2020 Chicago Fire FC Season Preview, Key Home Games

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So what’s new for the Chicago Fire FC in 2020? It’s probably shorter to just list out what ISN’T new for #cf97 this upcoming season, as you can literally start counting down the hours now until the new Major League Soccer season begins. Yes, there is snow and ice on the ground, with single digit wind chills expected tonight, but the Fire begin the regular season, at the Seattle Sounders on Sunday (kickoff is 2 pm local).

With a new: logo, color scheme, team name (sort of),owner, home stadium, manager, football director, broadcast partners (not to mention a totally revamped roster), a different era is underway to say the least, so let’s just dive right in and vivisect it all.  The club revealed their second kit, which it white today:

 

Major Departures

Bastian Schweinsteiger

Most acclaimed and accomplished player in club history

Dax McCarty

One of the best soundbites and greatest leaders in the locker room in team history

Nemanja Nikolic

Among the greatest scorers in club history

Of the four Chicago Fire FC players who made the 2017 All-Star Game here, only Johan Kappelhoff still remains.

Aleksandar Katai

The third DP last season, along with Basti and Dax, meaning you have complete turnover at the designated player slots now. Last year’s manager, Veljko Paunovic is gone too. Overall, 14 players have left, with 12 coming in to replace them. Expect more changes to come too.

dax mccarty

New Arrivals

Owner Joe Mansueto, Technical Director Sebastian Pelzer, Manager Raphael Wicky (more on him and his vision for Chicago Fire FC at this link),  All three designated players in Argentinian midfielder Gastón Giménez, his country man and winger Ignacio Aliseda and Slovenian forward Robert Beric (go here for our exclusive with him, discussing his shot of Malort- if you haven’t tried that drink yet, consider yourself fortunate)

You also have a new color scheme (it’s not bad when you see it on merchandise, it will grow on you, although it just didn’t look right on the new brand reveal) and logo/badge. There have been rumors that the club realized the huge mistake they made with the new crest image, so perhaps they will make a change there sometime.

Can’t really say anything nice about it, so we’ll move on to the next topic.

Pelzer and Wicky bring in a Swiss flair, and connections to FC Basel, that country’s most successful club, arguably. They each have a strong history of success, connected to some of the greatest players in the world, so give them the benefit of the doubt and be patient- especially during all the very lean times that are inevitably ahead. Elsewhere, GM Nelson Rodriguez was shifted to a role that is business only, away from the pitch concerns.

In Mansueto, you have an owner who cares as much as the most die hard supporter, maybe even more. His dedication and spirit will make him/the club easy to root for.

Key Home Games

Sat March 21, 2:30 pm home opener vs Atlanta United

If you can tear yourself away from the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, one of the greatest dates on the sporting calendar, then come check out the historic home opener.  Atlanta, the 2018 champions, have two MVP  candidates in Josef and Pity Martinez. TOronto FC, Columbus, Seattle Atlanfsa

Sun April 19, 1 pm Columbus Crew

Closest thing the Fire have to a true rivalry, the Crew are also legitimate conference title contenders.

Sun April 25, 2:30 pm LAFC

MLS has seen a lot of their brand name individual stars leave lately, so come on out to see Carlos Vela, arguably the closest thing Major League Soccer has to their own version of Lebron James.

chicharito

Sun August 9, 5:30 pm LA Galaxy

The most popular soccer team in Chicago? El Tri, the Mexican national side. No one can fill up the venue like they can, so when Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez comes to town, you’ll get a rocking atmosphere for sure. If you can only do one game, and what you want is atmosphere, then circle this date.

Sat August 1, 7 pm Toronto FC

A chance to see a leading conference title contender, and how the Chicago Fire FC measure up.

Notable Quotable

At Chicago FC Media Day we asked Beric, Kappeloff, Sapong and Frankowski what “beautiful football” means to them, but in the end Wicky’s answer was the best:

“It’s up to us to play well, to fight hard so we attract as many people as possible. With hard work, you create emotions, and fans want to see emotions.”

“That’s how I see the game when I go and watch a sport. I want to see people run and fight but also game plan and play nice football and nice football for me might be different than nice football for you and nice football for him (reporter in the media room) might be different from Sean (Dennison, the Chicago Fire Press Officer), it’s obviously difficult to define nice football, but hard work brings people back to define nice football but hard work, I think that brings people back.”

Overview

Make no bones about it, this is a true tear it down to just the studs of the foundation, before you start adding on kind of rebuild. Be prepared, as this team will “take its lumps,” “experience growing pains” and (insert lots of other cliches about sports franchises that are completely making themselves over, and in the process will lose a lot of games for awhile).

They’ll be far out of the playoff picture, but that’s to be expected at this point. ESPN ranked them #23 out of the 26 teams in their preseason MLS Power Rankings, and that seems pretty fair to me.

chicago fire

You got to have 2021 vision, or 2022 and beyond, with this season being about re-establishing roots back in the city, and building the brand in the country’s third largest market and MLS’s fifth biggest venue.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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