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Roundtable: Back In The Saddle Again

The Hot Time crew reconvenes to discuss David Accam, the search for a No. 10, and falling out of love with CP23

MLS: Eastern Conference Knockout Round-New York Red Bulls at Chicago Fire Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

James Bridget Gordon: Aaaaaaaaand we’re back! Welcome to 2018, everyone! We’re excited to chat about Chicago Soccer with y’all.

But first things first: how was your offseason? Do anything fun?

Ruben Tisch: I played a lot of Overwatch.

Adnan Bašić: Ayoooo. Spent my first college month long winter break playing a lot of FIFA

James Bridget: I binge-watched stuff on Netflix and Hulu. I watched all of Black Sails and, my friends, it is _good_

Adnan: Good shout might have to check it out one day

James Bridget: Alright, so, let’s talk Fires

They have basically the same squad they had when they lost to RBNY in the playoffs, plus Aleksander Katai, minus David Accam. This probably isn’t great, right?

Adnan: It does seem worrying. Getting rid of Lampson might end up being addiction through subtraction, but that’s all I’m happy about at the moment. I’ve got some faith in this rookies, but you can never know for sure with them

James Bridget: I would apply that addition-through-subtraction principle to a few other folks too, like Harrington and Arshakyan

Ruben: The loss to NYRB was as much a tactical failure as anything else. They played 3 instead of 5 in midfield, and we’re outnumbered in the middle all game

James Bridget: Right, I’m not trying to relitigate that game, I’m just saying there haven’t been any major additions to the squad in the offseason

Ruben: I think the Fire have enough to get them to the injury returns. I know NR doesn’t like dealing in the summer, but this is going to have to be a big summer window.

Adna: I had hopes that this offseason would finally be the time we get a big name player younger than 30, but I guess I have to delay that hope for the summer.

I think the World Cup has played a big of a factor in the lessened winter signings than anything else.

James Bridget: I sorta but not entirely agree there.

Mostly because MLS has been encouraging teams to take on more American players, even as DPs. Non-Americans are obviously worried about ending up like Giovinco, where moving to MLS basically disqualified them from national team stuff on principle. But Americans don’t have to worry about their place in the WC squad, because, lol.

(Yes I know Italy didn’t qualify either, don’t @ me)

Ruben: @

James Bridget: Damn it, Ruben

Adnan: And the fact that changing clubs is always a risk, and if it goes bad then someone can see their spot on the plane to Russia gone

Ruben: So, speaking of Americans, there’s no way Josh Gatt doesn’t make the squad, right?

Adnan: I really hope he does. Potential could always be rediscovered, and he’d be a low risk signing. Hopefully he does better than he did in the first preseason game though

Ruben: He’s got no knees!

Adnan: Harsh, yet fair

Ruel Gutierrez Apostol: I’d like to see Josh Gatt make the squad, he would make a great super sub

Adnan: Didn’t have many super subs last year, did we?

Ruel: Alvarez to a some extent

Adnan: Until the injuries piled up and he became a starting center mid

Ruben: I don’t think he has anything left, tho. it’s a shame.

Adnan: Well that’s Houston’s problem now

Ruben: No, Gatt

Adnan: Swing and a miss, my bad

Ruel: Squad depth was part of the reason of the collapse last year, I hope N-Rod does go out and make more signings like he said he would. I wish that the Fire kept Alvarez since he is still useful.

(In response to the first question I spent offseason playing PES (better than FIFA tbh), playing rhythm games and sleeping in for once in my life)

Adnan: We’ve lost so many bodies as well, no matter how shite they were. (I think everyone’s forgotten about Juninho)

James Bridget: So I want to keep talking about the Fire but I think we really need to address this steaming hot take that just got dropped.


Ruben: PES sux fite mee IRL!!11!!111

Adnan: Ah yes nothing better than Manchester Red vs North London White

Ruben: Also, Master League is trash

And Konami as a company is trash


Ruel: I play PES while I place ketchup on my Hot Dog

James Bridget: My god

Adnan: It’s ok I put ketchup on my hot dog as well so there’s my secret out

James Bridget: CLEARLY I didn’t vet our new contributors thoroughly enough

Ruel: Konami makes wonderful arcade games, it’s only their console output is questionable.

