The Designated Player Search

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."

Sports News - October 16, 2008

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.


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  • I've only seen him play a couple of times for Bolton last season and he seemed OK at that level. Worked hard. I would like to see a more creative midfielder be brought in to the squad. A player that can take people on in 1v1 situations and that makes the players around him better.

  • I agree, there are a lot of good forwards out there, but the MLS and most importantly the Chicago Fire need a creative player on the ball who can control a game, provide quality service, and create attractive soccer. You are running a large risk by looking to get a stud forward who was only good because of the quality play around him. Many forwards out there, like BMB, need quality service to be successful. The most successful DP in MLS have been players that can take nothing and turn it into something. Blanco, Angel, Scheletto, Ljungberg, and I would argue that De Guzeman will be a good one as well. Thats what the Fire need. Whether we will get that or not will be the question.

  • I'm not Polish or Mexican, so I think I'm a little biased, but I believe that the majority of the fans would rather see a young, quick player who can raise the Fire level of play from Australia instead of an old, slower, washed-up guy like Blanco who is not actually very good but sells tickets. I know I would rather get season tickets with the first option, not the second one. What I'm trying to say is that we shouldn't sign somebody just because they're Polish or Mexican, despite the fan base. We should sign them if they will raise the level of play and make Chicago Fire Soccer more exciting. Klopas is still on fire, delivering a very good talk about DPs there.

  • BTW, interesting story in Daily Herald today. He has a lineup if it were today on the bottom, and it isn't as bad as you would think.

  • In reply to patrickhattrick:

    His lineup is fine but with the way that Pause has been playing (very negative, always backward and no attacking ability what so ever) I would like to see Ward in his position with Desan playing in the back. Something like this


    Mapp------------------Banner/Pappa if we can get him





    That lineup is better than most MLS teams right now.

  • In reply to patrickhattrick:

    Smolarek i know nowak was tring to get him but Philly doesn't have enought funds at the monent...

  • In reply to patrickhattrick:

    Smolarek would be a dream pickup, but I think he's going to stay in Europe. He would make himself a star here immediately, kind of like a Sheletto.

  • Smolarek would be one hell of a pickup, a DP forward/midifelder in his prime is something few teams have been able to acquire, outside of LA with Landon Donovan who is a DP for all intents and purposes. What other top players have expiring contracts in the Spring?

  • In reply to milicz:

    If I were frank klopas, I wouldn't be as concerned with finding a polish or mexican specific player. Any star player we get can bring in a crowd regardless of nationality, just as long as the SCORING, CREATIVE, WINNING soccer is being played. Like TKING said, we need to be looking for game changers. Players that have the skills and creative play to win big games. I think we should be looking for an attacking midfielder and not so much a forward. We need a maestro for our orchestra.

    Ofcourse it would be great if we get a good forward that can score goals because mcbride and Nyarko will need help in that department. However, A player that controls the play and can score goals as well as set them up is much needed. Like a Scheletto, he attacks, is creative and can score. That's our priority right now. We need a coach first though... If we can get a coach affiliated and has connections with different leagues/players around the world, that would be huge i.e. not hiring Soehn, Marsch, Armas, def not sarachan, Fraser, or Williams. Let's see a fresh face with some knowledge of other players.

    Let's not blow this Klopas!

  • In reply to jking:

    Smolarek brings SCORING, CREATIVE AND WINNING soccer, plus he is Polish, so I guess he fills every requirement.

    Imagine McBride and Smolarek upfront paired with Schelotto in the midfield (he can be had for non-DP money is the rumor, plus we have allocation cash)? I think you have a better offense then we had the past 2 years throwing those 2 into the mix.

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