BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — The Chicago Fire finished the 2018 season with a scoreless draw against D.C. United on Sunday and it marked the end of Alan Gordon’s career. The Fire were already eliminated for the final few weeks of the season, but there were still plenty of story lines from the match.
Here are three of those story lines.
Alan Gordon calls it a career
The Fire signed Alan Gordon in the offseason to be a backup for 2017 Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolic. Before Sunday’s season finale, it was announced the 37-year-old would be calling it a career after the game.
Gordon, who entered the match with only 16 minutes of action since Aug. 4, came off the bench for a 28-minute appearance.
This season Gordon scored four goals in seven starts and 23 appearances. In late May and early June he had a three-match scoring streak while Nikolic was out with a minor injury. His minutes were cut late in the season after the Fire claimed Yura Movsisyan off waivers.
Gordon has been in MLS since 2004 and played for six MLS team, most notably the LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes. He finished with 59 goals in 294 appearances and became famous for his late goal heroics.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 27, 2018
“I consider myself very lucky and blessed to have been a part of the continued growth of Major League Soccer,” Gordon said in a statement prepared before the match. “I will always be grateful to have shared the field with the incredibly talented players that I have, as well as the lifelong relationships I have developed off the field. The game has given me far more than I could ever give back. I want to thank my family and friends for their continued support over the years and their willingness to allow me to chase my dream. I am proud of the things I have accomplished alongside my teammates and I am excited to begin the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.”
The turning point in the Fire’s season
When a team finishes with 32 points in 34 matches, 18 short of the playoff line, there are plenty of things that can be pointed to regarding where things went wrong.
However, when asked what the turning point of the 2018 season was, Fire coach Veljko Paunović had a surprisingly specific answer.
“I think the main moment when we stepped in the top six teams, we couldn’t sustain there and be consistent with the performance,” Paunović said. “We lost that momentum. I think it was against Philly at home. I think was a very, very important game for us.”
After a 3-2 win against New York City FC on June 30, the Fire moved into a playoff spot. It was sixth place, but it marked a significant achievement at that point in the season.
Two games later the Fire lost a wild 4-3 match at home to Philadelphia. Former Fire winger David Accam scored the winner in the 95th minute after Bastian Schweinsteiger tied the match in the 94th minute.
That ended up being the second in a run of eight straight MLS losses for the Fire. The Fire were out of the race by the end of that. A 2-3-3 record over the final eight matches only represented relative improvement.
Plenty of questions for the offseason
This is the third season in four years where the Fire have failed to accumulate one point per match.
The first such season, 2015, resulted in sweeping changes to the technical staff. In 2016, there was a new GM in Nelson Rodriguez and a first-year coach in Paunović. They inherited a roster that needed a lot of work so they were given time to turn things around. They did so in 2017 with the Fire’s first playoff berth since 2012.
However, the Fire are 13-27-10 in MLS play since last year’s Gold Cup break. The struggles of the second half of last season, coupled with an uninspiring offseason, carried over into a bad 2018.
That leaves questions about the future of this technical staff. Paunović is out of contract as is Bastian Schweinsteiger and even solid center back Johan Kappelhof.
Key pieces in Dax McCarty, Aleksandar Katai and Nikolic are under contract for next year. Only three other players are as well (goalkeeper Richard Sanchez and defenders Grant Lillard and Nicolas del Grecco). There could be plenty of change on and off the field heading into 2019, and given the way 2018 went, that’s probably a good thing for the Fire.