James Bridget Gordon: Happy Monday, y’all. The rest of the league jumped into the fray this weekend while the Fire too a holding action for Week 1. The club filled the gap with a preseason friendly against Tulsa. Which they won! Barely.
We also saw what is probably the Starting XI for Kansas City next week-- including Stefan Cleveland in goal, Bakero starting, and Basti as a #10.
So! Who’s looking at that panic button?
Ruel Gutierrez Apostol: At this point I’m hoping the Fire sign McLain.
Ruben Tisch: After seeing how Kansas City looked against New York? Not me. They’re really soft in midfield, and if there’s one thing we know Basti and Dax can do, it’s exploit a soft midfield.
Adnan Bašić: I would be shocked if we see more than 1 goal scored in the Chicago vs KC game.
Sean Spence: I’m with Rubes - that SKC showing was very encouraging to me as a Fire fan. Their defense is good but that midfield got overrun.
That said, it’s entirely possible that our problems at keeper overshadow any other good work happening out there. Cleveland as a starter is an epic failure by the front office.
Ruben: True. The goalkeeper thing is unacceptable, especially in a country where you can find a decent keeper on a street corner.
Adnan: Do we have any idea if Sanchez will be ready for KC?
Ruel: How bad is Sanchez’s hand injury?
Ruben: No one knows.
Adnan: I love not knowing how injured everyone is.
James Bridget: We should put Sean in goal.
Ruel: Can I be the #10?
James Bridget: Sure! Why not!
Ruben: I’ve got an idea! let’s trade for Tommy Mac.
Adnan: Is he still at NYCFC?
Ruel: Didn’t he get loaned out to Wilmington or was that a few seasons ago?
Looked it up, he’s still with the team.
Adnan: I don’t think he’ll play much for them this season.
So Katai looks very talented but lazy. Also he took the famed #10 kit thankfully.
Saul: Mac would be interesting, but Bakero should get a shot.
Ruben: No. He needs to play up top in a two striker set.
James Bridget: I could be mistaken but I think Adnan mentioned that Bakero started against Tulsa (in the 3-bank in the 4-2-3-1) and he didn’t do that well.
Which, I mean, he’s a rookie. That’s going to happen. He should still be given a shot. Buuuuut I think we should emotionally prepare for some bad performances.
Adnan: Bakero looked lost on the right wing. It’s just not a role that suits the type of player he is.
Ruben: The problem as I see it is the Fire, personnel wise, are split between having a single central striker and two striker set up. They don’t have the wingers to play 4-5-1, but also have to play three central midfielders.
James Bridget: One thing I do want to mention here: In recent years we’ve depended a lot on international signings, or signings outside of MLS, to fill out the roster. I’m thinking of Razvan Cocis and David Arshakyan and even Kennedy Igboananike. This year we still have a need for depth and utility players, but instead of (sometimes very expensive) external signings, we seem to be relying more on draft picks and Homegrown Players.
I think this is the right way to go. Like, Arshakyan was objectively bad, but the thing that really bothered me about him is that the Fire were paying $150k and giving up an international spot and not getting a lot of ROI. There’s not a lot Arshakyan brought to the team that an academy player or a Tulsa call-up could’ve also provided, and for a lot less money.
I guess what I’m saying is: fewer David Arshakyans, more Elliot Colliers.
Ruben: I agree on principle, and we know this kind of thing is what N-Rod is good at, I’m just worried that he can’t seal the deal on the big trajectory changing signings. I don’t think the Fire have ever had a GM that failed to get pen to paper as much as he has. Complain all we want to about Nery Castillo, but at least he signed a contract.
James Bridget: I get where you’re coming from, but I also see that line of argument a lot in Cee Eff Ninety Seven Land, and I feel like it only really holds up if you ignore the big handsome German in the midfield.
Obviously this has been a disappointing offseason, and the lack of a competent goalkeeper in particular is A Problem, but I think it’s a bit of a leap to say that N-Rod can’t get big deals done at all.
