BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – After failing to make the MLS Cup Playoffs for just the second time in franchise history in 2010, the Fire needed some change.
And, boy, did they ever get it.
Chicago had massive roster turnover this winter as 11 players left Toyota Park while 16 new faces came in to replace them.
The Fire’s big-name players, including Freddie Ljungberg, Nery Castillo, Brian McBride, Wilman Conde and C.J. Brown, did not come back and a slew of young, lower-profile players came in. The newcomers brought a new hungry attitude with them, injecting their passion into a team that didn’t have much of it last year.
“There’s definitely a different mentality than last year,” defender Gonzalo Segares told MLSsoccer.com. “This year we have a lot of new faces, a lot of young faces that have come hungry and willing to work. That raises the competition. It’s good.
“I feel that there’s no superstar this year. There’s no ‘I’ here, it’s just team.”
The Fire’s new attitude isn’t just attributed to the newcomers. Holdovers from last year’s squad don’t want to experience a repeat of 2010 and they’re working hard to ensure that doesn’t happen.
“That wasn’t the Chicago Fire last year,” winger Patrick Nyarko said. “We’re not accustomed to losing and people are just eager to get back to the winning ways. … I think that’s part of the difference this year.”
The team put their new mindset on display in last Saturday’s 1-1 draw against FC Dallas. They displayed a battling spirit and showed a level of character and commitment rarely seen in 2010.
“We fought for each other throughout the whole 90,” defender Jalil Anibaba told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “That’s what our team mentality is about. Sometimes the chips fall in your advantage and sometimes they don’t, but we gave it our all.”
The new mentality has many players pumped for the young season.
“It’s an exciting group,” said team captain Logan Pause. “Guys are ready to get going and eager to learn, which is important. It’s been a great start to really building a true, true team and I think the results will show.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.