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Three questions with a Chicago Fire expert

Fire are having another bad season, but they're decent lately.

Last Updated
3 min read
Jordan Morris watch Carlos Teran when Fire hosted Sounders in 2022 | Mike Dinovo / USA Today

The first successful MLS expansion side, Chicago Fire were a dynasty in the pre-Don Garber MLS era. Between their launch and the launch of Seattle Sounders, all expansion sides were awful – so were the Fire.

Fire have one season with more than 10 wins in the last decade. They last won a major trophy in 2006. Frank Klopas is on his third stint as their head coach (fifth if you count interim stints). He’s 51-73-30 in total, and still, a legend in Chicagoland.

Both teams are 2-1-2 in their last five matches played. Seattle Sounders are 6-7-7, +2 on the season, sitting 10th in the West (1.56 ppm at home). Fire are 4-9-6, -11 and last in the East (0.78 ppm away).

Answering Three Questions for Men in Red '97 is Alex.

SaH: From the outside, the five most-used midfielders seem like they should be a strong base for a squad. But they haven't meshed. Is this an issue with their personalities or with the tactics?

MiR: Unfortunately, the Fire haven't really been able to establish a consistent pairing in midfield this season, be it due to injury, fitness or poor form. Kellyn Acosta has been the key addition, but he took some time to adjust to his new team, and veteran Gastón Giménez has shown signs of regression, meaning Fabian Herbers has mostly been a go-to player in central midfield. Xherdan Shaqiri was also a player that the team largely ran through in the first portion of the season, but his absence due to the European Championships (and amidst rumors of his permanent departure) the team has adjusted and been much more fluid going forward. Perhaps the Fire will look to add another midfielder in the summer transfer window who can partner Acosta at a high level, but for now, the Fire are making due with what they have, meaning Herbers will likely start again in a deeper role than he's been accustomed to for the bulk of his career.

SaH: Without Shaqiri available, Klopas switched to an odd-man backline. This often puts Brian Gutiérrez in control of the offense. How's he doing as a now-seasoned vet at just 21?

MiR: The shift since Shaqiri's departure to a 3-5-2 has benefited the offense as a whole, but no individual player moreso than Gutiérrez. The now-21-year-old had a slow start to the season, as he was continually forced to play out on the left wing as Shaqiri was shoehorned into the #10 role, and seemingly lacked confidence in games between March and May. However, now that he's been able to play in his more natural central position, he's looked much more lively and energetic and has made the players around him, like club-record DP striker Hugo Cuypers, look much better. Having signed a big-money U-22 Initiative contract in the offseason, expectations are high on Guti to put the team on his back, and he's finally been starting to live up to the hype in recent weeks.

SaH: The defense seems unsettled. Have the Fire discovered a gem via all the rotation?

MiR: The three-man backline has generally been more secure than the four-back system that Frank Klopas operated with for the majority of last season and the start of this one. Center back is a position of strength and depth for the Fire, who have two good ball-playing defenders in Rafa Czichos and Mauricio Pineda, as well as the athletic and aerially dominant Carlos Terán making up the back three. Though Czichos recently missed out on some action as he finalized his U.S. green card, freeing up an international slot and allowing Arnaud Souquet to make a rare appearance, he'll likely be back in the starting team this weekend, joining Pineda and Terán.

Check out Men in Red '97 for the Reverse and other previews of Saturday night's match.