SBI MLS Team Previews: Chicago Fire

CFire
By TRAVIS CLARK

Only the penalty-saving heroics of RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando came between Chicago and a coveted spot in last year's MLS Cup final.

In spite of the success, the Fire underwent a host of changes. Denis Hamlett was let go, Chris Rolfe and Gonzalo Segares took off for Europe, and Cuauhtemoc Blanco headed home to Mexico. Jon Busch was cut loose this week, with the club tapping second-year goalie Andrew Dykstra as starter.

To say these were bold moves is an understatement, but Chicago still retains a solid core of MLS veterans, and new coach Carlos de los Cobos has added a few pieces of his own since taking over. Chicago should find themselves in the mix of things in the Eastern Conference in 2010.

Here's a look at the 2010 Chicago Fire:

2010 CHICAGO FIRE

Players to Watch – Collins John, Brian McBride, Andrew Dykstra, Baggio Husidic

Key Arrivals - Collins John, Julio Martinez, Krzysztof Krol, Corben Bone, Sean Johnson, Kwame Watson-Siriboe

Key Departures – Jon Busch, Chris Rolfe, Gonzalo Segares, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Brandon Prideaux

Projected Lineup (New starters in bold)

—————Collins John———Brian McBride—————

Marco Pappa———-John Thorrington———Julio Martinez

—————————-Logan Pause—————————-

Krzysztof Krol—-C.J. Brown–Wilman Conde—–Tim Ward

————————-Andrew Dykstra————————–

Big Question - Can Andrew Dykstra fill Busch's shoes? It seems a bit odd for Chicago to jettison former goalkeeper of the year Jon Busch this close to the start of 2010, but Frank Klopas and Carlos de los Cobos are confident Dykstra will be up to the challenge as a number one goalkeeper in MLS. The risk factor is immense, particular for a team that could be in contention for the MLS Cup.

X-Factor – Aside from Dykstra, the Fire took another risk on former Fulham man Collins John. At just 24 years old John performed well in a pre-season trial after his European career went off the rails. John has his chance to prove himself once more, and it would be a huge benefit to the Fire attack if he can.

A former teammate of McBride's at Fulham, if the two have the potential to form a lethal strike partnership. If John isn't up to snuff, Chicago does have Patrick Nyarko to turn to.

The search to replace Segares is also continuing. De los Cobos thinks new signing Krzysztof Krol, brought in on loan, doesn't have the pace to handle the left back spot. The club had Deris Umanzor on trial and are reportedly trying to bring him in from C.D. Aguila in El Salvador.

Outlook – For a team that came within penalty kicks of an MLS Cup Final, Chicago underwent a drastic makeover. Whether that results in mproved results remains to be seen, but the Fire still boasts nucleus of established MLS talent that will help Chicago reach the playoffs.

Whether the Fire does anything in the post-season will depend heavily on what new faces such as John, Dystra and Martinez are able to do. If they all perform well, Chicago could once again challenge Columbus for the Eastern Conference title.

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47 Responses to SBI MLS Team Previews: Chicago Fire

  1. werner says:

    How is marco pappa not a player to watch???? He scored plenty of goals in the pre-season and had a fairly good season last year!

  2. A deep bench, good coach, fun style of soccer and nobody going to the World Cup. I think we have a shot.

  3. This Guy says:

    Switch Conde and CJ and you have the lineup spot on if we don’t go with a 3-5-2.

    Side note KC Wizards just signed an Indian prospect that looks identical to Fredy Montero. Ha.
    link to beta.thehindu.com

  4. Adrian says:

    Do not bring in all of your own players De Los Cobos.

    I see that being a future trend, and it disgusts me.

  5. dbag says:

    Brian Mcbride WC 2010 roster ahead of casey

  6. sread says:

    You know, you’re actually right…it’s almost ridiculous.

  7. sread says:

    He’ll be kicking back with Juan Carlos Osorio pretty soon. lol

  8. Danelle De Rossi says:

    Who?

  9. Jon from Chicago says:

    This whole Busch thing still has me sour about our club. Plus Carlos seems to be turning our team into a El Salvador national team.

    Needless to say, you can’t say that we aren’t one of the favorites. We’re sure to at least start the season off with a win. Sorry Ives ;)

  10. Adrian says:

    That’s not funny. lol

  11. scott47a says:

    Outsider’s take:

    I think I like this team better than the Chicago guys posting on here. What’s not to like?

