Countdown to First Kick: 24 Fire hottest in month of March

As First Kick, presented by Dick's Sporting Goods approaches, MLSsoccer.com is marking each passing day with a different statistic, observation or talking point, setting the stage for the beginning of the 2012 MLS campaign.

24 – goals scored by the Chicago Fire in the month of March

They start hot. Get it?

OK, bad puns aside, the start of the season belongs to the Chicago Fire. They may have struggled in 2011, but in most previous MLS seasons they’ve been the offensive trend-setters, netting a league-record 24 goals in the month of March.

And the hope in the Fire camp is that 2012 can be a return to form on that front. Frank Klopas & Co. made a concerted effort to keep the side together after they charged up the table in late summer, falling just short of the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Dominic Oduro is back and looking to build upon his career-high dozen goals. Pável Pardo is running the midfield from his pivot role. Sebastián Grazzini is a dark-horse MVP candidate, capable of pulling off a moment of magic almost anywhere on the attacking half of the pitch. Marco Pappa is one of the more spectacular goalscorers in the league, and Patrick Nyarko is the unsung hero who actually led MLS in chances created from the run of play.

There’s no “getting to know you” period this time around, which means the Fire should be able to combine, create and finish those chances that were so hard to come by at the start of last season. And with their eyes on winning the Eastern Conference – some Chicago players are even talking seriously of a Supporters’ Shield run – they can’t afford to drop the points they gave away so freely in 2011.

Chicago are one of three teams, including Seattle and Toronto, that will not play on opening weekend. They'll travel to Montreal for the first-ever home game for the Impact on March 17, then return to Chicago for their own home opener on March 24 against Philadelphia. GET TICKETS!

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