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Crossing the Touchline: Crew vs. Chicago Fire

What you need to know about the Fire before Thursday’s match.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Chicago Fire Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Crew SC resume Major League Soccer play on Thursday, and this time, it’s at home, no bubble. The Chicago Fire travel to MAPFRE Stadium as a part of the league’s resumption, reigniting one of the oldest rivalries in MLS.

While the Crew currently sit at the top of the Eastern Conference and in pole position for the Supporter’s Shield with an unblemished record, the Fire has struggled out of the gates in this strange MLS season. Chicago has just one win and four points through five games and allowed twice as many goals as the team scored.

To get more insight into what hasn’t gone right for Men in Red so far this season and if there’s a turnaround in the offing, we turned to our SB Nation friends at Hot Time in Old Town and managing editor Patrick McCraney.

Questions for Hot Time in Old Town

Massive Report: It’s been a bit of a struggle the last two years for the Fire, with Chicago on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. With a 1-3-1 start to this season, where do expectations sit with this team?

Hot Time in Old Town: Long term, the expectations are suddenly a lot higher for the Fire. The club has a new owner, Joe Mansueto, who is spending lots of money behind the scenes. His leadership really has a lot of people excited of what might be possible.

Short term, it’s tough to say. This team has 17 new players including three new Designated Players, a new manager, new sporting director, new owner, new stadium, new logo and new jerseys. It’s essentially an expansion team! For me, I’d love to see them sneak into the playoffs. Anything less than that would be a disappointment, but anything more than that would be a pleasant surprise.

MR: The move out of Bridgeview, back downtown and the return to Soldier Field. How much of an impact will that make on the club and its presence in the Chicago sports scene that seems to have been lacking the last several years?

HTiOT: It should definitely help. Bridgeview was really difficult to get to for a lot of fans, especially if you needed to take public transit to get there. When you were actually at the stadium, there wasn’t much to do in the surrounding area, so Soldier Field is a big upgrade in many ways. The team is also heavily marketing itself again, and has a new local TV deal on WGN, an over the air station, that should really help, too. I have concerns about how the pitch will look when the Fire are sharing it with the Bears, but overall, it was definitely the right move to get out of Bridgeview.

MR: There’s not a lot of information on Raphel Wicky out there. What can you tell us about the Fire’s new head coach?

HTiOT: I’ve gotten to know Wicky a bit since he’s taken over, and I can tell you it’s a big change from the last regime. Wicky is very big on creating a positive culture, so it’s safe to say we won’t hear any crazy stories like the “soup” story Alan Gordon told about Veljko Paunovic (if you don’t know, Google it. It’s insane).

Wicky was the head coach at FC Basel in Switzerland in 2018, and actually took the team to the knockout round of the Champions League, beating Manchester United and Manchester City in the process. More recently, he was in charge of the U.S. U-17s that bombed out of the last World Cup. He had a lengthy career mostly in the Bundesliga, but he actually ended his playing career in MLS at Chivas USA.

I will warn you—Wicky looks like a hipster bartender, or perhaps a guy selling artisan pickles at a farmer’s market. He’s a handsome dude with incredible hair.

Here are a couple profiles I did on him.

MR: Be honest, what are your thoughts on the new Chicago Fire (FC) logo?

I actually think the team did the right thing by changing logos. I felt like it was time for a new logo. But, while the new one has grown on me quite a bit, I’m still not a huge fan. I don’t actually mind the crown thing in the middle, that a lot of fans hate. I just feel like the logo is weak in other ways. The lines on the outside are thin, and hardly show up on TV. Same with the font they used for “Chicago Fire FC.” I’m not a big fan of the yellow, either. That said, I don’t hate the logo nearly as much as some other people seem to. It’s fine. I just think it could be a lot stronger.

Before I go, can I just say how happy I am that the Fire are playing the Crew? As much as I’ve always hated your team, it just wouldn’t be the same without you.

To read Massive Report’s answers to Hot Time in Old Town’s questions, click here.