I've been a little wrapped up for the last week or so but now it's time to get back to the business at hand. It's MLS transfer season and things across the league are heating up. Sporting Kansas City seems to be putting the entire Eastern Conference on notice with recent transactions and the addition of a Designated Player (this guy has a pretty impressive scoring record). New York is active with the subtraction of Rafael Marquez and the addition of another Juninho but they're still without a head coach. The Fire have essentially stood pat so far with the exception of adding Maicon Santos during Phase 1 of the Re-Entry Draft but there are spots to be filled. Sure, they've re-signed Arne Friedrich and Gonzalo Segares but it's safe to say that at least one new impactful reinforcement is needed in order to challenge for more than just a playoff spot.
Since it appears that Corben Bone is negotiating a new deal with the club, the current roster stands at 25 (if you count Guille Franco who is contractually bound until Dec. 31). According to estimations based on the 2012 MLS Player's Union salary list the club currently has three spots open on the senior roster, also know as "Salary Budget Players" or salaries that count against the soft cap. Looking at the 17 names that presumably make up the senior roster it appears that the Fire will be close to the $2,950,000.00 budget/cap number for 2013 even after renegotiations are taken into account. Here is a guess as to which players will comprise the "Budget" list this coming season:
Johnson, Anibaba, Berry, Friedrich, Segares, Alex, Fernandez, Nyarko, Paladini, Pardo, Pause, Thompson, MacDonald, Oduro, Rolfe, Santos, Bone
Off budget players could be: Tornaghi, Jumper, Kinney, Walls, Pineda, Videira, Gulley
The club also has 2 international spots open if Franco is not retained as expected. We don't know what they've got in terms of allocation money available to fill the open roster spots but it appears on the surface that there isn't much wiggle room financially to add a big salaried/DP acquisition without adjusting the roster or relocating dollars like they essentially did with Segares in a renegotiated deal. A big move this offseason may necessitate more roster changes that could alter the chemistry of the current eleven. After returning to the playoffs following a 2 year absence, I'm not sure big changes are afoot.
Either way, the Fire aren't done making moves. Recent trips to Spain and Argentina may yield reinforcements but I wouldn't hold out hopes for a big splash.
Re-Entry Draft Phase 2
The Fire weren't active on day 2 of the Re-Entry draft but did lose defender Dan Gargan to the San Jose Earthquakes. Gargan apparently fell out of favor for some reason while losing his starting right back position to Jalil Anibaba and now depth on the back line should be a concern. The club has youth available at right back with Jumper and Walls staring at an opportunity to earn first team minutes but some experience will be needed in the event of injury or suspension.
Former Fire players John Thorrington and Chad Barrett were selected by DC and New England respectively. Is there a better combination for fan derision than Barrett and the Revolution?
First Kick Match Ups Announced
The Fire will open the 2013 season in Los Angeles against the two-time defending champion Galaxy on March 3. They'll open the home portion of the schedule the following week against Barrett and the aforementioned Revolution and follow that up with a trip to Sporting Kansas City on March 16.
That's two tough road games in three weeks to start the season. It may help that both Los Angeles and Sporting will be introducing new pieces on the field and may need some time to adjust while the Fire will likely feature a core which has been together for some time now.
Here's the complete MLS First Kick schedule.