Deep dish is better than the rest tho.

Ruben: And by Konami Arcade games, you really mean Pachinko machines.

Adnan: Don’t remind me of deep dish. I really want to get a slice but I only have 45 minutes until class and I have homework to finish so I’m not sure if I’ll have enough time to eat

James Bridget: smh

Ruel: Anyway Katai....will he end up being useful to the squad or become the “Serbian Neymar”

Adnan: Katai is such a mystery to me. I have no idea what to expect.

Ruel: Judging by FM, Katai bags in 10 goals but and end up losing to Seattle on pens in the Final

Adnan: The best thing about Katai is that he’s only on loan so we could cut him lose if he flops completely

Ruel: Konami makes great rhythm arcade games. I’d say let’s do a gathering at Round 1 in Bloomingdale or Aurora one day. I’ll get us all hot dogs (with ketchup).

I can’t believe that Katai was part of the reason why King David was sold. Pauno must see some hidden talent in Katai that we all don’t.

Adnan: I still think there’s a greater plan for the Accam sale, but we might have to wait for the summer. Pauno hasn’t always been on the money with his decisions to be fair.

James Bridget: Re: Accam-- I think the causality here is a little backwards.

I think Accam made it clear that he wants to leave Chicago, and that the only reason the Fire was hanging on to him (other than the obvious) was that they didn’t have a replacement lined up. Once they did, Accam was allowed to leave.

So while the Katai pickup facilitated Accam being traded away, the rationale isn’t what’s being described. It’s not, “oh, we have Katai now, we don’t need Accam anymore!” It’s more like, “we have Katai now, so we can finally let Accam have the move he’s been agitating for for a year and a half.”

Adnan: That does seem like the case, but I’m still wondering why he went to another MLS team, as I thought he really wanted a chance in Europe. Maybe N-Rod just decided he would go to Philly and he would like it.

James Bridget: His move to Stoke was held up by visa problems.

Ruel: But could he have done it in a cold night in Stoke?

James Bridget: I feel like if Accam had a legit opportunity to go to Europe it would’ve happened last year. And so moving to another MLS team was the best he could manage. I’m sure he would’ve preferred Europe but it was extremely clear that he just really wanted to leave Chicago.

Adnan: I always imagined him in the French league, as it isn’t as demanding as the EPL. Ghana not making the World Cup could also play a part, as he doesn’t have to fight for a place on the roster now.

Ruel: I remember hearing rumors of him being connected to a Ligue 1 club, didn’t hear the Stoke one though.

James Bridget: Regardless of whether he would’ve fit in better in Ligue 1, Stoke City wanted him and he wanted Stoke City, and the only reason it didn’t happen was because of the British Government.

Ruel: How does everyone feel about Sanchez being the #1? Or will Casillas actually come later in the summer

James Bridget: Sanchez-- Not great, Bob!

Iker-- ehhhhhhhh

Saul Garcia: I’d prefer an MLS vet probably instead of either Sanchez or Iker. Hello everybody.

James Bridget: Hi Saul! Everyone, Saul is one of our new contributors. His first post for us is coming later today. (Which for us is tomorrow, because this conversation happened in the past.)

Ruel: Hamid would of have been a decent choice.

Adnan: I’d want an older, experienced GK that Sanchez can learn from before taking over the starting spot in due time.

Saul: Hamid had his sights set on Europe so that ship has sailed. I’d also like for Chicago to try and get Nguyen if the price isn’t to prohibitive.

Adnan: But anything would be better than Lampson from last year.

Ruel: NERevs should just let Ngyuen out of the basement. Set him free. Lampson as a person was great, lovely dude, but as a GK he was USL/NASL tier at best.

Saul: Nguyen would be a good fit here too.

James Bridget: I’d be down with Nguyen. I just get the feeling the Revs are going to try and hang on to him out of principle. Bob Kraft’s two primary motivations in life are Greed and Spite, and usually Greed wins out but not always.

Saul: The Krafts are mostly bad. I could see Chicago maybe trying and convince them it’s in their best interest to trade him.

