Here’s something I wouldn’t have said last week: Things are looking up for the Fire.
Since I last left you, the Chicago Fire had only 18 players on their roster, traded away all their draft picks, and generally had an air of bleakness and despair surrounding them. What a difference a week makes.
After last year, I never thought there would be any positive feeling I could feel about the club. But this past week, hope has started to fill my heart. The Fire have signed six players in the last week. Five of them are new signings, two of them Homegrowns. Another is a polish prospect who already has 4 Caps for the national side. They signed a real goalkeeper. And if that weren’t enough, they resigned Johan Kappelhof, their best defender over the last few seasons and a player who will be instrumental if the Fire want to return to their 2017 form.
And the events of yesterday have put me over the top.
Djordje Mihailovic had his international coming out party this weekend. Not only did he get the nod in Gregg Berhalter’s debut starting eleven (and his first senior cap), but he did this:
The word coming out of the USMNT January camp— known colloquially as Camp Cupcake— was that Mihailovic was not only impressing every day, but improving exponentially. He proved yesterday that the hype was real. Not only did he score the opening goal of the match, he was instrumental to the team going forward. Whenever the US had the ball, it seemed to find his feet in order to start the attack. Berhalter trusted him to run the offense, and he was rewarded with his first international goal in his first international appearance. I hope Chicago’s coaching staff saw the tape, because that is how the Fire will find success this season. Play through the kid and have him run your offense. Mihailovic is the future of this club, and it’s time to give him the reins.
Johan Kappelhof is back! After accepting he was gone to Cincinnati during the week of the draft, It was a complete and total surprise when Guillermo Rivera of The Athletic tweeted that the Dutch defender was in Madrid. Not an hour later, it was official.
The implications of such a move are only positive. He’s been the Fire’s best defender since he got here and has become a integral part of the squad. He frees Bastian Schweinsteiger to play in the midfield just behind Dax and Djordje, or if Schweinsteiger really does feel more comfortable at CB, he can play a competent right back, something the club desperately needs at the moment. Or the Fire can play three central defenders with him alongside Marcelo and Basti. This signing gives Pauno the flexibility he needs in the back.
The other big signing, with apologies to Frankowski, is the signing of David Ousted. The Fire finally have a competent goalkeeper for the first time since Sean Johnson left the club after the 2016 season. Yes, his form in DC last season was not the best in the world, but the Fire don’t need him to be the best keeper in the league. They need the veteran to be a steady hand between the sticks, as well as be a mentor to Stefan Cleveland, who showed some real promise last year.
The homegrown signings should not be overlooked either. The signings of Andre Reynolds II and Jeremiah Gutjahr make me hopeful for the future of the club, and provide much needed depth at their respective positions. Both players have spent time with the youth national team, and there’s a chance that Reynolds II could participate in the U-20 World Cup this summer. These signings make me hopeful for the future of the club, and I hope they pan out.
The other two signings, Cristian Martinez and Amando Moreno, should serve as some okay depth. Martinez started 11 games for the Crew last year, and Moreno did some work for NYRB II after being signed from their academy.
This was the best week for the Fire since the build up to the playoff game in 2017. The new signings and Djordje’s form with the national team have given me hope that this year will be better, and that last year’s return to the bottom of the table was just a bump in the road. After a year in disarray, the Men In Red may finally be on the right track.