I knew by halftime that it wasn’t happening.
I say this with no pleasure, or smugness. It was just clear to me at halftime that the Chicago Red Stars were, for the fourth season in a row, unable to advance to the NWSL Championship game. Sure, the Red Stars were the better team on the night. They had more possession and a much higher passing accuracy. They had the better scoring chances. But this was an all too familiar script in the history of Chicago soccer. Playing out before us was the 2000 MLS Cup final between the Fire and Kansas City Wizards.
Yuki Nagasato and Sam Kerr were Ante Razov and Hristo Stoichkov. They missed chances that nine out of ten times would be hitting the back of the net. When the Red Stars didn’t score in the first half, I knew that that was it.
On the other side of it, that was probably one of the most entertaining and exciting soccer games I’ve ever seen. It was an absolute joy to watch with a fast pace of play for the full 90 minutes and end to end action, punctuated by one of the best goals I’ve ever seen. If I’ve learned anything from years and years of watching anime, If you’re not going to win, have a beautiful death.
I’ve come around on Rory Dames this year. This was a far cry from the Route One stuff he was playing when Christen Press was at the top of the formation. He went right up to the big bad best team in the NWSL North Carolina Courage and punched them in the mouth. That not only took guts, but also complete belief from his players that this was the best chance they had to win, and his players never wavered. That says a lot about his coaching style and what his team thinks of him. I can’t wait for next season.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Fire added to the misery of the 2018 Orlando City season by winning 4-0 last Sunday. Even though it was just Orlando, it felt real good do see the Fire showing flashes of the team that finished 3rd in the East last year. Niko got a brace, MDL got on the score sheet, and Brandt Bronico was creative. Saturday, the Fire have to play on an artificial field with football lines painted all over it, so we’ll see if the form continues in Boston. It would be nice to see them end the year on a high.
And now on to the Mailbag Questions. You can ask us anything on Twitter using the hashtag #AskHotTime.
Fast forward to the end of the season, what do you do to fix this team? Which players do you keep, which do you get rid of? #AskHotTime— Matt Knight (@mjknight14) September 21, 2018
The first part of the question is easy, I think. A goalkeeper, a #10, and quality centerback are a must, just like they were a must this off-season. They also need to re-sign Johan Kappelhof, who is good.
The first player on my list of cuts is Luis Solignac. Honestly, I don’t see what a lot of people do in him. He’s not as fast as Edwards or works as hard as MDL, and his bursts of quality are few and far between. Next on the list are guys who are doing nothing and taking up roster spots. Dean, Del Grecco, Alan Gordon and the like. I do not expect Bastian Schweinsteiger to be back, nor Dax McCarty, although keeping them would be nice. I also expect a new manager. They’ll probably kick the tires on some guys before settling on Sigi Schmidt. They should sign Cesc Fabregas. Give Chelsea all the money.
#AskHotTime What does the sim-to-the-end “fixed” version of Chicago Fire/Soccer in Chicago look like?— Colin (@BanjoLegs) September 21, 2018
If you mean this season, probably a 500 or slightly above 500 run to the end of the season.
If you mean big picture, largely, I see status quo. The Fire are not going anywhere, and Andrew Hauptman is as likely to sell as he is to not sell. There will be a stadium built at Lincoln Yards that will be occupied by a USL team and probably the Red Stars. The Red Stars will be good for a long time, assuming Rory Dames doesn’t lose the locker room and they hire Jill Ellis, who stinks. Soccer in Chicago will look pretty similar to how it looks now.
Do you see Sam Kerr and Morgan Brian staying with Chicago or leaving? #AskHotTime— Morgan Brian News (@MorganBrianNews) September 21, 2018
Sam Kerr is coming back next year. She has a year left on her contract for 2019, so we get the best woman’s soccer player on earth and one of the most exciting athletes in the city of Chicago— up there with Javy Baez and Khalil Mack— back for another season. No worries there. As for Morgan Brian, if she’s still on the USWNT allocation list, as far as I’m aware, she can be reallocated, but I doubt she’ll leave. At least, I hope she’ll stay. I like this team, and want them to to keep continuity as much as they can.