The Fire won’t be seeing Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard, but they will face the Montreal Impact and Bakary Soumare three times over the course of the 34-game schedule released Wednesday. And the former Fire defender added a little extra juice to those matchups by ripping his former team in comments published by MLSSoccer.com.
“I don’t think the club was making big efforts to try and pick itself up,” Soumare said. “Montreal [didn’t] rest on a tough season; they’re doing everything to improve the team. In Chicago, I think it’s … I don’t want to knock them too much, but there’s a lack of will to succeed on every level.
“I played in Chicago in 2007, when it was a big club that always won, that always made the playoffs. I saw the decline from that time to today when it comes to the staff, the squad, the club itself, the stadium, all the way to the grass. The grass represents the club. That’s what the club has become, alas. Chicago is my home. It always will be. But the club has really fallen from when it used to stand.”
Some might roll their eyes at Soumare’s comments considering his erratic play during his second stint with the Fire. The option on his contract was declined before he was selected by the Impact in the second phase of the re-entry draft. Even if he hadn’t been chosen, his future with the Fire was murky at best.
But Soumare hit on some sore subjects for Fire fans. The Fire have missed the playoffs four times in the last five years. They didn’t have any Designated Players before adding David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike this offseason and haven’t signed any of the biggest names to join MLS. Soumare mentioned the poor field conditions, which have been criticized by coach Frank Yallop, Mike Magee and members of the U.S. women’s national team.
However, the Fire believe they’re making progress, and they’ll get their chance to prove it this season. They just won’t get the chance against two of the league’s most famous imports.
They face the Los Angeles Galaxy on March 6 but well before the arrival of Gerrard, who will join the defending champs this summer. The Fire also miss Lampard, who won’t be leaving Manchester City to play for New York City FC until after they face the Fire on April 24 at Toyota Park and May 15 at Yankee Stadium.
As expected, the league also announced an expanded playoff format. Six teams from each 10-team conference — up from five — will qualify, with the top two getting a bye into the conference semifinals.
Through a spokesperson, the Fire declined to respond to Soumare’s comments.