Adnan: Nguyen could be decent, but that move doesn’t excite me as much as I would’ve wanted our attacking midfielder acquisition to be.

Saul: He’s a great number 10, one of the best in the league and I think it would make Chicago a top 5 team. Plus Bastian and Dax aren’t getting any younger so this can open a 2 or 3 year window to chase a title.

James Bridget: So I want to talk about this window of opportunity to win a title.

There was this great Twitter thread over the weekend that talked about the psychology of poverty. Ine of the key points here is that poor folks who suddenly become middle class and/or come into a financial windfall have a tendency to focus on short-term spending rather than planning for the future, and how this usually gets cast as irrational but that it’s actually perfectly reasonable for someone accustomed to the violent precariousness of poverty.

I wonder-- is there a similar dynamic happening with the Fire? Have we been out in the wilderness for so long that it almost doesn’t make sense to build for the future? Are we all taking it as a given that these are relative Good Times and that they’re not going to last, so we might as well get while the getting is good?

Ruben: I don’t think so. Championship windows come and go all the time, and at different lengths. . The Chicago Blackhawks, for example, had a window of 2009-2016, and won 3 titles in that time. Whereas the Bulls had one open for only 2 seasons from when they drafted Derrick Rose to hen he hurt himself in the playoffs. It’s just a reality of sports.

James Bridget: On the flip side though, during the Cubs’ World Series campaign, I feel like there was a definite sense that it was Now Or Never. That this was the closest the Cubs had come to winning it all in decades, and that if they didn’t make good on it now they might not get another chance for a very long time.

Ruben: That’s a combination of people being idiots and people knowing that the MLB playoffs are a crapshoot.

James Bridget: Then let’s go back to your examples. The Blackhawks had been in the wilderness for a very long time, and only became consistent title contenders after the previous owner died. Meanwhile, it may have felt like the Bulls had been awful for a while before the D-Rose era started, but it really wasn’t. The 90s dynasty is still within living memory. And not in the sense that we have grandparents who remember it-- WE remember it.

Ruben: The Fire’s good period is also within living memory, a similar time period to the Bulls acutally. It’s just magnified because there’s not a lot of it.

James Bridget: I guess. We never had a lengthy dynastic period like, say, DCU or the Galaxy. We have a good record in the Open Cup but only the one MLS title.

Ruben: It was more like the Blackhawks. A trophy every couple of years and always competitive.

Saul: I do agree that a Blackhawks type model would be better then a Cubs one. Being always competitive at least can generate interest that can catapult into contending under the right circumstances.

Ruben: ... But that is the Cubs model

James Bridget: It’s really hard to build a dynasty in baseball. Whereas they happen in basketball all the time.

Saul: Cubs were in the basement before Theo got there.

Ruben: What happened pre-Theo doesn’t matter.

Ruel: I was able to afford to go to more games pre-Theo.

James Bridget: Ok, let’s try to steer this back to the Fire before Ruben leads us fully into sports talk radio territory.

Do the Fire have enough to remain playoff contenders this year? Or do they need to add more pieces?

Ruben: The answer to both of your questions is Yes.

Ruel: They need to add more pieces. Squad depth is still an issue, especially with the rise of the east. If the Fire were in the west, they would be kings.

Saul: A borderline playoff team and I still think they need to add something before the season starts.

Would y’all trade Vincent and some Tam or Gam or both for Nguyen? I’d say yes.

Ruben: No.

James Bridget: Nooooooooooooooo

Ruel: Vincent is good so nah. Maybe funny money, sure.

James Bridget: I’d also be fine with paying Gummy Money.

Ruben: Good Defense is harder to come by then Good Offense, and outside backs are so important in the modern game.

Ruel: Free Lee, sign Gatt for some backup, get a good GK, and another one in the back and we Gucci.

Saul: Can the Fire offer a transfer fee or it that not a thing within MLS?

Sean Spence: In MLS, that TAM and GAM basically is the transfer fee - so yes. (Hi everybody)

Ruben: Hi Sean.

