James Bridget Gordon: Alright friends, Happy Monday. The Fire had a huge late-season game against a Conference rival and they played for a draw. How are we all feeling about that today?
Jake Payne: Alright I guess. I'm really interested to see how this team handles the playoffs. Especially against a possible Columbus team that is actually very good.
Ralph Schudel: Someone say Columbus? <eyes emoji>
Toyota Park has been a “house of horrors” for Crew SC. If by chance the game shifts to MAPFRE, I think that could be cause for concern. If the game is played at Toyota Park, I wouldn’t worry much.
Jack Kelly: I'm feeling very meh. They started so well and then just ran out of gas. The Fire are certainly missing Accam and Basti right now. It really showed against NYCFC on Saturday.
Also, can we talk about how Atlanta's new stadium bump might land them in the top 2 in the east?
The five stripes looked exceedingly average up until a few weeks ago. And now I can't think of a team I would want to play less.
Jake: I wouldn't want to play Toronto either.
John Carollo III: Before I talk about the playoffs or even the NYC game, can we please give some discussion on the SJ game? Because WOW, I had things to say about it.
First: I was not expecting this out of Djordje. I don't know what happened, but he was amazing. If he's that good, I can only imagine how good Cam Lindley will be (who received much more praise than Djordje in the academy). Second: Rick Sanchez was also phenomenal. I'd like more of him, please.
Jack: So here's a question for everyone: FiveThirtyEight gives the Fire a 5% chance of winning MLS Cup, with Toronto being the favorite at 32%. What percent chance do you all give the Fire to bring silverware back to Toyota Park this season?
James Bridget: For context: I've been checking in on the 538 projections off and on throughout the season and I don't think the Fire ever had more than a 20% chance of winning the MLS Cup. Although IIRC, last time I checked Toronto only had a 19-20% chance.
So personally, I'm inclined to take that 5% figure with a grain of salt, and in the knowledge that this isn't a fixed number and will change due to any number of variables.
Jack: I would tend to agree, JBG. These types of forecasts change very quickly and are so circumstantial. I think the better way to approach a playoff run like this would be to predict their chances of winning in each potential match up. I'll take 5% with some optimism, because that has the potential to skyrocket based on their first round match up. It is fun to talk about, though.
James Bridget: Oh for sure. I'm just saying, that 5% number can come with a bit of sticker shock and it's easy to look at it and think the Fire are just fucked. That's not the case.
Not for nothing, but at one point Donald Trump was given a 2% chance of winning the election over at 538. Probabilities aren't determinative.
Jack: Womp. Womp. Please don't remind me.
James Bridget: Getting back to the NYCFC game: did the Fire give what they had and just came up short? Or were they holding back?
John: I'd say that we came up short. Our defense just wasn't good enough.
On the goal we gave up, while Meira did hold off on Villa and was clearly out of position, I felt that Lamp could've done a whole lot more. If you're not going to get the ball, get the man. When you go down as a goalkeeper you need to come up with something.
Ruben Tisch: Yep. Matt Lampson cost the Fire 3 points against NYC.
John: I don't expect Rick Sanchez to start the next match, but I think a lot of people would prefer it.
Ruben: I do.
John: I'd like him starting too, but Pauno does what Pauno does and I expect him to stick with who the guy he's had in there all season.
This just in: Djordje's on the Team of the Week. So is Niko.
Ruben: I feel like if this we the NBA, this question would be all over the media, who would press Pauno on this.
John: Ruben, if this were the NFL, we'd see a whole lot more media pressure. See: Mitch Trubisky v Mike Glennon.
James Bridget: So the Fire are off next weekend for a bye week. (It's also the official 20th anniversary, woooooooo party.) But it's a big weekend for the Red Stars-- they finished the season in 4th place and will take on North Carolina in the NWSL playoff semifinals next Sunday. If they win-- and that's kind of a big If, given their recent form-- they'll head to the Championship Final in Orlando on the 14th.
Red Stars peeps-- how are y'all feeling ahead of next weekend? Excited? Nervous? Paralyzed by a sense of DOOOM?
Ralph: Not paralyzed, actually quite hopefully. North Carolina have terrorized the NWSL but the Red Stars have held the kryptonite against the Courage. I really like their chances against NC. It should be really exciting.
Another thing, the US internationals seem to be really hitting their form. Huerta’s rocket last week was straight fire.
James Bridget: Yeah, Huerta's been putting in some goddamn work lately. I'm glad she's getting A Moment, she deserves it.
Ralph: Absolutely. Can’t believe it. It’s incredible to see this star struck kid perform when it counts most. She is class.
Speaking of which: Christen Press, incredible performance coming on as a substitute on Sunday. She was all over the pitch.
Sandra Herrera: Not an ideal way to head into your semi final with a loss, but in breaking down the game as a whole, a much better 2nd half compared to the 1st. I had the privilege of covering the game for us at Portland and Coach Dames stated that his line up was based on getting his starters some rest. Specifically the national team players who have played extended minutes this season. Granted, these are professional athletes, they want to compete, and they want to win - which was pretty much how the post game mixed zone with Christen Press went. More content for this game will be on the site shortly!
But with such a horrific start to the game it's tough to try and both establish your chemistry/confidence AND play from behind SO early due to a terrible error by Back up GK Dalton. The 1st half was a struggle, no if, ands, or buts about it. 2nd half was much improved with Sarah Gorden settling in her game more at CB after Sam Johnson had to be subbed out due to a collision. Katie Naughton displayed very good leadership and organization on the backline, and Huerta's goal doesn't happen without the work from Vanessa DiBernardo or Lauren Kaskie (Huerta also mentions this in her post game as well) it was a hell of a shot. Goal of the week worthy for sure.
Huerta's sub impacted the game completely, and Press subbing on after the shot continued the momentum. It's unfortunate that a questionable pk call killed that momentum, as it did in their 1st match this season.
As for the final four, on paper you see a regular season sweep, you feel good. But this is NWSL. And for those of you who aren't invested as much, there are nine other teams, and North Carolina is the best. They have been the best all season. It is why they are the sheild winners. And while beating NC 3 times is a big deal, asking any team to do it 4 times, in this league?, is no easy task.
That being said, the Red Stars should still feel confident in their ability to play against this NC team, along with their ability to play well on the road. I'm sure they will head in there as a team prepared and confident for the challenge ahead of them.
Because this is Chicago. No Bitchassness. Get it done ladies.