Due to mass roster turnover, a new coach and a new general manager it was clear that the 2016 season was going to be a rebuilding one for the Chicago Fire.
However, Major League Soccer's parity allows for teams to quickly turn things around. This season offers three good examples of that. The Fire were dead last in 2015, but the three teams that were just ahead of them in the standings, the Colorado Rapids, Philadelphia Union and New York City FC, all currently sit in playoff spots.
Colorado (7-2-3, 24 points) has the best record in the league. NYCFC (4-3-4, 16 points) is tied for the Eastern Conference lead and Philadelphia (4-3-3, 15 points) is just a point behind.
With that in mind, it's discouraging to see the Fire have not made similar strides, or really any at all from a results standpoint. The two road losses the Fire suffered last week dropped the team to 1-4-4 (7 points), the worst record in the league by three points. It matches the worst start in club history through nine matches.
While the acquisitions of Johan Kappelhof, Jonathan Campbell and Rodrigo Ramos add to hope for a longer-term turn around, the Fire haven't shown much sign of improvement overall. Still, coach Veljko Paunovic remained positive in what he said Monday during his weekly conference call with the media.
“Nobody likes to see where we are in the standings, but of course everyone is still very committed and everyone wants to work harder in order to improve that and to make it better," Paunovic said. "I absolutely believe in our guys and I think they all believe that only working and staying together can we improve and get out of this. It is too early to say we are in a bad position, but it is obvious that we have to win games and improve. We will do that.”
It's hard to say last place isn't a bad position, but Paunovic is right in one way. It is early enough that the Fire have a chance to get out of this position. NYCFC is the perfect example. New York City beat the Fire on opening day, but then went winless in seven straight. A current three-game winning streak has vaulted them to a share of the conference lead.
The point is things can turn around quickly in MLS with a winning run. Whether or not this Fire team has looked capable of that is another story. Obviously time will tell if they can get things going.
“We have the right players and the right guys," Paunovic said. "We know where we are and where we are standing, but for sure we will work hard and stay positive. We will improve.”