tBG) The Chicago Fire on paper are a solid team, with players like Sean Johnson, Bakary Soumare, and Mike Magee. However they sit 4 points out of a playoff sport at the moment. Why?
HTIOT) It's been a difficult year for the Fire, primarily because the team is in rebuild mode but doesn't want to admit it. Also, with the exception of Johnson, the guys you mentioned have not had stellar seasons to date - Soumare seems to have worked his way out of his funk, but he was a goal-gifting mistake or two a game for much of the season. Magee got his new, better deal, but has looked a little out of phase and has cultivated a puzzling side-career as a ref-bothering bag of whine. Add in Frank Yallop's determination in preseason to set this team up as a high-pressing, ball-control 4-1-4-1 squad - think New England's style - which came unglued upon first contact with the enemy, and you've got a potent mix for mediocrity.
That said, the play hasn't been awful - just the results. The Fire are the draw kings through the first half of the season because they play well enough to compete, but usually not well enough to win. The hope here is that, as the kids mature, the second half will have more positive results.
tBG) What kind of impact do you think new signing Răzvan Cociș will have? What kind of impact will he need to have to help the Fire succeed?
HTIOT) Here's something you don't hear on soccer blogs very often: To the first question, I have no idea. I'm deeply respectful of the possibility that maybe, just maybe this dude just came from the depths of the Ukrainian league to kick ass and chew gum (and he's all outta gum). That said, a 31-year-old who's played on seven teams the last five years, one of which has since been dissolved - let's just say that's a resume many, maybe most MLS teams put on the "Thanks, but no thanks" pile.
He doesn't need to be a world-beater to improve the team, though. Yallop said he plans to play him alongside Jeff Larentowicz in central midfield. In that role, if he can help the Fire keep the ball, that will do a lot to resuscitate Frank's plans for the 4-1-4-1. He's said to have good close control - yes, that's as much scouting as we have on him - and Chicago desperately needs another silky first touch on the field if the Men in Red want to try possession football.
tBG) Fire fans have a reputation for having one chant - "FIRE". Do you guys have other chants? (Not trying to be an ass with this one.)
HTIOT) Just think how ass-like you could be if you tried! (Jokes! Just jokes.)
We do have other chants, but none of them feature the subtle mind-control element that our beloved FII-YERR chant brings. And the 'lo lo lo lo' part is crucial, too - that tiny bit of melody breaks up the alpha-wave distortion patterns engineered into the FII-YERR section into a sort of sentence, modified by local variables.
Usually, the messages are "We love our team, and want them to win," "We don't like your team, and want them to lose," and "Ketchup on hotdogs is an abomination," FYI.
Predicted lineup: Sean Johnson; Gonzalo Segares, Bakary Soumare, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Lovel Palmer; Harrison Shipp, Jeff Larentowicz (c), Alex, Grant Ward; Mike Magee, Quincy Amarikwa.
Score prediction: 2-1 Chicago. Fire goals by Shipp and Magee; Union goal by Conor Casey (again!)