Ruel: So what are your personal hopes for the Fire this season? Mine is a deep run in the playoffs and lifting the US Open Cup.

James Bridget: My hopes are just qualifying for the playoffs. I’m a cheap date.

Ruben: Playoffs. 5th or 6th seed.

Saul: Title or bust, despite my concerns.

James Bridget: Let’s talk worst case scenarios for a bit. Is it possible we’ll end up with another Wooden Spoon season?

Ruben: No.

James Bridget: Why not?

Ruben: I don’t think the talent is that bad. They’re going to have at least a 5 game unbeaten streak in them at some point this year. There’s no way they’ll get close to Wooden Spoon territory.

Ruel: The team would honestly have to try to be that awful this year.

James Bridget: Whereas in recent seasons they didn’t have to try too hard to be awful, it just sort of came naturally.

Ruben: Exactly.

Ruel: Worst case scenario would be missing the playoffs on GD.

Saul: We think Ramos will be a starter? I’d lean no. Unless Polster goes to midfield.

James Bridget: Polster and Vincent gave us the most effective fullback tandem in the league last year, and they were integral to the Fire’s play in both directions. I don’t think Pauno would want to fuck with that unless he was really sure Ramos is an upgrade.

Saul: I love both, I do think Ramos can be effective at RB. Polster in the midfield with Dax and Bastian could be fun too.

Sean: I dunno - my read of Pauno is that he’s almost exactly the kind of coach who could overthink this Polster thing. But I’m assuming that Polster is a nailed-down starter until proven otherwise.

Adnan: Polster and Vincent are probably the best LB and RB combo in the league, and will only get better in their positions. I still think the Fire need a new starting CB next to Kap, with Campbell and Lillard as depth. And Dean as an emergency 5th option.

Ruel: Can Yu Darvish play rightback?

James Bridget: The REAL question is if Nikola Mirotic can play up top?

Ruel: Sure, for the New Orleans Jesters

Adnan: Would be a better option than Arshakyan from last season

Ruel: ”Nikola Mirotic Skills Goals Wlecome To The Fire 4K Ultra HD”

Adnan: Is that the secret project I’ve been hearing about?

James Bridget: How do you say “it’s coming home lads!” in Serbian?

Ruel: According to sources (Google Translate) it would be “Dolazi kući momc”

James Bridget: Ok so, to wind down the Fire discussion: describe the current state of the team in one word.

Ruben: Warm-up

Ruel: Incomplete.

Saul: Hopeful.

Adnan: Incomplete.

James Bridget: Some pretty wild swings in this here straw poll. I’m going to say... Cromulent.

Ruben: Mmmm cromulents.

James Bridget: They’re really good warm and with a little butter.

Alright, I think we’ve got the Fire covered for today. Let’s talk Red Stars!

Their College Draft picks seem pretty decent and should provide some solid depth. But the big story of the offseason has to be trading away Christen Press in exchange for the 2017 NWSL MVP Sam Kerr.

There are still, uh, questions over this team.

Sean: I love me some Christen Press, but it’s been clear for a while that she doesn’t want to be in Chicago. There’s no part of me that’s asking why we weren’t good enough for her, nope WHY WHY CHRISTEN WHYYYYY

But we got Sam Kerr so yusssssss

James Bridget: See I have the exact opposite feelings, it came out that she REALLY wanted to leave and I was all “lol girl bye”

Claire Watkins: The blessing and the curse of following the Red Stars is crickets during the off season, so I was happy to have the jolt of that move around draft day.

I’d always wanted Press to want to be here more than she did.

Also! Sammy Kerr! Welcome to Chicago kid we’ve sort of got beaches here everything’s gonna be grand.

James Bridget: Yeah I’m super hyped about Kerr.

Also hi Claire! Everyone say hi to Claire, she’s joining the Red Stars desk this season.

Claire: Go Red Stars, queens of tough semifinals

Sean: Hey Claire!

Ruben: Yo

Claire: Anyway, thank you to Christen Press for her service and my thoughts and prayers to the Houston Dash for the anxiety she’s already induced.

James Bridget: Agreed.

