James Bridget Gordon: Happy Monday! The Fire beat the Revs 4-1 on Saturday, completing a season sweep over New England and snapping a two-game losing streak. With Toronto dropping points against DCU (lol) the Fire are just three points out of 1st place in the East with a game in hand and Toronto coming to town in less than two weeks.
John Carollo III: As my first time back in the roundtable for about a month or so, I want to say that Doody was awesome Saturday.
James Bridget: If this were Marvel Comics I'd assume you were off in space fighting the Skrulls or something.
But yes, Doody was tremendous. Like, I picked Polster as MOTM on Saturday, and I don't regret it per se, but if I could get a do-over I'd probably pick Doody.
Three assists! While playing out of position! As a left-back! Who does that?!
John: Doody is a left back.
James Bridget: Oh, is he? I thought he was a midfielder like Polster.
James Bridget: Oh lol nevermind!
John: He's been one of our few natural defenders.
James Bridget: A natural defender who was still involved in three of our four goals on Saturday. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
John: I haven't watched him too much, but my dad kept telling me that when he was playing with the academy he was an amazing crosser and he sure showed it Saturday.
Brings up a difficult question of what to do when Vincent comes back. Vincent's been great this season, but now that Doody's stepped in this well, do we go back to him?
James Bridget: I don't think it's that difficult of a question. They do what every team does-- make players earn their spot.
It's nice to go from a crisis situation at full-back to having, like, actual depth. Depth that doesn't necessarily include Michael Harrington.
John: Yes, our two bench D's should be Campbell and Doody.
James Bridget: With Harrington at home painting Warhammer 40k minis. Or whatever.
Jack Kelly: Doody seriously impressed me. But I think the bigger story here is that the Fire have won nine straight home games. Nine straight.
Like SKC has been unbeaten at home for a long time, but it isn't a sure fire 3 points like it has been for the Fire. Just reference their 90th minute meltdown against Atlanta over the weekend.
I'm seriously looking forward to the match against TFC, though. It'll set the stage for a fun end to the season.
John: I kinda talked about this during my preview, but I really think that this streak at home is skewing data so hard. Not saying we're secretly bad. Just saying that by winning at home, we're proving nothing now. Sure, we beat New England, but it was at home and suddenly it just doesn't look as good.
Ruben Tisch: ......
John: It's impressive, but I don't know if it's a good indicator that we're not still trying to work things out.
Jack: If it locks up the Supporter's Shield and home-field advantage in the playoffs, I think it proves a lot.
Ruben: They're clearly still trying to work things out. There were times on Saturday where they got confused about positioning, and when to pressure and when to back off.
Jack: The Fire have had the 6th toughest schedule in MLS this year. Toronto, the 20th. To be in second place in true worst-to-first fashion is pretty dang impressive. And I think it makes every win more impressive than the last.
Ruben: Juninho, Schweinsteiger, and Dax is still a strange midfield, and they played better with Soli starting.
Jake Payne: This three game series will show how prepared they are. Columbus and Montreal aren't terrifying but 3 games in 7 days with Toronto waiting at this end will be telling.
Jack: I agree, Jake. This is an important stretch.
James Bridget: Dang it, I drift off to deal with emails and come back to one of the spiciest hot takes in months.
Ruben: You missed it.
John: Did my math and we're on pace to finish with 63 points when you take our form into account. Basically, that form being amazing at home and not that good away from it.
Jack: That's just 22 of 36 possible remaining points?
John: Yup. Good news is that historically it is good enough for the Supporter's Shield.
Jack: You think they're going to drop 14 points when teams like Columbus, Philly and D.C. are still on the schedule?
Jake: The hardest road game they have left is Houston I'd be shocked if they don't play well on the road for this last stretch.
John: Just going with math here, not context.
Jake: Maybe San Jose.
John: At least for the moment.
Jack: That is scalding.
Anyways, did anyone else notice that Schweinsteiger was playing centerback at points throughout Saturday's match?
James Bridget: I think the problem here, Jigs, is that presenting those numbers without context doesn't necessarily help our readers. Any decent stats person will tell you that.
John: I never got to the bad news which is Toronto has the same pace of 22 points in their final stretch, putting them at 66 points. Yeah, I'd need to look at every single game individually and I don't have those numbers plugged in yet.
Ruben: That doesn't take into account the potential 6 point swing when they play each other.
John: I'll go do all my math and come back later with something more nuanced.
James Bridget: Jack, I can't pick out specific games at the moment but Basti has done that before. He's known to drop deep into a 3rd CB, Beckenbauer thing.
John: Yeah. I don't really know whether we've done better or worse with him dropping back there. But he's been doing that a lot.
James Bridget: Matt Doyle made a convincing case in one game that it helped pull the opposing team out of position and gave the Fire openings to attack.
Ruben: He's sweeping for sure. It's letting Kappelhof and Meira get forward and it's presenting problems by overloading the midfield. Creating space out wide.
Sean Spence: I don't think that, functionally, Basti is 'playing centerback' - more like he will drop as deep as necessary to create a lane to play through pressure. He doesn't generally defend that deep unless something goes wrong and the ball comes immediately back at him.
Jack: Oh I definitely think that it's working for the Fire. One second he'll be between the CBs, the next he'll be bombing down the right hand side of the pitch putting the ball into the final third. Teams don't know what to do about it.
