Oh, um, (R).
Here's the thing - like Houston, the Fire didn't make any truly monstrous changes, except to sign a hopefully useful international forward. The rest of the team is a known MLS quantity, top to bottom. So, if a team doesn't make changes, why expect them to improve?
There they all are - Pause, Mapp, Barrett, Gutierrez. Even the "new" guys are familiar faces, like Busch and Prideaux (both of whose MLS obituaries were very premature).
There's Blanco, but every team has their big fancy international midfielder these days - even Toronto, for heaven's sake. Houston kept their lineup together, and has a big fancy international midfielder with actual MLS trophies - so why have the Dynamo done a swan dive into the toilet, while the Fire are out there killing people?
I have a couple of theories.
1. The Fire hated John Guppy so much, that him leaving was like a breath of pure ambrosia. This isn't too likely, because you can't breathe ambrosia - it would make your lungs all sticky. The way Chicago is playing, maybe they shouldn't replace him. General managers are more trouble than they're worth sometimes.
2. Guys, it's May. This is still a league where being in first place in October means Jacques Merde. And maybe those nice people in Foxboro should field a full team once or twice before we start talking about who's dominant in what conference.
3. Chicago made a coaching upgrade, and it's paying off. Okay, so what if it was against their will, and they're still for some reason acting snitty about it. When your second choice was as ridiculously perfect for the job as Denis Hamlett was, the transition was going to be a lot easier than, to pick an example entirely at random, New York.
I'm going to go with (3) for the moment, because I hate Cootiemac Blanco and I'm too biased to give him credit for anything. With the permanent caveat that nobody has proven anything until the playoffs, Hamlett took pretty much the same team Sarachan and Osorio had, and is making them into one of the league's truly fun teams.
Or, Hamlett has sold his soul to the Devil in order to win the East. Come on, admit it, you didn't believe a 4-5-1, with Chad Barrett as the 1, was going to win anything, did you?
Oh, yeah, that's another thing - Barrett sure responded well to all that criticism from jagoffs like, um, me. He's firmly in Twellman territory now - poor national team performances, criticism and scorn from fans, great club performances to prove critics wrong, call-up to national team, GOTO 10 - but that's progress from where he was last year at this time. There are plenty of fine players in the Bermuda Triangle of borderline Nats, after all, it's nothing to be ashamed of.