Adriana Hooper: NWSL talk, that I can get behind lol. Chicago has had great luck and pickups in the draft for a while. I think the big key is for them to convert them over and figure out how to get them to work together.

Press was doing a lot of different things for the team, and she wasn’t getting a whole lot of help to do the things she’s great at, which is scoring killer goals because she was working so hard just to get the ball.

I think Kerr is a great pickup for Chicago, we’ll just be interesting to see what they do until she gets there due to international commitments. Stanton will bring quality help to the midfield but is a very physical player.

James Bridget: For sure. Rory’s usually pretty good at that but, as the Press saga showed, there are definitely limits.

Also, everyone say hi to Adriana! She’s going to be our new social media wizard!

Adriana: Hello!

Yea Press was like the only option it seemed in many games and if she was shut down, it kind of fizzled. Personally think Ertz will be the biggest key to Chicago’s success and if her last year has been any indication, I think she’ll be just fine.

Claire: Hello hello!

Ruel: Hey!

Claire: I just really want Chicago to score some good goals this year, with a differential upwards of, ya know, 1.

Saul: Hello!

Adriana: My question is, without Kerr for some games, where or who do you go to?

Sandra Herrera: YO. I’m just here cuz we talkin’ bout the Red Stars.

James Bridget: Sandraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Adriana: I think that was the big thing for Press, a lot of it felt like her, and then after, it was like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Claire: I totally agree, which is where we get into Chicago maybe not being quite so stacked as they look. Got lots of players that can move the ball well but when it comes to a killer instinct in front of goal? I honestly don’t know.

Ruben: I think it’s how they play. The talent of Dortmund and the tactics of Stoke.

Adriana: I think a few teams I follow, that is like the crutch. On paper, a team could look like a killer brutal lineup and then they get on the field and I’m like...

I don’t know if Kerr comes back to start the season so you’re striker, who seems like the reliance for main goals this season will probably miss all of pre-season and most likely some games at the beginning.

James Bridget: I get why people are down on Rory’s tactics but I also feel like it’s become something of a canard.

Chicago teams, on the whole, aren’t really flashy. They tend to either grind out wins (the Bears, when they don’t suck) or they dominate through superior firepower (the Bulls in the 90s, the Blackhawks over the past decade). The Red Stars’ current style of play isn’t entirely out of place. And they’re consistent playoff contenders, so, I feel like they’re doing something right. Y’know?

Claire: In general I agree, but I gotta say last year’s semifinal really shook me when it came to a team that looked like it didn’t have the psychological part down at all. That game was capital B Bad, y’all.

James Bridget: No argument from me there.

Adriana: Agree with Claire. Consistent playoffs is a big thing I think gets lost a bit but that semi-final hump keeps coming up and there has yet to be a side that makes it over. And there aren’t a lot of moves this off-season besides basically a Kerr for Press trade and picking up Stanton, at least that I recall off the top of my head.

James Bridget: I kinda wish the semifinals were two-legged games. I don’t know if that would help or hurt the Red Stars, but I feel like if you’re only going to have a two-stage playoff schedule you shouldn’t have ALL of them be win or go home.

Claire: I just don’t get what switch gets flipped halfway through every CRS season where they plateau and then slide.

James Bridget: I mean Chicago summers are pretty brutal.

Adriana: A lot of people I’ve seen (and i’ve heard this complaint in the W-League too) is that they almost want more of a cup feel to the playoffs than just one and done. Who knows how much it’ll help or hinder but single game preparedness can change so much.

That switch though is something to figure out. This is just a no connection opinion on my end, but I get the feeling there was some player discontent outside of Press, but I could be reading that completely wrong. I’m not the biggest fan of Dames (I know that’s a curse to say out loud.)

Claire: The players seem....cagey about it sometimes absolutely.

Always a struggle too when you’ve got so many USWNT bubble players on one team, especially when club and personal goals aren’t coinciding so well.

Adriana: Especially after that Portland away game before the semi’s, whew. But yea, I think Dames wants a very specific thing and way (which coach doesn’t though?) and the players don’t always agree with it and have things they want or need to accomplish on that bubble.

Something isn’t working somewhere though, because the same problem is happening in the semi’s every year.

