Hey everyone, I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving (I know I did, the turkey was delicious...) but I'm back with more Fire news for you on what will hopefully be a leisurely day of leftovers, relaxing and maybe - for the adventurous amongst us - Black Friday shopping.
Today's post concerns the topic of the Fire's impending void at Designated Player. The Fire will be without a DP when Cuauhtemoc Blanco leaves the team in January to join Mexican side Veracruz and the club will be looking to fill the hole left by the departure of the creative forward.
"We're always looking for good players," Fire Technical Director Frank Klopas said.
But despite the excitement that naturally comes with the search for a new, high profile player, the Fire is acknowledging the pitfalls that come with signing a Designated Player.
"In the history of the league there have been very few DP's that have had big impacts," Klopas said. "You have to look at situations; when their contracts are up, what type of guy they are and then you have to do a lot of research to see how they fit in. You have one shot, one chance to hit a bull's eye and it doesn't always work out." But what are the keys to hitting that "bull's eye?" According to Klopas, there are a number of factors that come into play.
"It depends the [team's] style of play," Klopas said. "It's a big responsibility [for a Designated Player] to produce on the field and be ambassadors off the field. You want a guy that is committed and you want a guy that wants to step on the field and win. There are a lot of things that go into it."
One thing that could go into the search for a DP is the nationality of the player. Chicago obviously has very large Mexican and Polish populations and signing a high-profile player from either of those countries could help get fans of those nationalities out to Toyota Park.
"You take that into consideration," Klopas said of attracting fans to Bridgeview with the signing. "But the most important thing for the Mexican fans and the Polish fans that have been here is that they want to see them do well on the field. It doesn't matter if I get a Polish player that can't get it done on the field. People want to see good players, they want to see talented players that can make a difference and play exciting soccer. If you get players like that it doesn't matter where they're from because in this city the people are knowledgeable about the game of soccer so it's important to put quality players on the pitch."
After doing some research on available players, one guy who seems like he would be a great fit for the Fire is Polish forward Ebi Smolarek. The 28-year-old Smolarek, who is currently a free agent, has scored 19 times in 42 appearances with the Polish National Team and has played for Feyenoord, Borrussia Dortmund, Racing Santander and Bolton in his professional career.
"He's a good player," Klopas said of Smolarek. "We're going to take look at all good players - especially one that's free."
For my part, I would like to see the Fire bring in a Designated Player. To me, there really isn't a whole lot of downside to signing a DP. The salary doesn't count against the salary cap, there's the potential to increase ticket sales/interest in the club (both of which are always a good thing) and - most importantly - the player would likely be one of very high quality that could make a big difference on the field.
However, should the Fire bring in a DP, they need to be sure that he will fit in well with the team and bring some passion and desire to the locker room. The club cannot afford to have a disinterested player come over for a quick American payday at the end of his career - that would be disastrous for the club and could set the organization back a long way.