Chicago Fire: What do they have left to play for this Season?

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Taking a big step backward, after having just achieved a long awaited breakthrough, is one of the most disheartening phenomena in all of sport. The 2017 Chicago Fire achieved a major step forward for a franchise that has seen some major struggles, on multiple fronts, at times.

The 2018 Chicago Fire are making last season’s bold, exciting statement of progress look more like a fluky aberration. In 2017, the Fire ended their half decade postseason drought by putting together a memorable season which saw them finish with the third highest total points in Major League Soccer. During May-July of 2017, you often saw them atop a given outlet’s MLS power rankings.

chicago fire

Entering tonight’s 1-0 loss at home to the New York Red Bulls, the team which demolished them in the knockout round of last year’s postseason, the Fire resided in 10th place out of 11 in the Eastern Conference. The only team below them,  D.C. United, trails the Fire by five points, but has a whopping five games in hand on them.

Yes, when the Chicago Fire welcome Wayne Rooney and company to Toyota Park, in the season finale for both teams, on October 28th it should be a real hoot. Still, the Fire are currently just six points out of a playoff slot (23 points, the sixth place New England Revolution have 29), but the Revs have two games in hand on Chicago.

There are also three more teams in between New England and Chicago, with one of those teams having a game in hand on the Fire, with the other two teams having two games in hand on the Men in Red.

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With just nine games left in the season, Chicago has to go on an absolute tear in order to make it back to playoffs. It’s not so much the six points as it is

a.) they have fewer chances left than their competitors and

b.) leapfrogging four whole teams is a tall order. It’s just not looking very likely at all.

So while you can forget about both the MLS Cup and the Supporters Shield, the U.S. Open Cup has been something that the Chicago Fire have actually fairly been somewhat successful in over the recent years. They had made another deep run in this tournament, before crashing out in the semifinals at the hands of the Philadelphia Union.

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So it looks like another trophy-less season in Bridgeview. In other words, it’s already time to start looking ahead, Chicago Fire supporters. Fire manager Veljko Paunovic begs to differ with that idea though. He maintains that the club is going to keep on fighting on, gving their all until the end.

“After the (USOC) game against Philly, some of the guys were emotionally drained,” Paunovic said tonight.

“We had a meeting in this room, where we all committed, to play all the games to the end, giving our best, no matter what happens.”

“I know it might sound crazy to some of you guys, but I’m proud of the effort today,” Pauno added. 

“Nine games, (as) nine finals, in each one we’ll give our best and for sure we’ll change this curse of losing games. Nobody gives up in this locker room, at this club.”

Unfortunately the results, regardless of effort and commitment, just haven’t been there. It’s been such a forgettable season on the pitch that the most news-worthy Chicago Fire story line this season has been in the stands surrounding it. These days, the Chicago Fire are making headlines mostly for conflict between the club and supporter groups.

veljko paunovic

The only thing that can overshadow all the drama going on there is winning, and it has to start now.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, is currently a regular contributor to SB Nation, WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.

Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Sound Cloud and YouTube. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to any and all of his.

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