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Roundtable: Storm’s A-Brewin’

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The Hot Time crew talks Atlanta, Saint Louis, video games, and ancient magic

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Chicago Fire Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

James Bridget Gordon: So I wanted to start things off with this little nugget: the Fire have won eight MLS games in 2017 so far. Last season, they only won seven. One more win (or three more draws) and we'll equal our 2016 points total.

We wanted measurable improvement. We got it.

Alex Picchietti: It's been wonderful. Incredible, really. Full credit to management for bringing in players that have done phenomenally well— Basti, Dax, and Niko in particular. And it's great to see how deadly Accam can be when he's not the sole threat on the pitch.

John Carollo III: I mean, I don't know what to add here. We're good now. I agree with Alex. I think the entire team starts with Dax and Basti and ends with Niko or Accam.

Ruben Tisch: Lucho Solignac is good.

James Bridget: One thing I want to touch on is Dax. There was legitimate concern that his absence would be a huge setback for the Fire. And indeed, he was missed for the draw against Orlando. But then Saturday rolled around and the Fire made do. Basti and Juninho held it down pretty well in the middle of the park.

I feel like that's a significant development. That we can be without one of our most important players and still get a good result. It won't ALWAYS happen, obviously, but it's POSSIBLE in a way it hasn't been for a few years.

Alex: That's a good point. It shows that it's more about the way the formation is working at the team is playing as a unit as opposed to one single player making everything happen.

Speaking of which, I've been so impressed with the defense over the past few weeks. The CB pairing is really doing a nice job and both full backs are totally shutting down opposing wingers.

James Bridget: Benching Harrington also helped. But also: Polster!

John: Benching Harrington is one of the best decisions made this season, just below signing Basti. #HotTakes

Speaking of defense and Basti: ever since Dax went to the Nats, Basti's been playing further back. He was basically a sweeper vs Atlanta.

James Bridget: Matt Doyle talked about that a bit after the game. Basically the Fire were trying to draw Atlanta out of position before hitting them. ATL plays a very aggressive attack and the Fire were sort of trying to use that against them. Basti dropping back was a big part of that. (Later in the game he didn't have to do that, since they brought on J-Camp and had 3 CBs.)

In other games Basti has been played in a more forward position. I suspect that Sweeper!Basti isn't the new normal. It's just that he does whatever Pauno needs him to do, and because it's Basti, he's effective no matter where he's put.

John: I also think that Juninho is a much more attacking player than Dax and Pauno may have pushed him back to cover that "Dax plays a beautiful ball out of the back" role. Since Basti is basically an all-around central midfielder, he can do that stuff and let Juninho run forward playing his role.

James Bridget: This is the great thing about having good players on your team: you have OPTIONS.

Alex: Speaking of options, this week we have the USOC match, and I know I mentioned this before, but I've gotta believe Paunovic uses this as an opportunity to get DJ and some other youngins some PT

James Bridget: Agreed. We've got the Revs on the road next weekend and some of our first choice guys (like Accam) looked pretty gassed. I think playing the kids is ideal here.

James Bridget: So I was hoping we could talk a little bit about David Accam before we dive into the USOC game this week. He had kind of a weird game. Good moments, but also quite a few questionable plays. How are we feeling on this? Fluke? Bad weather? Fatigue? Existential ennui? Distracted by all the cool shit getting announced at E3?

Alex: Lol. I'd say fatigue maybe? It seems like everyone is kind of a the end of a long stretch. Let's just say I'm not really concerned, if you catch my drift.

Ruben: BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL 2 IS REAL, YA'LL (If that answers the question)

James Bridget: Also: Wolfenstein II. (Though I was most hyped for Assassin's Creed: Origins, but I'm an AC fangirl til I die.)

Alex: How about Anthem?

James Bridget: Anthem looked really pretty and... really boring. (By "boring" I mostly mean "I already own Destiny.”)

Ruben: Anthem looks cool. Idk if it's the Destiny killer everyone says it's going to be

Alex: Fair enough -- I'm always up for a co-op campaign though...

James Bridget: Star Wars: Battlefront II looked pretty rad.

Ruben: I'm not down with the senario of the story mode in it.

James Bridget: I should say that I'm mostly windowshopping here. I'm still on my 360, which is almost out of HDD space. I planned on upgrading to XBOne later this year but then I lost my main freelance gig, so who knows.

Ruben: The Scorpio seems cool. But I have a PS4, so.

Slackbot:

James Bridget: Thanks, Slackbot.

Ruben: Quite.

James Bridget: FIFA 18 looks rad. But I mean, it's not hard to manage iterative improvements with FIFA. New stadiums, more photorealism, more Martin Tyler.

Ruben: Less Martin Tyler, please.

James Bridget: Strong disagree.

Ruben: Phil Bonney is better.

James Bridget: Though I wouldn't mind other English commentators either. Jon Champion is pretty great. And if they're going to do more with MLS in the game, they should get MLS commentators. John Strong, JPD, Alexi, Stu. (Please no Twellman.)

Sean Spence: I like Twellman!

I'm so old any more that I only play the kind of games where I spend a lot of time with the game paused, switching from screen to screen, making tiny adjustments in some massive simulation. Football Manager, obviously, but also Civ and Hearts of Iron and Europa Universalis. I'm big into alternate reality engines. So E3 usually ain't got shit for me aside from some new iteration of those games.

That said, Cyborg Martin Tyler will still be the velvety-smooth, barely-interested voice of FIFA 2421, and I'm good with that.

Ruben: My personal dream team is Max Bretos and Ray Hudson.

James Bridget: I'm kinda fed up with Twellman's concern trolling tbqh.

Ruben: What makes you think it's trolling?

Sean: He's not full of shit. He says what he thinks and backs it up when challenged. He's not always right, but he's a good second guy in the booth. And I don't think he was concern trolling the Fire - I think he legit felt the league lacked some fundamental stature or swagger when the team in Chicago was a laughing stock. He said it pretty consistently over several seasons, about our famously thin-skinned owner - I GUARANTEE he got blowback over his comments about the Fire from Hauptman's people. So unless he was trolling Hauptman, I don't see the trolling ... and if he was trolling Hauptman, bravo, sir.

Ruben: What Sean said.

James Bridget: I'm not talking about his Fire comments, per se. He's taken similar tones with Philly and Montreal this season. There's this sort of dismissive tut-tut tone in his voice when he talks about teams that are underperforming and it just reads as smarmy. I don't know, YMMV.

Alex: I wish they'd make Career Mode better. Ugh.

I mean, I can't even see how many HUNDREDS of goals Kelechi Iheanacho has scored in 10 seasons with NUFC...

Ruben: I just hope The Journey is more then one season this game. I'm a sucker for cutscenes.

Alex: I'd just like more stats. What's the point of a career mode if you can't even look back and see how players and teams have done over the, you know, career?

James Bridget: My dream is for EA and Bioware to team up on an iteration of FIFA that turns it into a full-on RPG. Mass Effect, but for soccers.

Sean: OMG JBG I WANT IT TOO

Last console game I really played much was Pro Evo 09. I remember somehow my crappy striker with one move (Cryuff-turn goal side, sprint, finish) scored 250 goals in a 15-year career.

Alex: As long as I can go clubbing with DeAndre Yedlin and Rolando Aarons, I'm in.

Ruben: I want MLS Stadiums, and an auto switch to the orange/pink ball during winter time so I don't have to do it myself.

Alex: PREACH, RUBEN

Sean: I want the Pulse memorial rainbow seats in Orlando.

I'm not crying— you're crying. Shut up.

Ruben: But you won't see them because the stands are filled? Do they render empty stadia?

James Bridget: What if they feature Toyota Park in a future iteration but DON'T INCLUDE THE CAPO STAND

<races to the bomb shelter>

Ruben: Don't start none, there won't be none.

Sean: If they do that, they need a 15-foot tall Patrick Stanton facing the Harlem End

James Bridget: That'd be some wild DLC.

Sean: I'm spitballing here. Option to have David Accam get a blurry effect when he really gets running?

James Bridget: Just give him a teleportation power.

Sean: I'm pointing FIFA in an NBA Jam direction and I kinda like it

Ruben: That's definitely a game that needs Max Bretos commentary.

