Chicago Fire 2016 Review
Just like Count Duckula, it could be said that the latest reincarnation of the Chicago Fire did not go according to plan. After loosing a few key players in the 2015 off season and suffering some key injuries, the 2016 season saw the Fire continue to struggle with both goal scoring and defense. The result, a second straight year finishing at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Yet the Fire’s ownership remained optimistic or as General Manager Nelson Rodríguez put it, “we learned how to compete…what we didn’t learn was how to win.”
Chicago was busy during the offseason and has made some of the most exciting changes before the 2016 season starts. They pruned their roster down to a group of players who are just entering their prime including: Jonathan Campbell, Matt Polster, and David Accam. The Fire also made three big signings: The prolific goal scorer Nemanja Nikolic from Legia Warsaw, MLS Cup veteran Juninho on loan from Club Tijuana, and defensive midfield expert Dax McCarty from New York Red Bulls.
It’s hard to review Chicago’d 2016 tactics because they struggles all year to find themselves. At times they were defensive and tried to play for the counterattack. At others, they tried to push for goals, but lacked a central midfield that could provide extra protection. Based on the transfers that have been made, it looks like the Fire is opting for the more aggressive style.
The addition of McCarty and Juninho provide more than a much needed midfield safety net, but a method of distribution as the fire still lack a true number 10. The experience these two players bring will also allow Accam and Arturo Alvarez to focus on stretching the field to free up space in the middle for Nikolic.
Chicago expected line-up at time of writing
The trades Chicago has made in the offseason have improved their depth and that could lead to potential rotations at some positions. Specifically at forward. Michael De Leeuw and Luis Solignac played well together last season, but will likely fight for the second spot with Nikolic.
Expectations for 2017
After struggling for two seasons, Chicago is finally in a position to contend for a playoff spot. They have retained a core group of young talented players and made strategic trades to address their offensive and defensive weaknesses. But two big questions remain: 1) Who will step up to become the playmaker that Chicago desperately needs? and 2) How long will this group of players need to play together before they learn what it takes to win. If answers are found to these questions early, the Chicago Fire have a good shot at earning a playoff spot in 2017.
Final Fantasy thoughts
When crafting your fantasy team, managers should not overlook Chicago because they have several players with high potential ceilings. Campbell and Joao Meira proved their worth in 2016 and are very reasonably priced. McCarty and Juninho could both be key playmakers and that will result in points. Finally, keep an eye on Nikolic as he should be the Fire’s main goal threat. If he can combine well with fellow forward Accam, points could quickly add up.