After years of frustration, the Fire fortified their roster in 2017, which resulted in the third-best record in MLS and rekindled hope at Toyota Park.
It was a breakthrough year for the team and a breakout season for left back Brandon Vincent.
After a trying rookie season, Vincent benefitted from the additions of veterans Bastian Schweinsteiger, Dax McCarty, Nemanja Nikolic and Juninho and blossomed into one of the Fire’s most important players. He had two goals and five assists and played responsibly in his own end, justifying the wheeling and dealing that brought him to Chicago as the No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 draft.
Despite his newfound status, Vincent’s attitude hasn’t changed. He’s working on getting used to his new teammates and life without traded forward David Accam, who routinely combined with Vincent to attack down the left flank.
“My approach is the same as it’s always been — try to keep my head down, work hard,’’ Vincent said. ‘‘You take the positives that you can, and you learn from the negatives. Ultimately, as long as you’re moving forward and getting better, that’s what’s most important. If I can continue to progress and improve, of course there are going to be stumbles along the way, but if I continue on that upward trajectory, that’s all I can ask.”
Vincent’s continued ascent would be good news for the Fire, who were a markedly different team without him last year. He missed seven consecutive games in July and August with a quadriceps injury, then only played one minute in his return Sept. 2 at Montreal before staying on the field for good the rest of the season.
In the seven league games Vincent missed, the Fire went 1-6 and lost any chance of claiming the league’s best record. The offense sputtered and the defense struggled, allowing at least two goals in six of those games.
But Vincent, 23, didn’t sound too interested in those numbers.
“As a group, we’re in it together,’’ Vincent said. ‘‘When we go through those down streaks, it’s all of us. It’s not, ‘Hey, I wasn’t playing, so it’s not really my fault.’ Everyone knows that we have to be better, and when I get back on the field, I’ll do everything I can to make sure that happens. Whether that’s directly related or not is not for me to say. All I can do is control how I play.’’
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