It’s been a rough week for the Chicago Fire.
Actually, it’s been a rough few weeks.
Actually, it’s been a rough season.
I’m going to stop there, but you catch my drift. It’s a bit cliche to say that fans have had precious little to cheer for, but it’s true. Poor results. Weak play. Off-pitch drama. Wailing. Gnashing of teeth. None of which in isolation are strangers to Fire fans, but they’re all combining in a particularly noxious brew this year.
Mathematically the Fire are still in the playoff race; realistically, a lot will need to change for Chicago to have a shot at playing soccer in November. As is often the case with struggling teams, the Fire are now looking toward the US Open Cup as a path to redemption.
And make no mistake— Veljko Paunovic, and higher-ups at the club, have done the math. It’s undoubtedly why Pauno named a team of kids and reserve players to send out against one of the strongest teams in the league. It led to an embarrassing loss— the Fires third in a row after going unbeaten through the month of June— and while Pauno made the usual noises about the players and personal responsibility, we all know what’s up. The league is gone. The Cup is only three wins away— one of them against lower league opposition.
So that’s where we’re at. USL side Louisville City are coming here tonight in the USOC Quarterfinals. The Fire will be looking to win, and win decisively, in order to begin the work of redeeming the 2018 season.
The flip side of that is that if they don’t win... well, what do you even say at that point?
Chicago Fire all-time USOC record vs Louisville City: 1W-0D-0L, 1 GF / 0 GA
Four points from their last night. Their most recent game was a tough 2-1 loss to Charleston Battery, in which they came close to salvaging a point but were undone by a stoppage time sending-off. Whatever problems the Fire are having, at least Louisville aren’t feeling great either.
Sanchez; Vincent, Campbell, Kappelhof, Ramos; Schweinsteiger, McCarty, Bronico; Katai, Campos, Nikolic
Most of our heavy hitters sat out on Saturday so they can be fresh for this game. It better pay off.
Keys To The Match
Score?? First?????: I’m just going to keep hammering this point until the Fire make it a mantra. A guiding principle. Score first and get the result you need. Do the thing.
Reset Button: All things being equal, performance in this sport often comes down to mentality. The Fire are on a three-game losing streak in the league and, almost certainly, aren’t feeling great about themselves. They have to find a way to block it out. Treat this like the winnable game that it is and focus on it exclusively. It’s too easy for the Fire to psych themselves out over this. Keep your eyes forward.
Dominance Trials: Usually I try to devote at least one key to identifying a potential weakness in the opposition and how the Fire might exploit that. I’m not going to bother with that for this game, because the big weakness is obvious— the Fire play in the country’s top division and Louisville do not. The Fire are a better team— end of story. We all love Cupsets, and I’m as much of a romantic as anyone, but honestly? Fuck all that. The Fire need to absolutely dismantle Louisville tonight, because they’re better and because they can. You don’t need tactics when you’re the better side. Go do the thing that’s expected of you.
How To Watch
Streaming: Chicago-Fire.com, USSoccer.com
Can the Fire get the job done and book a place in the semifinals? Let us know in the comments below!