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Roundtable: Ol’ Dirty Basti

On the Supporters’ Shield, hot streaks, and Wu-Tang

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MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Chicago Fire Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

James Bridget Gordon: Top of the league, lads! Top of the league!

Jake Payne: It’s actually unbelievable how well this season is going. They've earned every bit of this. What, it’s their, like, 3rd 4-0 of the season so far?

James Bridget: Something like that, yeah.

The Fire have been doing this thing where they take control of a game early and then are able to coast the rest of the way. Against Vancouver they basically won the thing in the first half hour.

Jake: I was actually kind of nervous at first. The Whitecaps were keeping possession well. Obviously the first goal kept everything away.

Ruben Tisch: I don't even know. Everything was set up for a loss. A decent team in Vancouver, Playing midweek for 120 minutes on turf, and, while not getting punk'd, It's demoralizing losing in penalties, Everything was set up perfectly for the Fire to take the L, then they scored 3 goals in 11 minutes and won going away.

If they beat Portland (a tough task), they'll have 40 points by the gold cup break. This is absurd.

James Bridget: The last team to get this many points at this part of the season were the 2014 Galaxy. And they went all the way.

Jake: I definitely agree, I thought that loss in Cincinnati would have been a big weight on them for this game. Especially how off Nikolic was in the beginning of the midweek game. They came out like champions though, even without Dax and Accam.

James Bridget: And losing Basti before halftime.

Ruben: FCD won the Shield last year at 60 points. That's 7 more wins and a draw with something like 16 games left.

James Bridget: I'm trying to be a little cautious about the Shield. The past few years the margins in the Shield race have been razor thin. Last year it was won by 2 points. The year before? Goal difference.

I'm happy we're in the hunt for it but I won't be too surprised or upset if we don't get it, because it's a tough get. But coming up short on the Shield and still getting a (seeded!) playoff berth? I'll take it.

Jake: Toronto definitely has the roster power to equal the Fire on goal difference or take it away in the last few games. That game on August 19th could be massive.

Ruben: I'm not talking about winning the thing, just how close we are to last year's point total. The Fire only need results in half of their remaining games. They could go .500 and could still get to 60 points.

Jake: They could definitely do it too. Look at the rest of their home games at the very least. Lots of bottom half Eastern Conference teams left like Philadelphia

Ruben: I just counted. They have 12 games left, not 16. So they have to do a bit more then .500 But not by much. But that we're even talking about getting to 60 points right now is astounding compared to barely getting to half that last year.

James Bridget: The Fire have only lost three games all season. Three!

Jake: Toyota Park is a fortress too. They’ve yet to lose at home.

Ruben: They have a killer edge to the attack that hasn't really bin there since Ante Razov and Demani Ralph. Niko is probably signing of the year, even more then Basti.

Jake: Theres also been only two games where they haven't scored. Against Atlanta back when they were hot in the beginning, and Orlando away.

James Bridget: Three, if you count Cincy.

Ruben: Basti made his penalty. It counts.

Jake: Nikolic has been such a great addition. Bastian was a culture signing in my opinion. Nikolic was a on-field signing.

James Bridget: Sure, but Basti hasn't exactly been a passenger either. In terms of passing and dictating tempo he's one of the best central midfielders of the past decade. Up there with Xavi and Pirlo. He may not be UEFA Good or Germany Good anymore, but he's definitely MLS Good.

Jake: Oh for certain, he definitely isnt a slouch of a player, but you could see how frustrated he was in the Cinncy game. He doesn't seem like he will tolerate a lot of the losing and lack of effort that could have been taken before.

Ruben: Yep. (I actually think he's still EPL good.) Passing like that just doesn't go away, and he clearly can still run.

James Bridget: (I suspect he's also probably still Germany Good but I respect him not wanting to play for a Bundesliga team other than Bayern.)

Ruben: This season is fun. They just need to keep Accam until January.

James Bridget: And here's hoping Basti comes back for one more season.

Jake: Hopefully they'll both stay. I think the more likely will be Schweinsteiger retiring.

