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Predictions For The Eastern Conference In 2019

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With a new season schedule and playoff format, can the Fire find a way back to the postseason?

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

We’re here! It’s finally game week! Nerves are setting in and I’m ready for the Dan Kelly’s tender voice back in my life on a weekly basis.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think this Fire team might have the biggest gap from their ceiling to their floor than any we’ve seen in the last couple of years. We could be sitting through yet another excruciating campaign that results in more supporter animosity towards the club, or this team could score 60 goals and find a way back to relevance.

The goal this year must be getting back into the playoff picture, especially now that over half of the teams in the conference will have a seat at the table in the new format. I broke down the pre-season playoff picture for the Fire’s path back to knockout round soccer.

Locks

Atlanta United

New York Red Bulls

D.C. United

Despite Atlanta’s CCL struggles, NYRB losing Tyler Adams, and DC United unable to catch that new stadium magic they did last year, I think you can slot these teams into the bracket in October. The defending champs just has too much talent to crash out. The Red Bulls are too strong during the regular sason. (Regular season though, obviously.) DC has done some very good business in the offseason and I think they push the other two for a top spot in the East, although one of the most interesting questions in the East will be seeing how Ben Olsen manages Rooney and company through the grind of an MLS season.

Bottom of the Pack

FC Cincinnati

New England Revolution

Orlando City

Cincinnati is going to be more Minnesota than Atlanta United in their first year. The Revs... well, they were awful outside of the first few weeks of the season last year, and they haven’t exactly inspired much confidence in turning it around this preseason, including getting smacked around by an Orlando City squad last week. Speaking of Orlando City— I still think they are in this group. The Nani signing is exciting for the league and this team might score 100 goals-but they might give up 150. Call your bookie, have him name his number, then take the over for the Fire home opener.

Speaking of the Men In Red, am I being a little hopeful not putting the Fire in this group? Absolutely. The eternal optimist in me has them rising out of this group this year and joining the…

Contenders

Philadelphia Union

Columbus Crew

Toronto FC

Montreal Impact

New York City FC

Chicago Fire

Six teams for four spots. Columbus have been saved, and Caleb Porter is the perfect manager to hate at the helm of that ridiculous yellow club, but admittedly still a top manager in the league. I think the Crew and Philadelphia, who also went through a front office change in the offseason but added Marco Fabian in one of the most exciting signings this winter, grab two of the playoff spots.

Toronto and NYCFC were not the same clubs that have been occupying the top of the Eastern Conference the last few years, and that downward trend continues as the 2019 season begins. If the Fire can sprint out of the gates and grab some momentum early, I think they join Montreal in one of the last two playoffs spots. The Men In Red play these three teams in the first 10 games of the season, and if they can scrape six out of the nine possible points, this team has a legitimate shot headed in to the summer transfer window and might encourage Nelson Rodriguez to go find reinforcements for a playoff push.

We are going to know very early in the season whether this team has enough in the tank to at least put make our summer interesting, and it starts Saturday night in Carson. Let’s ride.