There are only two games left in the MLS season, and the end canly come soon enough. The last month has been a long emotional slog of expectations turning into disappointment and unfulfilled hopes and dreams. There have been calls for jobs to be lost from fans and a desire for the Fire to move on from what in hindsight feels like a desperate move, despite long-term contracts being signed.
Still, there have been positives this season. The emergence of two stars in the making in Brian Gutierrez and Jhon Duran has galvanized my belief that the team will be a contender in the next few years. Gaga Slonina’s sale to Chelsea has proved that the Fire Academy system that just years before was being shopped around because the previous owner didn’t see value in it, can cultivate world-class talent and then move them on to potentially become world superstars. And there’s more where Gaga came from too.
The defense— castoffs and underachievers, the lot of them. Came together under a new Captain to become one of the better units in the league, helping their goalkeeper reach the top in clean sheets kept.
Despite all of that, though, the club's record weighs all these successes down like an anchor neckless. Missing the playoffs yet again makes all that progress seem like a blip hope in the endless misery that is watching the Chicago Fire soccer club.
There are only two games left in the MLS season. 2023 can’t get here soon enough.
Chicago Fire all-time MLS record vs FC Cincinnati: 2W-2D-3L, 9 GF / 7 GA, 8 pts out of 15
Chicago Fire away MLS record vs FC Cincinnati: 1W-2D-0L, 4 GF / 3 GA, X pts out of X
FC Cincinnati has had one hell of a come-up this season. The acquisitions of players like Brenner and the improvement of Brandon Vasquez have led Cincy to the 5th place spot in the East table. They haven’t lost in two months, their last loss coming against the Crew at the end of July. There have been plenty of draws since then; 5 from their previous 8, but they've supplemented those with wins and have guaranteed themselves a playoff spot for the first time in their history.
In case you missed it, Jairo Torres had surgery on his leg to repair a stress fracture. That’s another player for done the Fire this season. I’m also kind of over Xherdasn Shaqiri this season. If he comes back post-World Cup refreshed and refocused, we can reassess him then, but for these last two games, I’d rather see Brian Gutierrez at the 10 and someone else, in this case Missael Rodriguez, out on the wing.
As for everyone else, As much as it would be neat to see Chris Brady in goal, The Fire should give Gaga a proper send-off. Most of the defense is back next season, so continuing to develop their relationship is paramount, and the same goes for Fede and Pineda in the double pivot. Chris Mueller is a gamer and wants to play, and I see no reason to bench him.
UPDATE: Gaga Slonina has been ruled out because of an unspecified head injury. So in this case, I’d like to see Chris Brady start instead of Spencer Richy.
Keys To The Match
Lethal Tempo: The 2022 Fire cannot play slow. Every time they try to slow things down and control the game that way, disaster strikes. Instead, the Fire should be looking to push the pace whenever possible. Whether or not it’s pressing high without the ball or playing fast passes forward on the attack, the Fire need to go 110 miles an hour over 90 minutes to give themselves a shot at winning their last two games.
Feed Duran: It’s been a coming-out party for Jhan Duran the last few games. The Fire’s teenaged wunderkind (one of many) has played astonishingly well the last month or so and has cemented himself as the front runner for the starting striker job going into next season. Because of this, I and the rest of the Fire Inteligencia really want to see him get better service and be more impactful than he already is, which is a lot.
So the Fire have to give him every opportunity to put a shot on goal. That means increasing the number of quality crosses and through balls toward him while limiting turnovers in the middle of the park. Reward one of the hardest working members on the pitch by letting him do what he does best, and he’ll reward you with three points.
How To Watch
Time: 6:30 PM
Streaming: CF97 Live/ Chicago Fire App
If the Fire win this game it will because they’re able to contain FCC’s danger men and feed Duran for goals. But honestly, if the White Sox are any example to follow, this team is cooked. 2-1 loss.