Adnan: I think Nelson’s increased ambition has a big part to play.
Speaking of the big handsome German: Thoughts on him playing as our central attacking midfield? It seems the midfield 3 will be him, Dax, and Tchani.
Ruel: Hey, can N-Rod play in goal or be our midfield king?
James Bridget: I’m going to try to finagle my way into the weekly conference call just to ask him that. I bet he would, too.
Re: Basti as #10-- ehhhhhhhhhhhhh. I don’t think it suits him. I liked the 4-3-3 we had last year, and I think a midfield trio of Basti-Dax-Tchani is probably our best look.
Adnan: And then a front 3? Guessing that’d be Katai-Niko-Solignac when he’s healthy.
Ruel: I’d be OK with a 4-3-3 again. I wonder where De Leeuw would fit in though once he’s back roaring.
James Bridget: Or Katai-Niko-[INSERT BIG SIGNING HERE].
MdL can rock the inside forward thing pretty well, and the front line in a 4-3-3 can def support one of the wide players drifting toward the middle.
James Bridget: God, please no.
Ruben: I hate the 4-3-3.
James Bridget: But the 4-3-3 loves you, Ruben.
Ruben: It leaves the flanks exposed, especially when our outside backs like to get forward.
Adnan: Katai doesn’t seem like the guy who loves to track back, so I wonder how that’ll affect the fullback on his side.
Ruel: The formation that Pauno could deploy should be 0-0-11 with a team of Robo Nikos that JBG suggested to N-Rod a while back.
James Bridget: I’d buy that for a dollar!
Ruben: The problem is none of us have any real idea of what we’re going to see this weekend because it’s been the weirdest preseason in a long time. It’s frustrating.
Ruel: New signing, y’all!
Ruben: If we’re getting into e-sports, the Fire should just join the Overwatch League. It’s going to be big, Charlie, big big big!
Ruel: Nah they should look into sponsoring the Konami Arcade Championship.
Ruben: What is it with you and that pachinko manufacturing company?
Ruel: Cause I’m waiting for my soccer pachinko colab duh.
Although I would buy a D.va Fire jersey day one tbh
Ruben: D.Va is Seoul’s mascot. I want Sombra.
James Bridget: I don’t play Overwatch but my friends who do tell me it’s Super Gay, so, for that reason alone I’d be down with the Fire doing Overwatch League.
Ruben: Like most things of this nature, the gay comes mostly from fanon, not canon. However, the mascot character Tracer (the cover art for the game and the logo of the Overwatch League, and my main) is a confirmed Lesbian.
James Bridget: Look, I know I don’t play the game, but Zarya is still my douchebag boyfriend and none of you can take that away from me.
Ruben: She allegedly has a thing for cute genius climatologists, so I think you’re SOL.
Ruel: The real question here is, who does Basti main?
Ruben: Bastion, of course. Duh. (I apologize for that cheap joke.)
Ruel: Speaking of overwatch and soccer, I just saw someone on the Blue Line with a Tracer jacket and a MNUFC jersey.
James Bridget: Oh hey, speaking of soccer: Opening Day on Saturday!
Ruben: I said on twitter that MLS completely screwed over the Fire by essentially killing the hype for this year, but The Fire hasn’t helped their cause. What is their marketing department even doing? Where is the hype machine?
Ruel: I’m predicting 2-0 this Saturday. With an OG and a goal from Niko
James Bridget: I’m going with 1-1. Katai with the goal for the Fire, don’t care who scores for SKC.
Ruben: I think it will probably be a scoreless draw, and there will be a red card in this game
James Bridget: Yeah, I see that too. With our luck it’ll be Basti. Or Dax.
Ruben: My money is on Bakero, or one of the SKC CBs for a DOGSO.
Adnan: 0-0 snoozefest inbound imo.
James Bridget: Honestly I wouldn’t that so much. A point and a clean sheet in Week 1 is an okay result for me (even if it is at home).
