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Roundtable: Fighting Words

The Hot Time crew laments a hapless Fire squad and unpacks the Red Stars’ PNW trip

Photo by Nikita Taparia

James Bridget Gordon: Happy Monday y’all.

I think we’re going to skip the Despair Scales, we’re all pretty much at 10+ right now.

Let’s start off with the last 20-ish minutes of the Fire game. Did the Fire ever really have a chance at getting a result? Or was that stretch of time when they were tied just a false dawn?

Ruben Tisch: I think they had a reasonable shot at points. MTL wasn’t really showing that they could win the game, until they did. It looked more like the Fire were going to get a second for the majority of it.

Ruel Gutierrez Apostol: Pauno shouldn’t of have subbed out Niko. That told me they were gonna play for the draw, Montreal saw that and decided to exploit it.

James Bridget: I’m all about game management but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. That, uh, that was the wrong way.

Adnan Bašić: There was no point in playing for a point either. Go for the win at least since you’ll concede regardless.

Ruben: At that point in the game, though, I think we all kind of expected for MDL to score. I think putting in another midfielder and putting De Leeuw up top is reasonable.

James Bridget: I think it’s worth noting that the Fire started playing better once they abandoned that stupid 3-4-2-1 formation. A three-man backline with one natural CB, one FB being shoehorned in as a CB, and one midfielder. What exactly does Pauno expect to happen?

Ruben: I expect something to magically click together and work for 90 minutes.

Adnan: It just seems like Paunovic is waiting to be let go, or waiting for his contract to expire. Does it end at the end of this season?

James Bridget: Yeah, it’s up after this season. I guess it works out for the club, at least. They don’t have to fire him. They can just let his contract lapse and move on.

Adnan: And then NRod makes Gehrig the Head Coach since that’d be the cheapest option.

James Bridget: Honestly I’d rather have RJ as the head coach.

Ruben: Good thing you didn’t say me. I’m terrible at Football Manager.

James Bridget: I don’t know, I think you’d be an ok interim manager at least. Can’t be worse than what we’ve got now!

So, I don’t know, there’s not a whole lot to say about this game or this team right now. I guess what I’m curious what you all expect out of the Fire right now? For the rest of the season, anyway.

Ruben: #PlayYourKids

James Bridget: I mean they kinda did, against RSL. Look how that turned out.

Adnan: Well somehow finish ahead of Orlando in the East but that’s it. Section 8 doesn’t return for the rest of the season. I’ll wear a paper bag on my head on Thursday.

James Bridget: I’m not looking for predictions, I mean your personal expectations.

Adnan: Oh in that case nothing any better than what we’ve seen in the past few weeks.

Ruben: I’m not looking at wins and losses. I’m looking at individual performances. It’s less about how the team plays, more about seeing if there are players who are good enough to improve their roster standing for next season

James Bridget: Fair, fair.

I was thinking about this during the Red Stars game that same night. The Red Stars didn’t get the result they wanted, but A. they put up a tremendous fight, B. they really did look like they could win it, even at the very end, and C. dropped points aside it was a really exciting game.

I don’t expect the Fire to dominate the league. I don’t expect silverware. I just want a team that fights. A team that goes into every game thinking they can get a result, and to be able to back that up. The Red Stars are on the playoff bubble and might not make the postseason this year, but if they don’t you can bet they’ll make the teams that do make it bleed to get there. The Fire are just target practice. They either don’t have the right stuff, or they’ve just given up, or both. That’s what really bothers me about the Fire right now; it’s not just the results, it’s how completely helpless they are even against bad teams.

Ruben: Helpless is a good word for it, yeah. I’m really having trouble finding things to say. If feels like we’ve said all of them multiple times. This has been a very long very bad season.

James Bridget: The Bulls were bad last season but they were at least bad in interesting (and occasionally fun) ways. The Fire are bad in ways that kinda make you hate the sport.

Ruben: Yep.

James Bridget: Anyway, we should probably talk about Thursday a little bit. This might be the last time we play Columbus. Ever.

Adnan: I never thought about it that way. They should like their chances of ending this rivalry with a win.

James Bridget: I mean they should take their chances in every game left, because we’re bottom of the league and there’s no real downside in just going for it. But it’s Pauno, so he’s just going to play to Not Lose, and then go on to lose.

