'15 Season Preview: Can new faces push Fire into playoffs?

( - Chicago Fire head coach Frank Yallop was very busy this offseason, and it wasn't a surprise considering that the club failed to reach the postseason for the second successive year.

Yallop's first season in charge of the Fire netted just six wins in 34 league games, a franchise low, and the former San Jose Earthquakes boss wasted little time in attempting to improve his team.

Not only did Yallop add three Designated Players to his side, but he also acquired a Trinidad and Tobago international defender as well as a former Southampton forward in the hopes of returning the Fire to the postseason for the first time since 2012.

The influx of talent includes a pair of forwards signed as Designated Players in David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike, while midfielder Shaun Maloney is also a DP and should help provide width for the Fire attack.

Defensively, Yallop added two potentially important pieces as well in Adailton and Joevin Jones.

The talent level in Chicago has certainly improved, but the other side of that coin is that Yallop will now have to hope his new pieces are able to assimilate quickly to Major League Soccer, and that they can fit well with the current group of players from last year's team.

Goalkeeper Sean Johnson is one of the few certainties on the Fire roster and he will once again backstop the defense, while midfielders Jeff Larentowicz and Harry Shipp are reliable players in the middle of the pitch.

Outside of that, however, things are fairly wide open, with the additions of Adailton and Jones in the back potentially strengthening the unit.

The departures of both Bakary Soumare and Gonzalo Segares in defense have created a few openings, and Yallop believes that Adailton and Jones can upgrade an inconsistent unit from last season.

The 31-year-old Adailton arrives in Chicago from Brazilian side Bahia, and he brings a physical presence to the group at 6-foot-3, 187 pounds.

Adailton will also bring with him experience having featured in the UEFA Cup with Rennes as well as Swiss side FC Sion in the Europa League.

While Adailton could bring stability to the middle of the defense, Jones has been tipped to take over the left back spot and help shore up a unit that gave up 51 goals last season.

Shipp was one of the few bright spots for the Fire last season as he established himself as a future star by tallying seven goals and six assists in his rookie campaign.

And his presence, along with Larentowicz in midfield, gives Yallop a solid foundation around which to build his team.

Maloney, 32, is expected to play on the wing and he joins the Fire after three-plus seasons with Wigan. The Scotland international has also enjoyed time with Celtic and Aston Villa, making him a potential team leader as well as a valuable contributor.

The most interesting part of the team for Yallop to figure out will be up top as the coach must find the right combination of players to lead the line.

Quincy Amarikwa led the Fire with eight goals last season, and he returns along with veteran Mike Magee, who managed seven goals in 17 games in a season in which he battled injuries.

But with the additions of both Igboananike and Accam as Designated Players as well as former Southampton frontman Guly do Prado, Yallop has a wealth of options.

It's hard to imagine the boss not giving his new DP's every chance at getting regular minutes, while Do Prado is also an interesting option after he scored 23 goals in 118 appearances for Southampton while helping the club gain promotion to the Premier League.

Despite all the changes taking place in Chicago, team captain Larentowicz says that he is looking forward to the new season and relishing the chance at a fresh start, as are the rest of his teammates.

"It's a cliche and a banal statement, but you start at zero and everyone else is starting at zero. Not only when you look at the standings but when you look at our team, everyone should feel like they're starting from zero and that's why the intensity of the camp has been so good, because everyone should feel like they've got a shot."

ACQUISITIONS: Kennedy Igboananike (F), Joevin Jones (D/M), Eric Gehrig (D), David Accam (F), Adailton (D), Shaun Maloney (M), Jon Busch (GK), Guly do Prado (F).

LOSSES: Logan Pause (M), Robert Earnshaw (F), Patrick Ianni (D), Gonzalo Segares (D), Florent Sinama-Pongolle (F), Grant Ward (M), Bakary Soumare (D), Sanna Nyassi (M), Juan Luis Anangono (F).

OUTLOOK: With so many new faces to work into his team, Yallop's side should not be expecting to get out of the blocks quickly. The coach will be using the first few months to sort out his options at striker, while newcomers like Maloney, Igboananike, Accam, Jones and Adailton will be adjusting to life in MLS. But as the season goes on, this team has the potential to come together and form a solid outfit capable of making a run at a postseason berth in the Eastern Conference. After finishing ninth out of 10 teams in the East and 13 points out of the playoffs, expect the Fire to be a much more competitive outfit this season.