Welcome to Hot Time in Old Town’s 2021 coverage of the MLS and NWSL seasons. We figured that you might like to know who’s articles, analysis, and opinions you’ll be reading (and listening to ) this season. So without Further or do, It’s time to meet this year’s Hot Time in Old Town staff!
1. Who Are You?
I’m Ruben and this will be my 10th year covering soccer for Hot Time (10 years, jesus). Aside from the Fire, I’m a fan of the White Sox, the Ferrari F1 team, and the Team Liquid esports organization. I also love Magic: The Gathering and play a lot of it in my spare time.
Hi, I’m Patrick. I’m back for a second season at Hot Time. Other than the Fire, I like Arsenal and the Bears, so, yeah, a lot of pain across the board there. I also coach youth soccer, and I spend my afternoons driving my two sons to their various sporting activities.
Hello, I’m Alex Campbell and this will be my second season contributing to Hot Time. I’m a big White Sox, Blackhawks and Bears fan and also support Chelsea in the Premier League. Outside of writing for Hot Time, I host a podcast called ‘SoccerCast Chicago’ and do play-by-play for a variety of sports.
My name is Alex Calabrese and this will be my first season with Hot Time. Apart from the Fire and the Red Stars, I follow Chelsea, the Cubs, and our national teams. When I’m done with my homework, I spend my time playing soccer and Football Manager.
Hello! My name is Ruel, or you can just call me RJ. This is my fourth season with Hot Time. Apart from the Fire, I enjoy baseball and all types of soccer - from the J-League to the EFL Championship. Outside of sports, I write about video games and listen to idol music.
2. What Will You Be Writing About?
Ruben- I will mostly be doing the game previews and post game analysis with some editorial content sprinkled in. I also produce and host The Hot Cast- our Chicago Fire centric podcast which usually records Monday nights and released Tuesday Afternoons.
Patrick- I do a lot of Fire news, insider stuff, and occasional long form features on the players.
Alex- my main responsibility will be all-things Red Stars, but I’ll occasionally help with Fire coverage as well plus provide commentary pieces as well as written forms of SoccerCast Chicago interviews.
Alex Calabrese- I will be writing about both the Fire and the Red Stars this season, primarily analysis/prediction pieces.
RJ - I will mostly be on the Hot Cast - but maybe one day I’ll be back on the bylines!
3. What One Thing Are You Watching For This Season?
Ruben- The midfield trio of Gastón Giménez, Alvaro Medrán and Luka Stojanović is going to be something to witness this season. Last year, Medrán and Giménez already established themselves as one of the most fun central midfield duos in the league. If Luka can become the 10 that the club needs and complement those two, the Fire’s attack is going to be extremely dangerous. The only issue then becomes who’s going to score the goals.
Patrick- I’m with Ruben on this. Luka Stojanovic is my player to watch. We got to see him for all of 60 minutes last season before he got hurt, but I’m expecting a big comeback season for him this year. I’m also excited to watch our Homegrown players, and see which ones will break through and start to get real playing time.
Alex- On the Red Stars front, the biggest question is how do newly acquired Mallory Pugh and Sarah Woldmoe fit into the team? Pugh has obvious talent and potential, but her impact will be dictated by if she can get/stay healthy. From there, I’m interested how the attack looks when constructed around her and Kealia Watt. Sarah Woldmoe brings a selection conundrum in midfield as an experienced former captain for Sky Blue, and also begs the question whether we’ll see Rory Dames abandon his beloved 4-2-3-1. A quick note on the Fire: they start the season with serious depth issues in attack, and how younger players are able to pick up the pieces will dictate if the Fire are in a position to make a playoff push once healthy.
Alex Calabrese- For the Fire this season it’s difficult to ignore the aforementioned midfield trio of Medran, Gimenez, and Stojanović, the latter of whom we did not get to see much of last season due to injury. The dual sixes were one of the best pairings in MLS last season, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Luka fits in after lighting up the SuperLiga with Čukarički. The concern in that position, though, is the alarming lack of depth. As for the Red Stars, it will be very interesting to see if the team can perform while much of the core of the squad is away on international duty, especially during the Olympics. We saw a glimpse of the impact that those absences will have during their Challenge Cup opener last week.
RJ - The Fire’s midfield is always a treat to see. However, I am concerned about the defense (as always) and where the goals will come from. In regards to defense, Calvo remains a liability. There is no denying he is a good leader, but he is simply not a good player. I hope he will prove me wrong this season. As for the goals, I don’t think Beric will light the world on fire (no pun intended) this season. The club will need to make a solid signing this summer to help fill in the void.
4. How Will Your Team Do This Year?
Ruben- It’s really tough to say, but honestly, I’m not feeling too optimistic. Unless the Fire solves the “Where are the goals going to come from?” problem, I don’t see them being able to keep up on the scoreboard with teams around them. Certainly, for the first few games it’s going to be tough. We’ll have to wait and see for what comes after.
Patrick- I feel like another year together will help to fix some of the defensive issues that plagued the team last season. But, can they score? Consistently? The Fire’s xG was top of the East last season, but they struggled to finish outside of Beric and an occasional Fabian Herbers or Mauricio Pineda goal. That will need to change, and Stojanovic will be a key to making it happen. I say they grab the final playoff spot in the East.
Alex- With Portland Thorns as the clear front-runners and North Carolina far from their previous powers, it’s hard to project how the teams fall into place below them. It’s going to take time for the Red Stars to figure out their ideal XI, plus the Olympics will take likely at least four players to Tokyo. I do think they figure it out and make the NWSL semifinals. As far as the Fire, I have them narrowly missing the playoffs and finishing 8th or 9th in the East
Alex Calabrese- I highly doubt that the Fire this season will be able to make a strong push for the playoffs. Though the fullbacks looked strong in preseason, the struggles of the central defensive pairing last season will likely continue, and there is a big question mark in the goalkeeper position. The loss of last season’s most creative player, Djordje Mihailovic, will have a big impact; I can see the Fire finishing between 8th and 11th, but if all goes according to plan, they may be able to make an unlikely playoff run. As for the Red Stars, the Olympics leave a lot of unknown variables, but they should extend their playoff streak and finish in the top 4 once again.
RJ - I want to be optimistic for once, however the Fire won’t be going anywhere near the playoffs. I do predict a solid cup run.
5. Where Can People Find You On Social Media?
Ruben- You can Follow me on twitter @rubentisch, and follow our podcast @TheHotCast
Patrick- I’m @patrickmccraney on Twitter, and make sure you’re following @HotTimeOldTown, too!
Alex- I’m @alex_s_campbell on Twitter (and also follow @Soccer_Cast !), you can also follow me at @alexander_s_campbell on Instagram
Alex Calabrese- On Twitter I’m @amcalabrese12, on Instagram @amcalabrese22, and on TikTok @calashuayi.
RJ - I am @rga_02 on Twitter and @rga02 on instagram.