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Everything Is On Fire: A look at the worst start in club history

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MLS website writer Shane Murray stops by to take a look at the Fire's worst start in club history with a hopeful plea to stop the slide into irrelevance.

The face Jonathan Campbell is making tells the story of the Fire season.
The face Jonathan Campbell is making tells the story of the Fire season.
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Since I began covering the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com, I have been witness to a record-breaking spell in the club's existence.

Season after season, this proud, storied club has found new ways to improve on the statistics of the previous campaign and stake a claim for a place in the history books.

However, as any battle weary Fire fan knows only too well, the records I speak of are not ones to be proud of: most ties, 18, in an MLS season in 2014; 30 games and counting without a win on the road from 2014 to the present; and now 10 games into the Veljko Paunovic era, the club sits on seven points, the club's lowest return after 10 games since their winning MLS debut 19 years ago.

As you can imagine, it has not been the greatest of times covering the club, dealing with managers and players under pressure, and front office staff trying to maintain a positive outlook in the face of disappointing results.

To their credit, the likes of ex-head coach Frank Yallop, COO Atul Khosla, and the entire communications staff soldiered on valiantly through the defeats, the lows, the criticism, the doubts and did their best to present the club in the best possible light.

Change came, dramatic change, this past winter, and under the new regime of Paunovic and General Manager Nelson Rodriguez, things appeared to be on the rise for the club, both on and off the field.

New players came. A new sponsor. A plan. The process.

However, what has followed has been another false dawn, another series of disappointing performances and a team on the field that looks disjointed, devoid of ideas, and short on quality, especially in the attacking third.

Soccer is supposed to be entertainment. Fans part with their hard-earned cash to support their team for many reasons: their parents or siblings supported them, they're looking for an outlet at the weekend, a favorite player, etc., etc. But most fans support a team, in any sport, out of a simple desire to be entertained. To be engaged. To be excited. Dare I say it, to be inspired.

Over these last few years, the Chicago Fire has flattered to deceive on all of the above.

At the end of last season, with Yallop finally relieved of his duties, the Men in Red returned their lowest ever tally of points in MLS as they finished bottom of the 20-team league. Fans believed the team had hit rock bottom, and that the only way was up.

Ten games into the 2016 campaign, this new-look, re-imagined Fire is once agin rooted to the foot of the table, in a worse position points-wise than last year, and in terms of outlook, things have never been grimmer.

Statistics don't lie and this season's Fire numbers are damning. Eight goals, 85 shots and 20 shots on goal before last night's defeat at the New York Red Bulls. While they improved their stats with two shots on target from 14 total shots, a sole David Accam wonderstrike off the crossbar was the highlight of the Fire's endeavors over the 90 minutes. It was, without a doubt, one of the highlights of the Fire's unspectacular season thus far and a vivid illustration of how much the Fire have missed the mercurial Ghanaian.

But almost a third of the way through the season, the Men in Red have struggled to entertain.

I wake at ridiculously early hours every weekend to be entertained by teams I have little to no emotional attachment to. Leicester City, what an amazing, magical story. Tottenham, any other year they'd have been worthy and celebrated champions. Southampton. Hell, even Liverpool have managed to enthrall and entertain in what is undoubtedly a transitional year under Jurgen Klopp.

But the Fire? Accam's stunning effort against the bar at Red Bull Arena aside, I can think of very few occasions when the Fire have forced me from my seat since the rollercoaster opener against New York City FC, which they lost after a hugely entertaining, end-to-end, 4-3 thriller.

Following that defeat, Paunovic understandably focused his attention on shoring up the backline, and he has done a superb job of that, with the team conceding a very modest nine goals since. But with that renewed frugality at the back, the team, and the fans, have paid a hefty premium with a lack of real attacking purpose and threat at the other end.

Factor in the loss of key players like Accam and John Goossens through injury and the complete ineffectiveness of Designated Player Gilberto, and it is easy to see why the Fire has struggled so badly in front of goal.

But this is what a squad is for. Strength in depth can not be underestimated, and the questionable decisions to offload key attacking performers like Mike Magee, Harry Shipp and Patrick Nyarko will continue to haunt the current Fire administration until the team clicks and shows that it can be an offensive threat.

This week's acquisition of Michael de Leeuw will undoubtedly help the Fire's cause in front of goal, but he won't play until July and there's a possibility his impact could be too little too late.

But unlike previous years, and unlike previous regimes, there seems to be a little more patience with Paunovic and where he can potentially take this team. And justifiably so, I believe, given his career to date.

Perennial strugglers the Colorado Rapids has shown this year that any team is just one or two quality players away from being competitive and inspiring their local community. Re-energizing the fanbase.

Maybe De Leeuw can be the Fire's Jermaine Jones, or maybe they have another ace up their sleeve, despite Rodriguez's assertions that there will be no transfer activity this summer.

But one thing's for sure, the Fire need to reinvigorate a despondent fanbase however they can, as quickly as they can, if they are to halt their slide into irrelevance on a local and national level.