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2022 Chicago Fire Season Preview

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Icon Sportswire / Contributor

The 2022 Major League Soccer season kicks off later this month and the Chicago Fire are the third team that ONE37pm will be taking a closer look at.

The Fire finished near the bottom of the Eastern Conference last season after picking up just nine wins, but the club has made one of the splashes of the offseason with the arrival of Swiss star Xherdan Shaqiri.

The former Bayern and Liverpool attacker will be looking to lead Chicago back to the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2017.

Here's a closer look at the Chicago Fire heading into the 2022 season.

2021 Performance

The Fire finished 12th in the Eastern Conference in 2021, 14 points off the final playoff spot, which was held by the New York Red Bulls. Chicago won nine matches, but only captured three wins after the beginning of September.

Manager

Ezra Hendrickson takes over with the Fire in his first season after gathering significant experience with some of MLS' top sides over the years. Hendrickson most recently served as an assistant with the Columbus Crew and previously held roles with the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders.

Key Players

Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland) is one of the marquee signings of the MLS offseason and he offers a much-needed lift in attention being focused on Chicago.

Gabriel Slonina (USA) is one of the top young goalkeepers in MLS and he likely won't be playing for the Fire very long. He's already got significant attention in Europe and holds a Polish passport, which will give him direct access to overseas clubs that are after him.

Kacper Przybyłko (Poland) came over from the Philadelphia Union last year and he's a huge upgrade at striker for a team that has been lacking in goals.

Key Matches in 2022

May 7 at Atlanta United

May 22 at New York City FC

July 16 vs. Seattle Sounders

August 31 at New England Revolution

Expectations

The arrival of Shaqiri alone makes the Fire much more attractive this season than years past, but Chicago definitely has the pieces up front to at least be entertaining.

Finding their way back to the playoffs won't be easy, but if Przybyłko and Shaqiri can stir up a bit of magic anything is possible.

Defensively, the Fire will need to improve significantly under Hendrickson after conceding the third-most goals in the East in 2021.

Homegrown center back Mauricio Pineda will certainly be one player to watch at the back that can continue to provide stability for the Fire.

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