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Chicago Fire v KC Wizards Tonight @ Toyota Park Preview

By Ben Schuman Stoler in News on Oct 12, 2010 4:20PM

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What a season. The Fire were eliminated from playoff contention this weekend, and in a season full of weird, ironic, unexpected twists, it was almost unsurprising that they got eliminated after their best game of the year. Against a solid Columbus team (who, granted, already qualified for the playoffs), it looked like Coach Carlos de los Cobos finally found a way to blend the new signings, the youth, and the veterans. As you can see from the highlights above, the Fire bossed the game from the start.

And then, because of other results around the league, they were eliminated from the playoffs. Just like that. It's a frustratingly empty feeling in a season that started with so much promise and rode the Designated Player + post-World Cup high for a big chunk of the summer. But this team never quite reached its potential, and tonight (7:30 CSN+), besides setting a tone for next year, the only thing the Fire have to look forward to is playing spoiler and, with a win, knocking the Wizards out of the playoffs.

With injuries to Steven Kinney and Patrick Nyarko, and with Marco Pappa out to play with Guatemala, the Fire won't be able to play the same lineup that ran circles around the Crew on Friday. It's a shame because that was a squad that worked well off each other - from interchanging central midfielders Logan Pause and Peter Lowry, to overlapping outside backs Ratislav Ristic and Kinney, to floating DP Freddie Ljungberg - and it would be good to set the groundwork as much as possible for next year.

Things you don't need a playoff race to watch:

  • The last three games of Brian McBride's career. BMB played great on Friday, holding play up well up top and making a vintage BMB late run to the near post to finish the second goal. He's still chugging along, and it's an honor to get to watch one of the greatest American soccer players of all time finish his career in our city.

  • What's the best back four? On Friday, Kinney, C.J. Brown, Kwame Watson-Siriboe (after Dasan Robinson pulled a hammie), and Ristic held together better than many other combinations we've seen this year. The inconsistent, defender-by-committee system of coach de los Cobos has been criticized by some this year, and even though injuries definitely forced a few of his hands, these final games are a good chance to experiment with different pairings, different chemistry, and vet next year's starters.

  • Ways to get the most out of Nery Castillo and Freddie Ljungberg, the two high profile DPs that came in this year. Freddie has held down a consistent starting spot the second half of the season but Castillo's battled fitness and injuries and, when he has played, hasn't looked like the superstar Fire Technical Director Frank Klopas thought he was getting when he signed him. Castillo is fit tonight but probably won't start. How will de los Cobos play him? And will Freddie stay as a supporting striker?