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MLS Season Preview

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The Hot Time In Old Time writers offer their predictions on how the MLS season will play out.

How will the MLS 2016 season play out? The Hot Time writers give you their thoughts.
How will the MLS 2016 season play out? The Hot Time writers give you their thoughts.
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Every year here at Hot Time we like to make our predictions for the season. Sometimes we are pretty close to predicting what will happen in the upcoming season for the Fire and the rest of MLS. More often than not we are way off in our predictions. So here is our futile attempt once again to try to predict the future, but first here is a run down of who's in and who's out for the Fire:

Out: The entire technical staff except for Logan Pause, Adialton, Jon Busch, Jason Johnson, Alec Kann, Jeff Larentowicz, Lovel Palmer, Chris Ritter, Daniel Cyrus, Ty Harden, Mike Magee, Matt Watson, Patrick Nyarko, Joevin Jones, Harry Shipp

In: An entire new technical staff except for Logan Pause, Matt Lampson, Joey Calistri, Drew Connor, Brandon Vincent, Jonathan Campbell, Michael Harrington, Patrick McLain, Joao Meira, Nick LaBrocca, Johan Kappelhof, Rodrigo Ramos, Arturo Alverez, John Goossens

So here is how it works. Each contributor here at Hot Time will give you a brief synopsis of what they think will happen with the Fire in 2016. They will also include their predictions for the conference champions, Supporter's Shield, MLS Cup, US Open Cup, Golden Boot, MVP, ROY, and GKOY. So here we go.

Jeff Engelhardt

This has been an exciting offseason for the Fire. New dynamite players like John Goossens have been signed while national team prospects like Brandon Vincent have been drafted. I could not feel better about the future of the club. But progress comes slowly and I don't think this year's Fire team will be an exception.

Dead last would be a huge disappointment. I think the Fire are good enough to push for the sixth playoff spot, but in the end, they will likely fall short to the likes of a New England. Toronto, Columbus, NYRB, DC, Montreal and perhaps New England are still likely better than the Fire. Orlando City and NYCFC are coming on stronger and Philadelphia is trying to rebuild as well. The playoffs just seem out of reach.

Eastern Conference Champions:
New York Red Bulls

Western Conference & Supporters Shield
Vancouver Whitecaps

MLS Cup Final:
Toronto FC defeats Seattle Sounders

US Open Cup Final:
FC Dallas defeats Orlando City FC

Golden Boot: Yura Movsisyan

MVP: Sebastian Giovinco

ROY: Jordan Morris

GKOY: David Ousted

Sean Spence:

I expect the Chicago Fire to be one of 2016's surprises in MLS, and for most of the credit for that success to fall to Velko Paunovic. From his first address to the team - where he told the players that 'modern football is about finding space, using space' - it has been clear that Paunovic presents a modernist contrast to the simpler, 'C'mon lads' approach of Franks Klopas and Yallop. The players have visibly bought into Paunovic's system, and the preseason results reflect that.

The question is, are the players on the roster enough? There's 22 players listed on the Fire's first-team roster, 23 if you count as-yet-unlisted-but-recently-signed John Goossens. For the Fire to do very well this year, a huge percentage of Nelson Rodriguez's gambles on this roster have to come good: The team must remain relatively injury-free. The young players - particularly Jonathan Campbell, Brandon Vincent and Collin Fernandez - need to show they can play well at this level. The internationals need to demonstrate both humility and swagger.

It's a lot to ask, but it's possible. If the plan comes together, the next step will be making absolutely certain Mrs. Paunovic doesn't simply yearn to live in New York. (A Juan Carlos Osorio joke, absolutely free! You're welcome.)


Eastern Conference Champions
New York Red Bulls

Western Conference Champions
Vancouver Whitecaps

Supporters Shield Champions
Sporting Kansas City

MLS Cup Final:
Vancouver Whitecaps over New York Red Bulls

US Open Cup Final:
Los Angeles Galaxy over Philadelphia Union

Golden Boot: Didier Drogba

MVP: Mauro Diaz

ROY: Jonathan Campbell

GKOY: Andre Blake


Ryan Voyles:

Nothing like an undefeated preseason to bring some hope and optimism to a fanbase that has been sorely lacking both in recent years. After a multiple year dumpster fire that depressingly lived up to the club’s moniker, GM Nelson Rodriguez and Head Coach Veljko Paunovic have brought some new ideas and plans to a team sorely needing them after finishing bottom of the entire league last season. While some moves have questionable at best *coughHarryShippcough*, both men have been able to sensibly argue their reasons and outline goals for the near and long term success of the franchise.