Ruben: Another way it helps is that it's hard for him to be man marked. If you mark him, he'll pull a midfielder out of position, and if you don't, he can just waltz into the play whenever he wants.
Mike Tooley: What Ruben said exactly. A thought I had in relation to that last point is that Juninho looked pretty comfortable with Basti's movement in this game and as a result I think its the best I have seen our midfield three play together. Juninho should really be getting opportunities to get forward.
Jake: Also hopefully someone wakes up Niko at some point.
Jack: He has become quite the sleeping giant lately. The Fire score 4 goals and he didn't have one of them. That would have seemed like such a strange concept a month ago.
Ruben: His movement is still so good, his threat potential is creating space and opportunities for others, and they're taking advantage.
An example: if you look at the second goal, there's no pressure on Juni, and Niko is being marked by 3 defenders.
Mike: The goals will come again. I'd rather have him have a slump now than later on.
Jack: So true. In, say, November.
Note for the Revolution: Don't drop 8 of your field players into your own box if it's not a set piece. Otherwise, this happens.
Ruben: Jay Heaps is so bad. How he still has a job is beyond me. He's wasting a fantastic front 6.
Jack: The Revs should be so dangerous going forward. Buuuuuuut, they're not.l
Ruben: They play too narrow, and rely too much on Nguyen and Fegundez' close passing abilities.
Jack: The one thing that I thought was disappointing about this game was the lack of VAR usage.
Jack: If we're going to take all the gamesmanship out of the sport I at least want VAR to be used.
Jake: VAR was used well recently but I forgot when it was. I think it was the Philly game.
James Bridget: I think they've been trialing it on and off over the season but this past weekend was the first official weekend of VAR being employed across the league.
Jake: I think it definitely has the potential to be useful, but we'll see.
Jack: They made the right call in the Dallas game.
James Bridget: So we should probably talk about David Accam.
There have been rumors swirling around for the past few weeks that he's heading for the exits. Recently he's been linked to moves to Buraspor and Hannover 96. After the game on Saturday he directly addressed those rumors and dropped a couple interesting nuggets: the Fire have exercised his option for 2018, there are still some outstanding offers for him and he's not ruling out a move, but if it doesn't happen he seems happy enough to stay.
Alex Picchietti: Yeah, I kinda feel like if he goes, we can say it was time, but if he stays I'd definitely be okay with it. As long as we get a decent fee for him, I'll be content. Also, if he's just not happy here, you never want to see a guy stuck. However it's not like we're bottom of the league so maybe that's why he's okay with staying.
As you can tell I'm a bit back and forth.
John: If he goes, we need a replacement. Who we have is fine, but not at all who we need.
Jake: The bad thing is that Hannover legitly needs him. I think they'd actually go higher.
Mike: I always felt like he was going to leave the Fire for an opportunity in Europe and was sort of mentally fine with that. However, I think the reason why it is harder to grasp now is the fact that we are actually good. If we were hovering the bottom of the table again this would be a completely different scenario right?
Ruben: Joey Calistri is ready.
John: YES! BRING BACK KHALESSI!!!!
Ruben: He's already been recalled.
John: No, he was sent back. He was recalled and then Vincent got injured so they sent him back and brought back Doody.
Mike: Pauno seems to be content with Lucho and MdL but if we lose Accam we will be loosing a lot of pace, hes always a threat.
John: His pace is amazing, but I think Pauno is looking to move away from that style of play. Look at the guys he's been bringing in: players who control the tempo and create space to move the ball into. Pace was great for bunker-ball with no midfield to speak of, but with Dax and Basti we have a duo that can hold the ball down and let the play develop itself.
Mike: Just think of what that pace could do in a pinch when we are in a playoff battle and not creating any chances. It'ls always good to be able to play that card.
John: It's always good to have something extra, but if he wants to leave, then we should let him leave. I've been coming around to the idea of looking for a 10 more and more because with the high pressure style that Pauno has been trying to push, his speed isn't necessary. You can whip out a great fast counter-attack, but I think Pauno wants to build and control the attack
James Bridget: Just want to point out that Accam is currently #5 in the list of top goalscorers in MLS this season. 12 goals so far.
It's fine to say that we can live without Accam, but let's be honest about what we'd be giving up. Accam isn't "something extra." He's a key player in the squad, and a big reason why the Fire are where they are.
John: Yes, that's why we need to replace him with a player that works with our high pressure set-up, not just... someone.
Accam has held us up through the past few years and for a lot of it, he was our offense. Not just "a big part of it", he was our offense. And this year he's been no different, but we're not using him the same way anymore and if we find someone who can step in as a 10 (yes, I've been talking about Quintero) we have someone who can make everyone more dangerous.
James Bridget: Alright, let's wrap things up.
Columbus on Saturday. Last trip to Firehouse East for the regular season. In terms of our schedule this month, we've got much bigger fish to fry, but A. C-bus are still in the playoff race so they've got something to play for and B. it's That Yellow Effing Team, so it's important to the fanbase.
Thoughts? Predictions? Vile invective?
Ruben: 2-0 Fire. MdL scores again. Accam plays better.
John: 2-1 Fire. We get Re-Accam-modated, but come out on top with a Niko brace.
James Bridget: I'm going to say... 2-1 Fire. C-bus are going to be motivated, but they're also a real mess at the moment.