Just when it seemed this season would be lost, the Chicago Fire made a pair of moves in late May to bring the team back to life in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference.
With the MLS secondary transfer window opening Tuesday, it's clear the Fire still needs to make some moves.
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With exactly half of the season gone, the Fire (6-8-3, 21 points) sits in eighth place, 5 points from the fifth and final playoff spot.
"The start (of the season) wasn't what we wanted, but I think you can see we are right in the mix of things," coach Frank Klopas said after Sunday's lackluster 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City. " … There's a lot of games left to play.
"Obviously this was a tough game at home with a great crowd behind us, but we weren't going to go undefeated the whole season, so we just have to regroup and get on another run like we did."
The only question is which reinforcements will help the Fire get on another run.
"I think that they are a completely different team, and whether it's (Bakary) Soumare or maybe even more so the arrival of Mike Magee," said ESPN analyst Alexi Lalas, mentioning the two May additions to the team, "I think that there's a confidence about them, and certainly that's translated into results.
"Today was a difficult game," Lalas said Sunday, "but I think this game in a certain sense was important because just because things have gone well and Mike Magee is scoring goals and they're getting results doesn't mean that they're Barcelona.
"Understanding what they aren't is as important as understanding what they are."
What they are is a team capable of making the playoffs and hoping things go well once they get there. They are not a finished product; they are not a team likely to make a run to MLS Cup.
In 2012 the Fire brass dipped its collective toe in the transfer waters and found forward Sherjill MacDonald, a midlevel signing that barely caused a ripple.
MacDonald earns a team-high $527,125, according to the MLS Players Union, and he has yet to score this season, being relegated to an occasional substitute role.
Lalas would like to see the Fire make a splash during the transfer window, signing a multimillion-dollar player, preferably an attacking midfielder.
"When I think of the Chicago Fire I think of success," Lalas said after Sunday's broadcast at Toyota Park. "I think of big. It's a big market; it's a big team. It's got a big history and a big culture. So, yeah, they need to go big.
"If the Chicago Fire are now a small-market team then that's too bad, because that's a regression as far as I'm concerned. So, yeah, I think they need to do something that's obviously translated on the field but also send a message that this is the Chicago Fire."
Lalas also thinks the Fire could use another forward, someone more productive than MacDonald, who wouldn't mind a transfer back to Europe.
"We know where (MacDonald) is right now, and it's just not working," Lalas said. "It's just not the answer, but somebody dynamic that can either challenge for a starting spot or coming off the bench is going to provide them a spark that they didn't have today."
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