James Bridget Gordon: Hai frands! The new MLS season starts this weekend! The Fire play their first game the weekend after! People are getting scared about the state of the roster!
But first— both Chicago teams played closed-door friendlies that weren’t even covered by their own comms departments and we only ever heard the score afterward. My question is: do you think they’ll try to continue this trend into the regular season? Throw out final scores for games that were not broadcast or otherwise covered, and may or may not have actually happened? Might we have entire soccer seasons based on nothing but rumor and conjecture?
Ruben Tisch: Lets hope not. I could barely deal with Fire Twitter after a meaningless maybe game.
James Bridget: I mean Fire Twitter isn’t that much better even when the games matter and actually happen.
Ruben: That’s fair.
1) push soccer as far into a theoretical concept as possible.
2) never lose
Sean Spence: “The Fire’s continued existence could be neither confirmed nor denied at press time, which their PR office assures us is a good sign.”
Adnan Bašić: We’re just gonna have to imagine Fire away games this season
James Bridget: In a way we always have to. Shadows on the wall, my friends.
James Bridget: So one sentiment I’ve been seeing a lot is that the starting lineup for that Orlando scrimmage-- such as it was-- may well be the teamsheet for the opener against SKC. And that that’s Very Bad.
What do y’all think?
Adnan: Well maybe formation wise but it should not be personnel-wise. Katai and Polster should both come in unless I am unaware of some sort of injury problems.
Ruben: Katai should start, so should Jonathan Campbell.
Adnan: Nope, he’s out for 6 weeks.
Adnan: So we just have to hope Dean’s preseason form continues into the meaningful games.
James Bridget: So back to my question: assuming that the Starting XI against Orlando this weekend is our lineup for the first actual game. Is this good enough?
Ruben: It doesn’t seem like it, but we won’t really know until the real game starts.
Adnan: Not in the slightest
Sean: No way.
James Bridget: Can you elaborate?
Adnan: I still have my fears about Dean in a meaningful game. Bakero has potential, but he hasn’t showed much in preseason. I do like the pairing of Adams and Dax to be fair. And I’ll just assume Katai comes in for Campos.
Sean: If we’re starting three rookies and Niko in attack, clearly the key will be Feeding Nik But we’ve seen nothing to indicate that this attacking group has a clue of how to Feed The Niko - it’s like they’ve spent all preseason baking him sourdough when the dude’s committed to a gluten-free thing. It looks like the best case is we ride some Colorado Rapids 2016 juju, playing rope-a-dope and squeaking out results, because this group is a massive step back from an attacking band that went David Accam-Michael de Leeuw-Luis Solignac last year. At least Campos has looked sharp.
Ruel Gutierrez Apostol: Speaking of Campos, I wonder why he elbowed Cam [Lindley]. If anyone should be elbowing him I would of have expected an academy product to do that
James Bridget: Alternately, Campos might’ve been trying to ingratiate himself in the squad. Demonstrate that he knows #TheChicagoWay.
Whether or not that worked is still TBD.
Adnan: Paunovic didn’t seem too happy about it from what I saw on Twitter.
Ruben: I mean, It’s not like you can have any other reaction.... In public
Ruel: I hope fans don’t boo or whistle Cam whenever he’s back in TP. Can’t blame him really.
James Bridget: If Fire fans are known for anything it’s being reasonable and kind and not judging people for petty reasons.
Adnan: Just wait until Accam returns.
Ruben: He’ll get cheered.
Ruel: Yeah Magee and the Milkman got a good reception, don’t see why Accam wouldn’t as well.
Adnan: I very much hope so, but I know some will boo sadly.
James Bridget: Some folks booed both of those guys. There’s still a vocal minority of fans who actively despised Sean Johnson, even before he left.
Sean: I mean, I can see their criticism - Sean’s game has some holes - but goddamn, they roasted the dude like he was the Arshakyan of keepers.
Ruben: FWIW I totally get booing Mike Magee.
Adnan: He did mess up at the end with the holdout, but he did nearly drag us to the playoffs by himself one year.
James Bridget: I mean I understand why they booed Magee. I just think it’s bullshit.
Ruel: Scenes in TP when Vejle BK and the Fire are against each other in a friendly and Big Dave scores a hat-trick.
Adnan: They’ve gotta schedule that friendly next season just for the banter.
Ruben: He completely underperformed the year after his MVP season, and spent more time complaining to refs then scoring goals.
James Bridget: He underperformed because he was carrying injuries that the team didn’t adequately treat.
Adnan: And had Frank Yallop as coach.
