SBI MLS Season Preview: Chicago Fire

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Photo by Tracy Allen/ISIphotos.com


By DAVID GUBALA

For the Chicago Fire, consistency is the magic word.

After having one of strongest season finishes in club history in 2011, the Chicago Fire have been keen on keeping the same core together heading into the 2012 season.

With leading scorer Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko returning to spearhead the attack, Orr Barouch signed after being on loan last season, rising goalkeeper Sean Johnson having the starting job to himself, second-year defender Jalil Anibaba set to build off his solid rookie campaign and a talented pool of midfielders to choose from, Fire coach Frank Klopas is optomistic about his flexibility as the club seeks a consistent showing after last year's uneven season. 

"We've been trying to create depth in every position within the team," Klopas said. "I think looking at it, we've been trying to bring at least two solid players in every position, and that's what has been our goal from the beginning."

Here is a closer look at the Fire ahead of the 2012 season:

CHICAGO FIRE 2012 MLS SEASON PREVIEW

2011 FINISH: 9-9-16, 43 points (sixth in Eastern Conference)

KEY ACQUISITIONS: M Rafael Robayo, F Federico Puppo, F Kheli Dube, D Austin Berry, GK Jay Nolly

KEY LOSSES: M Baggio Husidic, F Diego Chaves, D Yamith Cuesta, D Josip Mikulic, F Cristian Nazarit, F Gabriel Ferrari, GK Jon Conway

Despite the club's additions and depth chart, Fire fans wonder where captain Logan Pause will find himself amongst this congested midfield group. With names like Pavel Pardo, Sebastian Grazzini, Rafael Robayo, Daniel Paladini and Marco Pappa, it will be interesting as to how each player's role develops.

"I don't necessarily know if my role will change or not," said Pause, who put in time both centrally and on the right last season. "The reality of it is that we want to win, and the staff and the organization are going to put out the best possible roster we have to help that."

With the club's midfield depth being a strength, Klopas is prepared to trot out a 4-4-2 while not necessarily sticking to one midfield formula. 

"That’s our system of play that we’re going to use, whether we play diamond, or flat, we have a lot of different players that deal with different positions, so we should be good on that."

While the season nears, the Fire are not yet done crafting the roster. Still fighting for a place on the team are a number of MLS SuperDraftees. Hunter Jumper, Tony Walls and Lucky Mkosana still await their fate as First Kick approaches.

"All of the new guys bring different qualities," Pause said. "I think our staff have done a good job in scouting and bringing a young crop of players that can step in and help. The likes of Hunter [Jumper], Austin [Berry] and Tony Walls all add something different and it’s something this league needs."

Mkosana’s preseason has been a roller coaster ride. The Dartmouth student is switching off with his commitments with school and professional soccer. Klopas said that the club will be taking a closer look at him when hey return back to Toyota Park after competing in the Carolina Challenge Cup.

"It’s been difficult with Lucky because of the situation with his school," said Klopas. "He comes and goes, so we are going to have to bring him back to Chicago with us and have an opportunity with him, now that school is done, to take a look at him. He comes for four, five days and then he leaves so it’s been difficult for him."

Another trialist that Klopas revealed he is close to signing is goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi. The 23-year-old Italian keeper came up through the Inter Milan youth system and has made a few appearances in the Italian youth national team set-up. His impressive performance on Wednesday against the Columbus Crew seemingly was the decider for Klopas.

"I thought he had a good performance yesterday," Klopas said. "He’s a young goalkeeper, comes with a lot of experience and he’s a guy that we want to try and keep in our roster."

As for the club's back line, it could be getting a massive boost in quality after Klopas revealed he is interested in signing German national team centerback Arne Friedrich. Friedrich, currently out of contract, has played a big role for Germany in major competitions over the last few years and would make for a fine addition to the defense.

"That’s someone that we are looking into and we do have an interest in," Klopas said. "For right now, that’s all I can say, but we are going to be bringing in another central defender."

