For Chicagoans enduring numerous days of temperatures in the single digits, it's probably hard to believe that the MLS preseason is less than three weeks away.
The Fire's preseason will officially begin on Jan. 22 with entrance physicals for the players. The team will finish out the week with four days of training at the recently built Toyota Park Dome.
The dome finished construction during the 2017 season and was used by the team at least once during the regular season after heavy rains came down on the practice field. It is located on the north side of the Toyota Park property. In previous years the Fire had utilized the Fire Pitch on the North Side to begin the preseason.
After the opening week, the team will travel to Florida, where it has spent each preseason under coach Veljko Paunovic. The first stint will be in Tampa from Jan. 28 to Feb. 8 and a second stint will be from Feb. 11 to 24 at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, where the Fire also had the second leg of preseason last year.
No matches were announced. The Fire will have to fill in some time after returning from Florida because the season opener was moved back to March 10 after the originally scheduled opener in Colorado was moved to June.
The Fire only have 18 players under contract (not including Bastian Schweinsteiger, who is reportedly nearing an agreement to return) so things should heat up between now and the start of preseason. While general manager Nelson Rodriguez has said repeatedly that the start of preseason is not a hard deadline to complete the roster, it is fair to assume it will be more complete by then.
All has remained quiet on the homegrown front although Indiana senior defender Grant Lillard, a first-team All-American by multiple outlets, is the most likely to sign. The draft combine begins on Jan. 13 and the draft is Jan. 19. The Fire hold the No. 15 pick in the first round.
There have also been multiple rumors. As always, most don't materialize, but the Fire should have some room to add a significant signing, even if Schweinsteiger comes back. Along with the continuing rumors about Colombian playmaker Juan Quintero, there was a report from The Daily Mail in England linking the Fire to Barcelona winger Arda Turan.
Especially after the trade of Arturo Alvarez, right wing is a position of need for the Fire. The ACL tears to Michael de Leeuw and Djordje Mihailovic may force Luis Solignac to play underneath Nemanja Nikolic in the attack, leaving the Fire with no options at right wing. Daniel Johnson, coming off a promising, but injury-riddled rookie season, typically plays at left wing but could likely move to the right if necessary. Either way, the Fire are in need of other attacking options, especially for the first few months of the season until de Leeuw and Mihailovic return.
Most of this should play out within the next few weeks if not sooner. Last year the Fire added Nemanja Nikolic and Juninho in December, but there have not been any additions yet.