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Roundtable: Accentuate The Positive

The Hot Time crew talks about the win over Columbus, winning ugly, Zlatan, the Red Stars’ bye week, and more

MLS: Columbus Crew at Chicago Fire Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

James Bridget Gordon: Happy Monday, y’all!

The Fire actually won a game! And the villagers rejoice!

How are y’all feeling about this?

Ruel Gutierrez Apostol: That was one of the more nerve-racking games I’ve seen in a while. Was also a bit surprised Katai wasn’t subbed in during the match.

Ruben Tisch: I’m a bit conflicted. They eeked out a win against a really good team with a clean sheet, no less. But at the same time, they had no possession, and looked second best for a lot of the game.

James Bridget: I feel like that’s been the major point of discussion over the weekend. Is “winning ugly” enough for at this point? Is it enough to have like one shot on target but that ends up giving the winning goal?

I think in the past I would’ve said No, this isn’t good enough, _how_ you win is as important as the result. But, A. the Fire needed this win bad enough that I think we can’t look a gift horse in the mouth, and B. I’ve recently come around to the idea that a win is a win anyway you get it for non-soccer reasons.

Ruben: It’s professional sports. A win is a win.

Adnan Bašić: And we’re no longer last in the East. Which is nice.

I hope Pauno brings back in Katai vs LA tho. Needed his quality on the ball at times on Saturday

Ruben: I read that as “I hope he brings back Kenta” and was like Amen.

Adnan: Is it too earlier in the Roundtable for takeover/mania discussion? Probably.

Ruben: Although how Pauno got the book at Pro Wrestling NOAH, I’ll never know.

James Bridget: I do want to stay on topic but here are my Mania Hot Takes:

- I love Undertaker but for the love of God please just let him retire already.

- The two main events were meh but the rest of the show was alright.

- Nakamura was robbed.

- Fuck Rhonda Rousey.

Ok, back to Fires.

Ruben: In all seriousness, I agree on Katai. His presence was definitely missed out there. I hope Pauno got passed whatever point he was trying to prove and we can all get on with it. His poise on the ball and passing ability could have really helped. And they’ll need all they can get against the Galaxy.

Adnan: I watched mania at 2:30 am and I legit thought I was hallucinating when Strowman won the tag titles with a CHILD.

But yea, I wonder if Pauno is gonna try the high press again against LA.

Ruben: I don’t think they have a choice. Keeping the ball from LA’s attackers is their best chance.

James Bridget: LA may have Zlatan now, but as their loss to SKC this past weekend demonstates, they can still be beaten.

That said, Pauno and the squad really have to get this right. If they just fuck around for 90 minutes they’re going to get wrecked. Even in their current diminished state, you can’t just go up against the Galaxy without a plan.

Adnan: Another slow start and the Fire could be 3-0 down before half. Hopefully the sellout gets the players going.

Saul Garcia: Pauno at least seems to have a semblance of a plan. I’m not a fan of it (like the 3-5-2 or Basti the Libero) but it’s working, so...

Sanchez seems to have got his feet under him and played better too.

RJ: Can’t wait for Connor and Kappelhof expose Zlatan!

Adnan: Nah Grant Lillard is gonna shut him down.

RJ: Lillard had a good debut.

James Bridget: I was so hyped to see Lillard get some minutes.

Campos did pretty well for himself too. Finishing needs some work, and he needs to be better about sorting out his feet, but dude has a strong engine at least.

Ruben: I feel a bit better about things seeing those two. If they can keep improving, the Fire are going to be fine down the stretch.

Adnan: Until Torres comes in and really kicks this team into gear. Or Ben Arfa. Or Pastore. Or Casillas. Or Nguyen.

RJ: Someone needs to really #freelee - How much ice cream nachos do I need to buy so the Fire can shell out the monopoly money for him?

James Bridget: We should make this a Hot Time campaign.

Step 1. Buy lots of ice cream nachos

Step 2. ??

Step 3. Lee Nguyen!

RJ: If Nguyen joins, the Fire would be so solid. Niko Katai - Nguyen - De Leeuw Basti - Dax Vincent - Campbell - Kappelhof - Polster mmmmm uhhhh Sanchez

Adnan: A midfield 3 of Katai Nguyen and MDL would be the narrowest in the history of footy.

James Bridget: That’s a pretty bold claim.

Adnan: It’d work wonders away to NYCFC.

James Bridget: So how are we feeling about the 3-5-2? Is this just a duct tape solution until folks come back from injury? Or can this work for us going forward?