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17 Responses to SBI MLS Season Preview: Chicago Fire

  1. downintexas says:

    Ives are you going to set up MFLS again?? Hopefully you do. All ready have a team set up just need the SBI league to join

    David great article

  2. nam says:

    East is looking pretty weak again this year, I could see Chicago making some noise just on that fact alone.

  3. Polo says:

    Arne would be a great pickup, but I doubt we pull it off. Besides that, this season has last place written all over it. We’ve done NOTHING of note over the off-season, and have not beaten a single MLS squad during preseason.

  4. Felix says:

    As a Fire fan I t hink this team has a chance to do well especially in the weakened East the only that worries me is that I dont know if we have enough depth in the wings and what if Oduro comes back down to Earth.

  5. SeedorfGoalz says:

    The Fire still need a clinical finisher. They have had a ton of creation in pre-season out of the midfield, but still missing good opportunities. Defenses will more than likely focus on Oduro and play him more physically. Someone else needs to step up like Barouch.

  6. strider says:

    Well, we are all hoping the Fire can continue like they ended the season. We have picked up some good additions, but the scoring is still a question. IF Oduro can replicate last year that would be a big help, but it would be much better if there were a second option to occupy defenders so they couldn’t focus on him. I’m cautiously optimistic!

  7. Ryan says:

    I feel sorry for you if you think we will finish last. We nearly made the playoffs last year. We are returning Grazzini and Pardo. We could get Friedrich. We strengthened the midfield even more and added depth all over the pitch. If this isn’t progress to you what is?

    Top 3 finish for the Fire if we get consistent scoring.

  8. Ryan says:

    And we did beat an MLS squad the other day- the Crew. As well as Chivas USA. Do you look these things up before you post?

  9. Ives sold his soul to Rupert. says:

    Hey Polo,
    Who was coach at this time last year? Dey Los(t) (again) Cobos.

    Klopas has this team much better organized. Hopefully there will be less “exciting ties” and more wins.

  10. A-Lott says:

    We need a clinical finisher, someone to put away all those chances the midfield will create. Unfortunately, pure goal-scorers are hard to come by, especially in this league.

    Also, I’m still not sold on the right back spot. Gargan was serviceable there last year, but I’m not sure if he’s a first-elven player on a championship-caliber side.

  11. chuck says:

    What a ho hum off season its been this year. Not just for Chicago, but for the whole MLS. Not one exciting signing.

    Besides stars who really want to be in America (Becks, Henry), the MLS had been totally unable (unwilling) to attract start talent.

    Hey, clubs not in LA and NY – open the purse strings.

  12. DavidLetterman says:

    Parvel Pardo’s new nickname should be PP (pronounced pee pee). “Puppo to peepee to Pappa back to puppo”

  13. Charles says:

    Hmmm, I was just thinking just about every team got better in the offseason.

  14. Polo says:

    Top 3 finish?

    Are you out of your mind?

  15. Ryan says:

    The East is not as strong as the West. We finished the year 7-2-1. And we have gotten BETTER in the offseason. How are you thinking we will finish last? Good lord, do you really think we are worse than Toronto FC or the Revolution? Your logic is astounding.

  16. Ryan says:

    Agree on your point, the problem is many players say they will only play for NY or LA. Teams would have to grossly overpay to get them anywhere else, and that’s if they would even come to those teams. The salary cap is not high enough to take a Yankees approach and grossly outbid other teams.

    The best way to fix this is for teams not named NY or LA to win trophies. Then players would be more willing to go there to win.

    You are correct though, opening the purse strings will help make a team better.

  17. Martha c says:

    Yes we need a finisher I think depending on Oduro will lead to catastrophic results. He misses way too many chances and will never pass back to the trailing player. Barrouch is overated. If MLS gives points for hitting the crossbar then he will be effective.
    I think we are OK at the CB position. But instead of signing an injury prone has been we should see what it will take to pry Blackmouth from Rangers and DP him.