For the first time in a while, the Chicago Fire head into the season with optimism
There is an unusual feeling surrounding the Chicago Fire as they head into the new season. A feeling the club’s supporters have not had the last couple of seasons.
Simply put, a feeling of optimism.
Arriving in 2019, sporting director Georg Heitz has managed to improve the team with a new manager, players with solid MLS experience and a Designated Player who isn’t coming in the twilight of his career.
Xherdan Shaqiri is the Fire’s big summer signing and is set to be the playmaker the Fire have lacked. Alvaro Medran, the Spaniard signed to be that No. 10. was inconsistent and left the club.
Aside from his abilities on the pitch, Shaqiri was brought in to add a new, winning mentality to a side who has made finishing at, or near, the bottom of the Eastern Conference a habit.
"“I’m looking forward to working with this club to bring glory back to Chicago,” Shaqiri said. “My goal is clear: I want trophies.”Source: MLS"
In addition to the Swiss international, the Fire also signed former FC Köln defender Rafael Czichos to reinforce a backline who had a propensity to leak goals last season. A number of players were signed by the Fire but all in positions that needed to be strengthened.
Among the most noteworthy also include former Philadelphia Union striker Kacper Przybylko and Atlas forward Jairo Torres. The former is a proven MLS striker which is something the Fire have lacked. Robert Beric scored his share of goals but wasn’t consistent.
Torres is one of the most promising young Mexican players so the Fire getting him was an unexpected surprise. While he won’t join the team until May, he is an exciting player who could end up in Europe if he continues to perform with the Fire.
The club have backed new manager Ezra Hendrickson with a squad that should be able to compete and, at the very least, make the playoffs.
"“But we are doing what we can, and that started by getting the right players, the players we felt could fit the organization and what we’re looking for,” Hendrickson said. “Now we just have to make sure that we put the right team on the [field] and play some good [soccer] and win some games because that’s what it’s all about.”Source: Chicago Sun-Times"
The last time the Fire made the playoffs was back in 2017 under Veljko Paunovic. Since then, they’ve been stuck at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with seasons feeling over before even reaching the halfway point.
As Heitz said during the Shaqiri press conference, on paper, they’ve assembled a good team but that doesn’t always translate to results on the pitch. But there does feel like there is a plan in place for success. That’s something that couldn’t necessarily be said in the past.