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Go Quietly: Columbus Crew vs Chicago Fire: MLS Finale Preview

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Crew v Fire X

On Wednesday during halftime of ESPN’s broadcast of Portland and RSL, Taylor Twellman dropped a bombshell of a report on our heads, with two big pieces of information: One, the Chicago Fire had decided to tell several players, including a handful of regular starters, that they weren’t coming back next year, before the final game of the season was over.

Two, Twellman claimed that those players were involved in a “mutiny,” they weren’t training, and they’d be skipping the Crew game. That part of the story, as outlined by our story this week, appears to be false. Right now, only Francisco Calvo has left the team, and that’s because he was given permission to join Costa Rica’s camp early.

As for that first part, that Fire sporting director Georg Heitz gave advanced notice to players that they wouldn’t be back—the tone on cf97 Twitter at the news seemed to be one of encouragement. The mistakes of the last offseason wouldn't happen again, at least. However, how could Georg Heitz do this so early? And who leaked it? The Fire’s statement that came later in the night said they were dealing in good faith so the players could get a head start on finding new clubs, something Heitz also did when he decided to Fire Raphael Wicky.

So extrapolating all of the information on what happened, here’s my educated guess: The Fire told their regulars and/or their agents that they wouldn’t be returning next year, and someone was on the list who wasn’t expecting it, got pissed, and leaked it to Taylor Twellman. As for the mutiny idea, maybe it was a thought one or two players had in the moment but decided that it wouldn’t help their future employment prospects to outright refuse to play.

Regardless if anything I said is true, this is truly a bad look, as the kids say, for the Fire. At best, it shows a naivety that proves the cliche that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. At worse, it shows a callous disregard for the well-being of their players and indifference to them as human beings by throwing them away before their jobs are done.

The Fire could not just go quietly into that good night. Instead, someone decided to rage and now we all have egg on our face.

Chicago Fire all-time MLS record vs Columbus Crew: 27W-22D-21L (0-3-0 in OT 1-0 in Shootouts), 94 GF / 105 GA, 103 pts out of 210

Chicago Fire away MLS record vs Columbus Crew: 10W-9D-14L (0-2-0 in OT 1-0 in Shootouts), 40 GF / 62 GA, 39 pts out of 96

Previously on…

So here’s the deal, despite winning 3 of their last 5 and having only lost 4 times since the start of September, the defending MLS Champs find themselves in 10th place and in need of a miracle to make it to 7th and the final playoff spot. The New York Red Bulls, DC United and CF Montreal all need to lose, and even then, the Crew needs to overcome a 6 goal deficit in goal differential. However, it all starts for them by beating the Fire.

Suggested Lineup

So, Here’s what we know. Francisco Calvo is on his way to national team camp and is also getting the axe, so he’s out. There’s literally zero point in starting Robert Beric because he was gone in July. Those two were the easiest to figure out. As for everywhere else, Kappelhof and possibly Ignacio Aliseda won’t be back, plus Ivanov got his green card earlier than expected, so he’s available for selection and has played well recently. Gutierrez gets the start on the right by virtue of already doing it, but don’t be surprised to see Fabian Herbers or Elliot Collier in that spot either.

As for Álvaro Medrán, despite the mutiny reports and it making logical sense to not play players who won’t be here next year, someone has to play there, and with speculation being that both Luka and Medrán are on their way out (a very bad decision) someone has to play there. Don’t be surprised to see Herbers show up here either.

Keys To The Match

Ignore Us: With everything going on, The Fire need to just block out the noise and play. Ignore Taylor Twellman, Me, Patrick McCraney, The Hashtag, and the front office and go out there and play with 100 percent energy and concentration. Regardless of what I think about his game playing and tactics, Frank Klopas’ passion and energy for this club is always reflected in his squads. They always play hard and endear themselves to fans and neutrals alike. Just one more time this season, they have to do that again and put on a professional performance.

Play Together: The biggest issue the Fire are going to have is the potential 6 new starters because of the situation going on. That can lead to miscommunications and other unforced errors that for the most part, the club has gotten away from committing over the past two months or so. All eleven players out there must play with as much harmony as possible. Limiting mistakes and playing together is the only chance they have of pulling off a spoiler victory.

How To Watch

Television: WGN TV

Streaming: CFFC Live/ESPN+

Final Thoughts

Columbus is in good form and the Fire are a shambles It’s not hard to see the Crew winning this one. Go watch the Red Stars quarterfinal instead. 3-0 Crew.