2013 Depth Chart: Chicago Fire
With less than a week left until opening day, MLSsoccer.com is halfway through previewing each of the 19 teams in Major League Soccer, beginning with the clubs that brought up the bottom of the table in 2012 and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. This is part one of two previewing Chicago's 2013 season. You can find Part 1 here.
2012 record: 17-11-6 (57 points); 46 GF / 41 GA (+5 GD)
Depth chart: 1. Sean Johnson, 2. Paolo Tornaghi, 3. Alec Kann
Strengths: Johnson has reason to be as confident as ever after being named the third goalkeeper in the United States' Hexagonal opener. Tornaghi showed he's a dependable goalkeeper when Johnson was away on Olympic duty last year.
Weaknesses: Johnson hasn't gotten off to great starts in his first two full seasons as the Fire's starting goalkeeper. The Fire hope that changes with an offseason of constant training as well as a confidence boost gained from his recent call-up.
Wild card: After a few relatively inconsistent years, can Johnson rise to his potential? He has Goalkeeper of the Year talent, and the Fire hope he can show it over a full season.
Depth chart: RB 1. Logan Pause, 2. Jalil Anibaba, 3. Steve Kinney; CB 1. Arne Friedrich, 2. Austin Berry, 3. Jalil Anibaba, 4. Steve Kinney; LB 1. Gonzalo Segares, 2. Hunter Jumper
Strengths: The center of defense will once again be solid this year, with German World Cup veteran Friedrich coming back for one last season and Austin Berry returning from his Rookie of the Year campaign. Pause and Segares give the Fire experience on the outside.
Weaknesses: Pause hasn't played right back consistently in several years, though he's filled in several times. Still, he doesn't have the pace of Anibaba or Gargan, whom the Fire cast off in the Re-Entry Draft.
Wild card: Pause has started at right back throughout the preseason, but there's a chance Anibaba regains his spot at some point.
Depth chart: LM 1. Dilly Duka, 2. Alex, 3. Yazid Atouba (unsigned) 4. Victor Pineda; CM 1. Joel Lindpere, Daniel Paladini; DM 1. Jeff Larentowicz, 2. Logan Pause, 3. Michael Videira; RM 1. Patrick Nyarko, 2. Wells Thompson 3. Corben Bone
Strengths: With Lindpere and Larentowicz in the fold, the Fire are much more mobile in central midfield. Look for the Fire to build their offense through the middle of the field on a more consistent basis. Nyarko led the team in assists during the past three seasons. If Fire forwards can convert more of the chances he creates, look for the Ghanaian to be among the league leaders.
Weaknesses: With three of the four Fire starters new to the team, continuity may be an issue. Duka and Nyarko both had late starts to the preseason, so fitness will be a question early on.
Wild card: Pineda and Atouba are talented youth internationals with loads of potential, but it's unclear if either will see the field. Pineda is recovering from a torn meniscus that kept him out of U-20 World Cup qualifying, and Atouba is blocked by Alex and Dilly Duka for minutes at left midfield.
Depth chart: Center forward 1. Sherjill MacDonald, 2. Maicon Santos; Second striker 1. Chris Rolfe 2. Alex
Strengths: In flashes last year, MacDonald showed why the Fire made him a Designated Player, showcasing his speed and strength. Rolfe returned midway through last season and didn't miss a beat, scoring eight goals in 22 games.
Weaknesses: While MacDonald's raw talent was apparent last season and he combined well with Rolfe, the Dutchman didn't show a polished finishing touch. After the Fire sent Dominic Oduro to the Crew, moving the team's last double-digit goalscorer to a conference rival, MacDonald will have to show he can put the ball in the back of the net.
Wild card: MacDonald and Klopas stated several times throughout the latter part of 2013 that the Dutch striker will be a different player with a full preseason under his belt. Klopas has also spoken about possibly bringing in a new striker during the summer transfer window, so MacDonald must prove himself early in the season.