We’ve looked back enough on 2012 and with it now being 1/1/2013, it’s time to look ahead to the Fire’s “Sweet 16” MLS campaign. With that in mind, I’ve listed my Fire-related New Year’s Resolutions for the 2013 season.
1) Beat Seattle – Since entering the league in 2009, Fire fans have had to deal with the self-absorbed Sounders supporters and their “invention” of everything related to soccer in this country. While the #SeattleInvented hashtag has become a popular meme, an instance it works best in is when you follow it with “….dominating the Fire.”
At 0-5-3 all-time, the Men in Red have never found a way to beat the Rave Green. Most matches between the sides have been close affairs, though the one that will stick out for every fan is the 2011 U.S. Open Cup final defeat at CenturyLink Field.
Seattle’s entering their fifth season in the league and its high time that the Fire, like both the U-16 and U-18 Academy teams did at their Winter Showcase, take down the Sounders in their Cascadia meeting this year.
2) Win at least two games on turf – I raise this because it’s been too long since the last league win and turf is too often used as an excuse in defeat.
Since defeating New England 1-0 at Gillette Stadium on June 27, 2010, the Fire have gone a horrific 1-9-2 when playing on artificial surfaces, the lone victory coming in a narrow 1-0 decision at USL-Pro side Rochester Rhinos on June 28, 2011.
This past season the team went 0-4-1 on turf, with the only point coming in a 1-1 draw at Montreal to open the campaign. Certainly the low point came in a devastating 3-2 extra time loss to the PDL’s Michigan Bucks in the U.S. Open Cup.
As of right now, Frank Klopas’ side will have a minimum of three matches on turf in 2013 with games to be played at Seattle (get halfway to killing two birds with one stone), Vancouver and New England. Winning two of those three games may be ambitious but turf remains a reality in MLS and whether you win on the carpet or on the natural stuff, the reward is always three points.
Turf can’t be an excuse anymore.
3) Re-Dedicate Efforts for U.S. Open Cup success – The Fire still claim the title of “Kings of the Cup” but only because Sporting KC was able to keep Seattle from a fourth straight title in 2012.
After a romantic run to the final in 2011, the Fire, as I mentioned above, fell flat on their faces in 2012 with an early round exit in a literal suburb of Detroit.
Between the last tournament win in 2006 and the run to the 2011 final, the team had gone out at the first hurdle in three of its previous four Open Cup campaigns leaving Fire fans to wonder if the “Kings” title was still fitting of the club.
In that time, the Fire have also been unsuccessful in tying Bethlehem Steel and Maccabi Los Angeles for most tournament titles at five.
Beyond the modest cash prize, the fact remains that winning the U.S. Open Cup is the easiest route to CONCACAF Champions League qualification and with that comes additional allocation money from MLS to compete at the international level.
It’s time to get a fifth title in 2013.
4) Two Double-Digit Goal Scorers – I’m of the opinion that four of the forwards on the Fire roster are all capable of tallying 10 or more goals in the right circumstance.
Dominic Oduro proved he could do it in 2011 when he tallied 12 and had Chris Rolfe and Sherjill MacDonald had full seasons to play, either one could have accomplished the feat as well. Remember Rolfe came just two goals shy after only making his re-debut for the Fire on June 2.
While Maicon Santos has never hit the 10-goal threshold, remember that he’d tallied seven goals through the end of May before a toe injury slowed him last season.
Two players with double-digit goals almost certainly spells another playoff appearance and will put a bit more fear into any potential postseason opponent.
5) Get a player on the MLS Best XI – After seeing 21 players named to the League’s year-end All-Star team through the club’s first 12 seasons, the Fire have failed to be represented on it the Best XI since Wilman Conde’s selection in 2009.
I would agree with anyone that says that personal accolades shouldn’t be put above of those of the team but generally these things go to players who’ve helped their club perform quite well.
Just as an example, in the three years the Fire made an MLS Cup final appearance, they placed a minimum of three players on MLS Best XI. With 19 teams in the league, the challenge is more difficult than ever but like the point above, a player appearing on the Best XI should in turn spell success for the team over the course of the season.
There are certainly plenty more resolutions that I could make but this is a good start. What are your Fire Resolutions for 2013? Tell me below!