Adnan: Our early schedule doesn’t look that tough so it wouldn’t be the worst result to start the year.
Ruben: I completely disagree. C-Bus, PDX, TFC, Atlanta, and the Galaxy in the first 7 games of the year is tough.
Adnan: Oh wow ok that ones on me. I had put too much faith in my father in knowing the opening schedule. Maybe we’re gonna need the 3 points after SKC then.
Saul: I see a 1-0 win. Start on the right foot.
James Bridget: Honestly I’m just glad to see this team play again. Even if we lose on Saturday, even if we suck for a while. I’m just glad the Fire are back.
Maybe that’s just because the new MLS season is a bit like the new baseball season. Signals the coming spring. New beginnings, all that.
Ruben: I still can’t help but feel like we missed out on something by not playing this past weekend.
James Bridget: That’s not really on the club or MLS though. We were supposed to play this weekend. And then our opponent had CCL obligations.
Ruben: All the other teams who played in the Champions League played this weekend. And they all took the competition more seriously then the Rapids did, anyway.
James Bridget: Ok, well, go yell at the Rapids.
Ruben: I did that already. Revenge just leaves you feeling empty inside.
Ruel: I just realized we will face TFC three times this year.
James Bridget: Yuuuup.
Adnan: Well hopefully Toronto goes far in the CL and rest players against us.
James Bridget: For sure.
So unless anyone has something more to add for Fire discourse, I’m going switch over to Red Stars talk.
Ruben: Bang the boards. It’s time for a shift change.
James Bridget: Indeed.
So! The Red Stars played a preseason friendly last night probably! We have no details on it except Rory Dames tweeting that it definitely happened.
Claire Watkins: Looks like Wisconsin got the memo to keep the scoreline a secret
Which I, however, find very rude.
James Bridget: I know right?
Also there doesn’t seem to be much rumbling about new signings, and haven’t been since the Draft. It sounds like the roster we have now is it, other than whoever gets cut in the next few weeks.
How confident are we feeling about the squad in its current form?
Claire: Hard to say without any preseason evidence, if I’m honest. Depth is gonna be so important for the first quarter of the season, but we haven’t had a great look at that yet.
James Bridget: I think that’s what frustrates me most about the first two friendlies being conducted under radio silence.
Claire: It’d be such a great chance to see the squad without the USWNT or internationals, which are gonna have grind out a decent portion of available points early on.
James Bridget: Exactly!
Claire: Actually I have a feeling about that on another angle right now.
So the second USWNT SheBelieves cup match was yesterday, and despite some much needed depth at outside back late in the game Sofia Huerta didn’t see the pitch again.
Now no one inherently deserves time and I’m usually all for CRS players going in with the national team even if they don’t get caps cuz it’s such a high quality competitive environment, but with Huerta that doesn’t apply either since she’s gonna be a forward for Chicago
Anyway I have a feeling about it cuz this is the first time in recent years I feel a Chicago players time is really being wasted out there.
James Bridget: Yeah I really don’t understand how Ellis can justify calling up Huerta as A. a defender and B. primarily depth. Unless her primary motivation here is, like, spite.
Like I’m positive that Huerta wouldn’t have applied for her one-time switch if she weren’t given SOME assurances for call-up and playing opportunities. And if not, I feel like Ellis should’ve contacted her BEFORE she made the switch and said, “look, I gotta level with you here.”
Claire: Mostly I just dislike the culture that says it’s better to sit on the bench for the USA than be working with your club. (Except financially for the players, get your coins girl.)
James Bridget: Agreed.
Adriana Hooper: Just finished watching Black Panther (DOPE) but I agree with some of the above. The lack of access to the preseason friendlies, especially given the absence of international players, just seems like an odd choice and honestly doesn’t instill a whole lot of confidence.
I will say though, on the other hand, that preseason in the NWSL in general always seems to be a bit of a mess and them moving the season up (in addition to WCQ) is why many of the squads are so incomplete, because it’s cut into times where normally their absences wouldn’t have been an issue.
