Predicting the 2020 Fire season? Good luck

Lots of wins and big crowds, but also losses and more muttering are all possible for the Fire.

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After an offseason of change, the Fire ope the season Sunday in Seattle.

Courtesy of the Fire

Don’t listen to anybody who says they know how the Fire’s season will go.

The roster could click, and Soldier Field might become a true home field. The franchise may be on the Seattle/Atlanta path, and there’s potential for games on WGN to attract more than diehards and maybe even some new fans.

Or, the wins might not come and the only excitement will be brought by visiting players, leaving Soldier Field to feel big and empty. Murmurs about the logo and the early stages of the offseason won’t disappear, proving that beefed-up marketing can only go so far.

It’s all possible.

BEST-CASE SCENARIO
With FC Basel, Georg Heitz was an architect of a model club. Basel spotted talent and developed it but kept on winning when stars moved on. Heitz’s eye for talent and his alignment with Raphael Wicky will help the Fire play an entertaining and attractive style that easily takes them into the playoffs.

That brand of soccer will also help their business side, as enough fans will find their way to Soldier Field to meet Joe Mansueto’s goal of 25,000 per game. While the decade of decay won’t be undone, 2020 will end with only positive vibes.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO
Gone from 2019 are all three designated players, the captain, and the best playmaker. In any offseason, that would be a lot to bear. For a franchise that didn’t hire its sporting director until Dec. 20 and the coach until Dec. 27, that will be too much to handle.

Simply put, there will be too much change for the Fire to get much from the first half of the season. By the time everybody’s acclimated, it will be too late, and empty seats will be the enduring visual of 2020.

PREDICTION
The Fire have far too many questions entering the season to say they’ll finish in the top four of the Eastern Conference and contend for MLS Cup. The roster was built with a plan, and it should set the table for a successful 2021, but 2020 will have rough moments simply because of the turnover.

So here goes: The Fire will get off to a slow start before recovering to finish seventh in the East to narrowly make the playoffs, where they’ll suffer a first-round elimination. There will be enough positives on and off the field to keep people optimistic about the future.

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