As the 2016 MLS season edges closer, we’ll be publishing each team’s MLS 2016 Season Preview. Today we take a look at what Chicago Fire will be looking to achieve this year…
Chicago Fire had a season to forget last time out, finishing bottom of the Eastern Conference and ending up the lowest ranked side in MLS. They lost the most games out of every MLS side and had the worst goal difference. Fire fans have no choice but to accept a second-straight season of misery, move on and hope for the best in the upcoming campaign, but as both conferences continue to attract top players from across the globe, this could be yet another season of difficulty. Veljko Paunovic has lost some notable players and has lost more than those who have come in so far. The Fire need to make some signings and fast if they are to have a squad capable of improving on last seasons dismal performance. Paunovic is under pressure to turn things around in his first full season and that pressure is only going to mount unless new signings are brought in.
Last season’s finish:
Eastern Conference – Position: 10th – P34 – W8 – D6 – L20Embed from Getty Images
What needs to change this year?
Chicago’s main aim needs to be to concede less goals, as they shipped 58 last term – one of three sides to do so – but they didn’t have the capabilities to score the goals to make up for it at the other end. They have to shore up their defence so that when they do score, the goals are actually counting for something. Winning just eight games out of 34 isn’t good enough and it is tough to see how they are going to improve on that record with just over two weeks to go until the new season kicks off. They scored more goals than six other MLS sides, so there are positives to build upon, and a good start to the campaign would really give the club a boost.
Key changes to squad:
Ins: Patrick McLain – Goalkeeper, Brandon Vincent – Defender, Jonathan Campbell – Defender, Michael Harrington – Defender, Joao Meira – Defender, Johan Kappelhof – Defender, Rodrigo Ramos – Defender, Drew Conner – Midfielder, Jack Harrison – Midfielder and Nick LaBrocca – Midfielder
Outs: Jon Busch – Goalkeeper, Alec Kana – Goalkeeper, Adailton – Defender, Jeff Larentowicz – Defender, Lovel Palmer – Defender, Daneil Cyrus – Defender, Ty Harden – Defender, Joevin Jones – Defender, Chris Ritter – Midfielder, Matt Watson – Midfielder, Patrick Nyarko – Midfielder, Jack Harrison – Midfielder, Harry Shipp – Midfielder and Jason Johnson – Forward
One to Watch:
Brandon Vincent – The young American left-back was drafted with the fourth overall pick of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft and will be expected to come straight in and deliver for Chicago. He made his USMNT debut against Canada at the start of February and big things are expected of the 21-year-old defender out of Stanford. Joevin Jones has moved on and that left-back spot now looks like Vincent’s to own.
Eastern Conference – 10th – It may make for bleak reading for Fire fans but with the current squad it is hard to see any improvement on last season’s performance. Chicago have lost far more players than they have signed and they could struggle from the outset. They lost seven of their last eight games of the 2015 campaign and things will be tough if they don’t get off to a good start. They do, however, have five home games in their first seven MLS fixtures and need to make the most of that.
What are you expecting from Chicago Fire in 2016?