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Roundtable: Next Year Is Here

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The Hot Time Crew talks about Houston, the GK situation, and the playoff game vs NYRB

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Chicago Fire Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

James Bridget Gordon: Alright gang, let's get right to it.

Does anyone have a theory for what wrong yesterday that doesn't involve Richard Sanchez?

Ruben Tisch: Drew Conner got sick and didn't travel, forcing the Fire to play in a 4-3-3 instead of a 4-5-1, creating more space on the wings that Houston exploited. They also played like they were trying to not get hurt, especially after what happened to AJ De La Garza.

James Bridget: Huh. Alright, I'll buy it.

John Carollo III: I don't really know. The wheels kind of came off. I think I'll go with they were just trying to stay healthy.

James Bridget: Yeah, I mean these are decent points but for me the Houston game begins and ends with Sanchez.

John: Sanchez didn't have faith in himself.

James Bridget: I don't think we could've won yesterday, but I think we could've either drawn or lost a closer game. Sanchez made it a heavier loss than it needed to be.

I worry that folks will be disposed toward cutting him some slack because he's not Matt Lampson and I just really feel like it's important to resist that urge. Lampson has many, many problems, but holy fuck I never want to see Richard Sanchez in goal for us again.

Ruben: I still think he's better then Lampson,

John: Same over here. He just lacked confidence in this game.

James Bridget: That's fine if you like him better, but please acknowledge you do so in spite of the evidence.

Ruben: Lampson looks like a lost puppy in net, and consistently being out of position is a lot worse in a win or go home situation then blowing a save.

James Bridget: Yeah and Sanchez looks like someone who works in construction and shows up for his job drunk.

John: I will take back my idea of wanting him in goal for the playoffs, but I want to definitely check out more in the offseason.

James Bridget: Literally everything we're criticizing Lampson for, Sanchez does too, on top of a bunch of new and exciting ways to fuck up that Lampson can't quite manage.

John: This is just two games. One was amazing, the other was terrible. We got two extremes.

James Bridget: Sooooo the argument in favor of Sanchez is predicated entirely on a smaller sample size. Okiedokie.

John: The argument for him being there for next season, yes. I want to see more in the preseason.

Sean: Look, I see what you're saying, JBG, but your mockery of sample size cut against your argument as well. We haven't seen much of Sanchez, that is true; it is also in disputably true that we have seen plenty from Lampson. The guy has had the better part of two seasons with a stable back line in front of him to figure it out, and it simply has not happened.

James Bridget: Ok but the "he just needs more time to sort his shit out" argument for Sanchez works just as well for Lampson. We're just not giving him that benefit of the doubt because y'all have decided already that Lampson sucks and literally nothing will ever change your minds.

Sean: The point being that, in the opinion of the speaker, Lampson has already gotten that time to "figure things out" and has not done so

Sanchez has had two games! Lamps has had something like 40!

James Bridget: Yeah, and in those two games Sanchez' performance was disastrous.

Lampson isn't the solution going forward and we need to recruit a better GK in the offseason. But on the available evidence, Sanchez isn't that person.

John: No. Just one.

Sean: In the past game his performance was disastrous. In the game before that, not at all disastrous.

James Bridget: He was okay in the other one and he was shambolic vs Houston.

Not exactly filling me with confidence!

Sean: We have two separate arguments going on here, it seems to me. One is the question of who should start in the postseason. To me, you've got to go lamps in there simply because Sanchez need it to look like a world beater to make up for his lack of familiarity with our defense.

John: Yes. I wanted to see more Sanchez in these late games to see if he could make up the difference, but he clearly hasn't.

James Bridget: So I guess my position for the playoffs is, start Lampson and hope for the best. My position on 2018: cut them both, make damn sure Cleveland has a USL team, and start from scratch.

Sean: The other argument, in my mind, is whether Sanchez or Lampson is a better goalkeeper. To me, I'd handle the edge to Sanchez, merely because his relative youth makes it more likely that he has room to improve.

John: Apparently Rimando is a free agent? I saw someone say something about him and Beckerman.

James Bridget: Rimando would be a tremendous get. I'd also be down with Andre Blake. Bill Hamid's not staying in MLS.

Sean: I'd go hard after Hamid for when his work permit in the Netherlands falls through

John: Jon Busch hasn't retired yet.

James Bridget: Jon Busch is a great guy and I love him to death. He was also a signatory to the Declaration of Independence. He's too old now, we need to move on.

John: Honestly, this is going to continue to be an issue until it isn't. I think that after Sean the Fire are going to be doomed to have a revolving door in the net. Someday we're going to get lucky, but it might not be any time soon.

Ruben: I think the more important question for Wednesday is what to do on the right side of midfield.

James Bridget: Yeah, I get why Pauno felt he had to do it but playing Alvarez in CM was maybe not a great idea.

John: Solignac as usual.

Ruben: If Calistri is back, he should start.

John: De Leuuw was more important to the center of the attack.