    It looks to me like the Fire have the MLS’ best strike force. Pappa and Thorrington are proven quality. Martinez should be.

    And Conde is rock solid as leader of the back line.

    It will be interesting to see the difference the new coach brings. From my perspective the Fire are the team to beat in the East.

  12. First time Season Ticket Holder, and can’t be more exicted for this version of the Fire. Blanco’s vision and passing were a thing of beauty, but I think the entire team’s style of soccer this year will entice me much greater than our old #10’s magic.

    I hope we don’t switch to a 3-5-2. Section 8 will be rocking when Collins John and McBride both score in the home opener against San Jose!

  13. Check to see if your elbow remembers! (forza roma)

  14. JW says:

    i agree werner….I was looking for a fairly inexpensive midfielder for my MFLS fantasy team and i went ahead with Pappa because i thought he did pretty good last year. Looked dangerous at times and I am hoping he scores some goals or gets some assists.

  15. Second City says:

    If Krol doesn’t have the pace to play Leftback, I wouldn’t mind seeing Mike Banner fill in there as he did last year for an injured Segares. He’s got bags of pace and good on the ball. Admittedly he could use more defensive polishing.

    On a related note: I’d be open to seeing Krol at left Center back next to Conde, if pace is his issue, surely he has more pace than CJ Brown. Brown has two left feet and boots the ball forward blindly too often while he replaced Soumare.

    I believe the new Gaffer favors possession. Here’s hoping he does at least.

  16. Jon from Chicago says:

    We like our chances from what I gather from the lot. Its just theres just a bit of a dark cloud with the firing of a fan favorite right before the season…

  17. strider says:

    I have to admit I am still a bit surprised about Busch, even though I have always wondered about his character. He’s always seemed a bit whiney to me. He didn’t do such a great job last year and I’m hoping Dykstra can improve on that. Meanwhile, the rest of the team has some pretty good potential. GO FIRE!!

  18. otergod says:

    rumors will be rumors. At the moment, there is only 1 ES player on the team. Hardly the El Salvador national team :-/

  19. Jon from Chicago says:

    No I agree. I hear ya on the rumors. I just don’t like how hes cleaning house on a team that could have been and should have been in the cup last year. Doesn’t make much sense to me.

    I still like our chances though…

  20. Josh D says:

    Played against Dykstra in college – he’ll be giving it his all day in and out. I wouldn’t worry too much once he gets settled!

  21. RLW2020 says:

    ya so does Busch enter the reentry drafts now..? or is he leaving the league..?

    Chicago looks pretty good. look forward to seeing them opening day in Colorado!

  22. Steve the Arsonist says:

    Once again, if not more than last year, this squad is at least as deep as any in the league. With a 24 player limit and the cap in, place you’d have a tough time finding as much collective talent across a roaster.

    (And not one mentioned of Mapp. And for good reason. Possible sleeper of the year: attack minded, “creative football” coach and teammates jumpstart Mapp into the player he’s always supposed to be.

    Hey, a guy can dream can’t he?)

  23. martha says:

    By all indications he was a great character guy a &locker room guy.

    The fact he was too make $150,000 and is an aging oompa loompa didnt help when there was a 6’4 24 yr old making $100000 less did him.

    dont know why some Fire fans think the sky is falling cause of this.

    Servicible Fan favorite he was, Friedel circa 2002 he is not.

  24. werner says:

    thanks JW… i think he will score a good handful of goals and assists! I think with blanco out, they want to see more out of him. I wouldn’t be surprised if they took him into a more attacking central mid like blanco

  25. martha says:

    Coulda and Shoulda won the last two season IS exactly why you clean house.

    If we make it to the Conference title again we would lose again with Busch with everyone shooting high on pks.

    Someone says its is impossible to do that, but hey these are pros and i cant speak for anyone elses lack of skils but i can hit it in high consistently from the penalty spot.

  26. otergod says:

    oddly enough he isnt really cleaning house neither.

    waived Washington and Woolard, now busch. Am i missing anyone?? Busch seems to be the only big loss. Though i will say i did like Woolard and am upset to see him gone

    i agree in the long run that i dont like the concept of bringing scores of players from your past team. Fortunately (for now) he’s only signed 1 player. Though the rumor of him not approving of Krol’s speed is disheartening… will anyone from poland EVER come to chicago if he doesnt play??

  27. otergod says:

    the Re-Entry Draft does NOT take place until next off season. So anyone who was released or waived this season is not part of it.

