Could this be the year the Fire turn it all around? Could this be the season they go from dead last to the playoffs? Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez and Head Coach Veljko Paunovic have spent the offseason building a team they think will challenge for a playoff spot this season. They went out and got proven winning players who will be leaders on and off the field. The team needs to change its mentality form one where losing and average performances were the norm to one where winning is expected.

The Fire signed three new players who are proven winners and leaders with their former clubs. They acquired Nemanja Nikolic from Polish giants Legia Warsaw where he scored 12 goals in the first part of the season. He has already made an impact on the team scoring one goal and adding an assist in two preseason matches. They also acquired Juninho, a former LA Galaxy star midfielder who helped them win MLS Cups. He is expected to be paired with fellow Defensive Midfielder Dax McCarty who they acquired from the New York Red Bulls. McCarty is a proven leader and winner. According to him β€œhe hates to lose”. β€œHe wants to change the culture of the team.”  http://www,

The Fire have finished the second phase of their pre-season with two friendlies, against Florida Gulf Coast University a 1-0 win with Nikolic scoring the lone goal. They also recorded a win against fellow MLS Eastern conference foes the Philadelphia Union again a 1-0 win, Forward Michael de Leeuw scored the lone goal assisted by Nikolic. The two shutouts are an encouraging sign for a team who found them very hard to come by last season. The Fire will complete their final phase of pre-season at IMG Academy from February 13-26. They will play matches against MLS teams the Montreal Impact and Toronto and lower division teams Miami FC and FC Cincinnati.

They will begin Regular Season play on March 11 away to the Columbus Crew and the home opener against Real Salt Lake on March 11. So do long suffering Fire fans have a reason to hope and cheer? That question remains to be answered, but it seems like the Fire are taking positive steps to get there.


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