Locria Nyla, Brotherly Game reader) Do you think Nelson Rodriguez and Veljko Paunovic are doing a good job of rebuilding?
Jeff Engelhardt, Hot Time In Old Town) This is a tough question. I think a lot of the fan base is frustrated with the rebuild and for good reason. The team hasn't shown any progress in the standings from 2015 and losing is getting very tiresome here. However, I do think a lot of the additions Rodriguez and Paunovic have made are solid.
Players like Johan Kappelhof, Michael de Leeuw, Jonathan Campbell, Brandon Vincent, John Goossens, Arturo Alvarez and Rodrigo Ramos have all played very well for a stretch of time at some point. They all look capable of developing into solid MLS players (outside of Alvarez, who is what he is at this point and that's OK). But all of this rebuilding we be for naught if the Fire don't invest all their MLS funny money on a legit superstar in the winter.
Fans are tired of seeing the front office hoard TAM and GAM without ever making a splash. If the Fire finally spend big and land the right player in the winter window, I think the supporting players are in place to see significant improvement in 2017. It absolutely must happen this winter or this "rebuild" won't look like much.
Christian Kinsley, Brotherly Game reader) Is Sean Johnson struggling or is it the team in front of him? Seems he is making an above average number of mistakes for the talent he has.
Hot Time In Old Town) It has been a bit of both for Sean Johnson. I think the Milkman lost his confidence a bit early in the season when Matt Lampson was the primary starter. But the team has had better results with Johnson in goal and he has flashed some of that incredible talent people remember from a few years back.
He still has a few more lapses than he used to, but the problem is he does get overwhelmed at times because of the defense. The defense was actually solid early in the year but with so many young rookies in the back four, it has come to the point where they are all tired and it shows. They're just not used to playing this schedule.
If you look at the 6-2 scoreline against D.C., you might think Johnson had an awful game but he was actually spectacular for a lot of it. The problem was the floodgates opened in a big way and he started to get a bit run down trying to stop chance after chance. Overall, Fire fans are still behind Johnson.
Brotherly Game) This was supposed to be a rebound year for the Fire, with them picking up Brandon Vincent and Jonathan Campbell in the SuperDraft as well as a slew of players (João Meira, Michael de Leeuw, Luis Solignac, etc.) throughout the year. What happened, and do you expect another roster purge when the season is done?
Hot Time In Old Town) I think what happened, primarily, is there was just so much "new." Veljko Paunovic had to learn how to be a head coach in MLS and how to relate to this group of players. That alone is a tall task. Players like Campbell and Vincent are fresh out of college and have a lot to learn about the league. More accomplished guys like Kappelhof and de Leeuw are good but they too have to learn the style of play and build chemistry with their teammates.
Some of those things took longer than others and it all happened too late. The Fire played their best soccer of the season the last two weeks before the D.C. game. If they play the way they did against Montreal and L.A., they are going to be a tough out the rest of the season and they'll prove to fans their is finally something to build on. The team would have you believe the D.C. loss is an anomaly and it could be. It was the third game in seven days.
They really need to bounce back Saturday and show that brief glimpse of good form was something that can be carried out the rest of the season. Either way, I don't see a roster purge coming. Rodriguez and Paunovic believe in these young guys. They just need to land the superstar to bring it all together.
Suspensions: Khaly Thiam. Even if he wasn't suspended, Fire fans would boo him off the field. He got a red in D.C. for a hard foul on Fire favorite Patrick Nyarko and then threw the ball at him. People want Thiam off the team immediately. Nyarko is a deity in these parts.
Call-Up: David Accam, David Arshakyan
Lineup Prediction: Sean Johnson; Johan Kappelhof, Jonathan Campbell, Joao Meira, Brandon Vincent; Matt Polster, Razvan Cocis; Arturo Alvarez, Michael de Leeuw, John Goossens; Luis Solignac