How’d 2013 Treat ‘Em? 14-13-7 (W-L-T), 47 gf, 52 ga; 6th in the East
The Fire is simply one of those teams that I don’t get around to watching all that often. That could be why I think of them as “all those guys who play with Mike Magee.” The commentary reinforces that theme more than a little: Magee shanking a PK in some late-ish regular season game became the moment that left Chicago one step on the wrong side of the playoff rope. (And Magee was Exhibit A in last season’s edition of the perennial discussion of whether anyone playing on a team that didn’t make the playoffs can be an MVP.) No, I don’t expect the other ten field players to raise a hand and say, “No, no, totally my fault,” but, obviously, if they all do better throughout the season, that the weight of that PK doesn’t fall on Magee’s fairly slim shoulders. The highlights I watched (weekly and religiously) showed me a team that struggled to string together the right mix of positive results. Who knows? Maybe that’s the whole story.
Exciting Additions! – Benji Joya…uh…hold on, they just picked up Matt Watson.
Tricky Departures… – Maicon Santos, Austin Berry
Quality Parts: Alex, Mike Magee, Patrick Nyarko
It Gets Better If They Come Good: Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Patrick Ianni, Chris Rolfe, Jeff Larentowicz, Juan Luis Anangono
What I’d Expect Based on the Above
The big question (at least for someone observing a team infrequently and from afar) is whether Chicago made enough changes to fix what that same (distant, sporadic) observer took to be the problem. Let’s see: bringing in two defenders from a Seattle team that at least one person called “reactive” defense…that probably won’t help much; Joya got some nice press, but, for all we know, prom’s still the highlight of his dating life (e.g. he’s young, people), so that’s more work-in-progress than clean solution; then there’s the decision to dish Austin Berry at discount rates, which seems like robbing Peter to give him two non-magical beans (Ianni and Hurtado). So, yeah, calling this vast improvement seems like a tough sell. The Fire did, however, bring in Frank Yallop to coach, along with his solid track record, so call that a plus. I also like some of the Fire’s parts – I flat-out love Nyarko, for one, and, like everyone else, I’ve seen Rolfe perform – but roster as a whole looks a bit short on talent, at least in the context of the rest of the league. Maybe one of the mystery parts come to life this year, say, Anangono. To forward a guess, I think Yallop will need another year to build a roster he even mostly likes. That doesn’t spell playoffs, to me anyway.
2014 Season Opener: @ Chivas USA, March 9