Since making the Eastern Conference Final in 2009, the Chicago Fire have made the MLS Cup Playoffs only one time. Last summer, once it was apparant that the Fire would miss out on the playoffs again, fans organized a protest calling for Andrew Hauptman to sell the team.
The Fire have undergone a complete overhaul this summer as a result, with new general manager Nelson Rodriguez and head coach Veljko Paunovic coming in. They've ditched well-known veterans and made the unpopular decision to trade homegrown star Harry Shipp. Paunovic is asking fans to be patient with him and Rodriguez, but that's not likely unless a lot of young talent sees the pitch in 2016.
2015 Record 8-6-20, 10th place in Eastern Conference
2015 Playoffs Did not qualify
Key additions Head coach Veljko Paunovic, John Goossens, Brandon Vincent, Arturo Alvarez, Johan Kappelhof, Joao Meira, Michael Harrington, Rodrigo Ramos
Key losses Mike Magee, Jeff Larentowicz, Harry Shipp, Joevin Jones, Lovel Palmer
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1) Sean Johnson; Rodrigo Ramos, Johan Kappelhof, Joao Meira, Brandon Vincent; Matt Polster, Razvan Cocis; Arturo Alvarez, John Goossens, David Accam; Gilberto
America loves an underdog story and it doesn't get anymore underdog than a last place team looking to chase glory. The Fire made enough offseason moves -- including front office and coaching changes -- to provide the optimism a new start brings.
Because the team and coach are wildly different. Gone are veteran leaders such as Jeff Larentowicz and Mike Magee along with homegrown standout Harry Shipp. The new regime, including new general manager Nelson Rodriguez, went for a complete makeover and the likes of Dutch midfielder John Goossens, Stanford defender Brandon Vincent and Dutch center back Johan Kappelhof will have a lot to say for the team's overall success.
New coach Veljko Paunovic. The expectations are still low coming off a last-place finish so all fans need to see is improvement and hope for the future. As long as Paunovic can keep the club positive and improving all season, even if results aren't always there, there will be hope for success.
As of a week before the season, only 22 players were signed to the senior roster. Of those, nine have one or fewer years of professional experience. A lack of depth is potentially a very serious issue. Even if the team signs some more veterans, cohesion will still be a concern. We're being asked to have faith in the rebuilding process, and that's about all we can have at this point.