A – Argentinean magic: Sebastian Grazzini has been a major reason for the Fire turning around a season that appeared destined for failure. To say the least, he has certainly been the answer to the Fire’s attacking problems. His Samba dance isn’t half bad either.
B – Breaking bad: It wasn’t a great first half of the season by any means. After defeating Sporting Kansas City in its first home match of the season on March 26th, the Fire would go 11 matches without another league win. Fortunately, the month of August has seen the Fire finally turn things around.
C – Carlos de los Cobos: Deservedly sacked in May after a horrendous start to the new season. And although Frank Klopas didn’t have the best of starts, a lot of this season has been about repairing the damage caused by CLDC.
D – Draws: An MLS record 15 draws, need I say more? Although I will say that the New York Red Bulls have tallied 15 ties, as well.
E – Expectations: Even when the Fire were stuck on two wins in July, talk of the playoffs was still rife. Instead of focusing on finishing the season strong, expectations were focused on the seemingly impossible task of qualifying for the playoffs despite sitting in last place in the East. A lot has changed since then and the Fire still have a shot at the playoffs – albeit just barely – but it doesn’t change the fact that expectations have often been slightly unrealistic this season.
F – Frank Klopas: The verdict may still be out on Klopas, but one thing is certain: The Fire are indebted to him for sacking CLDC and taking hold of the reins himself. With CLDC still in charge, we’d be relegated by now. Trust me he’d find a way…
G – Ghanaian sensations: How fantastic has Oduro and Nyarko been this season? The two have formed a burgeoning partnership up front and it has paid dividends… simply re-watch the 85th minute of the 3-2 win over Chivas USA last weekend!
H – Home sweet home: A record of 4-2-8 at home is hardly prolific, but the Fire’s best performances this season have come at home. The team has recorded three consecutive wins at Toyota Park and could and should have turned numerous draws into wins earlier in the season. A real shame the US Open Cup isn’t at Toyota Park. Thanks, Dallas!
I – International friendlies: Regardless of how this season turns out, some of the most memorable matches from this year will undoubtedly be the Manchester United and Chivas friendlies at Soldier Field and Toyota Park.
J – Jokes: A few brilliant jokes have been passed along on Twitter this season, none as good as the #whatishansbackedoingtonight and #seattleinvented hashtags.
K – Kings of the Cup: Colorado – check. Rochester – check. New York – check. Richmond – check. Bring on Seattle and the chance to secure a fifth US Open Cup title.
L – League Leader: Cristian Nazarit is the league’s top scorer. No, not that league, the Reserve League. The Columbian hasn’t had the impact for the first team some will have hoped for, but he’s done well in the reserves this year with five goals to his name and is closely followed by Orr Barouch’s four goals. The Fire Reserves are also currently the leaders of the Central/Mountain Division.
M – Money, money, money: An updated list of MLS salaries was released earlier in the month and it’s safe to say they raised a few eyebrows… particularly in Chicago.
N – New shirt sponsor: The Fire have been without a shirt sponsor this season and look set to remain that way next year, as well. Maybe the club should go with Fire equipment manager Charles Raycrof’s suggestion (see picture below).
O – Open seats: Most likely a result of the club’s form this season, attendance at Toyota Park has often been sparse throughout much of this season. That said, Section 8 has continued to demonstrate why it is widely considered one of the best supporter groups in the MLS.
P – Pappa: Will he stay? Will he go? Rumors have circulated around the Guatemalan’s future all season. Even Newcastle were being touted as a potential buyer… sums it all up, doesn’t it?
Q – Question marks: Throughout the season question marks have been raised over certain members of the Fire and whether or not they belong in the squad. Cuesta, Videira,
R – Rookie: Some people questioned Jalil Anibaba during the first few matches of his MLS career, but deep down inside we all knew he would come good. Anyone who shared that mindset was spot on as the North Carolina alumni proved himself to be an effective right-back and, most recently, a solid center-back for the men in red.
S – Sean’s house: There has been a few bright spots this season, but the most obvious of those might just be Sean Johnson. Needlessly dropped to the bench at the start of the season, the 22-year-old goalkeeper has been absolutely magnificent in goal for the Fire ever since he reclaimed his starting position. Who’s house?
T – Transfers: Sebastian Grazzini, Pavel Pardo, and Dan Gargan. The only question is how much better would this season be had the Fire acquired this trio prior to the start of the season. Better late than never, I suppose…
U – Unbelievable: It hasn’t been the most memorable of seasons by any means, and to be completely honest, some performances this season have simply been unbelievably poor. Portland and Vancouver, anyone?
V – Videira: One of the things that will always stick out from this season will be Mike Videira and Logan Pause’s failed partnership in central midfield. It still baffles me how it took CLDC so long to realize it simply wasn’t working out.
W – Woodwork: I lost count a long time ago of the amount of times the Fire struck the crossbar or hit the post, particularly during its eleven match winless streak earlier in the season. I was beginning to wonder if they were no longer simply unlucky, but instead had been practicing on slightly smaller goals during training!
X – X-factor: Oduro. This man has carried the team on his shoulders time and time again this season. He may credit his teammates for his goals, but he should really give himself more credit for playing such a big role in his debut season in Chicago. Along with the addition of Grazzini and Pardo, Oduro is a huge reason for the Fire earning a place in the US Open Cup Final and still being in playoff contention.
Y – Youth: With 17-year-old Kellen Gulley joining Victor Pineda and Orr Barouch as some of the Fire’s hottest prospects, it’s safe to say the club has plenty of promising youth in its ranks. In fact, the average age of the Fire squad is only 25.3 and the Fire have enough players in their first team who are 23-years-old or younger to field their own starting eleven.
Z – Z: Row Z, that is. We’ve seen plenty of shots go sailing over the crossbar this season haven’t we?
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