That was an eventful offseason, wasn't it? Acquisitions and departures, the collective bargaining agreement negotiations, a potential strike. But the Chicago Fire's 2010 MLS season opens right on cue this Saturday against the host New York Red Bulls (6 p.m. CT, ESPN).
"If you asked me at this time last week, it definitely didn't look good," Fire midfielder Logan Pause said earlier in the week. Pause was in the middle of the negotiation process in Washington, D.C.
Now, the Fire can focus strictly on their work on the pitch against a Red Bulls team that won only five games last year. Chicago also has won its past five meetings against New York.
The Red Bulls already kicked off their new Red Bull Arena with a strong 3-1 victory over Santos. But Santos was missing a lot of thunder in its lineup. There won't be as many open pockets on the pitch against the Fire.
Overall, New York had a pretty strong preseason, and the home crowd in a new arena will have its benefits.
"It will be difficult, obviously, in New York because they've got their new stadium and they're riding on a high right now," Fire defender C.J. Brown said. "It's just a matter of us going in there and containing their energy and playing the way we want to play."
New Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos will see if his squad can orchestrate the attack he is looking for in this group. With Collins John up front with Brian McBride, and a midfield that includes Marco Pappa and Julio Martinez, the team hopes to break through the Red Bulls' defense and get off to a fast start.
"Carlos brought in a little bit of a twist to how we're going to play, like every coach does," new No. 1 goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra said. "But I think that the advantage we have is that we have a lot of smart players who are very adaptable."
Will we see that attack-focused mentality stretch more toward the back, as well? Defensive midfielder Pause said with a bit of a smile that he is the wrong person to answer that question, but he too is trying to make a bit of an impact in the offensive third.
"I'm still trying to expand my game and expand my capabilities," Pause said. "Carlos and the staff have challenged me to do that and become more of a complete player, and not known necessarily for just my defensive abilities. It's a process, and anytime a new coach comes in with his philosophy and thoughts, things are going to change a little bit. I'll continue to plug away and do the little things right and train right, and I feel like the rest will take care of itself."
Prediction: Chicago Fire 2, New York Red Bulls 1