The Chicago Fire are one of three remaining undefeated teams in Major League Soccer. Under new head coach Ezra Hendrickson, Chicago have found a new toughness defensively, with a league-best four shutouts, and have real talent in attack. The Fire currently sit at fourth place in the Eastern Conference with nine points.
For this week's Throwback Thursday, let's look at the last time Chicago was actually good, 2017.
The 2017 Chicago Fire are one of my favorite and most fascinating teams in modern MLS history. Chicago missed the year before and the year after, but for that one special summer, the Fire were one of the hottest teams in the sport.
The buzz around the Fire all started with the blockbuster arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger. The World Cup-winning German midfielder was a bonafide superstar that breathed life into the Fire franchise and MLS in Chicago.
While the former Manchester United and Bayern Munich man led the way, providing a level of class and leadership badly needed for the wayward franchise, it was the attack that really brought the Fire to the summit of MLS.
Hungarian international striker Nemanja Nikolic scored 24 goals, winning the MLS Golden Boot. In the annals of recent MLS Golden Boot winners, you see plenty of big stars who've defined the league over the last half decade, and also Nikolic, a one-season wonder who dominated before dissapearing back to his home country.
David Accam had his best MLS season, scoring 14 and assisting eight. The Ghanaian winger was decent in his first two years in Chicago, but took his game to the next level for his third, and final, campaign in the Windy City.
With all the firepower in attack and Schweinsteiger bossing the midfield, plus top-class performances from MLS veterans, most importantly Dax McCarty, the Fire rose all the way to third in the Eastern Conference.
Chicago dominated with several big wins, including a 4-0 drubbing of Orlando City. The Fire rang off a ten-game unbeaten streak in the middle of the season, with eight wins in that run. Down the stretch, though, Chicago faltered and fell off, including a four-game losing streak. Eventually, the season ended with a dismal 4-0 drubbing by the New York Red Bulls in the first round of the playoffs.
The Fire haven't made the playoffs since 2017, and almost all of the players on that squad either fell off hard or get old. But after four years in the MLS wilderness, it finally looks like the Second City has a second life in Major League Soccer.