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Roundtable: How Do You Fix This?

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The Hot Time crew sifts through the wreckage of the loss to Houston, unpacks the goalless draw in Seattle, & more

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Chicago Fire Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

James Bridget Gordon: Happy Monday, everyone.

Normally we’d jump right into the Fire game and start picking it apart. But I feel like there’s nothing new or interesting about this game that we haven’t said earlier in the season. You can only do so much with “this sucks.”

So I want to try something different, and it’s going to mean asking some questions that might not have answers. That’s ok, I think we should talk this out even if we don’t have a resolution.

So first: imagine you’re Pauno. You have several key members of the squad out on lengthy injury layoffs. The guys you have left aren’t getting the job done, and you can’t bench anyone because you barely have enough healthy players to name a full 18. Those offseason signing you were counting on never materialized, and you’ve come to understand that there likely won’t be any new signings for the foreseeable future.

How do you fix this?

Ruben: I start playing my younger players. A central midfield of Basti/Connor/Adams, along with a front of Katai Niko and Campos. Never ever play Tchani again. I start taking a look at the academy for potential homegrown signings, and if sign one, start giving them first team minutes again.

Adnan Bašić: Take yesterday’s team, replace Tchani with Dax (who I’m assuming will be back for next week) and swap Ellis for Ramos. I liked the look of that front three yesterday.

James Bridget: Dax is out for like 3-4 weeks

Adnan: Oh no. Well Conner it is then. Pauno has to just forget Tchani even exists at this point.

James Bridget: Yeah. I mean, Ellis is trying his best, he just doesn’t have the legs to do what’s being asked of him. Tchani just makes bad decisions. And I don’t think there’s any way to fix that.

Adnan: Oh that first Houston goal was brutal. Ellis just doesn’t work well in this system that demands he get up and down the pitch. Much better suited for Ramos/Conner.

James Bridget: He got beat to a loose ball by Beasley.

Beasley.

Adnan: I started laughing at that point.

Pauno’s also gotta use his substitutions better. Taking off Katai was a strange move. He waited too long to make the Ramos sub. And for the love of God stop forcing Niko out wide when Gordo comes into the game.

James Bridget: If you have to play your star striker out of position just to accommodate an aging super-sub that can’t produce anymore, maybe that’s a good indication you made a bad signing.

But hey, what do I know.

Ruben: Same.

Thought: The Fire should take a flyer on Santi Cazorla, see if he can still go.

James Bridget: Ruben you’ve been beating that drum for as long as I’ve known you lol

Saul Garcia: As Pauno, I’d just do my best to not lose. Not glamorous but you’d have to imagine that the front office understands this is the best he can do until some reinforcements come.

James Bridget: I feel like that’s what Pauno’s already doing and it’s not working.

It’s basically what Matt Doyle (I think?) said the other day. This team is spending every week patching holes instead of identifying what their strengths are and playing to that.

Saul: Yea I can see that. Maybe a formation change. At this point anything new would be welcomed.

Ruben: Play <clap emoji> Five <clap emoji> in <clap emoji> midfield.

James Bridget: We played a 4-3-3 yesterday, following on from games in which we lined up 4-2-3-1, 5-3-2, 4-4-2, and I think one time a 3-3-3-1. (That last one might’ve been a 3-5-2, I don’t remember.)

Formations aren’t the problem here.

Adnan: The formation is gonna change depending on who (if anyone) we sign in the summer. Like Torres coming in would force a 4-4-2 diamond.

James Bridget: I think we need to start coming to terms with the very real possibility that we’re not signing anybody this summer.

Ruben: I agree. It’s why the Fire need to get younger. Hashtag Play Your Kids.

Adnan: Picking up Katai’s option then either I assume.

Ruben: They basically have to.

Adnan: Can we do the Wenger thing where we just pretend these guys coming back from injuries are just new signings?

Ruben: They’re running out of players.

James Bridget: Katai was punching his seat when he was substituted off. Dude’s going back to Spain this summer and taking his chances.

Ruben: This is a mess of the Front Office’s making.

Saul: <whispers>... there’s no way NRod is ousted right?

James Bridget: Not unless the club gets bought out and the new owners bring in their own people.

Ruben: Jerry Reinsdorf plz.

James Bridget: Noooooooo thank you.

Ruben: Go Sox!

James Bridget: I say this out of an abundance of love and respect: if the Fire are going to take cues from another Chicago sports team in order to revitalize themselves and get back to winning ways, the White Sox are probably not the franchise they want to look to.

Saul: Oof that’s a discussion isn’t it? Fire owner or Sox/Bulls.

James Bridget: Criticize Hauptman all you want, but an owner that gave a job to Jerry Krause? A man who blew up one of the most successful dynasties in basketball history out of spite? Yeah, hard pass.

Ruel Gutierrez Apostol: The league at this point is un-salvageable barring some meme magic. If I were Pauno I’d just throw all my eggs (whatever is left in the carton) towards the Open Cup.

Adnan: Can’t wait for another loss in the semis of the open cup

Prob to SKC.

RJ: Real banter would be losing to Swope Park Rangers instead.

James Bridget: I was at the 2013 semifinal when we lost 2-0 at home to DCU. AND they weren’t selling Ice Cream Nachos. Still carrying the trauma from that night.

