Chicago Fire: 2016 Projected Lineup


With the preseason tournaments upcoming, everyone is curious on what lineup the Fire will open with. After a strong draft and some quality signings, Chicago looks to be competitive this season under first year coach Veljko Paunovic. Despite the overall youth of the squad, they should make a good late season run and possibly make the playoffs next year.

Projected Formation: 4-2-3-1

Goalkeeper: Sean Johnson

The newly minted U.S. international has played a pivotal role in keeping the Fire competitive in every game. With the rebuild year underway, look for Johnson to help keep his young back line calm and focused. While his 1.48 GAA in 2014 and a 1.52 GAA last year has been a far cry from his top form, he will continue to be an all star player between the sticks in 2016.

Left Back: Brandon Vincent

The first round selection looks to make an immediate impact on the flanks. The Stanford product will help push midfielders Harry Shipp and Michael Stephens into better attacking positions. While he is a rookie, his raw defensive talent and nose for the goal will prove invaluable in opening up what was a stagnant offense last season. Last year the leaky defense had issues on both sides of the ball, this year looks to be different.

Left Center Back: Michael Harrington

Despite playing fullback for the Portland Timbers and Colorado Rapids, Harrington will likely be shifted inside. GM Nelson Rodriguez stated that Harrington “could start in a few different places.” This move would allow Eric Gehrig to stay in his natural position as a right fullback. Harrington will likely carry the captain’s armband and split between two rookies on the back line.

Right Center Back: Jonathon Campbell

Campbell is yet another rookie who will be pressed into action in the defensive third. The former Tar Heel will provide a physical presence to the line and help push the midfielders higher up the field. Though inexperienced, Campbell should provide needed support for Johnson and recent goalkeeper pickup Patrick McLain.

Right Back: Eric Gehrig

The former Crew SC defender looks to help steady the transitional state of the back four. Gehrig will look to push up the flank much like Vincent will on the left. While not known for his ability on the overlap, look for Gehrig to provide more defensive support as opposed to offensive. There is a high chance that Gehrig and Harrington could switch spots.

Left Holding Midfielder: Matt Polster

Despite being labeled as a midfielder, the young Polster played most of last year as a fullback. Look for Polster to move up to a holding role to help enable more consistent possession and prevent a plethora of long balls. Polster, along with a second holding midfielder, will tighten up the middle and clog up opposing forwards and midfielders from the open runs they had last season.

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Right Holding Midfielder: Razvan Cocis

As mentioned in a previous article, Cocis was a questionable release. In the end, Rodriguez decided it was best to bring the Romanian international back to the squad. Cocis will provide a calming presence in the midfield and will likely use his veteran abilities to find gaps in the opposing defense and operate as tactician and will likely guide the younger defense to helping the more experienced offense.

Left Midfielder: Michael Stephens

With Patrick Nyarko traded to D.C. United, this is a spot of concern for the Fire. Stephens, a former Galaxy player who was signed from the Norwegian league, did well in his twenty appearances last season for the fire. Stephens play could be an unknown X-factor for the Fire, his play will determine if the attack will be balanced or one sided.

Central Midfielder: Harry Shipp

The lights will be on young Harry Shipp to break through this season. Seen as a talented option on the attack in the final third, many felt his potential was untapped by former coach Frank Yallop. Shipp should see more success as he will have a more balanced team around him and holding midfielders to feed the ball to him. His youth and speed should open up numerous goal scoring opportunities.

Right Midfielder: David Accam

The Ghanaian DP is a lethal member of the midfield and was a terror to opposing defenders last season. If Chicago can clean up their passing and focus on maintaining smart possession, Accam will push deep into the final third all season. If Chicago can’t play smart soccer, they will just send long passes down the field and that will negate the overall effectiveness of Accam.

Forward: Gilberto

Gilberto will likely play a pivotal role for the Fire this season. While the former Toronto FC man is not used to being a solitary forward, the play of the attacking midfield will allow him more openings than normal. The seasoned DP will need to perform more consistently than previous years, Shipp will likely determine how well Gilberto does in 2016.

Players to watch

Forward: Kennedy Igboananike

Igboananike has proven himself to be an outstanding option off the bench. In his thirty one games (twenty started) last season, he netted seven goals and one assist. His play in relief of Gilberto could lead to either last minute wins or heartbreaking losses. Ultimately, Igboananike is the only quality attacking option on the bench at this juncture.