EDITOR’S NOTE: This discussion was held on Monday afternoon and concluded well before the news of the Columbus Crew’s possible move to Austin hit the wires. Obviously, we did not have the opportunity to react to the news. For updates on the story we recommend checking in on our colleagues at Massive Report.
James Bridget Gordon: Happy Monday everyone! The Fire came into yesterday’s game tired and nursing injuries, and all things being equal should have dropped points. But Niko had to go and pull a hat-trick, dragging the Fire to a win.
To start things off: describe this game in one word.
Jack Kelly: <clears throat>
a - c - h - i - e - v - e - m - e - p- h- o- b- i- a
James Bridget: .... huh. Was not expecting that. Good work.
Jack: What do I win?!
James Bridget: The esteem and high regard of your colleagues.
Jack: I'll take it!
The Fire started so well, and then were so timid after they got their early goal, that it honestly looked like some of them were afraid of getting 3 points and coming _that_ much closer to a first round bye.
James Bridget: I've seen this before with the Fire. 2013, battled back from the bottom of the conference to get within spitting distance of a playoff spot, only to trip up toward the end of the season. They went into their last game of the season controlling their own destiny but they needed to win. And they got thwacked by NYRB 5-2.
Freaking Thierry Henry.
Jack: Ahhh Henry. My love for him ends at the city walls of London.
But exactly! They almost seem afraid of themselves right now.
James Bridget: As someone who's afraid of everything, I can definitely empathize.
But also, we need them to do their jobs.
Jack: What would your one word be, JBG?
James Bridget: So, I'm a big fan of words from other languages that don't really have an equivalent in English. (Schadenfreude is an example of these kind of words.)
For this I would have to pick the Ukrainian word Nivroku. It means "not bad," "good enough," "appropriate," that sort of thing. But it's something you say in order to avoid inviting misfortune. In context it's closer to something like, "I'll take whatever I can get."
Jack: Ahhhh that makes total sense to me. Heck, up until Niko got the third goal, all I could think was "missed opportunities lead to a missed opportunity." When he slotted it home to the far post, I was more than happy to take whatever I could get.
James Bridget: Like on the one hand I don't feel too confident with the fact that the team needs someone like Niko to bail them out when they're not getting the job done. On the other hand, I'd definitely rather have someone like Niko than not.
Jack: And I'm especially glad that he has remembered how to score goals again. It's been proven many times that a single, in-form player can carry a team through the playoffs in this league. Maybe Niko will be that for the Fire this year?
James Bridget: It's so wild that Niko had that lengthy dry spell and STILL might win the Golden Boot.
Imagine if that dry spell didn't happen.
Jack: <whips out calculator> He would have scored, like, a lot of goals.
But honestly. I thought for sure he was going to break the single-season scoring record before the month of July happened.
James Bridget: For sure. July and August were pretty rough. I think it's a testament that the Fire are still where they are despite that lengthy slump.
One thing that struck me about this game is that overall the team didn't do too bad? Lampson had a terrible first half and Kap scored that own goal, but beyond that I thought the team wasn't bad. The midfield held it down well enough and the fullbacks did their jobs.
John Carollo III: The own goal wasn't even Kap's fault.
I don't have one word for the game; but I do have one song, which is "Lessons Learned" by Matt & Kim. The Fire were reminded of some things that they should worry about and focus on going into the playoffs.
One: Trust Niko. Give him all the service that you can get to him. He's not a poacher nor is he really a playmaker. He's the guy who uses technical ability to finish the ball and end the attack with a goal.
Two: Our defense needs to stay solid and our attack needs to keep possession, because Lampson is going to be iffy in goal. Lamp has some good moments, but he also has *very* bad moments. We need to lower the amount of available "moments" per match so we don't get put on the back foot.
James Bridget: Agreed on both points.
I think I tend to give Lampson a bit more slack then the rest of the Hot Time staff does, but I can't defend him after the past few games. He's a liability going forward, and I think there's a really strong possibility that we're going to crash out of the playoffs early because of a mistake on his part.
John: It seems weird to suggest making this big of a change so close to the playoffs, but Sanchez needs a second look against Houston.
