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Roundtable: Journeys Of Self-Discovery

The Hot Time crew discusses Toronto, Washington, moving parts, and Frank Yallop

MLS: Chicago Fire at Toronto FC John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Spence: Well well we’ll, it’s roundtable time again. The Fire clawed out a respectable road draw in Toronto. The question is, are they now a competitive team? Or no?

Adnan Bašić: It’s a beautiful day I’m out here in my last week of class in my Polster kit and I’m ready to have a good time.

I do think these 4 road points will do a lot to instill belief in the team. I think this current team has enough to be in the playoff hunt, and will be able to make the playoffs after 1-2 midseason moves.

Ruben Tisch: I think they always were a competitive team, they and Pauno just didn’t know it. I think we (and they) were all so concentrated on the Accam questions, Who would replace him? what are they going to do with all that money? That they weren’t concentrating on what they had, namely Mo Adams and Jon Bakero, both of whom had instant impact when they’ve been out there, .

The thing I’m worried about is what happens when they hit the rookie wall, and whether or not it happens late enough that it lines up for Mihailovic and De Leeuw com back.

Adnan: Sadly I don’t think we’ll see any more of Bakero this year. It seems Pauno has something against him, and he missed a chance he simply could not miss. I hope I’m wrong tho because I still believe he has the technical ability.

Saul Garcia: This looks Like a real solid team, which for our history is good. Pauno deserves credit for it.

Ruben: Players miss easy chances. If Pauno benched every player that missed an “easy” shot, Katai and Niko would never play.

Sean: It does feel a bit like Bakero is being held to an impossible standard.

I guess I’m not sure whether this is an actual improvement in form, or just the Fire 1) finally playing their best players and 2) riding some goalkeeping and luck.

Ruben: I think it’s both improvement and playing as close to their best XI as possible. Solignac and Polster for Ellis (who is noticeably improving every game) and Collier (who is regressing from his impressive opening day performance) is probably the actual best XI.

Adnan: Yea Collier has gotten his chance but I don’t think he’s good enough to start anymore (but please not Solignac I’d rather actually play Cleveland up top).

Hopefully Conner comes in for Ellis vs Atlanta. Ellis just doesn’t have the speed, especially against Atlanta.

Sean: I agree that Collier has cooled off, but if Collier sits, who should start? Campos? Bakero?

Adnan: I’d go Campos. Have him play a bit behind Niko to hide his lack of speed

Ruben: I’m okay with either of those two, Campos is a straight swap, whereas Bakero would need a bit of finagling, but he can slot in underneath Katai and Niko. Something like Vincent/Kappelhof/Lillard/Ellis; Schweinsteiger/McCarty/Adams; Bakero; Katai/Nikolic.

Adnan: The biggest question I have coming out of the Toronto game is whether or not Bastian stays at Libero?

Hopefully we see a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 against Toronto. But knowing Pauno he’s probably salivating for a tactical battle against Tata Martino. Which would not end well for us.

Ruben: The Fire play very fluid, So formation doesn’t really matter much.

Atlanta can be had at the back, especially if Larentowicz has to play center back. (Jeff Larentowicz is not a center back.)

Adnan: They’ve looked especially dangerous with this new 3-4-2-1 they’ve been rolling out in recent weeks which doesn’t have Larentowicz at centerback.

James Bridget Gordon: But he plays one on TV!

Sean: Who sits in the midfield if Basti moves forward? Or do we just go with Dax, Basti and Mo? And how is that functionally different than Basti as a libero, starting in the back but with complete freedom to move about?

Adnan: Trio of Dax Adams and Bastian. I think the change would just leave him forward more often, so instead of him carrying the ball up the field, he just gets passed the ball when he’s already up.

Ruben: Functionally, there isn’t any difference. Frankly, I think Basti’s best for us when he’s helping organize the back line and giving the confidence to make plays. I think we all think we want Basti farther forward and involved in the offence, but I think the reality is he’s better as Logan Pause then Sebastian Grazzini.

Sean: I see why people want to move Basti farther forward, but the worry for me is that over a 34-game season, the amount of running he’s going to have to do in midfield will wear him down.

Ruben: It’s not 2006 and Michael Ballack is nowhere to be found.

Sean: Are these Fire, once everyone is back and healthy, a threat in the playoffs? Knowing what we know now, what would you say the ceiling for this group is?

Ruben: The real answer is “It’s MLS, It’s a crapshoot.” They could win the league or finish bottom with very little sway one way or the other. So I guess that’s my answer. The ceiling is winning the league. The floor is the third Andrew Hauptmann Memorial Wooden Spoon in four years.

Sean: So your assessment hasn’t changed one way or the other based upon what we’ve seen from this team so far this season?

Adnan: This team should make the playoffs, and once the playoffs start everything else loses meaning. If this team gets hot at the right time they can make a run. Especially if a big name comes in the summer I think this team could win the cup if things go right. If not they’ll prob finish 7th or 8th and like four points away from the final playoff spot.

