Midweek fixtures are such a headache, not only for soccer fans but the players as well. For the fans, the kickoff time might conflict with their weekday schedule. As for the players, the congested schedule and traveling takes a heavy toll on their physical and mental strength.
Since 2016, when the Fire plays multiple games in one week, their record is 10 wins, 9 draws and 22 defeats - including the recent 1-0 loss against NYCFC on Wednesday. A large portion of those defeats occurs between the months of May to August, where the Fire saw a staggering 16 defeats. August (1-2-5) seems to be their worse performing month when they are playing multiple games in a week. They have conceded a whopping 23 goals throughout the three previous seasons. 6 of those came from the 2-6 loss against D.C. United during the 2016 season.
But why does the Fire perform so poorly when it comes to playing multiple fixtures in such a short turnaround time? You could could pin the blame on injuries and fatigue, but what it all boils down to is the lack of squad depth. Veljko Paunovic is forced to play a nearly identical starting XI albeit a few positional changes week in and out— and that does not bode well if you are playing three games in a week.
There is also the environmental factor. Players would have to quickly adjust to changing weather during the summer time. Going from the dry heat of the West Coast to a humid stormy night in the Midwest in such a short amount of time does not sit well with a lot of bodies.
At Ease With Autumn
But once September comes rolling around, the Fire tends to perform exceptionally better. During the month of September and October, they have a record of 3-3-5. Around this time, players are coming back from long-term injuries. A recent example would be last season when Djordje Mihailovic and Michael De Leeuw came back towards the end of August. Both of those players were instrumental in the Fire’s 2-2 & 3-1 results against the New England Revolution and LAFC that September.
In a league such as MLS where away trips are long and the play is physical, no team out there would be able to handle a congested schedule unless if they are properly prepared. The Fire’s lack of depth mixed with Paunovic’s tactical mismanagement will only ensure this pattern will continue on for the foreseeable seasons.