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Fire Kick Off 2008 Season in Salt Lake City

By Todd McClamroch in News on Mar 28, 2008 12:48PM

Chicago Fire Forward Chad BarrettThe Chicago Fire kick off their 2008 campaign tomorrow when they play Real Salt Lake on the road.

The Fire have undergone a series of changes since last season ended with a loss to the New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. The coach who was the architect the late season drive and playoff run, Juan Carlos Osorio, left the club to take the helm of the New York Red Bulls. Goalkeeper Matt Pickens left, for an opportunity to play abroad, and the club also lost the on-field services of midfielder Chris Armas though he has joined the Fire as an assistant coach.

Chicagoist was delighted to see forward Andy Herron, who scored nine goals for the squad in 2006, return to the Fire after spending a season in Columbus. The Fire also signed Polish forward Tomasz Frankowski during the off-season, and the two will team up with returning goal scorers Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Chris Rolfe, Chad Barrett and Calen Carr who combined for 20 goals in 2007.

We predict the Fire will finish third in the seven team Eastern Conference behind DC United and the New England Revolution but ahead of New York, Toronto, Kansas City and Columbus. A strong season from midfielder Justin Mapp, goalkeeper Jon Busch and the Fire finding a way to keep defender Wilman Conde happy in Chicago—and Blanco staying healthy and productive—could be the factors that could make the Fire contenders in 2008.

The Fire are hosting two viewing parties for Saturday's game at Villain's Bar + Grill (649 Clark St, Chicago) and El Estadio (2118 W. Lake Street in Melrose Park). The game is also one of 18 games that will be aired on MY50 WPWR with the kick-off at 5pm on Saturday. You can catch your first game at Toyota Park next Thursday when the Fire host the New England Revolution.