New-look Fire a work in progress

Chicago Sun Times: Len Ziehm weighs in

Competitively at least, the Fire has been Chicago's most successful pro sports team, qualifying for the Major League Soccer playoffs 11 times in 12 seasons.

The only muff was in 2004, but getting into postseason play was easy when MLS was smaller. Now it has 16 teams, with eight getting into the playoffs. It'd be a stretch to suggest the Fire is a shoo-in to make it again. As technical director Frank Klopas was quick to point out in the preseason, ''Everything's different.''

No MLS team has changed as much as the Fire, which lost to San Jose 2-1 in its 13th home opener Saturday. Gone is the superstar, Cuauhtemoc Blanco having returned to the Mexican league in part to boost his national team for a strong showing in the World Cup. Gone is Chris Rolfe, the No. 2 goal-scorer in Fire history, who opted to try his hand in Denmark. Gone is Denis Hamlett, who was on the sidelines as an assistant or head coach for all of the first 12 campaigns.

 

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