The Chicago Fire were once a powerhouse in Major League Soccer. Chicago won the MLS Cup in its first season in 1998 and finished twice as the runner-up in 2000 and 2003.
Now, the Fire are languishing at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. They're also the only team without a road win in 2015. It is easily the most sorry franchise in the league.
To make matters worse, Chicago's prized offseason acquisition, Shaun Maloney, is nearing a move to Hull City in the English Championship. Head coach Frank Yallop (via Orrin Schwarz of the Daily Herald) confirmed that a deal was close:
Maloney left for personal reasons because of the "setup not being right," according to sports agency Global Premier Management:
The Scotland international scored three goals and recorded two assists in 14 appearances with Fire. Maloney missed some matches due to injury and international call-ups.
Despite Maloney's short stint with the Fire, he's still tied for sixth in appearances among Chicago designated players, per freelance writer Jeff Crandall:
Ever since Cuauhtemoc Blanco left Chicago, the Fire have struggled to find a DP who can produce. David Accam could buck the trend. The forward has six goals in 14 appearances and is still just 24 years old.
However, Accam is proving to be the only smart signing. Maloney's imminent departure will free up a DP slot and some cap space, but it's highly likely that the Fire will make another underwhelming signing.
The fans are clearly fed up with the average acquisitions and mediocrity. Supporters are protesting Andrew Hauptman's ownership of the team and are growing restless.
Since Hauptman bought the team in 2007, Chicago hasn't won a major trophy and has missed the playoffs four out of the last five years. It appears as if the Fire will miss the postseason again.
Considering the size of the market and the past success of the Fire, they're in an awful state. Hauptman's net worth is not publicized, but the Chicago Fire are worth around $160 million, per Forbes. The team ranks seventh in MLS.
However, if the Vancouver Whitecaps can spend wisely on designated players despite being the 16th most valuable franchise, the Fire can as well.
Yallop is also the director of soccer, meaning he has input on personnel decisions. It's safe to say that he hasn't excelled in either role so far. Trevor James, the head of scouting, has been underwhelming as well.
However, the Fire have talented players: Goalkeeper Sean Johnson is a reliable No. 1, Jeff Larentowicz and Joevin Jones have been solid defenders, Rookie Matt Polster has been tremendous in central midfield, Harry Shipp is the crown jewel of the academy and Accam has proven to be a formidable signing.
Spending big money isn't the answer, though.
Teams need lower-paid players coupled with those marquee signings. There also needs to be a clear philosophy in place with a coach who can carry out the plan.
Peter Vermes, Carl Robinson and Oscar Pareja have turned their respective teams into realistic MLS Cup contenders despite limited resources. Vancouver, SKC and Dallas rank eighth, ninth and 19th in guaranteed compensation, per ESPN FC.
Yallop doesn't seem capable of following this ideology anymore.
The 51-year-old's tactics have been dull, especially on the road. The Fire have scored just 11 times and have allowed 22 away from home. They look bereft of ideas in the final third whenever they're outside of Toyota Park.
On the other hand, Hauptman chose Yallop over Frank Klopas, who was fired despite a record of 34 wins, 17 draws and 25 losses. Klopas was also the last coach to lead the Fire to the playoffs.
Every successful business starts at the top. This Maloney saga is proof that ownership and those in charge of personnel aren't competent enough to bring glory back to Chicago.
Peter Galindo covers MLS and U.S. soccer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @GalindoPW.