Ruben: My assessment has not changed, no.

Adnan: One last thing before my class starts: it might sound crazy, but I sincerely believe that we could get Iniesta.

Ruben: Everything is going about as expected, tbh. The only hitch was Zlatan showing up and winning a game LA had no business winning otherwise.

Sean: Iniesta would certainly change the way we play! It’s a crazy idea but I love it.

I’m glad everyone is feeling more optimistic than me. To me, this stretch of better results has seemed more like the Klopas era, when we seemed to have little plan to dominate or control a game, and instead simply hoped to have a chance to grab a result if fate smiled upon us. What I found so promising about last year is that the Fire clearly set out to control matches in a way I hadn’t seen them do since at least as far back as the Blanco years.

Adnan: Ah the Frank Klopas years. One of these days I’m going to write an article on how Maloney would’ve been a star in this league if he had a coach that actually cared. I still remember that pic of Yallop half asleep on the bench.

Ruben: Pauno has a lot more quality then Klopas or Yallop ever had. And we’ve seen them have control of the game over stretches this year. It just hasn’t happened over 90 minutes yet.

Ruel Gutierrez Apostol: Never forget. Maloney’s PK against the Revs. Yallop’s finest moment.

Adnan: Wasn’t that Anangono or Magee or am I thinking of a different incident?

Ruben: I don’t really want to talk about Shawn Maloney.

RJ: Hull City legend.

Ruben: Hull is a rugby town.

RJ: I’d rather see Iniesta than Torres but I’d rather see Nguyen than those two. But we all know Iniesta is going to China to join CSL legends like Hulk, Torres is going to end up here in Chicago along with Casillas and Nguyen is going up to Montreal because they bid one more dollar than the Fire.

Adnan: If Montreal want to pay 1 million for him they can have him. I wouldn’t go higher than 500K since he’s up there in age and hasn’t played a minute this year. However the Fire should throw literally all the money they have at Iniesta.

RJ: Since dreaming is free I won’t stop, can’t stop propagating Balotelli for the Fire. Imagine this. Polster intercepts the ball, passes it to Iniesta who lobs it beautifully to Niko and crosses it to Balotelli. There he scores a header which was then disallowed because of VAR.

Adnan: S H I F T C H A N G E

Sean: Hi hey Red Stars! I haven’t seen the most recent game! So I am bad to moderate this!

Adriana Hooper: I unfortunately didn’t get to see much of any of this game yet as I haven’t finished the replay, but I can add on some of what I was able to watch.

Thought the Red Stars had some struggles getting going and really finding their form and flow to keep up with the game.

Saw some better games from some, like Stanton and Johnson but thought Gilliland was a bit off all match.

I think Kerr and Yuki obviously need their time together but there were a few miscues from Kerr that aren’t quite normal. But I imagine those get cleaned up soon.

Claire Watkins: Can’t answer an unasked question Sean! But I feel ok about this weekend. I think Chicago has the potential to be much more dangerous than they were on Saturday -- Katie Naughton and Arin Gilliland had uncharacteristically tough games, and Danny Colaprico got roughed around quite a bit in the midfield. But more reps from both Kerr and Ertz are gonna be key going forward for sure.

Adriana: Agreed on Naughton as well. Just overall seemed to be a very “blah” and not cohesive match. Like they hadn’t quite fully got themselves ready to play. Felt there were opportunities for them to put that game away and didn’t.

Adding Ertz, Kerr, plus getting Yuki more involved and dangerous is going to be key like you said

Claire: I think the team had very clearly defined roles in the campaign to steal points out of the first five games, and now that people are coming back those roles are going to be less defined, which could end up resulting in some weird matches.

Adriana: Agreed. And that’s because you’re plugging Ertz, DiB, Short sized holes. And while they have the personnel to, it wasn’t intended to be that way. But you’re right, they’ve gotten some good results that they needed in these games without all of them. I truly wonder though when they can even get DiB or Short back. DiB might be a while.

Claire: Getting Colaprico and Ertz working together is gonna be huge, along with Yuki and Kerr. However I am a little concerned that Arin Gilliland is losing the plot a little bit -- she had some trouble dropping back into defensive roles on Saturday.

Adriana: Agreed completely. Felt like her mind was pulling her in too many directions and she definitely had trouble switching back to defense. FWIW she was like ranked bottom 3 I think stat wise too.

Claire: And while the whole defense broke down on the Washington goal, she was the one that lost Mal Pugh on the left side. However, Mal Pugh is very fast and good at soccer and I’m not putting that goal just on her. Just an isolated example of how putting everything together again isn’t going to always be easy.

Maybe the Red Stars should keep Gilliland up, or pull her back into defense, but I bet she’d benefit from staying in one role.

Adriana: Exactly. She didn’t seem to do well trying to switch back.

At the end of the day though, like you said earlier, they’ve still been able to get 9 points out of these few games and are slowly getting everyone back now. They just have to now basically find a new rhythm again with their returning players, which has to be done fairly quickly now.