Team: Chicago Fire
Coach: Frank Klopas
Last Season: 9-9-16, 6th East, 11th Overall
Twitter Hashtag: #CF97
In our 2011 preview of the Chicago Fire, I predicted the Fire would either make a surprise long run in the playoffs or miss the playoffs, be stuck in neutral, and just be lost in the near future. Neither of those predictions came true: the Fire did miss the playoffs and looked at a time to be muddling through the season, but hit a hot streak towards the end of the season and barely missed the playoffs.
The Fire now looks like a favorite not only to make the playoffs but to challenge for the Eastern Conference itself. Much of this relies on how well they translate that hot streak to a full season, but also if some of the holes that developed this offseason are gaping or minuscule.
Coaching Staff and Front Office: The Frank Klopas experiment is going strong after the team’s technical director came out of the director’s box and led the team to seven wins in their last ten MLS matches. Klopas is not a cool tactician, but an emotional guy who could be called a “players’ coach”. What remains to be seen is how he does with a full season coaching this team. While the results so far are promising, any time a team replaces a coach with a guy already inside the organization, usually a team is making a hire not to rock the boat and stick with an organizational plan. This is fine if the team is winning, but not when it’s missed the playoffs (right Revolution fans?). The future looks promising, but the jury is still out.
Key Roster Additions: Rafael Roboyo was an interesting signing for this team. He comes from the Colombian first division champions and has been labeled a box-to-box type player who can play a few different positions in the middle. He is expected to challenge for a starting job and make a good midfield even better. The other big signing is Uruguayan striker Federico Puppo. The 25-year old striker is 5’8″ so he adds another speedy diminutive presence to this team. In via the draft are defenders Austin Berry (Louisville) and all-name first teamer Hunter Jumper (Virginia), two players would could see plenty of playing time this season.
Key Roster Subtractions: Diego Chaves departed the team to sign with Palestino after the team did not re-sign him this offseason. His departure certainly hurts the team’s proven depth at forward. Other than Chaves, the team’s departures mainly cleared up cap/allocation space and room on the bench. The team did sell
William Dube’s Wilman Conde’s rights to New York for allocation, which is curious considering their need for a veteran defender.