The plan for the Chicago Fire in 2018 was to build a team around the playmaking ability and leadership of Basitan Schweinsteiger to take advantage the playmaking ability of Djordje Mihailovic, Aleksandar Katai, and Nemaja Nikolic. That was the plan, but the reality was a season plagues by injuries, Schweinsteiger being forced to play as a center back, and several other players not living up to the expectation set in 2017.
2018 was a failure, but all is not lost for 2019. As long as the defense can be shored up, and the health of the key players ensured, the Fire should be able to start moving in the fight direction on the table.
Chicago’s biggest problem last year was defense and their attempts to address this deficiency have been mixed in the offseason. They added Brazil international Marcelo from Sporting CP to help shore up their center backs but lost both veteran fullbacks Matt Polster and Brandon Vincent.
The Fire have also brought in David Ousted to be their starting keeper. Ousted’s last two seasons have been mediocre so this may be faith in a bounce back of an attempt to get the most out of him with competition from Sanchez. The final late breaking surprise addition to CJ. Sapong from Philadelphia. It’s a strange pickup as offense seemed to be in better shape but a Nikolic/Sapong pairing would definitely be interesting to see.
Tactics & Key Players
Based on the available players, it’s likely that Chicago continues to lineup in the 4-2-3-1 formation. This was preferred in 2018 and has been deployed during preseason. It may look to shift into a 3-2-4-1 at times, but that will depend on how far up the fullbacks push.
Goalkeeper: It’s David Ousted for the start of the season, but I can’t say that will be true all year. Ousted lost the job in Vancouver and DC before moving to Chicago so Richard Sanchez will be waiting in the wings.
Defenders: Marcelo and Johan Kappelhof should be a lock for the center back pairing and are also Chicago’s most expensive fantasy defenders. Grant Lillard should be the first backup and saves a lot of cash at just $5.0.
As for the wings, there could be rotations as Jorge Corrales, Raheem Edwards, Diego Campos, and Nicolas Hasler have all seen time in preseason. All will be needed to help the attack, but have shown varying ability to succeed at that task. The bigger problem is that both Edwards and Halser are both listed as midfielders and that means they will not get the full clean sheet bonus.
Midfielders: Dax McCarty and Bastian Schweinsteiger will start at the deep and defensive positions but will likely not produce as many points in these positions outside of double game weeks. Przemyslaw Frankowski, the now healthy Djordje Mihailovic, and Aleksandar Katai will be charged with creating the offensive chances. Most of the creativity will likely flow through Mihailovic and he’s very reasonable priced at $8.0m.
Forwards: Nemanja Nikolic end of story…. What wait! A new face has come out and is making his was to the ring. Is that… Yes I think it is! CJ Sapong from Philadelphia is here. This throws a wrench into a lot of my preseason speculations. Will this shift the formation to two at the top? Will Sapong lineup on a wing in the midfield? Do they actually think he’ll be happy as s late game sup? We’ll all just have to watch to see how this pans out.
I’m not confident in Chicago’s defense and the age on Dax and Schweinsteiger will have an impact on how much of the field they can cover. With hope, things will solidify as the season goes on, but Chicago is not a team I’m targeting early for clean sheets. Now their offense does interest me. Even in the slump, Nikolic till bagged 15 goals and the recovery of Mihailovic and introduction of Sapong could make them a dangerous team vs a weaker opponent.
Potential Starting XI
I have both sets of wingers listed in this lineup not to show subs, but the other players in the picture. IT will be best to wait until closer to the start of a game if you want to consider a Chicago winger.