It was a disappointing year for Chicago Fire in 2019 as they failed to make the playoffs, finishing eighth in the Eastern Conference. The Fire won ten, drew 12, and lost 12 of their 34 league games which led to head coach Veljko Paunovic leaving the franchise.
Chicago has signed six players during the winter to boost their roster for 2020, where the aim will be to reach the postseason.
Argentine midfielder Gaston Gimenez became the latest acquisition when he joined the MLS franchise from Velez Sarsfield. The 28-year-old is a defensive midfielder who will be a Designated Player on the roster.
Gimenez played for Argentina against Mexico in 2018. He was also in the preliminary squad for the 2019 Copa America. The new Fire player will be hoping to break back into his national team’s squad for Copa America this year, where Argentina is the 7/4 favorites in the international football betting for the tournament.
Forward Robert Beric was another player who joined Chicago back in January. He arrived from Saint-Etienne in France, and the Slovenian scored 34 goals for the French club during his five-year spell in Ligue 1.
Fire supporters are also likely to be excited by the signing of Ignacio Aliseda from Defensa y Justicia. The 19-year-old is described as being a quick and technically gifted winger, and he has featured twice for Argentina under-23s, showing that he could be set for a bright future in the game.
Raphael Wicky Takes Over Coaching Role
Raphael Wicky was appointed as Chicago’s new head coach back in December in a new set-up which also saw Georg Heitz take up a position as the sporting director.
Wicky’s most recent role was as the under-17s national team coach for U.S Soccer. He managed Basel in Switzerland during the 2017-18 season. The Swiss side finished second in their domestic league during that campaign.
The new Fire head coach guided the US under-17s to World Cup qualification, and he was also in charge when they finished second in the Concacaf Under-17s Championship.
Wicky was accomplished on the field during his playing career; he played for Atletico Madrid, Werder Bremen, and Hamburg as a midfielder where he was defensive-minded.
The preseason period has been crucial for Wicky to assess the talent he has on his roster. The players also have been working hard to understand the system and style of play their new head coach will expect.
Return To Soldier Field This Season
The team is set to return to Soldier Field for the 2020 MLS campaign, with the move coming 14 years after playing in Bridgeview.
It is a big boost to the Chicago franchise that hopes the move will help to attract an even wider fanbase. The Fire played at Soldier Field between 1998 through to 2001, and then from 2003 until 2006.
Chicago had the lowest average attendance in the MLS in 2019 with 12,324. The central location and the history behind Soldier Field should help their pursuit of more fans.
The team will have a tough start to their new campaign as they will face MLS Cup holders Atlanta United FC on March 21 at Soldier Field.