And I don’t think we can fully understand many of Ellis’ call-ups to be honest. Not that I don’t think Huerta is a quality attack option but the USWNT defense is lacking so much that not calling up actual defenders and then working out a federation shift for a forward to be a defender just doesn’t seem like the wisest moves.
I don’t recall where I saw it but I remember reading something about Huerta’s desire regardless to be with the USWNT, but I may have misinterpreted that. But I think USSF has made the (outside of financial reasons) it be more appealing to sit on the bench than train with clubs HOWEVER I don’t think all of the players actually feel that way. Many want to be with their clubs. I think they are kind of made to have to feel that way to continue to be given a chance.
I’m long-winded but I have feelings lol.
James Bridget: I mean, if you can’t have Sports Feelings here at the Roundtable, where can you have them?
Adriana: Hashtag truth.
Claire: Haha I’ve long let go trying to understand USA rosters on their own merits, I’d just prefer they not make Chicago’s roster weird.
It’s a utopian dream, I realize.
Adriana: Ain’t that the truth though. Players staying with their clubs more and not f**king up rosters would be sublime.
James Bridget: #ClubOverCountry
Sandra Herrera: Hi, I’m just here cuz we talkin’ ‘bout the Red Stars.
SheBelieves has been going interestingly enough. Pretty sure we can count on Ertz and Short to be given some preseason rest when they join back up with Chicago due to injuries sustained recently with the National Team.
Some even more interesting post game comments from Head coach Ellis regarding the NT backline: Short’s rolled ankle injury and the 1st half substitution of Smith based on tactical reasons. Coupled with O’Hara also nursing an injury, it leaves one game in this tournament for Huerta to see some action.
The senior national team is the highest competitive level, and with that also comes the honor and privilege of representing your country - a personal dream of Huerta’s that she’s been on record about various and multiple times.
SheBelieves Cup and Tournament of Nations are opportunities to see what she [Huerta] could bring to the team on actual match days vs practice and scrimmage scenarios. And not getting the minutes on these games makes one wonder how Ellis ranks or evaluates Huerta’s camps to the point she isn’t being played in these matches.
Then again, the USA will be playing Mexico in 2 friendlies next month... <eye roll emoji>.
So hi, it’s me future Sandra who will be Zero percent shocked if Huerta is given a start, or 2, or significant minutes, or a pre/post/halftime match segment, or whatever. Do you, I guess, USSF.
Bring on the Portland Spring Invitational! Clubs eventually have to get their preseason rosters down to 25, I believe. And with today’s update I think that puts Chicago at (counts) yep, 31.
James Bridget: By the time next week’s Roundtable rolls around we’ll (hopefully!) be able to actually see this team play. Then we can start talking about who gets to make the 25-player cut.
Claire: I’m anticipating it being more of a scalpel situation than a hatchet. Maybe a surprise or two.
James Bridget: That sounds about right.
Claire: In that regard, all we’ve got are champagne problems. Excited for Portland.
James Bridget: Same tbh.
Adriana: Agreed on your point about ranking in camp and no minutes.
Could definitely see her being played against Mexico with you. As it stands, which Short’s Injury and O’Hara nursing one, the literal only sub options are Dunn or Huerta.
Sandra: It’s interesting that those appear to be the options (more Dunn/O’hara I think) since I sort of feel like this is a bit of a transitional time for Huerta, similar to how 2015 was for Dunn.
For Dunn, being cut from that 2015 World Cup roster just propelled her profile in NWSL as far as her skill set as a forward and then going on to win golden boot/mvp.
There are more friendlies. Tournament of Nations and World Cup qualifiers still to take place this year. So there is more opportunity to potentially see what a OB playing Huerta looks like on the national team. We’ll see how it impacts Huerta as a forward on the Red Stars as well.
Claire: I’m rooting for her.
Sandra: We all are <100 emoji>