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Are the Chicago Fire a Team to Fear in MLS After Offseason Acquisitions?

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJanuary 28, 2015

WIGAN, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 22:  Wigan Athletics Shaun Maloney  (l) vies with Middlesbroughs Emilio Nsue during the Sky Bet Championship match between Wigan Athletic and Middlesbrough at DW Stadium on November 22, 2014 in Wigan, England.  (Photo by Ryan Browne/Getty Images)
Ryan Browne/Getty Images

During the wild and crazy Major League Soccer offseason, the Chicago Fire have flown under the radar with their slew of acquisitions. 

The Fire, who have missed the playoffs in four of the last five seasons, are once again looking for new designated players to bring them back to the promised land. 

In the busy offseason, the Fire have brought in Kennedy Igboananike, David Accam and Shaun Maloney as their latest designated players. All three players are expected to improve the team's attack, which already features Mike Magee, Quincy Amarikwa and Harrison Shipp. 

Given the history of designated players in Chicago, it is easy to doubt the talent the Fire will put out on the pitch in 2015. Only Cuauhtemoc Blanco experienced a good amount of success in a Fire shirt as a designated player from 2007 to 2009. 

Despite the lack of trust in the club's eye for talent, there is plenty of hope surrounding the Fire heading into the new campaign. 

On top of stockpiling talent in attack, Frank Yallop's side have attempted to secure the back line with the additions of Adailton, Joevin Jones and Eric Gehrig. 

Gehrig will be tasked with helping Chicago's defense improve in 2015.
Gehrig will be tasked with helping Chicago's defense improve in 2015.USA TODAY Sports
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Unlike the depth in attack, Chicago only has a few returning players in the back four in Lovel Palmer and Greg Cochrane, which means the first month or two could be rough for the unfamiliar lineup. 

Although there are plenty of concerns about the defense, the Fire do have a very reliable 'keeper in Sean Johnson. If the United States international can shine during the first half of the season, he will give the defense time to work out their growing pains. 

Sep 20, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA;  Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson (25) makes a save against the D.C. United during the second half at Toyota Park. The Chicago Fire and D.C. United end in a draw 3-3. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

When you look at the squad as a whole, there is plenty of potential for the Fire to contend for a playoff position in the Eastern Conference in 2015. 

Maloney and Shipp should provide plenty of quality on the wings with a bevy of hungry forwards waiting to strike against opposing defenses. The young duo of Igboananike and Accam could also come into the league with no fear and get off to hot starts. 

At 24, Accam could be a key player for Chicago for years to come.
At 24, Accam could be a key player for Chicago for years to come.Alberto Saiz/Associated Press

While the clubs Chicago faces at the start of the season will have information on the two forwards, they will not have the in-person experience of marking the two. Just like many first-year players in other American sports, the pair could thrive before tape is gathered on them.

Another positive quality about the forward depth is Magee will not face a ton of pressure up front by himself this season. The league veteran had an unreal 2013 in which he scored 21 goals for the Fire and LA Galaxy. 

In 2014, Magee's goal total dropped down to seven, which is still an impressive total for the player, who was never seen as a major threat in front of goal before the 2013 campaign. 

With plenty of experience under his belt in MLS, Magee should be able to help the pair of young newcomers and Amarikwa with their technique in front of goal. If all goes well, Magee will only have to score a handful of goals for the Fire to be successful. 

Jul 12, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; Chicago Fire forward Mike Magee (9) and forward Quincy Amarikwa (24) react after scoring a goal during the first half against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sport
USA TODAY Sports

A lot of Chicago's success in 2015 will be determined by the play on the pitch, but it also helps that the East has weakened in quality with the departures of Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo

At the moment, only New England, D.C. and Columbus can be seen as locks for the playoffs. With six spaces now open for playoff teams in each conference, Chicago's chances of qualifying for the postseason have increased. 

However, just like a few other squads in the East, the Fire need everything to jell early in the season to be labeled as a contender. The Fire will be lumped in the same group as the other six clubs in the East in regards to their potential. 

With so many things up in the air in the East heading into the 2015 season, the Fire could very well produce a winning season and reignite the passionate fanbase in Chicago.

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

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