CHICAGO – It’s the time to start anew with the dawn of a Major League Soccer season, but for the club, the situation is the same as it’s been for a few years.

Chicago Fire FC is hoping once again to find the right chemistry, be consistent, and end what is now a six-year playoff drought. There are many who are doubting the club can do so since they’ve fallen short in that question more often than not over the last decade.

During the last two seasons, the club was out of the playoff running before the final weeks of the season.

It’s something that manager Ezra Hendrickson believes is motivating the club as they begin the MLS season on Saturday night at Soldier Field against New York City FC.

“I think something that’s fueling the players, too, is just the lack of respect that we’re getting from the experts, so if you want to call it bulletin board material,” said Hendrickson. “But I think the guys are together, and this is something that we asked of them, to be together as
a team on and off the field, and we’re seeing that. It’s very easy to tell on the field of play if a
team is together off the field or not.

“I think we have been seeing that very well in preseason, so that’s something we are going to continue to push.”

That’s been going on in training camp that took place in Cancun, Tuscon, and Chicago with a group that features returning players like Xherdan Shaqiri, Chris Mueller, along with ten homegrown players that make up a fair amount of the group.

Goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina (Chelsea FC) and winger Jhon Duran (Aston Villa) are among those that have left the club while Kei Kamara, one of MLS’ all-time leading goal scorers, is one of the top newcomers along with forward Georgios Koutsias.

This is the group that Hendrickson hopes will defy those outside expectations and help the club to their first playoff berth in six years. Shaqiri believes, however, that those goals

“I think we always have expectations, also, as a team, and especially after the last season, we didn’t make the playoffs; we have even more hunger this season to make the playoffs and to be successful,” said Shaqiri when asked about Hendrickson saying that the team has outside motivation this season. “Yeah, finally, as the coach says, he’s the boss, and he
sets some goals and we try to reach them.”

The quest to do that start Saturday night.