Chicago Fire: 2003 Outlook
2002 Record: 11-13-4 (38 points), Eastern Conference third place, playoff quarterfinals
Coach: Dave Sarachan (first season)
Who's back: F Ante Razov, M DaMarcus Beasley, M Chris Armas, M Jesse Marsch, D Carlos Bocanegra, D C.J. Brown, GK Zach Thornton
Who's new: M Andy Williams, F Nate Jacqua, M Justin Mapp
Who's gone: F Josh Wolff, F Hristo Stoitchkov, M Peter Nowak, M Dema Kovalenko
What's ahead: Chicago dumped a ton of talent for a second straight year to stay under the salary cap, but this year's changes were particularly brutal.
Nowak, the Fire's original player and captain its first five seasons, is gone, as is rising national star Wolff. But Chicago wasn't exactly gutted, with enough talent left to make most teams envious.
Beasley is one of U.S. soccer's brightest stars, and great things are expected of youngsters Mapp and Jacqua. Bocanegra, the league's best defensive player last season, and a healthy Armas will lead the tough defense.
The Fire also lost coach Bob Bradley, who went back home to coach the MetroStars. But Sarachan is a lot like Bradley, and already knows most of the Fire's roster from his days as a national team assistant.