knows he has to make the most of every opportunity to cement his spot and make a name. I might be overreacting to his extremely solid debut, but it doesn’t look like it will be easy to beat the man between the posts.
The game goes down at 7:30 p.m. CT on CSN+ if you can’t make it to Toyota Park.