Sean: I was 100% on Magee’s side at the time. He almost literally carried the team, played through injuries, the whole thing, and they really, really didn’t want to pay the guy. But then he got paid, got hurt, and didn’t handle it well, trying to play when he couldn’t move. (Y’know what’s easier than running? Standing and bitching at refs.) Then there was more acrimony - basically he felt that Andell’s cheapness meant his treatment and rehab got bungled, which meant he had to go back for more surgery and more rehab, which hastened the end of his career. So there’s the background for the folks who weren’t following along closely at the time.
Ruben: And why are we talking about Dave Meltzer?
Adnan: I was not expecting a Dave Meltzer reference in this Roundtable but here we are.
James Bridget: We could also not talk about shitty pro wrestling people. That’s definitely within the realm of possibility.
Ruben: I mean, when someone says Big Dave is going to score a hat trick...
James Bridget: Moving on.
Adnan: So I guess we’re not signing anyone else until after the World Cup?
Ruben: That’s what it seems like.
Adnan: Nelson is banking on the team not having a terrible start then. Bold move Cotton.
Ruben: I’ve just decided to consciously not worry about it. From what I’m hearing and Twitter chatter, basically the entire league is like this, except TFC.
Sean: It’s almost like MLS isn’t competing as hard on the talent front because it feels less pressure to compete on the domestic landscape or something. I wonder if there’s anything external to the league that’s changed since last year. Hmmmm ... did anything change since last year which would affect MLS’ need to position itself as an aggressive league whose clubs compete hard and raise the bar for football in the USA year upon year? I can’t put my finger on it, heh, heheh.
James Bridget: Atlanta’s doing pretty okay too. I don’t know how much of that is hype and how much is legit.
Ruel: In the first six fixtures, I can see the Fire winning (with a draw or two) them all despite the current squad issues. But then they face Atlanta and Toronto so it’s rip in piece.
Adnan: I’m still scared about a fresh Sporting KC team in the first match.
Ruben: The last time the Fire faced SKC in their opener, they won 3-2 and Omar Bravo got sent off.
Adnan: That’s a great fun fact well done.
Ruben: It was like 20 degrees, and I was in the 8th row.
Ruel: I got high hopes, SKC couldn’t even win the Mobile Mini Sun Cup smh.
Sean: I think we will be lucky to escape with a point against KC, especially if they score a goal. Ike Opara will put Niko in his pocket if he doesn’t get hurt.
James Bridget: I think I’ve had to lower my expectations for the season (to start, at least), but I don’t necessarily think it’s going to be a disaster. March is going to be rough and April will be a slog too but I think things will ultimately be okay.
Ruel: I just want them to try. (I do want a solid run in the US Open Cup however.)
Ruben: A cup run is job 1, time wise.
James Bridget: I mean the MLS season starts before the Open Cup does. So, time-wise, it’s Job 2.
James Bridget: So we’re having this conversation on Monday afternoon. The season kickoff luncheon is tonight. For what I believe is the first time, media will not be admitted to the event.
If you were admitted and had the opportunity to ask N-Rod questions, what would you ask?
Ruben: I’d ask about the TV deal, first and foremost.
Ruel: Yeah didn’t WGN sign a deal last year? Or am I thinking of something else.
Ruben: No. You’ve been reading “Ruben’s Fantasy TV Deal”
James Bridget: Just want to point out that WGN isn’t available on most streaming services. So for some of us, it’s not exactly a “fantasy.”
Ruben: Do you not have a digital antenna?
James Bridget: A lot of cord cutters don’t.
Ruben: I don’t know why not. It would literally be the first thing I buy after cord-cutting.
James Bridget: Ok, well, you’re not everybody. And telling people to just go out and buy new hardware is kinda like responding to someone’s question about how to do something in Windows 10 with “just switch to Linux.”
Ruel: RE luncheon, I suppose it’s understandable that media isn’t encouraged to come since they want to focus on the foundation, but still.
James Bridget: Whether or not disinviting media to the luncheon is justified is beside the point now. That’s the decision the team made.
Ruben: I’d also ask about the naming rights situation.
Ruel: I’m still hopeful that N-Rod is gonna surprise everyone by next week.
James Bridget: Hope is indeed the thing with feathers. But I also think it’s worth emotionally preparing for the possibility that this is it, as far as the roster goes.
Ruel: At least— from what I’ve seen from social media— it’s a tight knit squad.
Sean Spence: I’d ask N-Rod how he’d grade his own performance since the opening of last summer’s transfer window. What would he say demonstrated his strengths in that time, and where did we see evidence of areas with room to improve? Please show your work and explain the basis for your assertions. (Was that sufficiently HRish?)
Adnan: I’d ask Nelson if he has any managers lined up when/if Pauno leaves, either to a European club or the Serbian National team.
Ruben: Good luck getting an answer, on the record or otherwise.
Ruel: The return of Yallop.
