[Editor’s note: this preview was written before the club announced Andrew Hauptman’s departure as majority owner and chairman. The preview is presented below as originally written.]
The Chicago Fire are moving back to Soldier Field next season.
After 13 relatively unsuccessful seasons in Bridgeview (one trophy and five playoff appearances) the Fire are coming back to more familiar surroundings. The place where they dominated the league and were most successful. The common soccer wisdom was that having a soccer specific stadium and independence would greatly help clubs and the sport itself climb out of its relative obscurity in the sports milieu and into more prominence.
For some, it’s worked, however for the Men in Red, it has not. So the Fire ownership decided to chase the bright lights and big cities and move back to the lakefront. The Fire are chasing their past to improve their present.
Which brings us to Saturday afternoon’s clash with FC Dallas, and another relic of MLS’s past, The Brimstone Cup. Named during a time when both teams were flame adjacent, it’s a reminder of a time when the league was smaller— newer. When being named around flame was basis for a rivalry. And what a fierce rivalry it was. One of my strongest memories as a young soccer fan was when Dima Kovalenko switched sides from Chicago to Dallas, and then got sent off near the south end at Soldier Field right in front of Section 8 (when it was in Section 8).
But that’s the past. Now, the teams are separated by conference and a rebrand, and couldn’t be anymore far apart. And yet, they still play for this silly little trophy. Because what are humans without little traditions that have no meaning and yet, are still performed.
As far as the present goes, it’s an important game for both squads. FCD are just clinging to the seventh playoff spot in the west, and the Fire’s season is still on life support. Each team needs a win.
This is quite possibly the most important Brimstone Cup ever. And It couldn’t come at a better time.
Chicago Fire MLS vs FC Dallas Burn: 16W-4D-22L, 65 GF / 77 GA, 52 pts out of 126
Chicago Fire home MLS vs FC Dallas Burn: 12W-2D-8L, 38 GF / 31 GA, 38 pts out of 66
FC Dallas are treading water in and around the playoff spot. Of their six games in the month of August they’ve won three of them; a 5-3 win against Minnesota, a 5-1 beatdown of Houston Dynamo, and a 3-1 win over FC Cincinnati, They had big losses as well. 2-0 to LA Galaxy, their direct rivals to their playoff spot, and an embarrassing 2-0 loss to Orlando City.
Apparently, CJ Sapong has an ear injury and is listed as questionable. He should still play, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t. Ears control a person’s balance, and if that’s effected and he plays, it will be a tough day at the office.
Keys To The Match
Score: The most important thing the Fire can do is finish their chances. They’ve come back to their early season problem of creating a bunch of good chances, only to not be able to put them away. With the defense now a largely solved problem, it’s now up to the front line to put the ball in the net to save the season.
Keep Possession: Dallas likes to have the ball. In their last game against FCC, they managed 63% possession and a passing accuracy of close to 90%. The Fire need to see more of the ball, and they need to keep it. If they turn it over, I worry they won’t get it back until they have to pick it out of their own net. No dumb mistakes
Keep it simple: No fancy moves or passing with any flair (looking at you Nico Gaitán). Keep it as simple as possible. Play fundamental soccer and there will be opportunities to win the game.
How To Watch
Television: Univision/Univision Deportes Network (Spanish)
Streaming: Twitter Sports (English)
Unfortunately, I think this is going to be it for the Fire. No amount of nostalgia is going to save them.
2-1 FC Dallas.
What do you think? Can the Fire hold on to the Brimstone Cup? Let us know in the comments below.