This is, obviously, not ideal.
I should be writing to you about the Orlando City - Chicago Fire match, where Ignacio Aliseda may have scored his first MLS goal, or Gastón Giménez may have bossed the midfield, or Robert Berić may have slammed another shot of Malort near the corner flag after finishing with a hat trick.
Instead, we’re talking about social distancing and flattening the curve and washing our hands. As Carlo Ancelotti once said, “Football is the most important of the less important things in the world”—and so it’s on hold while we deal with more important things at the moment.
So, rather than dwell on the fact that the Chicago Fire won’t be returning to Soldier Field this Saturday, I figured I’d try to find some silver linings. Could the prolonged break actually benefit the Fire? I thought of some reasons why it might:
The new players can settle in to Chicago
Aliseda, Giménez, Luka Stojanović and Boris Sekulić all just got here, and luckily they made it to the U.S. before the travel issues really hit. Sometimes, fans forget how long it takes for people to adjust to living in a new country. The break will let them focus on getting their new lives in order—finding housing, setting up bank accounts, buying cars, getting driver’s licenses—things that we take for granted. Perhaps, getting their lives in order now will help them feel more comfortable when the season gets going again.
Time for players to get healthy
CJ Sapong, Przemysław Frankowski, and Nick Slonina were all dealing with injuries last week, and may not have been available to play against Orlando. The break will give them time to get back to 100 percent.
More pent up demand for sports
I watched rugby yesterday. At one point, when a player’s face was covered with blood, the announcer (who I assume was the Arlo White of rugby) said, “Oh, looks like he sprung a leak there” in a proper English accent. That part was pretty entertaining, but overall I had very little clue what was happening in the match. I just wanted to watch sports, and rugby was the only thing on. When MLS and the Fire are finally back, all this time away from sports will have fans revved up and ready to go.
Better weather is coming
With a projected high temperature of 35 degrees, Soldier Field would have been a pretty chilly place for the Atlanta United match. It’ll almost certainly be warmer when we do finally return to the lakefront, and maybe that translates to even bigger crowds.
Fire players and coaches can become more familiar with each other
The Fire, more than most teams in the league, saw a massive amount of turnover in the offseason. This break will let the new players learn how to play with one another, and let the coaching staff learn more about the qualities each guy brings to the team. It’ll also give the team a chance to figure out how to speak to each other. Some of the new guys—like Aliseda, Alvaro Medrán, and Giménez—mainly speak Spanish. Luckily, Raphael Wicky speaks a little bit of Spanish from his time as a player at Atletico Madrid. So the more they work with one another, the better they’ll be able to communicate with each other. It’s not uncommon for good teams to have players and coaches speaking a bunch of different languages; it’s just a matter of making it work. With a little extra time, the Fire will have an easier time sorting that out.
As MLS fans, we’re pretty lucky that the Coronavirus stoppage is hitting the beginning of the season, rather than the end—as is the case with the European leagues, the NBA, and the NHL. If this down time goes as planned, we’ll still get to watch the Supporters’ Shield race, the Playoffs, and the MLS Cup—and that’s not so bad, after all.
Am I missing anything? If you can think of other benefits to this break for the Fire, let us know in the comments.