James Bridget: Don’t say that out loud! It might actually happen!
Ruel: Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the coach who led the Fire and even a USL team to a stall?
Looks like Josh Gatt is out.
Ruben: Yup. Shame.
James Bridget: Womp womp.
Sean: Heard a lot of weirdness around his time with the Fire. Hopefully he’ll land somewhere he can work out how to play now that he’s not scorchingly fast.
Ruben: I suspect it’s time for the CRS shift change.
Ruel: 2-0 against Marquette.
James Bridget: Or so we’ve been told!
I think I’m coming around to Claire’s idea— keep the season entirely theoretical, that way we can never actually lose.
Claire: Chicago Red Stars: you never lose if you also never win.
But also we won this weekend apparently so that’s a good start.
James Bridget: For sure, although I feel like results are sort of beside the point in preseason. (More so in closed-door friendlies.)
Red Stars folks, how are we feeling about the roster as it currently stands?
Claire: I have to say, it didn’t really hit me until I finally sat down with the schedule how much everyone’s rosters were gonna be carved up by international play during the first quarter of the season. And in that respect, I think CRS is in a better position than some other teams.
James Bridget: Yeah, SheBelieves kinda snuck up on me this year.
Claire: Happy for Huerta making that roster, btw. Hope she sees some time on the field.
James Bridget: Agreed. I just, y’know, wish they’d acknowledge she’s a forward and not a defender.
Water is wet, the sky is blue, Jill Ellis makes questionable decisions.
Claire: For real. Though considering CP23 herself has had trouble breaking into the consistent forward core, I prefer Huerta’s chances where she’s at.
Speaking of forwards, would love to have known who scored those two goals this weekend.
James Bridget: Saaaaaaaaaaame.
Adriana: Coming in hot. She’ll never have a chance unfortunately of cracking the forward pool. Ellis’ favorite is making forwards, defenders lol.
And agreed. I don’t quite understand why they don’t at least recap the game. Like so and so played and player X scored.
James Bridget: So, fun little aside:
Whenever soccer bros like to shit on WoSo, they always bring up this one closed-door friendly between the senior WNT and the U18 MNT where SUPPOSEDLY the WNT lost like 8-2. (They bring this up as proof that women are inherently inferior to men, in soccer and in all other things.)
Here’s the thing though: I did some digging on this story for an article, and there’s no conclusive proof this game actually happened. Like, I called people at US Soccer and got in touch (through intermediaries) with members of that WNT squad that supposedly played in this friendly. No one could confirm that the game happened, or that it happened as described. The origin for this game is a single forum post, which has since been cited ad nauseum by stupid bros.
Claire: Wow. My hot “The Mandela Effect is Sexist” take will be forthcoming.
James Bridget: That’s not the kind of take you want to bring to a boil too quickly.
Gotta let it simmer. Put it in a slow cooker. Or that Instapot thing everyone’s raving about.
Why am I hungry all of a sudden?
Ruben: Because it’s actually dinner time?
James Bridget: That would make too much sense.
Adriana: Whaaaat?!? That’s like their one cling on story! Lol
They do the same with women’s hockey too. It’s like, just don’t watch and move on with your life.
Sandra Herrera: I’m just here cuz we talkin’ bout the Red Stars.
1) Shout out to college programs but here mostly for Portland’s invitational.
2) Congrats to all the Red Stars on the 23 player roster for SheBelieves Cup. Hope Huerta makes an impact.
3) Curious to see a midfield of Ertz, Sullivan, Horan. Get well soon Sam Mewis.
Claire: Same, Sandra. Its sometimes hard to get too fired up about the early preseason with this squad, considering it’s not all that indicative of anything we’re gonna see come opening day.
Claire: And the Red Stars seem to find a way to start slow in season despite solid preseason performances pretty consistently. But let’s get a stream of those Portland games and we can at least start the conversation
Adriana: They streamed them last year I think, so hopefully we get the same luck this year.
Sandra: With the games not being played in Providence Park I think it’s less likely. I just think it’s good that the team is participating in it again. Even with slow starts to regular seasons, games like those will help for tempo, even if chemistry comes later.
Although, Chicago isn’t the only victim of that. Early last season more than a few teams struggled to find their form.
James Bridget: Maybe the entire CRS preseason will just be an Allegory Of The Cave thing.
Claire: I’d be here for it. A very zen way to start off the year.
James Bridget: If the Red Stars ever wanted to offer a VIP ticket tier that featured super comfy chairs and your choice of a cat or dog to pet, I think they’d make a ton of money.
Also it would revolutionize the sports business.
Claire: Self-soothing sports packages. we need to go on Shark Tank immediately.
James Bridget: If things really go to pot this season I think we’ll all need some emotional support animals anyway.