Chicago Fire FC looks forward as they finish up the 2021 season
CHICAGO – For many fans of the club, the thought of making the postseason had left their minds a long time ago as they struggled with consistency since the beginning of the season.
But on Saturday night, despite one of their best efforts in 2021, Chicago Fire FC saw their playoff hopes officially come to an end. A 2-2 draw with MLS-leading New England in Foxborough was enough to eliminate them from contention, though in reality, it had happened long before.
The dismissal of manager Raphael Wicky on September 30th essentially turned the focus to 2022, where the club will have a number of decisions to make when it concerns their roster. A new manager will then be in charge of bringing the team back to relevance in the league as the club will now miss the playoffs for a fourth-straight year and eighth time in the last nine years.
With interim manager Frank Klopas in charge, the Fire now looks ahead to their final four matches of the season, starting with a road contest against FC Cincinnati at 6:30 PM on Wednesday, which you can watch on WGN-TV at 6:30 PM.
“ Finish the season strong. Anything can happen in life. We can focus on ourselves, focus on the next four games and give our all and see where we end,” said defender Johan Kappelhof I think that’s the most important thing we need to do is finish strong and show pride.”
At the same time, the club will be taking the four matches to look over the roster and see what changes will be made. After just missing the expanded 2020 MLS Playoffs, the Fire have mostly been out of the running for a playoff spot the entire season, going 7-16-7 with just one victory away from Soldier Field.
Lack of progress after the team was flipped over after the 2019 season when a new owner and front office were installed led to Wicky’s dismissal while also putting pressure on sporting director Georg Heitz as he looks ahead to his third season.
Two of the team’s three designated players – Robert Beric and Gaston Gimenez – have club options for next season, and could be a place where evaluation starts. The club will also have to make decisions on a number of other players to see where they might fit in the equation moving forward.
Those decisions will come when the season concludes in early November, until then the group can do what they can to make the most of this time to look to the future.
“We have a lot of quality with guys that are great on the ball. I think where we can improve is more matureness,” said Kappelhof on what the team can improve on now to help in 2022. “You know, in certain moments in the game, (being) more mature, more fight for the result and not always pretty but sometimes you need to be ugly, too, to win games.
“And if we show (that) a little bit more, I think we’ll have more results.”