Adnan: He only cares about the fact that a tie would technically end the losing streak.

James Bridget: But he’s suffering!!!!!

What will you all miss about the rivalry?

Ruben: That a rivalry even exists. We’re kind of isolated here in the Midwest. It was basically us and the Crew. Kansas City are in the Western Conference. They don’t count.

James Bridget: I don’t like making comparisons between MLS and England/Europe, but that geographic isolation is one of several reasons why I also thought Fire-Crew resembled the Tyne-Wear Derby. Both clubs are tragically mismanaged, they’re the only game in town in terms of big rivalries, and nobody really cares outside of the two fanbases.

Anyway, predictions?

Ruben: Crew 2-0 on Saturday

James Bridget: Yeah that sounds about right.

Alright, shift change!

I really want to talk about the Portland game but FIRST we need to discuss this Very Important Squad Update:

Claire Watkins: Too much. Too cute.

Also smoke and blaze. Fitting.

James Bridget: Mmmhmm.

I nominate these excellent Pointy Bois for NWSL Team Of The Month.

(I’m not part of the NWSL Media Association but I don’t care.)

Ruben: (I used to be. Glad they took away my vote, tbh.)

Sandra Herrera: Smoke and Blaze, the theme of the Red Stars’ Cascadian road trip and now two cute dogs.

James Bridget: It’s true! Also Sandra I’m really glad you escaped the wildfires alive.

Sandra Herrera: Samesies. And to be fair, I feel like the Red Stars did too.

James Bridget: For sure. The two games from this PNW trip were wild, in very different ways.

I will say that the Portland game was a lot of fun, even if it wasn’t the result we needed and even with the referee nonsense.

Claire: I just knew they were gonna give up that lead. They never go full Orlando, but this is not a team that likes carrying a lead.

James Bridget: Their record against Portland isn’t great either, and that plus being at Providence made me think they were going to lose. So in that sense I’m ok with the result, and pleased with the fight they made of it.

Claire: Portland are very good. And both of their goals were, um, weird I guess.

James Bridget: It’s really hard to stop Christine Sinclair.

Claire: That was a great shot from her. Both goals came from weird moments of panic from Chicago though, which continues to concern me.

James Bridget: It’s weird too, the Red Stars used to be known for being one of the more defensively solid teams in the league. This year? Notsomuch.

Also, what was y’all’s take on Kerr and her postgame comments?

Adriana Hooper: My thoughts on Kerr’s comments is that she has a case as I think most teams have a case this season for some messed up moments. Replays show she’s got an argument especially when Horan went into Naeher. I also think a red card wouldn’t have been a surprise for Sonnett in other leagues on that foul she got a yellow. But this is the NWSL so...

Sandra: Yeah, I think it’s a culmination of things up to this point, tbh.

I traveled to the PNW to cover these 2 matches and I even asked Kerr if she happened to watch the Sky Blue v Utah match that took place prior to Por v Chi, and she agreed the officials were an issue in that match as well.

There is post game audio from the game included in Claire’s recap that everyone can check out.

Claire: I agree. The match itself in a vacuum might not have gotten everyone so heated if it didn’t feel like things were never going to improve with the officiating.

Adriana: I agree. I think in general the frustration is just mounting in regards to officials and what the players deem acceptable and not. And it’s coming to a big head with our much physicality is happening unchecked.

James Bridget: For sure.

So, predictions for Saturday in Orlando?

Sandra: As much I appreciate coaches/players demanding better officiating, I wish it didn’t have to be that way week in and week out. It’s almost like the league could use some leadership in that regard.

And prediction? A win. Plz. Lol

Claire: Gotta be a win. Just gotta be.

Adriana: Agreed Sandra. They should be focusing on winning and playing their game. Not having to constantly call out official decisions. And it’s happening in at least 1 game every single week.

James Bridget: Sandra would you say the league could use someone to commission certain high-level decisions?

Sandra: Almost, JB, almost lol

James Bridget: A “commissioner,” you might say?

Sandra: Wow, what a great title for someone who could provide leadership in a professional sports league or something.

James Bridget: I mean I’m just spitballing here.