Team Profile: Chicago Fire FC
Updated: Feb 25
Year founded: 1997.
First season in MLS: 1998.
Stadium: Soldier Field, Chicago, IL.
Honors: MLS Cup (1998), Supporters' Shield (2003), U.S. Open Cup (1998, 2000, 2003, 2006).
2023 highlights: Chicago's season starts a week later than ever other team, which means they must wait until March 4th to host New York City FC. They have the toughest of road trips to follow, at last season's top team in the Eastern Conference, Philadelphia Union. The Union's last home defeat in the regular season came against New England Revolution (1-0) on September 3rd, 2021. The Chicago schedule is feast or famine. All eyes will be on the month of April, when Chicago plays four out of five at home, including an early second look at the Union (April 15th). There is pay back in May, June, and early July, when they enjoy home comforts just three times in 10 games before three in a row at Soldier Field heading into the break for Leagues Cup. Four out of five games in September are away from home. They complete the regular season against the team they are due to meet in game one, when they travel to NYCFC on October 21st.
Head Coach: Ezra Hendrickson.
Players to watch: Xherdan Shaqiri, Maren Haile-Selassie, Arnaud Souquet.
Jonathan Dean (transfer from Birmingham Legion) Jeff Gal (free from Degerfors IF) Maren Haile-Selassie (loan from FC Lugano) Kei Kamara (traded from CF Montreal)
Arnaud Souquet (transfer from Montpellier HSC)
Jonathan Borenstein (out of contract) Jhon Durán (transfer to Aston Villa) Jhon Espinoza (mutually part ways) Stanislav Ivanov (mutually part ways) Andre Reynolds (option declined) Boris Sekulic (out of contract) Gabriel Slonina (transfer to Chelsea)
2022 summary: for a fifth year in a row, the Fire failed to progress beyond the regular season, finishing 12th in the Eastern Conference, nine points behind the playoff places. Only D.C. United (4-9-4) had fewer home wins than Chicago (6-6-5). Jhon Durán was top scorer, managing eight goals, and there lay a big part of the problem. Only D.C. United (36) scored fewer goals than Ezra Hendrickson's men (39). Xherdan Shaqiri was the main creator, contributing to 11 goals in his first season since moving from French club Lyon. Chicago - in their 25th season - got off to a solid start, going 2-0-3 in their opening five games, but the fifth game in that run was a draw and the start of 10 without success (0-7-3). Two wins in the final 10 games made sure of another disappointing year.
Facts and Stats: Chicago has lost two key players from last season, with number one goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina now at Chelsea, while leading scorer from 2022, Jhon Durán now at Aston Villa. Slonina joined Chelsea for an initial fee of $10m. Villa paid $18m for Durán, which could rise to $22m. Chicago won MLS Cup in their first season (1998) and failed to reach the postseason just once in the first 12 attempts (2004). Since 2010, the Fire has failed to go beyond the regular season 11 times in 13 years.
Milestones for 2023: the trip to Atlanta United on April 23rd will be Chicago's 800th regular season game in MLS (and will be shown on FS1). They are five away from 300 regular season wins, and seven shy of 200 wins at home. The next goal at Soldier Field will their 250th at that stadium, which was home from 1998-2005, and again since 2020. They are 13 games away from having played 150 regular season matches at the famed arena.