Ruben: I was at the 2006 final when they won the damn thing.

RJ: 2006? Oh you’re a fan huh, name six of their albums.

Ruben: Thiago, Paulo Wanchope, Andy Herron, Demani Ralph, Jamar Beasley, Mike Banner.

Next?

James Bridget: Wait we’re Hot Time, I thought we don’t even go to games.

Saul: I went to my first game in 2014. Landon scored in a thrilling 1-1 draw. I think the Fire were led by Quincy Amarikwa!

James Bridget: I miss Quincy.

Saul: He was a fun dude.

Adnan: I used to interact with him a bunch on Twitter. One of the few bright spots of the Yallop tenure.

James Bridget: Alright so, I don’t want to talk to talk about this but I feel like we have to.

There’s very clearly a lot of tension behind the scenes right now. Pauno’s “it is what it is” comment reads, even in a generous interpretation, like him hitting out at N-Rod and putting the blame for this season on him. And then in the locker room Basti was calling out his teammates for their inability to step up.

On the one hand, I feel pretty strongly about not airing your dirty laundry in public. OTOH, I can’t say I blame anyone here.

Ruben: Pauno is right. N-Rod failed.

James Bridget: Regardless of merit, it just doesn’t seem like a good sign that Pauno and the players are just airing their grievances in public. Again, I don’t blame them, but I just don’t see how anyone can salvage the season at this point.

Alright, do we even want to try and do Orlando predictions? I feel pretty sad about things and I don’t know if I can muster up anything more optimistic than a 2-0 loss.

Ruben: 3-0 loss.

Adnan: I’m woefully optimistic, so I’ll say the Fire steal a point. 1-1 somehow.

At least we’re not as bad as Montreal. Yay?

Saul: I see a scoreless game, it’s what we deserve. And not last is better than last.

James Bridget: Alright, I think it’s time for the Shift Change.

Sooooooooooooo I’m not even sure how to talk about the Seattle game. The result was fine, a point and a clean sheet against one of the better teams in the league is perfectly okay. The game itself though was... not great.

Claire Watkins: I don’t either, really. I’m almost at the point where I’d rather all hell break loose and take a couple L’s over all these disappointing draws.

James Bridget: Honestly, same.

Claire: I think we all came in hoping the injuries and whatnot wouldn’t render this season a wash (and it might still not! Who knows!) But we’re in danger of things getting very very boring.

James Bridget: The Scam is supposed to be at least a little fun, you know?

Claire: Winning: The Upgraded Scam.

James Bridget: The High-Class Scam.

So was there anything the Red Stars could’ve done differently against Seattle? Or was this the only way it could’ve gone down?

Claire: From what I saw, the way the Red Stars tend to dawdle in the offensive third combined with Seattles ability to track back and shut down defensively made for a lot of frustration up top

The defense (and Naeher especially) did a nice job though. They really didn’t get pulled out of shape in any significant way

James Bridget: Yeah, considering Seattle have Rapinoe and Fishlock and Utsugi, staying solid and keeping them out of the net is pretty dang good.

Claire: Absolutely! I think it’s only frustrating when they do the same against teams they should be easily taking care of. It’s taking the shine off the scam.

James Bridget: True facts.

Claire: Beat the Dash three outta three and it’s an entirely different conversation.

James Bridget: Which we should’ve done! I’m still mad about it!

Claire: Me too, as I look back at it. It’s like I’m arguing with CRS about the Seattle game and mid-fight I turn and yell ‘This isn’t about Seattle!!’

James Bridget: Big Mood.

Claire: It is an issue though. Three games against Houston, one against Sky Blue and Washington apiece, and a lot of dropped points.

Which is fine if we’re destined for fifth or sixth, but it kinda sucks that we’re at this point of the season and feeling like that might be the case

James Bridget: Especially with the roster we have. This is not a sixth place team. But here we are, I guess.

Claire: The Orlando game this weekend has a ton of bricks weighing on it, in my opinion.

James Bridget: Yeeeeeup. Like I’m excited for it being Pride Night but I’m kind of dreading it as a sporting contest.

Not as much as I’m dreading the Fire game, but, you know.

Claire: I super love that Chicago Pride Night is the Lifetime Game of the Week. The Red Stars have always been very cool about Pride and hopefully people come through.

James Bridget: Agreed.

Claire: I guess with less to talk about on the field, I do want to emphasize that CRS seem to put a lot of care into balancing their more conservative fanbase with other communities for the most part, and it makes me feel more seen as a fan.

James Bridget: Oh absolutely. And the Red Stars fan community is also really great about making queer fans feel welcome. I don’t feel like I have to fight for space in the Red Stars community the same way I do for the Fire.

Claire: As well as anyone can in the NWSL anyway

James Bridget: Yeah, and it’s been discussed by other folks smarter than me but the NWSL really is in a weird spot. They have to balance their Red State suburban family demographic with their urban queer fans. And so often things get decided by which group is more likely to bolt if the other gets a nod.

Anyway, do we want to take a stab at predictions?

Claire: 2-2 draw if I’m honest.

James Bridget: Yeah, I’m leaning that way too.

When did we learn to settle?

Claire: Been burnt too many times, JB.