Sandra: I’m catching up but my 2 cents on the Red Stars off season thus far is that it’s been a success. Which if you only casually follow CRS and you find out they traded CP23, You’re probably like THEY DID WHAT?

But in getting one of the only other world class forwards in Sam Kerr makes the trade a win for Chicago. They also got Nikki Stanton, which, watch out if we get a game with her and Alyssa Mautz running the mid. CARD CITY.

My time at the NWSL draft and sort of witnessing the chaos of the trade, the conflict I saw via on social media was real. Which is understandable to extent. The star forward was finally traded after numerous rumored seasons of unhappiness. In fairness to Christen Press, there isn’t exactly anything on record about it nor did she ever express such malcontent during our interviews or post games about the org, team, or the city.

It is peculiar that of the 3 superstars involved in the trade (Kerr, Lloyd, Press) only Kerr and Lloyd have expressed their former team, city, and fans - while embracing their new team, city, and fans.

Regardless, thanks for memories Press, and for being another great 23 in Chicago.

Super excited to see what comes out of the draft for CRS. Feel like Dames did a great job in drafting a good goal keeper and defensive depth. There is real talent there for some players to break through and already talented roster.

Adriana: I think that casual side is what caught a lot of people on the trade. Not that there is anything wrong with it, that’s how I started and i would imagine a lot of people started, as a casual fan. But if you have to replace Press, I mean Kerr is not bad lol.

Stanton is a great pickup but whew those cards may be coming lol.

Yea I didn’t pick up at all in true honesty on some discontent until the Portland away game last season.

That debate on social media from the not acknowledging has been crazy but I personally find it odd and a bit weird that just a “thanks for the memories” hasn’t come out yet.

So with a GK does he drop Dalton at this point?

Claire: Haha Press pretty much said thanks for the memories with her last insta post-semi. I took it that way at least.

Christen Press is a consummate professional and also this post was a bummerrrrrr

Sandra: Hahahaha, no doubt Claire, no doubt. I guess I meant more post-trade.

Adriana: I totally forgot about that but yes, I felt the same after that post lol.

James Bridget: Yeah, Press seemed pretty sure she wasn’t coming back to Chicago, well before the Draft Day trade.

Adriana: I think an acknowledgment of Houston would go a long way and give the team some measure, but I personally don’t think it’s majorly unprofessional but it’s a source of contention for a lot of people it seems. But they are pretty much building the team around her and only made the trade with her assurance to play (from what’s been reported at least.) I would just be like “I’m playing, shut up” if I was her.

End of the day, she doesn’t have a contract with any NWSL team, a mistake for all USWNT players imo, but that’s a whole different topic.

James Bridget: My favorite thing about the trade was this one towering intellectual on Big Soccer who said that Sam Kerr was a step down from Christen Press and that nobody’s even heard of her.

Another individual said he was cancelling his season tickets and then later in the thread admitted that he never actually had season tickets (but would’ve definitely canceled them if he did).

Adriana: Hahahah, of course.

To me, it’s pretty much a like for like, both really more pure strikers. But obviously Kerr has had a killer godly year in goal-scoring all over the place.

Ruben: Stop going on Big Soccer.

James Bridget: I really should. Big Soccer is Bad.

Claire: I someday wish to have the confidence of a person saying they’ve never heard of the whole league’s MVP. (If Rory pulls Kerr back towards the 10 spot I’ll riot.)

Sandra: I’d also just like to say shouts to Jen Hoy who was a literal “Do your job” type of player her entire 5 years as a Red Star.

James Bridget: So, you want the confidence of mediocre white guys?

Claire: Every GD day, James.

Sandra: Ah. The key to a successful NWSL. Of course. Lol

James Bridget: Ok, let’s wrap things up. Describe the current state of the Red Stars in one word.

Adriana: Transitional.

Claire: Nebulous.

Sandra: <100 emoji>

Ruben: Fine.

James Bridget: I’m going to go with... Furtive.

Also lol Sandra that’s cheating but also extremely on-brand for you

Claire: Don’t bring my best friend Furt into this.

James Bridget: You’re right, that was uncalled for.