Numerous questions surround the Fire as they head back into MLS action this Sunday at New England. Here are five that stick out.
What’s the deal with Wilman Conde?
Big things were expected of Wilman Conde this year. The Fire’s hulking center back had just come off a 2009 that saw him anchor the Chicago back line, start in the All-Star game, and nab a spot on the MLS Best XI. At age 27, there was no reason to suspect the Colombian defender’s play would drop off in 2010.
But, after a strong enough start to the season, Conde’s performance has slipped.
The gregarious defender has been at fault for several goals in recent matches and isn’t submitting the stellar defensive work the Toyota Park crowd has become accustomed to.
One thing that might be contributing to Conde’s on field struggles is his contract situation off of it. He is in the final year of his MLS deal and could be feeling a heightened amount of pressure as he looks to impress the Fire front office – and other potential suitors – as his current pact winds down.
Of course, whether or not his contract situation is affecting his on field performance is pure speculation. One thing that remains rooted in fact: The Fire’s desire to see the Wilman of 2009 return to Toyota Park. Lord knows they could use him.
New Kids on the Block?
It’s no secret that Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos is craving some roster reinforcements.
Time and time again, the Fire’s head man has been quoted as saying that he feels the need to “strengthen the team” and, with the transfer window reopening in July, the time to do so is drawing ever nearer.
With plenty of European players expressing interest in coming to MLS (and Cuauhtemoc Blanco’s contract at Mexican club Veracruz expiring), don’t be surprised if de los Cobos and technical director Frank Klopas bring in a big name this summer to help with the playoff push.
Will we ever see John Thorrington?
The 30-year-old central midfielder tore a muscle in his quad in preseason training and has yet to see the field – or make the gameday roster – for a match this season.
Thorrington has experienced numerous setbacks after originally hoping to make his season debut on April 10 (yes, April 10 – almost two and a half months ago) and has yet to resume full training with the team.
With no timetable set for a return and his work limited to off the field activities, it’s not unreasonable to think that Thorrington might not see the field this year. If he were to miss the entire season, Thorrington – an incredibly passionate player – would undoubtedly be very disappointed.
Home sweet home?
One of the major disappointments from the Fire’s 2009 season was the home form. The team consistently dropped points late in games at Toyota Park, stumbling along to the league’s third worst home record.
The Fire hoped to turn around the home record in 2010. So far, they haven’t.
Chicago is 1-1-4 in league play at Toyota Park this season. But more disappointing than that record is how the Fire has gotten there. Chicago has surrendered late goals in three of their six home matches (including the lone loss) and the team absolutely must improve their home form if they hope to better their 2-3-6 record.
Will the Fire make the playoffs?
Yes, it’s still early. But, despite the fact that there are 19 regular season games remaining, the question has to be brought up: Will the Fire, the same club that has qualified for the postseason 11 times in its 12 year history, make the playoffs?
Over the course of the first 11 league games of 2010, the team hasn’t exactly put itself in a great spot. With 12 points on the year, the Fire are four points behind the current “last team in.” Chicago will need to string together positive results in a manner that they haven’t so far this season if they want to be playing in November when – as Real Salt Lake proved last season – anything can happen.