James Bridget: See for me that's the worst part about this, because I don't think Sanchez is necessarily the solution. Neither is Cleveland.
John: Really, no one is right now
James Bridget: It's entirely possible Lampson is our best option. Which is, frankly, terrifying.
John: There are two players that the Fire have traded away and now the team is in what seems to be dire straits in those two positions. A true 10 and GK. Mihailovic could develop into a 10, but there's still GK.
James Bridget: I'm tempted to say that maybe it would be for the best if we crashed and burned in the postseason because of Lampson, because then NR would recognize that the goalkeeper spot needs some serious attention and it would be a priority in the offseason.
But I'm not convinced that we're going to be playoff contenders for the foreseeable future. I'm really worried that 2017 is a fluke, and that this season is our big chance to make some noise. Some key players are either for sure leaving in January (Accam, Juninho) or are on the fence (Basti). If we blow this one chance because of fucking Matt Lampson, that's going to hurt more than a dozen Wooden Spoons.
John: I just hope we play it smart with that position. If you would take a look at the other side of the park in that game, Andre Blake is allegedly on the trade block. I would love to pick him up.
But that's offseason talk.
James Bridget: You know, I was thinking about that on Sunday. Andre Blake would be a tremendous addition. But he's also one of like 2 or 3 decent players on a team that's been awful all season. I can't imagine Philly would want to give him up unless they got the freaking Moon in return.
And anyway, depending on how things shake out the offseason could start in less than two weeks. I don't think it's too early to start broaching this stuff now.
John: Blake is a leader and will probably the starter for the Jamaican national team for years to come. I found the story where I thought it meant he was on the block, but I guess it was other things.
But still, he's only got a year left on contract with them, maybe they'll want Juninho?
James Bridget: That would definitely be a win-win. Juninho isn't bad but our midfield is stacked enough that he's not a guaranteed starter. In Philly he'd definitely start.
John: Poor Juninho. He was excited the moment he found out he was coming here. He was so excited. Then we got Schweinsteiger and he faded out of existence Back to The Future style.
James Bridget: Earth Angel, Earth Angel, Please Be Miiiiiiiiiiine
(ok I'm done)
Alright so, the last home game of the season is next Sunday, away at Houston. The Fire could conceivably snatch the #2 spot and get a first round bye. They could also sink down to 5th. They need to finish in 4th place to get a knockout game at home-- which, when you compare the Fire's home record vs on the road, it could well make the difference between advancing and not.
How would you rate your confidence heading into next weekend?
John: I am at a moderate level. I find it amazing that we have a chance at getting that #2 spot, but I'm also worried about 5th place. I think that we've shown our flaws, but I also don't think that Houston is going to be playing for too much. They also have a weird longshot chance of popping up to second, but I think that they're going to be a bit more settled.
One thing is for certain, Decision Day will actually mean something this season.
Ralph Schudel: Hi guys, big fan. First time caller, long time listener. I’ll hang up now.
John: Ralph, your team better win.
Ralph: Oh ya, I’m the enemy again. I forgot. <evil laugh>
James Bridget: Didn't we have a hashtag joke for LTLFTC or something? Like Dave From Bolingbrook or something?
Ralph: I’m sorry I sent this off the rails. I’ll retreat back to my quarters.
James Bridget: This is all your fault Ralph.
Ralph: Now you guys are learning!!
John: Usually it's Ruben's fault, but this time it's your fault.
James Bridget: I think it's been all our fault at one time or another.
NONE OF US ARE FREE FROM SIN.
Ralph: I’m just trying to fit in.
John: I think I did that Roundtable from my old stage lighting class.
James Bridget: In a cruel twist, the video is no longer available.
Jack: I will always treasure the memories.
James Bridget: We all will, Jack. We all will.
Jack: 3-1 to the good guys.
James Bridget: I’m going to go with 2-2.
John: Another hat trick for Niko to tie the single-season record, 3-2.
James Bridget: That's a bold prediction there, Jigs.
John: Also, Columbus beats NYCFC and Toronto beats Atlanta, giving the Fire the #2 spot.
James Bridget: Whoa nellie.