    Whether the team still own their rights is another point all together. Since there is not re-entry draft this season, will these players be free to venture to a new MLS team like Hartman?? did KC get anything in return??

  28. otergod says:

    everyone around the team and in the media have been rather high on Mapp this preseason. Apparently he’s kicked his butt into gear and is working harder then before. With Mapp’s skills and given he actually tries, i wouldnt be shocked if he takes control of the CM over Thor and leaves Pause as a true DMid

  29. Mark S says:

    Just had lunch with one of the Fire playes and he poo poos the notion that Krol doesn’t have the wheels to play left back. He also said he’s very technical.

    The team will play the ball out of the back with a lot of emphasis on passing. They won’t play the same formation each game, but will adjust (in-game, as well) to the opponent.

    The player we had lunch with predicted John will score 15 goals this season.

  30. This Guy says:

    Why do I have runaway words?

  31. tal says:

    Papa isn’t a guy to watch and Husidic is. Makes you wonder just how much research goes into these write-ups….

  32. Second City says:

    Pretty sure that doesn’t kick in until next off season.

  33. einar says:

    dont forget guys that soumare segares and rolfe all left before carlos became coach. and it was time for prideaux to retire. I am still puzzled about what happened to Busch. so this is not all de los cobos. look at the front office. and if the club is below par than blame de los cobos

  34. fenel says:

    Hey what about Mapp? Tougher competition might push him to play better and might a break out season.

  35. Second City says:

    Blanco doesn’t eat lunch, FYI. So, I regretfully don’t validate this claim.

  36. Second City says:

    We can hope but I’ll refrain from holding my breath.

    The talent is there but is the will?

  37. Hunter says:

    Yeah they have ignored Justin altogether it seems. He and Pappa will be patrolling the wings this season. He is finally back healthy and I’m sure De los Cobos will have him match fit. Justin Mapp has as much natural ability as any winger in the league, yet his seemingly apathetic nature appears to get the better of him. I have high hopes for this team.

  38. Cindy says:

    big up to Indians getting some love in this league! i hope he does well!

  39. Joe says:

    Osorio did bring us Conde…

    (SBI-And he also helped you keep Thorrington, who would not have been protected in the expansion draft if it were up to some other people.)

  40. Joe says:

    Woolard was a good role player and I am also sad to see him go. That being sad, if the players being brought in are better than the ones leaving then how could it be a bad thing.

  41. Joe says:

    We just have high standards and expect too much out of our squad. We are the team to be in MLS. We always are but never seem to put it together on the field.

  42. Jeffrey Kean says:

    the technical explanation is that there are no line breaks in the posted link and the entire comment width is expanded to the maximum line length (in this case, the link). if it mattered you could use a bit.ly type link shortener to prevent this.

  43. Yes they can.

    Even under the existing CBA, The Fire can not hold his rights forever. There is a point where the clock ticks and they have 48 hours to decide to keep him.

  44. My only criticism about your review is that I don’t think we quite know who the starting lineup may be. I don’t see CJ Brown as a starter.

    I think the forward line is the correct line, but the rest of them may be questionable. The news out of the team is the deep bench will need to compete day in and day out for their place on the field.

    The new Fire are not your suburban soccer team culture. De Los Cobos is bringing in an International mentality into the club regarding competition for spots.

    Which is good for the team, as players will need to bring out that little extra in themselves to find time on the field.

  45. Second City says:

    Related topic: Any other SBI’ers in the Chicago area heading down to * SmallBar * off Fullerton to watch the game Saturday evening?

    Apparently Section 8 is heading down there, according to the Fire’s website.

  46. Chris in Belfast says:

    He was starting to combine really well with Rolfe at the end of last season. With Rolfe gone I’m not sure there’s anyone on Chicago who can move around as well with Pappa. Maybe Dimitrov, Lowry, and Hussidic can step up, though.

  47. John Sweeny says:

    Why don’t you ask Cobos if Krol really doesn’t have the pace for leftback? He clearly has the pace and speed, misquotes aside. Everyone I have talked to on the team, including Cobos, says the guy is one of the faster players they have so lets stop smearing the guy with a “fact” that is not a fact. That said Umanzor might be even faster then Krol and might a better fit for a 3-5-2/5-3-2 formation where the mid plays a dual mid/LB roll as the formation switches on the fly. I think it is a no brainer that Krol starts in a 4 in the back formation.