Everything seemed to go right on Saturday. The Fire embraced their new ownership and were able to win the Brimstone Cup comfortably.
Here’s what we learned from the Fire’s 4-0 route against FC Dallas.
Everything Felt Lighter
On Friday, it was announced that Andrew Hauptman’s ownership tenure was over. The shear joy the fanbase expressed when it was announced that Joe Mansueto had finished his takeover of the club that he started in 2018 was both parts moving and exciting. The club had a new lease of life. However, in the back of my mind, and I’m sure in other people’s as well, we knew it would all mean nothing if the Fire didn’t take care of business the next day.
Fortunately, the players and staff also felt the positivity. The first half of football was absolutely sublime. The passing and movement was crisp and clean, and they never let FCD into the game. Every single goal the Fire scored was filled with players making good decisions. From Nemanja Nikolic waving off CJ Sapong’s pass to avoid a potential offside call on the first one to Brandt Bronico’s decision to cut the ball back to Frankowski instead of forcing in a cross on the fourth one, every move the Fire made was the correct one.
Not only that, but everything seemed just a bit easier. It was like a large weight that was suppressing the players has been lifted, and I suppose that was true. Saturday was a huge catharsis for all of us, and it showed out on the field.
Veljko Paunovic has taken a lot of heat this year. A lot of it is deserved, his subs and lineup choices have been questionable at best sometimes, and his tactical decisions have not at all worked. However, I feel like some of that heat has been unwarranted. It’s not close to his fault that at the start of the season, he was put into a position to start Jorge Corrales and Jeremiah Gutjahr, two midfielders by skill set, at the fullback position. It’s not his fault that Nikolic couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn door for six months. And it’s not his fault that the goalkeeping choices were between two average goalkeepers and a fifteen year old.
We’ve seen before that when given the pieces to succeed, he can succeed. The naivete of playing three midfielders instead of five against the Red Bulls aside, he was working the league in 2017 until fatigue and injuries tanked the team in August, and still finished 3rd. The players still play hard for him, and believe in him. And yesterday was another example of that. I think he should get one more year to prove himself without the specter of Andrew Hauptman hanging over him.
Of course, this all changes if they can’t sneak into the playoffs.
The Fire are in Prime Position to Sneak Into the Playoffs
Everything went right for the club on Saturday. New England and Orlando drew in what was a 3-3 thriller, and Montreal dropped all three points against FC Cincinnati. That leaves the standings like this:
Yes, the Revs have a game in hand on everyone else, but their remaining four games are against 4th place RSL at home, 7th place Portland in PDX, NYCFC at home, and at Atlanta on the last day of the season. There’s going to be dropped points, and New England even has the potential of complete collapse, losing all four of their final games, and falling off completely.
Orlando is the easiest to worry about, as they and the Fire meat on the last day of the season, so the Fire just need to keep winning, and that will take care of itself.
Which leaves us with L’Impact. Not only do they have to worry about going to the LA Galaxy and playing Atlanta and the Red Bulls to finish their MLS campaign, they have a two legged final in the Canadian Championship against TFC to worry about. They have the most games left out of every team, and will be tired come the last two weeks of the season.
This is absolutely possible for the Fire. They just need to go out there and do it.
Those are our takeaways. What about you? Let us know in the comments below!