Wait...

Did you say...

James Bridget: Don't do it.

John: Khaleesi?

James Bridget: Goddamn it.

John: I like this idea.

James Bridget: You would.

John: He's a poacher!

James Bridget: You're a poacher.

Ruben: I mean, the central midfield is solid. Dax and Basti in a double pivot, and Mihailovic in the #10 role is stable.

John: DJ also looks like he's coming back from the injury, but I wouldn't expect him in this round. If we win, he'll definitely play against NYC, but I don't think he's fit.

Ruben: DJ makes the bench stronger.

James Bridget: I just hope we actually do get Basti back.

John: I saw the video from today (Monday) and he looks fine

Ruben: I assume he'll be going forward and Dax will be used to keep BWP and Klesjan in check. I assume the attack for the Fire won't change much. Overlapping runs from the Fullbacks early to open up the middle, and passes in to Niko.

James Bridget: I broke into a cold sweat when I saw Polster go down early in the game.

John: It was looking like a body bag game early on. Everyone was going down.

Ruben: He's so important to the team. You don't really realize how important outside backs are to the modern game until you have a good one yourself.

James Bridget: For years fullback was one of our weaker positions (and that's saying something), so to go from that to having probably the best wide defender tandem in the league is really great.

Ruben: Agreed.

So, the Red Bulls are up 3-2 in the series with 2 of those goals coming with Michael Harrington in the line up. So, how we feeling?

James Bridget: I'm feeling that finishing 3rd in a fiercely competitive Eastern Conference after back-to-back Wooden Spoons is an incredible achievement and that losing to NYRB, as we are very likely to do on Wednesday, does not diminish that.

John: I think the best thing that I saw out of Fire fans this season is that nothing is ever enough. When we started the season we just wanted to not finish last. Then we made a few key signings and our goal was making the playoffs. Then we played amazing and our goal was actually the Supporter's Shield for a little while. Then this past week the goal was a first round bye. We've been dynamic in what we want and from a couple of quotes coming out of practice, I think the players are feeling that too.

Good is never good enough even if it's better than what was before. I'm excited to see how we do.

James Bridget: I'm not sure I agree with your assessment. I think it's good to expect more from your team, but I don't think that's what's going on with Fire fans. Frequently it's more like, "yes the Fire are in the playoffs and have played some of the best soccer in years, that's all fine and good, but thEY NEVER APOLOGIZED FOR THE EDITORIAL"

Ruben: I think the Fire are going to win on Wednesday?

John: Yeah, what Ruben said.

James Bridget: I hope we do! I just worry that if we don't that people will conclude that the season is a failure.

Ruben: That's a dumb take. People who say that are dumb and have bad soccer thoughts. You shouldn't take anything they say seriously.

John: Well, we covered a lot of ground this season. I don't think this season specifically is a failure.

There's a lot of potential for the team to get worse next season with some possibly key pieces leaving, but that shouldn't reflect on how amazing this season has been.

I had fun at Toyota Park for the first time in a long time.

James Bridget: It's definitely been fun writing about the team this year. Even when they've sucked this season it was just fundamentally different from 2014-16.

Breaking news: Atlanta's hosting the 2018 MLS ASG.

John: Good for them.

James Bridget: Anyway, let's talk NYRB. We're at home, which gives us a huge advantage. Hopefully Basti will be fit. Hopefully Accam can start. I think we have a viable path to victory, but if y'all want to offer some reassurance I'd gladly accept.

John: The possible returns of Callistri and Fernandez boost our ability to attack going forward.

Mike Tooley: Regardless of what the Fire do on Wednesday I think it has been a successful turn around. I thought at most we would get 5th or 6th this year so I am happy about 3rd and really excited we have a home playoff game to go to. It's been a minute since we've had one.

Ruben: New York has trouble scoring if BWP and Sasha can be contained. The Fire's central midfield is good enough to do both, and Michael Harrington has been banished to the shadow realm. And the Fire have shown that at home, at least, they can score in bunches.

Mike: I like our chances against them as well. Let Accam run at them early and Niko just might get a few tap-ins.

John: I think we will play good. Very good.

Ruben: Making sure Kamar Lawerence doesn't get forward is crucial, tho. Which is why the right wing is so important for Wednesday.

John: I thought Kemar was a RB?

James Bridget: I think we can win but I don't think it's going to be settled in 90 minutes. I see this going to extra time. And maybe penalties.

Ruben: Niko will score a brace and the Fire should win 2-1. BWP scores late.

James Bridget: I'll also say 2-1 Fires.

John: Yay Fires, 2-0.

Mike: I like the sound of 3-1 Fire. Dax will score against his former team.

James Bridget: I have to say, I feel better about this game now having talked to all of you about it. Thank you for calming my nerves.

Mike: Yea! They just need to forget Houston ever happened. That doesn't matter now. Thats possible right?

John: What is a Houston?

Mike: Boom. Exactly.