TBG: It's only two months into the season, but the Eastern Conference appears to be tiered with New York, Houston, Kansas City, and Montreal on top, Philadelphia and Columbus in the middle, and New England, Chicago, Toronto, and D.C. on the bottom. Do you believe the Fire can break through that bottom pack and contend for a playoff spot this year?
HTIOT: A month ago my outlook was a bit brighter than now. I haven't packed in 2013 by any means, but the positive run the Fire went on in April didn't continue in Montreal. We have a talented lineup on paper, but a mix of injuries, tactical mistakes, and player under-performance has hurt the team all year. The biggest issue has been struggling to score goals, as no player is coming through to be the guy that can put the team on his back.
Fans are hopeful the team can put a decent run together and try to hang in there until the summer transfer window. We certainly can't afford to dig too deep of a hole. The problem is we don't have much cap space at all to work with, so the front office is going to have to get creative to bring in that much needed scorer, midfield playmaker, or center back.
TBG: The Union's biggest weakness is the complete inadequacy of their midfield. Do you anticipate the Fire will be able to take advantage of that?
HTIOT: Hopefully we can. The problem is, our midfield has been wildly inconsistent too and has struggled creating at times. If the Fire midfield can carve up the Union center of the pitch, we should be in good shape. Unfortunately that has not happened much this year save the Red Bulls game. One of our biggest weaknesses thus far has been the inability of the midfield to assert themselves and take over a game.
Chicago is a team that has some speed, especially on the wings. We tend to be a counter attacking team, so rather than play directly through the Union midfield, I see us trying to beat Philly down the flanks. However, when we do get the ball in the box and create chances, most of those have not been taken. Something figures to give for one of these teams on Saturday.
TBG: Who has been the Fire's most valuable player thus far this season?
HTIOT: I would have to say Sean Johnson. Apart from a couple of errors, he has been great in goal. Some losses would have been even worse if not for his intervention. Honestly though, there hasn't been many high notes as of yet. Here's to hoping that turns around sooner rather than later.
TBG: Thanks to Ryan for taking the time to answer these questions. Be sure to check my answers to Ryan's questions over at Hot Time In Old Town.