2017 MLS SEASON PREVIEW
The Chicago Fire were the worst team in MLS last year, and while they worked to change that, it wasn't a wholesale overhaul.
Instead, the Fire used the offseason to fill in spots where the club felt it needed improvement while taking care not to throw out the core of a team that developed during a difficult 2016 but ultimately finished with just 31 points.
Now, with a combination of offseason additions with MLS experience, like midfielders Dax McCarty and Juninho, those coming from outside the league, like forward Nemanja Nikolic, and the players who got experience from last year's tough campaign, the Fire hope this season will result in plenty more points and give supporters a little more to cheer about.
How did the Chicago Fire perform in 2016?
2016 finish: Finished 10th in Eastern Conference (7-17-10), missed the playoffs
The Fire struggled to get any positive momentum in Veljko Paunovic's first season, ending the year with the league's lowest point total.
The Chicago Fire's key offseason losses
The Fire moved goalkeeper Sean Johnson to Atlanta United for allocation money (the expansion team later flipped Johnson to New York City FC). Patrick McLain did not get a new deal and was selected by Orlando City in the re-entry draft.
Rodrigo Ramos and Khaly Thiam also left the Fire once their loans expired.
The Chicago Fire's key offseason additions
The middle of the field will definitely improve for the Fire, with Dax McCarty arriving from the New York Red Bulls and Juninho joining from Club Tijuana on loan.
The Fire also signed two other likely starters: a new goalkeeper to replace Johnson in veteran Uruguayan Jorge Bava and former Legia Warsaw forward Nemanja Nikolic.
Louisville midfielder Daniel Johnson was the team's highest pick in the draft after Chicago traded out of the No. 3 spot for allocation money.
How will the Chicago Fire's starting lineup look in 2017?
The Fire likely will line up in this 4-2-3-1 full of their new additions, though a 4-4-2 also is a possibility. Michael de Leeuw could scoot up top and play next to Nikolic, and Luis Solignac also is an option to start at forward.
There is a position battle at left center back with Joao Meira and Jonathan Campbell both potential starters, though Johan Kappelhof could return to right back to make room for both of them.
Full Chicago Fire roster entering 2017 season
Goalkeepers: Jorge Brava, Stefan Cleveland, Matt Lampson
Defenders: Jonathan Campbell, Patrick Doody, Michael Harrington, Johan Kappelhof, Joao Meira, Brandon Vincent
Midfielders: Arturo Alvarez, Joey Calistri, Drew Conner, Collin Fernandez, John Goossens, Daniel Johnson, Juninho, Dax McCarty, Djordje Mihailovic, Matt Polster
Forwards: David Accam, David Arshakyan, Michael de Leeuw, Nemanja Nikolic, Luis Solignac
The Chicago Fire's national TV coverage schedule
Atlanta United vs. Chicago Fire - Saturday, March 18, at 4 p.m. ET on Unimas
Toronto FC vs. Chicago Fire - Friday, April 21, at 7:30 p.m. ET on TSN
D.C. United vs. Chicago Fire - Saturday, May 20, at 4 p.m. ET on Unimas
Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire - Sunday, June 4, at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1
Chicago Fire vs. Atlanta United - Saturday, June 10, at 4 p.m. ET on Unimas
Chicago Fire vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - Saturday, July 1, at 7 p.m. ET on TSN
Montreal Impact vs. Chicago Fire - Wednesday, Aug. 16, at 7:30 p.m. ET on TSN
Chicago Fire vs. Toronto FC - Saturday, Aug. 19, at 8 p.m. ET on TSN
Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls - Saturday, Sept. 9, at 4 p.m. ET on Unimas