Alex: More appropriately for Accam...

James Bridget: Yes.

Ruben: You mean YEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSS

James Bridget: Also apropos for Accam: this.

Sean: I have watched sooooo many hours of football with Max Bretos freestyling over the top. It bugs me that so many folks hate on him - he's joyous, has his own style, and isn't completely full of himself. About most broadcast people me basic take is this: If it's easy get that microphone in front of yourselves and do better - the barriers for entry have never been lower. Same thing I tell people who want Hot Time to cover or say this or that: "Go right ahead."

James Bridget:

"Hot Time should cover this."

"You're more than welcome to write this up for us."

"Oh ho ho, trying to scam some free labor out of me, eh? Nice try, fascists!"

John: Wait, did I just miss a conversation about E3?! Why does no one tell me?!

Back in FIFA 02 they had a mechanic where players making runs would have streaks behind them. They should definitely bring that back just for Accam.

Also, on that subject of MLS stadia, I want the option for Soldier Field or an old school Soldier Field (for World Cup purposes). Don't even get me started on my throwback jersey and MLS Legends XI concepts.

James Bridget: I would love a sort of World Cup Legends FIFA game.

Being able to play through Argentina vs West Germany at the Azteca in 1986. Mmmmm.

John: Yes! Or the 1971 "Game of the Century" between West Germany and Italy.

Alex: Madden did that a few times, I don't see why FIFA wouldn't...

John: Whenever people say soccer players are soft I always point then to either Paul Butcher in that one England qualifier or Franz Beckanbaur in that game.

Alex: Oh wait, it's FIFA and only FUT matters. So I can break my controller when I lose to a 12 year old playing with Real Madrid.

John: Same. That is one of the most universally shared experiences in the world.

Alex: Seriously, if I break one more controller, my wife is going to break me.

James Bridget: I don't do online gaming anymore. I'm a pretty tough cookie, but there's only so many times one can be called Faggot before one starts wondering why they're paying for this service.

John: FIFA is probably one of the most toxic gaming communities, second to CoD.

James Bridget: Anyway, let's go ahead and wrap things up.

Thoughts or predictions for the USOC game against St Louis tomorrow?

John: DJ, Drew, and J-Camp start. DJ gets an assist. Fire win. Everyone's happy. Yaaaaaaaay!

Ruben: 6-nil.

James Bridget: Honestly at this point I'm hoping for no weather delays.

Running a close second: no injuries.

John: There will probably be a rain delay, because USOC Magic.

James Bridget: Yeah, when they talk about The Magic Of The Cup they never specify what kind of magic they're talking about. More often than not it's summoning thunderstorms and calling on Thor to grant a great boon.

Sean: I'm guessing something more pedestrian— 2-0 or 3-0 Fire— with a goal or two for MDL and some time for the kids. Oh, and it's called sometime in the second half for storms.

James Bridget: I think just to be safe we should sacrifice someone to the Gods in exchange for fair weather and favorable referee decisions.

I nominate Brian. He hasn't been around in months so he can’t defend himself.

Alex: I'm going for 1-1, Extra Time, and a late winner for the Fire via Djordje.

James Bridget: Love it.

John: We don't need that sort of drama tho.

James Bridget: Need, no. Want? Absolutely.

Alex: Let's have fun with it. 6, 7-0 would be awesome, or some late drama.

James Bridget: Pretty sure if DJ gets a hat trick Jigs will have a heart attack.

John: VINDICATION!

James Bridget: Or maybe decide he's done all he can in this life and leave everything behind to wander the earth like Kane from Kung Fu.

John: Would be cool to have Djordie get a start too though. He's gotten plenty of playing time and hasn't shown anything against the idea that he deserves it.

James Bridget: I wonder what the roster rules are for the USOC. It'd be neat to see an entire teamsheet of kids and reserve players. I know you can't do that in English football because the FA has rules about knowingly fielding a weaker team than you're able to.

John: Only rule I know of is the international player rules.

James Bridget: That's not what I'm talking about.

John: Yeah, I don't think USOC has any rules other than the international player rules.

James Bridget: If anyone knows for sure, feel free to let us know in comments.