The almost yearly ritual of playing for next season is upon us. The Chicago Fire are basically out of the playoff race, this time with three games left. That’s fewer than last season (5 games) so that’s some progress, but not really enough. The team missed an opportunity to take advantage of a generational goalkeeping talent and seemingly swung and missed on all but one transfer throughout the season.
So now, it’s all about next season. Ezra and co. can now start the evaluation process for next season. They can start implementing big structural changes should they desire. I don’t think they’re ready for a formation change or anything yet, but they can start to bleed in some of their homegrown players who haven’t necessarily gotten meaningful minutes, and with their injury situation, a convenient excuse is right there if they want to use it.
The 2023 prologue is here.
Chicago Fire all-time MLS record vs Charlotte FC: 1W-0D-0L, 3 GF / 2 GA, 3 pts out of 3
Chicago Fire home/away MLS record vs Charlotte FC: 0W-0D-0L, 0 GF / 0 GA, 0 pts out of 0
Charlotte has played 6 games since their loss at home against Chicago and have only won two of them; a 1-0 win against NYCFC and a 3-1 win over the same team. But otherwise, they’ve lost by giving up multiple goals, including a 5-0 loss to LAFC and a 2-0 loss to Toronto. All in all, it’s been a tough go for the expansion side who started the season in fantastic form, but they have fallen back to earth in recent months.
With the injury list as long as a Carlos Teran throw-in, and Teran himself suspended for yellow card accumulation, it seems reasonable to bleed in some new blood in preparation for 2023. Javier Casas Jr makes the most sense, as Mauricio Pineda will more than likely slot into center-back unless they choose to start Kendell Burkes, which is an option.
Guti and Reynolds should continue to start on the wings. Andre has been steadily improving as he’s become more and more comfortable with the position, and that upward trend should help the ersatz winger get more and more minutes in the future as he develops his positional flexibility.
Jhon Duran needs to continue to get minutes and develop, as does Gutierrez, so they stay in the XI, and as for Shaqiri, he’s your most expensive player. He has to play if healthy.
Keys To The Match
Take Advantage of Mistakes: Charlotte are starting to flounder as the season comes to a close, as most of us thought they would. They’re making plenty of mistakes in positioning and on the ball that the Fire should be able to take advantage and do some damage during the game. The Fire have to be ready to pounce on bad passes and the like and then quickly turn around and get some instant offense. Get Charlotte running toward their own net and make them pay.
Discipline: The Fire have had a strange season with discipline. Earlier in the season, they were caught getting dumb yellows for things like time wasting and preventing restarts that ended up killing them. As the season wore on they seemed to clean it up nice. But last game, Carlos Teran kicked the ball into the seats and is now suspended for this game. The worry is that some of these issues might be coming back at the end of the season. The Fire can’t lose focus just because they can’t make the playoffs. They need to stay focused and finish the season on a good note.
How To Watch
Streaming: CF97 Live/Chicago Fire App
This is another one of those games where the Fire are the better team, even with all the injuries they have.