Occasionally, something happens where the weekly Mailbag will be preempted by something important happening. This is one of those weeks. The Mailbag will return next week. You can ask us questions on twitter @HotTimeOldTown with the hashtag #AskHotTime
Nelson Rodriguez was right when he spoke to the press on Wednesday. In his preamble for his media roundtable, “the team’s record is the most important indicator of a clubs current position.” The Fire currently sit 8th in the eastern conference with a record of 3-2-6 (W-D-L) and are coming off a disgusting overall performance against the 6th place Houston Dynamo. Bastian Schweinsteiger looks what could charitably call frustrated, and the back four looked to return to their March form— shaky and disorganized. The Chicago Fire are Hester Prynne and 3-2-6 is a giant ‘A’ on our dress.
“We are a club with a lot of positive momentum,” is the statement that is getting a lot of stick from the fanbase. And from the macro business perspective, he’s right. The STH numbers are good. They’re getting paid a rights fee for game broadcasts for the first time in the club’s history. Sponsorship dollars are the best they’ve ever been. All of that, however, is window dressing to a sports team. If the club isn’t winning, none of it matters. And the team that Nelson Rodriguez built isn’t winning.
I’ll be the first to tell you that history doesn’t matter. That previous performance has no bearing on the success or failure of a team going forward, especially at scale. The first ten years of success for the Chicago Fire have zero bearing on the failures of the last decade. We know this. However, it’s emotionally jarring when contrasting the first decade of the Fire with the last decade. Since 2008, the Fire have been to the playoffs three times. Three. 2008 was the last echo of one of the strongest cores in MLS. It was Diego Gutierrez’ last year and CJ Brown would hold on for two more. 2012 was off the back of a lot of career years plus the return of Chris Rolfe from Europe, and as it turned out, kind of a fluke where the Fire snuck in over the red line by the skin of their teeth, then did their best pumpkin carriage impersonation on Halloween against Houston.
Then comes last year. Was it ahead of schedule? Absolutely. But the Fire found themselves fighting for the Supporters Shield well into August, and were, for a time, the third best team in the league. But it turns out that that, too, may have been a fluke. Nelson Rodriguez failed to capitalize on improving the squad. He spent the offseason selling David Accam (although his numbers in Philly seem to suggest that this was a good move) and getting played by a couple of big names in Juan Quintero and Iker Casillas, who were using the Fire to get better deals elsewhere.
N-Rod’s failure to improve the squad is the story of the season. The “What could have been” of this year’s MLS season. Every micro problem the Fire have is his fault. At least he acknowledged it during Wednesday’s hour plus long briefing. He also said to not write off this season yet. But for a lot of Fire fans it’s too late.
Saturday is put up or shut up time for this team. Yes, they are injury-ravaged, battered, bruised and have low morale. Bastian Schweinsteiger has had it up to here with you kids. But against Orlando, this team has just one more chance to prove Nelson right, that we shouldn’t write of this team this year. I want N-Rod to be right. I want this team to be good. Let’s hope they don’t blow it.