The Chicago Fire narrowly missed out on the end-of-season playoffs in 2019 despite plenty of preseason optimism around Soldier Field. With an 8-7-2 record in Illinois, the Fire were solid enough in front of their own fans, yet struggled to create chances on the road, and they’ll be hoping that the radical offseason changes can help them improve their away record in 2020.
Raphael Wicky’s arrival was greeted with a fair amount of optimism and the Swiss coach has made some astute acquisitions so far. Robert Beric, previously of St. Etienne, has goal-scoring pedigree across Europe, whilst Gaston Giminez adds plenty of experience to the roster. Venezuelan left-back Miguel Angel Navarro is one for the future with 20-year-old Ignacio Aliseda tipped for big things in the MLS following his switch from Argentina. The latter can play anywhere across the frontline, and although he may be a little raw, he comes with bags of potential. If he is included in the matchday squad on a regular basis, his creativity has the potential to help Fire improve their productivity on the road this year.
They ended 2019 with a 2-5-10 record away from Soldier Field, and under Veljko Paunovic, they also failed to find the net on seven occasions. They drew a blank in three of their opening five matches and only managed to score two or more goals in a road game on four occasions. Despite registering an away xG of 1.50 across the whole season, they often looked short of ideas in the final third, and it is something that Wicky must rectify immediately. Describing Chicago as a ‘world-class sports city’, the former Basel coach spoke of his desire to entertain the fans this year and they’ve certainly looked far sharper going forward in their opening two fixtures. The region has a tendency to breed die-hard sports fans, and the passionate Fire supporters will be demanding significant improvement following last year’s underwhelming campaign.
The MLS is a league that heavily favors home sides, however, only the Houston Dynamo picked up fewer points on the road in 2019, and if they can improve their away form, they shouldn’t have any problems reaching the top six of the Eastern Conference this year. The Fire fanbase will be desperate to see their side qualify for the end-of-season playoffs after failing to make it in six of the last seven seasons. Following the disappointment of 2019, Fire fans will have understandably been keen for the season to recommence at the beginning of March. Many supporters may have turned their attentions to the Blackhawks or Bears during the winter months, whilst other sports devotees may also have opted to enjoy the vast array of sports-themed slots including Football Champions Cup and Road to Victory, which are currently available at online casinos such as ComeOn. These will have enabled soccer enthusiasts to enjoy all of the action, whilst awaiting news of potentially exciting offseason trades.
The Fire were only able to draw 1-1 with New England Revolution at the beginning of March, however, they showed plenty of attacking intent throughout the 90 minutes, and missed copious chances to win the game. It was a much-improved display from Wicky’s men and it will certainly give fans plenty of optimism going forward. Another lack of postseason is an unthinkable prospect for a side that has significantly strengthened this winter, and improving their form on the road is the only way to ensure that they don’t miss out on a playoff place for the third successive season.