With the new signings of Nemanja Nikolic and Juninho it appears the Chicago Fire are now looking more upward after a near total teardown in 2016. The Fire has been trading away their assets for allocation money and draft picks since Nelson Rodriguez took control of the club after the 2015 season, leaving supporters without tangible returns on the departing players. The Fire faithful may just have been patient enough if the positive transfer business continues throughout the offseason. Signing the top goalscorer in the Polish league and a three time MLS champion is a glimmer of hope that there is indeed a master plan in the works in Bridgeview.
New Year and New Hope for Chicago Fire
New Quality Players
The Fire have acquired a real player in Nemanja Nikolic, who comes to the Fire in top form. The Hungarian international has scored 41 times in just 56 appearances for Polish Champion club Legia Warsaw. In doing so the 29 year old forward became the 2015-16 scoring champion and was leading the Polish league again until his departure to the MLS. Nikolic’s 2016 resume also includes playing in the UEFA Champions league and making two appearances in UEFA Euro 2016. The Fire must raise their levels on and off the field to get the most out of their new striker.
Even the most casual MLS fan will be familiar with Vitor Gomes Pereira Junior, a.k.a. Juninho, the Chicago Fire’s new midfielder. The Brazilian arrives on a one year loan from Liga MX’s Club Tijuana having spent just one year away from the MLS. Juninho, 27, brings great experience to the fire having previously spent six seasons with the LA Galaxy, appearing in 187 games and winning 3 MLS cups.
Hoping for More
These new signings may well spark the wilted embers of this Fire franchise. The relative young age of the two big signings also shows this. At 29 and 27 respectively, Nikolic and Juninho have plenty of top years remaining and could be staples for years ahead. General manager Nelson Rodriguez and head coach Veljko Paunovic are headed into their second season and appear to be putting together the team they actually want having both had their eye on Nikolic for many years. The pair arrived in Chicago themselves just a year ago can now build up the squad as they see fit.
Chicago’s squad currently only has 18 players and just one goalkeeper. For this offseason to truly be a watershed moment for the men in red they simply need more players. There has been somewhat wild rumors swirling about the Fire signing aging german legend Bastian Schweinsteiger as a new DP. Adding a player with his status would be exciting, finding a handful of younger talented players may be more prudent at this stage.
The Fire are firmly at the bottom of the MLS realm and have been making history in all the wrong departments in recent years. Their abysmal run highlighted in 2016 when they became the first MLS franchise to finish bottom of the league in consecutive seasons. In what may become the beginning of the turnaround, the Fire ended the 2016 calendar year by signing two players of quality. If the Fire continue to sign such players, this new hope may turn into a season of MLS ascension in 2017.