Fire Fanatic Blog

Jeff Butler talks about club's new additions

The Chicago Fire added possibly three very important
additions in the last two weeks; Freddie Ljungberg, Nery Castillo and Gonzalo
Segares. Since soccer is very much a team game, it raises the question as to
whether or not these changes will help or hurt the Fire’s chances for making
the playoffs.

Before these additions the Fire sat in fourth place with a
record of 4 wins 5 losses and 5 draws with 17 points. Since then with Freddie
playing in two matches and Nery’s debut vs  the Red Bulls , the Fire has picked four points with a win
and a draw. So far so good. Let’s look at some recent history, shall we?

In 2004, albeit towards the end of the season, the Fire
acquired Andy Herron,  a Costa
Rican international forward. At the time of his arrival, the Fire sat in fourth
place with a record of 7-11-8. Herron played excellently down the stretch. Over
four matches, he scored four goals. Alas, the Fire lost their final match of
the season and finished 8-13-9. For the only time in their history, they missed
out on the playoffs. Maybe the team just wasn’t good enough that year.

Let’s fast forward to 2007. 16 games in to the season the
Fire were mediocre. 4-8-4 was their record and Dave Sarachan, the coach, was
history.  On comes Cuauhtemoc
Blanco, a middle aged Mexican international with a history of being difficult
to play with and to coach. Would our new Hispanic coach be up to the task? (
Any similarities to our current situation is purely coincidental) We also added
later on in the season,  Wilman
Conde,  a Columbian defender.
Blanco played brilliantly. He tallied four goals including the MLS  Goal of the Year. He added seven
assists including  the match
winning assist in the final match of year which propelled the Fire to a playoff
berth. Over the latter half of the year Blanco led us to six wins and six
draws, only losing twice. Conde,  in his seven matches,  had an assist on a game winner at Columbus. The Fire defeated
DC United in the first round but ultimately fell to New England in the
Conference finals. Truly this was an example of key additions taking a average
team and getting them to the playoffs.

In 2008 was our last example of a key player  being added in mid-season.  Brian McBride  had his first match August 16, 2008. At the time the Fire was
9-5-5 and in second place.  McBride
played well scoring five goals and adding two assists. However the Fire
stumbled a bit finishing at 4-5-2 to stay in second place. It looked like a
McBride goal was going to send the Fire to the MLS Cup but Columbus prevailed
and it was a long bus ride home from Cowlumbus for  the fans who went, myself included. Once again although the
addition of a world class player was helpful, it did not translate to a title
and did not seem to add to an already quality side.

As you can see, the Fire has had a mixed bag with adding
players to a team in mid-stream. I can only hope that there is enough time to
develop chemistry with the new players so that a deep playoff run can occur.