Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Projected Starting Lineups: Chicago Fire

One at a time and alphabetically...here are the starting lineups you are looking at the start of the season.

Projected Starting Lineup:







First off the bench: GK Nick Noble, DF Brandon Prideaux, MF Logan Pause, MF Diego Gutierrez, FW Calen Carr, FW Andy Herron

Now there's a good chance Logan Pause will be in there for Bakary Soumare. The second year defensive midfielder has raw talent and had a decent year last season, but had too many brainfarts in the midfield and at times was a little too overly agressive. MF Logan Pause and MF Diego Gutierrez are both veteran midfielders that'll probably platoon the spot with young Soumare. The other option is playing Soumare sparingly in central defense. Gutierrez has also seen time during preseason in central defense. New acquisitions Frankowski and Herron shore up an already viable offensive punch of Rolfe, Mapp, and Barrett. Both Rolfe and Barrett had their hiccups last season, along with Mapp gone most of the season nursing an injury, so Frankowski should be the key to elevate all three back into production. The loss of Matt Pickens hurts, but nothing permanent as veteran Jon Busch is more than capable of taking over the reins.

If there are any SuperDraft picks poised to make a contribution, I would bet on defender Austin Washington, forward Patrick Nyarko and midfielder Stephen King. Nyarko could see some time along with Calen Carr if Barrett and Rolfe start to misfire, along with Barrett's expected absence for the Olympics in Beijing.

Chris Armas' retirement stings a bit as he was a vital on-field presence. Perfect combination of tenacity, leadership, and control. He will still be on the sidelines, and it will be up to Pause/Gutierrez to lead the squad. The controversy going on with Lidier Marmol - a tug-of-war between RBNY and Chicago - is pointing in the Fire's favor and if he is signed, you could see another

With Osorio gone and Hamlett in place, I think you're going to see a Bob Bradley/Preki switch-off here. The tactics won't change much, but Hamlett seems to have the Fire in better shape physically to start the season. The key will be how they blend together on the field - a demanding and aggressive Blanco will have to flow again with the laid-back Mapp. Frankowski is a question mark, but if there is one thing working for him, it's that Polish heritage. Overall, the Fire are going to have to avoid the crappy start that plagued them in 2007 and Blanco needs to survive a full 30 games without pissing anybody off in order for Chicago to make their mark. Realistically, depending on the impact of Frankowski and Blanco this year, you can still expect a fifth place finish in the East which may or may not give them a place in the Playoffs.

Outlook: 5th in the East

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