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Roundtable: Why do former Fire improve after leaving?

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Hot Time’s writers take a crack at describing the seeming malaise about the team

Today’s topic is one that Fire supporters have chewed on for a few years now - why do former Fire players seem to improve immediately upon leaving the club?

What do you mean, you ask? Well …

  • Chris Rolfe looks a spent force in the Maltese Cross badge, signs for DC and immediately remembers he’s one of the better American wing forwards of his generation,
  • Patrick Nyarko grinds through a grueling rehab, only to find he’s lost a couple steps in the transition; when he asks to move on, it’s wistful. Somehow he finds at least one-and-a-half of those steps over the spring in DC. Something about cherry blossoms, I guess.
  • Mike Magee shakes his cane in an angry fashion at the Fire as he leaves the club, then apparently visits a cundanera after returning to LA … because how to explain gimpy Grandpa Magee’s re-emergence as Mike F--king Magee, Mr. Do Anything for the Galaxy?

These are just the most recent examples. Feel free to add more in the comments!

So today we ask the writers “Why does this happen?”

John ‘Jiggly’ Carollo III: The players have actually been good sometimes, but they’re played miserably out of position. When they go elsewhere and are played in the right way, suddenly they’re comfortable and their performance shows it.

Former players used to pine for their time with the Fire publically - now no one wants to come back to this hell-hole. If I were to buy the Fire, the first thing I’d do is reach out to former players and make amends with them. Instead, our front office has treated them like s--t for a while now.

In short, former Fire players do better after they leave because they *are* better - better trained, better treated, and better used.

Brian Bottei: I don’t even think it’s necessarily the players’ fault. I think for the last decade, the Fire has had bad people in charge of recruitment or scouting or both. So it’s not really a matter of the player becoming a worse player while with Chicago - it’s that the people who make decisions for the Fire have not put the players in the best possible situation to succeed.

Look at (Jeff) Larentowicz at center back, or banking on (Mike) Magee to continue to be a superhero and not the second or third option he truly is. The Fire just haven’t had success consistently signing good players, and when they have found isolated success, they haven’t built on that with complementary signings.

Conor Gillaspie sucked for the White Sox because he’s not an every day third baseman. He just swings the bat really fast and he’s a lefty, which makes him really good in certain situations - but being a 140-game-a-year third baseman in Major League Baseball isn’t one of them. The Giants realized this and used him properly, and he almost killed the Cubs playoff run before it truly got going. Using players intelligently is important, and the Sox didn’t with Gillaspie.

The Fire have these same basic issues. They don’t have players that succeed because they don’t put players in spots where they can succeed.

Ahan Jain: It’s both things. The players feel derogated by the fans because of the poor results, and therefore don’t have a positive mindset towards games and the club in general. We can’t keep players more than three or four years because with each passing year they want to leave more, and as Brian said perfectly “they don’t put players in spots where they can succeed.”

I feel for the players. They feel the fans turning as each loss goes by, and it’s easy to start to mistrust the coaches, the management and the fans. There is so little incentive to play well for an organization that is run coldly like a business - for players, the only incentive in years past has been “Hey, we’re getting paid.”

The low attended games, poor facilities and terrible overall front office gets on a player and changes their mindset toward CF97. That’s when the player stops working hard and sits on their laurels, and the complexion of his relationship with the club changes.

Mike Tooley: I would say it just seems there is a collective lack of leadership from the top down. You look around MLS at successful clubs and they have a consistent and detailed approach and don’t waver. They have an idea and a direction, and stick with it - Dallas comes to mind here. Then you look at the Fire and there is just a lack of direction and identity over several years. This undoubtedly has an impact on player performances.