Last place in the Eastern Conference, someone has to do it and in 2015 that team what the Chicago Fire. The Fire averaged less than one point per game in 2015 and that fact alone is frustrating enough. If you can’t even average one point per game, then you will be losing the majority of your games. If you look at any good team from the beginning of the season to the end, one thing is obvious, consistency. The Fire struggled mightily with this idea.
March sixth was the Fire’s season opener against the LA Galaxy and their last game was October 25th against the New York Red Bulls. Consistent teams might have nine or ten of the same players that are in the starting lineup all season, given the team stays healthy. With the Fire, they only had five players that were in the starting lineup both in the season opener and the last game of the season. For the Fire it wasn’t an injury filled season that they could put the blame on, it was the fact that you never knew what team was going to show up on the field.
The Fire had high hopes for Quincy Amarikwa going into the season, but that hope was shot down early. Amarikwa couldn’t get his form right with the Fire and was eventually traded to the San Jose Earthquakes. While we are talking about players that underperformed for the Fire, Shaun Maloney has to be in the conversation. Maloney finished the season with three goals and two assists. Very poor numbers from a player that the Fire were hoping would come from overseas and make a direct impact on the club. Maloney has since moved on from the club.
Closing the few late leads that the Fire was able to grab was a major struggle in 2015. It seemed like you have heard this story before from the Fire. They get an early lead in a game, score again and you think the game is over right? Well, not the case in many games for the Fire. They gave up many late leads and the inability to close games placed them in the bottom of the conference at the end of the season.
A bright spot in the Fire’s very disappointing season was David Accam. Accam managed to score ten goals and gave the Fire a burst of speed and energy up top. Looking ahead, the Fire will need to bring another option next to Accam to feed balls into the pacey striker’s feet. Doing most of the passing for the Fire was Harry Shipp. Shipp was able to get six assists this year. While this number isn’t what neither he nor the Fire were necessarily hoping for, it is a step in the right direction.
After a long and loss filled season, the Fire decided to part ways with Coach Frank Yallop. They are hoping that this offseason will be filled with changes that can get the team headed in the direction of becoming a playoff contender. They decided to bring in a new coach and that man is Veljko Paunovic. Paunovic previously coached the Serbian U-20 team that won the U-20 World Cup this summer.
Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez had this to say about hiring Paunovic, “In the face of stiff competition from other global soccer clubs, we are extremely fortunate to have secured our first choice, Veljko Paunovic, as our head coach”.
This quote should give hope to Fire fans. A change at the top of the team may give a boost to the team’s morale. It will be very interesting to see the style that Paunovic will bring to this team and how the players are able to adjust to it.