The 2018 Chicago Fire season is set to be put out of its misery on Sunday afternoon as the Men In Red take on DC United at home. As with basically every game since August, this contest won’t matter in terms of where the Fire will ultimately finish the year in the standings. There’s a chance that a loss could see Orlando leapfrog us and ensure that we finish in last place in the Eastern Conference, but that’s about the only thing at stake. This relative lack of pressure does allow the team a certain amount of freedom, and they should try and experiment ahead of next season.
Here are some things I’d like to see on Sunday.
Matt Polster made his long-awaited return to the team last weekend, coming off the bench against Atlanta United late in the second half. It had been eight months since fans last saw him on the pitch after tearing his MCL in training. Now he should make the next step in his recovery and start against DC.
It’s crucial Polster gets some genuine first team action before the end of the year, since it’s nearly impossible to recreate the intensity of a real game in practice or preseason. The contest against DCU will be the last chance for him to play in a meaningful game before the long offseason. The Fire will need him at his best if they want any hopes of success next year.
It’s been a long road. Getting back on to the pitch has been my goal and today I was able to achieve that. Thank you for all the support along the way and to the medical staff for getting me back. #cf97— Matthew Ryan Polster (@MattPolster) October 21, 2018
McLain in Goal
Patrick McLain also made his return to the team against Atlanta, and should keep his starting spot against DC. It’s become clear than neither Stefan Cleveland nor Richard Sanchez are good enough to be a starting keeper in this league, and there’s little faith in the front office to bring in a capable goalie in the offseason. McLain has shown in glimpses that he could be the man for the job, but we need to see more of him before we can really start to really believe.
Basti at Center Mid
Bastian Schweinsteiger has spent much of the second half of the season at centerback due to the team’s defensive issues. He’s done his best, but it’s not his natural position.
It’s been a frustrating campaign for the Fußballgott, and he should get the chance to return to his preferred role in the center of midfield. Let him roam freely and unload the burden of carrying the defense in a position he’s not suited for anyway.
A Proper Send-Off for Kap
This one has been made more complicated by the fact that he will be suspended for the game on Sunday, but that doesn’t mean Johan Kappelhof shouldn’t get the send off he deserves. Many believe the Dutch defender will be leaving the Fire in the offseason when his contract expires. A quality centerback and former MLS All-Star, Kappelhof could’ve achieved a lot more had he been given a true partner on his level here in Chicago. As it is, Kap would be leaving Chicago with immense gratitude from the fans... along with plenty of “what might have been.”
If this Sunday is the last time Fire faithful get to see him in a red shirt, the club should let him take a lap around the field with his family after the game so fans can show how much he’s meant to this club.
Grey Kits, Please
Last weekend’s loss to Atlanta was the last away game of the season. It was also likely the last time we’ll see the grey away kit.
I think it’d be cool to see the Fire opt for the grey kit one last time against DC. It’s a quality kit with a clean, simple design. I think it’ll go down as one of the better alternate kits in the club’s history. They’ve never worn it at home (obviously), and likely won’t on Sunday, but part of me hopes they trot it out one last time before it’s retired.
Pauno Brings Back the White Pants
In terms of fashion sense, Veljko Paunovic is one of the more boring managers in the league. He does show off some variety, but he usually opts for a suit or puffy jacket, depending on the weather.
However, against Orlando a few weeks back, Paunovic made the bold call to rock a pair of white pants.
In all honesty, it worked for him. He should bring it back for DCU. Maybe pair it with a smart red turtleneck. It’ll be a clear improvement on his style through much of the season.
Bring Back Alex Morrell
I just miss him so much.
Sparky Up Top
There’s no real need to start Nemanja Nikolic on Sunday, except perhaps to see him in a Fire shirt for possibly the last time (depending on how offseason negotiations go). Yura Movsisyan probably can’t do a full 90 right now. Alan Gordon will probably never play for the Fire again. Assuming Alex Morrell won’t be making a cameo appearance, the Fire would need someone to play up top. I can’t think of anyone better than the longest-serving employee of the club.
As the team’s mascot since the inaugural 1998 season, Sparky has been hyping up crowds for over two decades. And while he’s getting up there in age— in human and dog years— he still has a lot in the tank. It’s time for the club to give him the chance to show what he can do.
His height makes him a potent aerial threat, which, given the team’s struggles on set pieces, could help them shore up a key weakness. He’s selfless and always puts the team first. Sure, he doesn’t have a great first touch, but the coaching staff can work with him on that in training. And most importantly, the fans— the ones who haven’t been banned from the stadium, anyway— would get a real kick out of seeing their spotted pal on the pitch.
At the very least, he couldn’t be worse than Guly Do Prado.