Ruben: I think it was fine. They switched to a 4-4-2 when they were settled in after the goal. So they know it’s flexible to go into when they need it.

Adnan: I think it’s gonna be the formation until <insert big name summer signing> joins.

James Bridget: Ok but for right now let’s assume that Big Name Summer Signing isn’t happening. Is this workable?

Adnan: I think it might be one of those scenarios were it works until other teams figure out what we’re doing. Like Chelsea last season vs this season with the back 3.

James Bridget: But that’s true of any tactical setup though.

Adnan: Can’t disagree with that.

James Bridget: Alright, any other spicy Fire takes before we change shifts?

Adnan: 4-4 draw vs LA incoming, imo.

RJ: Zlatan to get exposed harder than Pep.

Ruben: 4-4 draw.

James Bridget: Imma say 2-2, Zlatan and Niko with ze goals. (Shocking, I know.)

Alright, shift change!

So it’s been kind of a quiet week on the Red Stars front, and maaaaaybe that’s for the best. But a few Chicago players repped for the USWNT this past week, including Sofia Huerta, who got some solid minutes in the USA’s 6-2 win over Mexico.

Thoughts? Reactions? Steamed Hams?

Claire Watkins: No Red Stars got hurt this week!

James Bridget: Huzzah!

Claire: I don’t have a ton of Chicago feelings coming out of USWNT camp other than not having NWSL games is boring and I’m looking forward to getting back to them

Glad Huerta got in there though, had to feel special playing against Mexico.

James Bridget: For sure. I guess now we’re just waiting for news on who, if anyone, is coming back from injury this week.

Claire: I have a good feeling about it, though that could just be the week off talking.

James Bridget: Absence making the heart grow fonder, as it were.

Claire: Even if they just get one of the pieces back, it’ll set them up well against Utah, who are gonna have a real busy week.

James Bridget: For sure.

Claire: Also I’d say this is definitely the stretch coming up where every NWSL team is going to be solidifying their game plan, and CRS are gonna have to start getting results.

James Bridget: Yeah, like we can take the first two games as mulligans but stuff’s getting real this month.

Claire: The good news though is that the Red Stars depth has already gotten a good amount of minutes early, cuz they’re gonna need them if they’re going to survive 3 games in a week

James Bridget: Totally, that’s going to pay dividends down the line.

Adriana Hooper: USWNT-wise, I don’t think Naeher has looked that bad for club but her NT performance left a little bit of nerves so hopefully getting yesterday off and coming into this week semi-fresh she’ll get out of her head and back to it.

Huerta- not much to tell but agreed on the special-ness of getting to play against Mexico.

The pessimist in me says logically, Short might be the only one close to coming back but even then I’m skeptical. DiB sounds like a pretty long term thing.

And April in general was always going to be a rough NWSL month so I’m kind of happy it’s half over lol.

Claire: Next week is definitely going to be a grind, but the good news is it’s against Utah, Houston, and Sky Blue, all teams that should theoretically not give Naeher too many fits back there

I’m trying to “The Secret” that into being, at least.

Adriana: Hey I’m with ya on that. None really have a huge attacking threat, most likely will all be very defensive games.

Well except Sky Blue. I’m not sure what to call that one but they held NC to a last minute goal sooo

James Bridget: Has anyone read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho?

There’s a quote from it that I always think of whenever Claire mentions The Secret.

”And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

So yeah, someone print that out and hang it in the Red Stars dressing room or something.

Claire: Sometimes it feels like the universe is the real head coach of the USWNT. But that’s a whole other roundtable.

James Bridget: ”So Jill, what’s your gameplan heading into WCQs?”

”You know, I’ve just learned that life has its own rhythms and patterns and it’s better to just go with those rhythms than to fight against it. So our gameplan is to just sort of open ourselves to the mysteries of the universe and trust that everything will work out.”

Claire: Just some refreshing honesty from the USA skipper.

Adriana: Lollllllll. It’s sad that that’s probably something she would say to avoid the actual point but I digress lol.

James Bridget: Having the players prepare for a game by giving them all copies of Eat, Pray, Love.

Claire: ”We spend most practices simply visualizing now. Once visualized, we can then achieve on the physical plane.”

Adriana: lolololol

Claire: Every injury is merely a sign, etc ok I’ll stop now.

James Bridget: ”We’re bottom of the group in Qualifiers but we’ve really gotten into Mindfulness lately so it’s really okay, you know?”

Claire: When the League has a Week Off, Sometimes All You’re Left With is a Good Bit.

James Bridget: Wow, that’s deep.