At one time in the Chicago Fire’s 17-year history, the club were one of Major League Soccer’s most consistent teams.
In 11 of the Fire’s first 12 seasons, the club qualified for the MLS postseason. On top of a fantastic playoff record, the Fire appeared in three MLS Cup finals during that time, winning the 1998 instalment.
The club also created a dynasty on the domestic cup front by winning four US Open Cups in nine seasons and became Chicago’s winningest team during that 12 season run.
Outside of DC United and the Los Angeles Galaxy, a case can be made that Chicago have the third most prestigious MLS club in terms of historical significance. But don’t tell Kansas City or Houston that.
Since 2010, however, the Fire have been extinguished. In that time, the club have made the playoffs once – 2012 – were they were beaten in the knockout round by Houston. In addition, the club have finished no higher than sixth overall in MLS during that same time span.
Three coaches have manned the team’s bench in the last five plus seasons. Mexican Carlos de los Cobos began the 2010 season, but after the club won a mere ten games under his stewardship, the team fired the coach in the spring of 2011.
Frank Kloppas took charge of the Fire thereafter, and despite improving things in 2012 and 2013, the team began to slump again. Kloppas was removed in 2013 and Frank Yallop was installed to remedy the problems.
Yet in Yallop’s one full season with the Fire, the Canadian coach secured a franchise record-low six league wins. Of course, Yallop has had success as a MLS coach. However, other than the 2012 season with San Jose Earthquakes, much of his success came during the early 2000s.
All is not lost for the Fire yet this season as the club sit sixth in the Eastern Conference with eight points from nine games. Yallop must be thankful for the two expansion teams (Orlando City and New York City) in the conference this season, along with a dreadful Montreal and Philadelphia.
This past weekend, the club slumped to a home loss to Real Salt Lake. Once again the club were victims to poor finishing as the club could only score once from 14 shots. Jeff Larentowicz, who played at center-back against RSL, scored that lone goal as he became the club’s leading scorer with two goals in 2015.
The Fire’s scoring touch has been bad – the team have scored a pitiful one goal away from Toyota Park. Of the six players to score this term for the Fire, only David Accam is a recognized striker.
Yes, American Harrison Shipp has been impressive, but the club need more than the American’s one goal and three assists to be a real MLS Cup contender.
While Shipp has been good, Accam has been less so. The Ghanaian signed with Chicago as a Designated Player last December from Helsingborgs IF for a reported £1.76 million ($2.7m). Accam sat out the Fire’s loss to RSL thanks to a straight red card he received the week previously against Sporting KC.
Chicago are influx and the club are well away from the opening of the summer transfer window on July 8th. But some of the team’s problems could be remedied by a few trades. Although not many teams will be ready to wheel and deal with Chicago now, unless the Fire are ready to move one of their more promising players – Shipp, Larentowicz.
If the Fire’s star Designated Players Accam and Kennedy Igboananike can find a scoring touch, then the Fire could be hard to beat. Yet thus far, that touch has been hard to locate.
Follow Drew Farmer on Twitter @Calciofarmer. Drew Farmer is a Manchester, England-based journalist/blogger that has written for Forza Italian Football and World Soccer Talk. Originally from southwest Missouri, Drew covers Italy’s Serie A, the English football and the USA’s Major League Soccer.
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