2020 Season Preview: Chicago Fire FC

It's a fresh start for new-look Chicago Fire FC in 2020... as the club returns to downtown's Soldier Field under new owner Joe Mansueto, who has promised to transform the club into a league power. 

Patience will be needed as the recently hired trio of manager Raphael Wicky, sporting director George Heitz and technical director Sebastian Pelzer begin their work assembling a squad that matches the organization's vision and newfound ambitions. Expect the signing spree to continue well into the summer.

2019 Finish

  • MLS Reg. Season: 42 points (10W-12L-12D), 8th in East / 17th overall
  • MLS Cup Playoffs: Did not qualify
  • U.S. Open Cup: Eliminated in 4th Round (vs. Saint Louis FC)
  • Leagues Cup: Eliminated in QFs (vs. Cruz Azul)

Star players

  • Przemyslaw Frankowski — The Polish international's first season in the Windy City (5 goals, 9 assists) served to show just how few defenders can stay with the speedy winger. His service from the right side will be key to the Fire's 2020 goal production.
  • Alvaro Medran — An in-his-prime product of the Real Madrid academy with extensive La Liga experience will get to wear the No. 10 jersey in 2020. He'll be expected to take over from Nico Gaitan as the club's attacking catalyst.
  • C.J. Sapong — The 31-year-old forward was the most consistent performer during a difficult 2019 season, returning to double-digit scoring form. As the team welcomes in new starters, expect Sapong to continue to be that steady producer in 2020 whether he's lining up centrally or out on the wing.

Extratime Analysis: Chicago Fire FC

Key acquisitions and departures

  • IN: Ignacio Aliseda — The 19-year-old winger would be expected to slot in on the opposite side of Frankowski. He comes in with high expectations and as a young Designated Player, he'll be expected to be a key contributor.
  • IN: Robert Beric — The Slovenian target man with the soft feet was the first major signing by the new regime in Chicago. He's a seasoned European veteran who's expected to lead the front line and produce goals on par with his Designated Player contract.
  • IN: Luka Stojanovic — An attacking midfielder with plenty of European experience and the ability to create and score. Fire Homegrown player Djordje Mihailovic will need to step up his game because Stojanovic is coming for his spot.  
  • OUT: Bastian Schweinsteiger — The unquestioned leader of the Fire in recent seasons leaves a huge hole to be filled on the field and in the locker room.
  • OUT: Dax McCarty — Always an influential presence in the middle of the field, McCarty's move to Nashville likely opens up the door for all-terrain holding midfielder Michael Azira or the promising Brandt Bronico.
  • OUT: Nicolas Gaitan — The Argentine's creativity and vision proved to be one of the highlights of the 2019 season. It remains to be seen if Medran, Djordje Mihailovic and Frankowski can combine to replace Gaitan's attacking flair.

Projected Starting XI

2020 Roster

  • Goalkeepers (4): Kenneth Kronholm, Bobby Shuttleworth, Gabriel Slonina, Connor Sparrow
  • Defenders (9): Jonathan Bornstein, Francisco Calvo, Johan Kappelhof, Miguel Angel Navarro, Wyatt Omsberg, Mauricio Pineda, Andre Reynolds II, Boris Sekulic, Nicholas Slonina
  • Midfielders (10): Ignacio Aliseda, Michael Azira, Brandt Bronico, Przemyslaw Frankowski, Gaston Gimenez, Jeremiah Gutjahr, Fabian Herbers, Alvaro Medran, Djordje Mihailovic, Luka Stojanovic
  • Forwards (4): Ignacio Aliseda, Robert Beric, Eliot Collier, CJ Sapong

Armchair Analyst: Strengths and weaknesses

  • Strength: It seems like central midfield should be a strength with newcomer Alvaro Medran, playmaker Luka Stojanovic and Designated Player d-mid Gaston Gimenez, alongside Homegrown d-mid Mauricio Pineda and a number of useful veterans. That engine room and their DP center forward is the foundation.
  • Weakness: They’re a new team in so many ways, and there’s no guarantee their strength will even be a strength. There are major question marks at center back and goalkeeper, and they are very, very thin on the wings. Plus a new coach and new front office staff… in a lot of ways the Fire feel more like an expansion team than the expansion teams do.

Predictions

  • Ben Baer: 13th in East
  • Marcelo Balboa (Univision): 12th in East
  • Calen Carr: 11th in East
  • Charlie Davies: 13th in East
  • Matt Doyle: 12th in East
  • Kristian Jack (TSN): 13th in East
  • Frederic Lord (TVA Sports): 11th in East
Series: