MLS is finally back.
It was a highly entertaining start to the 2019 season. Chicago opened their 2019 campaign over the weekend against the five-time MLS Champion Los Angeles Galaxy. While the result was not what Fire faithful were hoping for, the Men In Red showed a lot of promise in their attack for great things to come this season.
Chicago will continue to rely on the experience of their international players on and off the field, benefiting from their knowledge and mind for the game throughout the season as they attempt to climb back to the top of the Eastern Conference and hoist the MLS Cup again.
Chicago has numerous players that have performed at the top level for many clubs and nations, and provide the Fire with inventive attacking mindsets. Przemysław Frankowski, Aleksandar Katai, and Nemanja Nikolic bring vast amounts of international experience at the club and national team levels.
In the midfield, the Fire have a strong domestic core with years of MLS experience, complimented by two new signings that have been through the challenges of Mexican and Central American soccer. Christian Martinez and Amando Moreno bring a tough, gritty mentality to the center of the park.
Moreno began his career with the New York Red Bulls, but soon took his talents south of the border, joining Liga MX side Xolos de Tijuana before being loaned to Dorados. During his time in Mexico, Moreno made 26 appearances, scoring his six goals for the clubs.
Midfield partner Christian Martinez began his career in Panama before making his move to MLS, spending five seasons with Chorrillo and making 37 appearances for a club that was founded to keep Panamanian youth off the streets and out of trouble.
Katai, last seasons’ major signing, looks to build on last year’s successes with the Fire this season. Katai began his playing career with his hometown club, FK Vojvodina, before securing a move to Olympiacos in 2011. He never played for the 44-time Greek champions, having been loaned out all four years he was with the club. Considered out of shape and believed to have mental issues, Katai was allowed to leave for Red Star Belgrade in 2015, rejuvenating his career. He was the top goalscorer in the Serbian Superliga during the 2015-16 season. Having earned some buzz as a sleeper midfield talent in Europe, Katai was scooped up by midtable La Liga outfit Deportivo Alavés. He spent two years in Spain before making the jump to MLS.
Joining him on the forward line is Chicago’s newest addition, Przemysław Frankowski. A versatile attacker from Gdansk, Poland, Frankowski has been capped four times by the Polish national team and was named to their preliminary World Cup squad in 2018. Frankowski made his debut for Lechia Gdansk in 2012, making 41 appearances over his three seasons with the club. In 2014, he transferred to Jagiellonia Bialystok, where he contributed 24 goals in 140 career games over five seasons, cementing his spot as a starter and top player for his club.
Leading the attack for the Men In Red is Nemanja Nikolic. The 31-year-old has been a top producer at every level, scoring 131 goals during his time in the Hungarian top division from 2007-2015, with six of those seasons with coming with Videoton. During his time with the club, Nikolic was the top scorer in the league during the 2009-2010 season, and set a league record with goals in twelve straight games in 2014. Nikolic moved to the Polish club Legia Warsaw in 2015, and was the league’s top goalscorer in his debut season, with 28 goals in 37 matches, helping his club to the league title. Signed by the Fire in 2016, Nikolic was quick to make his mark in MLS, winning the league’s Golden Boot in 2017. On the international stage, Nikolic has received 27 caps from the Hungarian national team, contributing five goals for the nation.
As demonstrated during their solid week one performance, this collective mix of domestic and internationally seasoned players has the talent and mental toughness necessarily to be formidable competitors in MLS. If they continue to improve— with help from their seasoned internationals— they will be serious contenders for both the Supporters’ Shield and the MLS Cup.