On Aug. 16, the Fire played to a 1-1 draw with D.C. United, setting an MLS record for most ties in a season with 15. The Men in Red were spinning their wheels in last place.
And yet, the attitude of the team remained positive. Despite the frustrating draws, despite the rough losses, the Fire never quit on the season -- and two months later, they nearly snuck into the playoffs.
That positive attitude started with Frank Klopas, who was officially named manager of the Chicago Fire Thursday afternoon at Toyota Park.
"When Frank took over, there was an immediate culture shift in so many ways," said team owner Andrew Hauptman. "The biggest way had to do with the fact that his belief in the players was real and authentic. He genuinely looked at the team that we had and believed that the results should be better."
But the results weren't better, at least in the first two months. So maybe defender Dan Gargan was a little surprised to see such an upbeat bunch of players when he was dealt from Toronto to Chicago in late July.
Like the Fire, Toronto had a roster that saw quite a bit of turnover and was near the bottom of the MLS table. But whereas Gargan described the culture in Toronto as a "cesspool," in Chicago it was completely different.
"Really, happiness," said Gargan of his first impressions of the squad. "Guys were excited to train and to be around one another.
"It was a breath of fresh air. Guys genuinely enjoyed being here."
How could players genuinely enjoy playing on a last-place team? Trust from the coaching staff is a good start, Gargan added.
"I always believed in the players," said Klopas. "I think the one thing that I did when I came in was to make sure they understood that. Having defined roles right from the beginning, then you can hold guys more accountable to do certain things -- I think it's very important that they totally understand, 100 percent when they step on the field, what their roles and responsibilities are."
Those defined roles were something the team didn't have under de los Cobos. On a team full of newcomers, that was a significant issue, one that wasn't a quick fix. It took a few months for roles to be defined and a new culture to be in place, but once those wrinkles were ironed out, the Fire took off.
"He came in with a real positive attitude and he included everyone. That's the difference between him and Carlos," Patrick Nyarko told CSNChicago in October. "He included everyone in game planning and building players' confidence, especially guys that have not played that much. He built their confidence to make them part of the team."
Make no mistake, 2011 was a transitional year for the Fire. They transitioned from de los Cobos to Klopas. They brought in numerous new players, from Dominic Oduro to Pavel Pardo to Sebastian Grazzini. They transitioned from a frustrating team to one with hope.
But the final transition for the team was the easiest. All they had to do was remove the word "interim" from Klopas' title.