Grazzini plot thickens
The Fire did not make Sebastian Grazzini available to reporters following training this morning fueling further speculation that the midfielder's option may not be picked up come June 30. Grazzini seemed to have a few words for the coaching staff as he walked by the bench while ignoring hand shake offers after being substituted in the 60th minute on Sunday. According to witnesses located near the Fire bench he followed that up by slamming down his warm-up and leaving for the locker room before the match concluded. He was showered and departed by the time media was allowed into the locker room after the match as well.
Frank Klopas, who suggested that he wanted to keep Grazzini in the side last week but was not involved in the contract negotiations addressed the situation after practice today stating that the time has not yet come to make a decision and acknowledged that the player has a say with regards to the club picking up his option.
Retaining Grazzini would seem to be a no-brainer especially since the club holds the option but the entire picture is difficult to assess without knowing what the issues are for both sides. Grazzini has been an integral part of the Fire's revitalized attack and overall improvement since joining the club last July. Consistently dangerous prolific scorers and creative attacking playmakers are the most difficult positions to fill effectively in MLS and it would seem that Grazzini fits the bill as one of those elusive talents given his production so far. He may be well within his right to demand additional monetary compensation and a longer term stay on top of the option based on the fact that he has performed well in his time with the club but the front office also has the right to work the best possible deal while guarding what is best for the club within the restrictions dictated by MLS budgetary rules - if indeed that is what has kept them from completing this deal long before it became the distraction that it is now.
Simply from a public perception standpoint it seems that the front office has painted themselves into a corner once again by waiting to the last possible minute at the risk of alienating an important player. Of course, an agreement could be reached before June 30 and this will all blow over but it seems an unnecessary evil at this point. Ownership should know that another public relations gaffe will further alienate a hard core fan base already disheartened by other unnecessary mistakes like the public dissing of Peter Wilt at CJ Brown's Ring of Fire induction ceremony. And that's saying nothing of the ceremony itself which appeared to be handled as a half-time after thought.
Of course if there's another dynamic, playmaking midfielder sitting at home just waiting for the Fire to decide the fate of Grazzini then all of this will make sense. The next month will be very interesting indeed.
Klopas also said that he expects the club will make a signing during the summer transfer window (June 27-July27). Whether or not that signing turns out to be the impact striker that is probably necessary to challenge for a top spot in the East remains to be seen. Fire brass was away on a "scouting" trip last week to speak with candidates in person and seem to have one established striker at the top of the wish list. However, that player apparently has drawn interest from at least one Premiere League club so the signing is not a sure thing. There also seems to be a handful of lesser known forwards on the list should choice "A" not be available.
NBCSN announcer Arlo White mentioned during Sunday's broadcast that the Fire is also looking at possibly adding a central midfielder. I'm assuming the central midfielder would be an addition pending the outcome of negotiations with Grazzini.
Another week for Friedrich
It seems the Fire will have Jalil Anibaba and Austin Berry together in the starting eleven for at least another week. Arne Friedrich told reporters today that he is not quite ready to start this weekend against Columbus although he continues to participate in full training.
Near sell out crowds are expected for the next three home games. Saturday's match against the Crew is being hyped by a twitter battle between the two clubs. A winner will be determined by the total amount of fan tweets featuring either the phrase #VoteFire or #VoteCrew. Needless to say, there are some creative reasons being submitted for voting for either side. Games against the Los Angeles Galaxy and Vancouver Whitecaps are either sold out or close to it.
Fire Confidential Milestones
Some time in the next few weeks Fire Confidential will hit 500,000 page views over the last two seasons on top of already eclipsing 15,000 reader comments since 2009 when our pal Sam Stejskal originally penned this blog. I'd like to take a second to thank all of you for reading and making this a blast to do. Original Fire news blogger Luis
Arroyave Gomez, author of the Tribune's Red Card told me during a rare press box appearance on Sunday that one of the things he missed most about the soccer beat was reading the comments from Fire supporters. Thanks for making it fun.
That goes out to all four of you who have clicked on this site over 125,000 times apiece in the last two-plus seasons. ;)