ON FIRE: Players Hungry; Stoitchkov's last stand?

Discussion in 'Chicago Fire' started by ibasso, Aug 8, 2002.

  1. ibasso

    ibasso Member

    May 26, 2001

    Players Hungry; Stoitchkov’s last stand?

    By: Ivaldo Basso

    Chicago, August 8 (CSA) –Those hoping to find a trace of post-season foreshadowing in the Fire’s last eight regular season games will be disappointed. Fire history shows that there is no correlation between the Fire’s season ending performance and ultimate playoff success.

    Simply, the Fire always excels towards season’s end.

    “The idea is that towards the end of the season you hope you are getting stronger,” said C.J. Brown.

    It has always seemed as though Bob Bradley has coached the team with thoughts of getting the players to ramp up towards peak performance at season’s end.

    Bradley has done a good job realizing that goal. The Fire is a combined 22-8-2 in their last eight MLS regular season games during the past four seasons. Contrasted by a 16-7-9 ledger during the first eight games of each of the past four seasons.

    “Are guys hungry? I think so, they’re getting there,” said Brown.

    “I think we are all starting to see there’s a future here [in this season] and its not just going to be a thrown away season. I think that’s going to lead to us getting stronger and stronger as the playoffs approach,” added Brown.

    “I think lately everybody’s has had the right attitude and have played every game like its their last, and I think that’s how we all have to approach it. I think attitude is the main thing if we’re going to win a championship,” said Brown.

    Razov provided a cautious assessment of the team ramping up their performance down the stretch.

    “It’s maybe not as much of an incline as we’d like, but we’re making progress here and there. Certainly there are always things to work on but we’re progressing,” said Razov.

    The striker was certain as to one sure-fire way to conclude from the last eight matches that the Fire will not succeed in the post-season.

    “Injuries. Injuries will stop us, other than that we have no excuses,” said Razov.

    “I think the team’s been hovering above water for a long time just trying to survive. Now that we have a few guys back we are trying to find the rhythm and that’s going to take a few more games. Then we’ll get Peter back and try to find him a rhythm and we’ll hope that will happen in the last eight games,” said Razov.

    “The lights go on when playoff time comes. It’s like one game and you put yourself behind the bullet,” added Razov.

    So what might push the Fire into MLS Cup? Perhaps Hristo Stoitchkov’s last stand.


    While many players point to Peter Nowak’s imminent return from injury as a difference making spark that could lead to post-season success, Hristo Stoitchkov’s quiet ‘return’ could be the post-season difference maker.

    As Bradley methodically prods the team to peak at season’s end, he also carefully controls Stoitchkov’s regular season minutes to allow for a playoff peak.

    Bradley and Stoitchkov mastered the plan in 2000.

    Of Stoitchkov’s 987 minutes in 2000’s regular season, 448 came during the last seven matches. His minutes per game steadily increased during those last seven matches, but he never played a full 90.

    Come playoff time the Bulgarian played the full 90 minutes five times. Of the seven-playoff games that season, including MLS Cup, Stoitchkov scored four goals and added five assists – his most memorable series of games with the Fire.

    Of 2000’s first 24 Fire matches Stoitchkov scored five goals and added one assist (in 10 appearances). During the Fire’s last eight matches of that season, the Bulgarian scored four goals and added six assists before continuing his great run through the playoffs.

    Stoitchkov, seemingly plagued by a few injuries, has played 167 minutes so far this season, with 77 minutes coming in the last four matches.

    The last eight matches of the season could tell whether #8 flies again. It’s hard not to be optimistic in what could be his last stand.

    Ivaldo Basso can be reached at ibasso@cybersoccernews.com.
    © Basso/Cyber Soccer Associates, LLC 2002

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