Chicago Fire: The Mo Adams connection, through his eyes

TORONTO, ON - April 28 In first half action, Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco (10) and Chicago Fire midfielder Mo Adams (19) battle for the ball.Toronto FC (TFC )tied Chicago Fire 2-2 in MLS soccer action at BMO Field in Toronto.April 28, 2018 (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - April 28 In first half action, Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco (10) and Chicago Fire midfielder Mo Adams (19) battle for the ball.Toronto FC (TFC )tied Chicago Fire 2-2 in MLS soccer action at BMO Field in Toronto.April 28, 2018 (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

This week, I spoke with Mo Adams of the Chicago Fire. We talked about his breakthrough into the team, the 2019 season ahead, and the connection he has with the fans and the city of Chicago.

It was May 9th, a typically chilly spring night in Bridgeview, where the Chicago Fire were hosting the Montreal Impact in an early season intraconference match-up. The Men In Red had gotten off to a poor start to the season and were already under pressure to pick up as many points as possible. The Impact were in a similar spot and were led by club legend and MLS superstar Ignacio Piatti. If Chicago wanted any chance in the contest, head coach Veljko Paunovic would have to find a way to shut down the Argentine. He decided to turn to then rookie Mo Adams, who would put himself on the MLS map after pocketing Piatti in a star-making performance.

Adams had impressed many in his MLS debut a few weeks prior, helping the Fire secure a shock win away to the New York Red Bulls. He featured in the coming matches as well, but it was his performance against Montreal that truly put his name on the map.

Tasked with man-marking Piatti, Adams followed the Argentine all over the pitch. Piatti was clearly frustrated, and the stats showed it. He lost possession ball six times, the most of anyone on the field, and he would only create two chances all game. It stopped the entire Impact attack dead in its tracks and helped the Fire keep a clean sheet in a crucial 1-0 win.

It was a risk for Paunovic to turn to such a young player, but Adams made sure to repay the trust put in him by the manager. ‘It’s always great when a coach shows that type of faith and belief in you,’ Adams said when I spoke to him this week. ‘I love to be challenged. But first and foremost you must believe as a player that you can handle that task and get it done, and I certainly knew I was able to execute it like I did.’

Fast forward about ten months, and the focus is now on the season ahead. The Fire campaign starts off on Saturday night, as the Fire travel to face the Los Angeles Galaxy in a game set to air on national television. They will hope to turn a promising preseason into regular season success, with both fans and players pumped up for the upcoming year.

‘It’s extremely exciting. I’ve always said it’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light,’ Adams professes. ‘We’ve worked really hard and stayed disciplined during preseason. We were fortunate enough to go over to Madrid and challenge ourselves in a different environment, and then also have the opportunity to compete in the Carolina Cup Challenge. We’ve tried new things and worked on areas of our game to get us prepared for the season. We’re itching to get started. We’re ready.’

A big reason for this optimism is due to the acquisitions made in the offseason. The front office brought in three marquee names to help out various areas of the team. David Ousted is an MLS veteran goalkeeper, while Marcelo has experience as a center-back in one of Europe’s toughest leagues. And then there is Polish international Przemyslaw Frankowski. He is the most exciting of the three; the winger should add a new dynamic to the Fire attack.

They’ve all impressed so far and could all be set for big things in the Windy City. ‘The new signings have come in and really shown themselves over the course of preseason,’ said Adams. ‘We’ve gelled really quickly and I think that’s shown in their performances during the preseason games. Each player adds value to the squad and they all will certainly help us.’

The way Adams carries himself on and off the pitch quickly made him a fan favorite. Playing with a similar tenacity to that of a raging pitbull, he uses his lower center of gravity to dig into challenges and take the ball away from those who try to dribble past him. He’s got an edge to his game, doing whatever he can to break up opposing attacks. Adams brings something to the table offensively as well; his ability to drive the ball forward helps open up space for his teammates in the final third. Leading Chicago Fire supporters group Section 8 have especially fallen for the player, tweeting out the now famed ‘Flaming Mo’s’ gif from the Simpsons whenever possible.

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‘Mo Adams isn’t a DP and doesn’t have a million dollar marketing campaign behind him, yet he’s still beloved by Chicago Fire fans,’ said group director of communications Karl Schuster. ‘Supporters clearly appreciate the sort of day-in-day-out hard work that he exemplifies. That and, come on, look at the action shot on this team bio. If you can’t love that, you probably can’t love anything!’

He’s also built a strong relationship with his actions off the field, recently donating a jersey for a fundraiser hosted by supporters group Black Fires. ‘It only makes the season that much more exciting for when we can congratulate him after a game, and hopefully after a goal,’ says group co-founder Jake Payne. ‘He’s done nothing but come here, work hard, and give his all to the fans whether he starts or not. He’s the exact sort of player this whole community should take pride in and hopefully he’ll get more playing time this year.’

Adams understands how crucial it is to have a strong bond formed with fans, and is ready to reward them for their loyalties shown to the club. ‘The supporters are a big part of any sport. It certainly helps us and gets us going. We appreciate all that they do and we definitely try to repay them by winning games.’

Next. Chicago Fire: Tactical preview of 2019 season. dark

Cracking into the Chicago Fire midfield on a consistent basis will be a tough task. World Cup-winner Bastian Schweinsteiger seems to be returning to his preferred position in the middle of the park, while Dax McCarty and Djordje Mihailovic both have experience at the international level with the United States. The season is long and grueling, however, which means plenty of chances will be available. And if there’s one thing Adams has proven in his young career, it’s that he’s always ready to make the most of any opportunity. Just ask Ignacio Piatti.