Ruben: Niko is player of the week. Again.

Sean: I can't see Schweinsteiger retiring unless he suffers from injuries the second half of the season. The guy is clearly having a lot of fun on the field.

James Bridget: A few weeks ago Basti gave an interview to ESPNFC. The lede was that he's loving it here in Chicago, but he also said he won't make any promises about next year. Not a no, more of a We'll See What Happens.

Which, I guess that's fair.

Jake: He also just seems like he wants to spend time with his wife. I know he will have plenty of time but I can just feel that he wants to enjoy life.

James Bridget:

Footballer at 15: "We retire in our 30s? Lame!"

Footballer at 35: "Sleep Number Bed here I come."

Ruben: Keisuke Honda-sama is training with Orange County SC. Just thought I'd throw that out there.

Jake: That would be so cool if he played in the US.

James Bridget: I think we'll be better off waiting until January and then getting Gerard Deulofeu on loan.

Alex Picchietti: I was just thinking about if Schweinsteiger would return next season. I was pretty unsure, but then I saw that video of how emotional he was at his last match for Germany, and I think if the Fire make a playoff run, he'll be back. He loves the game so much, it's going to be really, really hard for him to walk away completely. Especially if the team is still doing well.

James Bridget: Agreed.

Let's talk Niko. On a scale of one to senpai, how pleased are you with his season so far?

Jake: Super senpai. He's so legit.

Nikolic it’s your cousin, lets go bowling

James Bridget: I may have choked on my coffee a little reading that last line.

But anyway: Niko has 16 goals and it's only July. If he scores 12 more between now and October, not only will he almost certainly win the Golden Boot, but he'll have set a record.

Oh and according to Niko? He's having a down year.

Ruben: Look out Jeff Cunningham!

James Bridget: Also, I'm rewatching the Fire game right now and Niko's second goal was just...

I mean, the way he clowned Palmer before getting his shot off.

Is this real? Am I dead?

Sean: Crazy thing is he could easily have 20 goals right now— he's got something like 10 or 12 more shots on goal than the next-closest guy (David Villa), which is straight bonkers.

I said it on Tyler Donne's podcast, and I'll say it here: I think Niko sets a new single-season scoring record for MLS, somewhere between 30 and 33 goals.

Ruben: I had no idea why Tyler Dunne is.

James Bridget: Who or Why?

Ruben: Yes.

“The MLS.” <cringe>

James Bridget: I still can't get over the fact that the league's official website is Major League Soccer Soccer Dot Com.

Ruben: Is it better then mlsnet dot com?

James Bridget: Apples and oranges.

How are we all feeling about Portland?

Ruben: I feel the same as leading up to the Vancouver game. Except PDX are better. I expect an L. But we're probably going to win 4-0, as that seems to be the default.

James Bridget: I want to win, mostly because I want to stay in first place at the Gold Cup break. Even a draw could knock us back down to second.

That said, I'm thinking like a 2-2 draw.

Alex: I think draw as well. We've been so solid defensively, I don't see us allowing 2; I think it'll be 1-1.

Ruben: Ok so, as some of you may know, every year, on the #cf97 twitter feed around this time, I give the Starting 11 manes as if they were members of the Wu-Tang Clan.

So here we go: GK— Lampzilla; DEF (from left to right)— V-God, Kappeldonna, Joao Mastah, PolZA; MID— Inspectah Dax, Ol' Dirty Basti, MdLZA; FWD— Ghostface Killaccam, Da Chef Soli, and Nikoman.

James Bridget: Ruben, you are a national treasure. I'm serious.

Jakes: I'm between being amazed/impressed and facepalming so hard it goes through my brain.

James Bridget: I think it's worth quoting a bit of “Triumph” here.

Play my position in the game of life, standing firm

On foreign land, jump the gun out the frying pan, into the fire

Transform into the Ghostrider, or Six Pack

In A Streetcar Named Desire, who got my back?

In the line of fire holding back, what?

My peoples if you with me where the fuck you at?