While it would be nearly impossible to finish as poorly as the Fire did last season, the amount of turnover from front office to the roster looks like it may still impact the fire on the pitch this season. The predicted starting XI has only six regular starters from last season, and that number could change depending on what happens with Sean Johnson (or if one considers Kennedy Igboananike as starting material in the first place). There is a lot of talent in youngsters like Brandon Vincent and Jonathan Campbell, but it’ll take time to see how they fit into the team alongside a bunch of new signings from Europe. While the talent is there to make sure the Fire are no longer a doormat for opposing squads, I get the sense the squad will need some time to gel together - especially a new back four with a grand total of 0 minutes played in MLS. This team could become a real headache to play for the rest of the league by mid-season, but the number of newcomers and depth issues could prevent the Fire from doing any more than fighting off teams for the final playoff berth.


Eastern Conference Champions:
Toronto FC

Western Conference & Supporters Shield Champions:
FC Dallas

MLS Cup Final:
FC Dallas over New York Red Bulls

US Open Cup Final:
Seattle Sounders over Philadelphia Union

Golden Boot: Sebastian Giovinco

MVP: Sebastian Giovinco

ROY: Jordan Morris

GKOY: David Ousted

John Jenzeh:

With morale a bit high coming off an undefeated preseason tournament, most fans can't help but be optimistic. I get it, but I don't share their optimism. A completely new back line with only three real returning starters, will result in a lot of time needed for this unit to gel. The style of play and coaching adjustments will be improved, but not enough to earn a playoff spot in year one of the new front office regime.

We can only hope for improvement in the standings. Which teams in the Eastern Conference are truly worse than the Fire on paper? Maybe the Philadelphia Union. That's about it. With that said, I still feel like the Fire can finish ahead of both the Union and NYCFC who lack quality depth for an entire season run. With an  eighth-place finish, that leaves room for U.S. Open Cup expectations. The Fire roster is so thin I can see them falling in the quarter or semi-finals once again to a more stacked team.


Eastern Conference Champions:
Columbus Crew
.
Western Conference & Supporters Shield Champions:
Seattle Sounders

MLS Cup Final:
Toronto FC defeats FC Dallas

US Open Cup Final:
Seattle Sounders defeat New York Red Bulls

Golden Boot: Sebastian Giovinco

MVP: Kei Kamara

ROY: Brandon Vincent

GKOY: Luis Robles


Adam Merges:

A whole new era begins with the Chicago Fire. From a new general manager to a new head coach to almost an entirely new squad, my expectations out of 2016 are nothing. I'm expecting nothing from this team. Why do I say this? How many times in the past six or so seasons did you get your hopes up just to see them crushed because the Fire didn't play up to expectations? It happened in 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and even in 2010. I want to go into this season with no expectations and just go along for the ride. There is optimism with first year head coach Veljko Paunovic at the helm but will the jump to the professional game be too much as the season wears on? I don't know. He has proven that he can win with the kids but this is an entirely different game. Will the new faces justify the hiring of Nelson Rodriguez? I don't know that either. Rodriguez has professional experience as being the architect of two professional teams but those two teams were two of the worst teams in MLS history.

As for the players, only time will tell how good or bad this group really is. Can they make the playoffs? Maybe. I'm just not going to expect it. If they do make the playoffs will they have enough depth and quality to make a deep run? Maybe, but but it would be surprising as the lack of depth on paper is evident. There are no arguments about it. This season I hope the Fire will do well but I'm not expecting it as I see 2016 as just a nice ride to see where this train is actually heading.


Eastern Conference Champions:
Toronto FC

Western Conference & Supporters Shield Champions:
LA Galaxy

MLS Cup Final:
SKC over New York Red Bulls

US Open Cup Final:
Seattle over Columbus

Golden Boot: Sebastian Giovinco

MVP: Sebastian Giovinco

ROY: Brandon Vincent

GKOY: Dan Kennedy