Fire/Yallop have big decisions to make for 2014

The Fire organization is in the midst of massive change and the wheels continued to turn yesterday with the departures of assistant coaches Mike Matkovich and Leo Percovich, goalkeeper's coach Aron Hyde, and Director of Scouting Rafael Carmona. The moves weren't surprising considering the nature of the business. New coaches typically bring in their own people to fill out the staff and this was no exception. Frank Yallop is expected to meet with players and remaining staff some time this week as he begins reshaping the club going forward.

At his introductory press conference last week Yallop indicated that he felt there was a good team already in place that would require some "tinkering" and not necessarily a complete overhaul on the pitch. There are some pieces in place but there are areas that need improvement. Firstly, Chicago needs to get better defensively and the back line that allowed 52 goals, second worst only ahead of DC United in the East will surely be scrutinized.

The midfield also certainly needs a creative spark in the center of the pitch and those aren't easy to find. With two Designated Players currently on the roster in Juan Luis Anangono and Egidio Arevalo Rios, the Fire may need to clear budget room in order to find either a creator or a more experienced target striker to complement the young Anangono. The Ecuadorian forward showed some flashes down the stretch and the Fire will have to decide whether or not they can go into 2014 gambling on potential.

The four starters on the back line are under contract for 2014 so any tinkering Yallop does defensively will require some movement if he decides that he can find a better option in one of those spots. Budget-wise, the Fire seem to be relatively close to the "cap" number but releasing or renegotiating deals with several relatively high paid (by MLS standards) veterans should provide some relief and room to make additions.

Yallop will have his work cut out for him with a handful of difficult and what could be unpopular decisions on the horizon. Logan Pause, Joel Lindpere, Daniel Paladini, Corben Bone, Shaun Francis, Egidio Arevalo Rios, and Maicon Santos are all names that could be elsewhere come January of 2014 when players report for training. In the meantime, he'll also be busy trying to fill positions on his coaching and scouting staffs including finding a person capable of filling a "technical director's" role allowing him to concentrates on the actual coaching in 2014.

That position will be critical to the success of Andrew Hauptman's revamped organization and it should be an individual familiar with MLS and the intricacies of the its mind numbing roster rules and budgetary constraints. The trick is finding someone who's also connected on the international level with sources leading to reinforcements capable of flourishing on the field. Yallop has proven he's capable of fielding a winner but whoever his right hand man will be could determine how well he does in filling the dual role of Director of Soccer and Head Coach. It's a large undertaking and there are certain to be more changes in the coming days and weeks.

On the pitch....

An updated status for each player on the roster at the close of the season provides a look at what some of the changes could be on the field:

Alex - After his initial six month contract expired his option for 2013 was picked up last fall. It would appear that the Brazilian attacker is back next season.

Quincy Amarikwa - Acquired from Toronto FC for a 2014 first round Supplemental Draft pick, the Fire didn't give up a whole lot to get him but he was very effective when called upon as a substitute. Considering his relatively low cost it's hard to imagine he won't be at least back in camp in 2014.

Juan Luis Anangono - The Fire shelled out a seven figure transfer fee to get him. Despite his salary being listed at only $120,000.00 he'll count as a DP because of it. Under contract for 2014.

Jalil Anibaba - The Fire's first round draft pick in 2011 has seen plenty of playing time in the last two seasons at right back and his more natural center back spot. Top rookie draft picks deals are generally 4-5 year pacts so he'll be around for a while.

Yazid Atouba - Last January's second round draft choice was seldom seen after the first few weeks of the season. He'll have a chance to impress a new coaching staff.

Austin Berry - Signed a multi-year deal with MLS before the draft in 2012. He's under contract for at least another two seasons.

Corben Bone - Re-signed with the club last spring at a much lower salary than his original rookie deal but still couldn't crack the 18. An off season loan may suit him well. If not he may be out the door.

Dilly Duka - Originally signed a Generation Adidas deal in 2010 with Columbus. Those deals usually include an option after four seasons. Appears close to taking the next step so it's hard to see Yallop not bringing him back next year.

Shaun Francis - Took up an international spot after being signed this past summer and saw action in all of one match. Unless he really impresses over the next few weeks it's hard to imagine him back in 2014.

Kellen Gulley - The club's second Homegrown signing ever in 2010 has failed to impress in Chicago and on loan with Atlanta. If he's not back with the Silverbacks, the Fire may look for yet another loan move for him.

Sean Johnson - The club holds an option for him in 2014. Will they re-sign him to an extension using the newly minted "retention funds" rule or will they pick up the option and look to cash in on the eventual transfer from a Euro club at some point in 2014?

Hunter Jumper - Second round pick in 2012 has some value as a back up at either center back or left back. Inexpensive depth is key in the salary cap conscious world of MLS.

Alec Kann - Certainly one of the players with a non-guaranteed deal as the third 'keeper coming into the season.

Brendan King  - Signed as a project last spring. He spent a good deal of the last month or two on the injured list.

Steven Kinney - His original 2010 rookie contract seems likely to expire with a litany of unfortunate injuries marring his career. He's probably out of chances due to those injuries.

Jeff Larentowicz - Signed a multi-year deal in January of 2012 with the Rapids. Likley has at least one more season left on his current contract.

Joel Lindpere - Inked a multi-year deal with New York in January of 2012. The Red Bulls traded him to Chicago for an international spot mostly to clear cap/budget room. It was a certainty that Lindpere wasn't going to be back if Klopas was retained and it doesn't seem likely that the Fire will have room with Yallop in charge either. A prime candidate for the Re-entry draft this season. We've probably seen the last of Lindpere in Fire colors.

Mike Magee - Signed a new deal with the Galaxy during this past preseason. Unless there was some agreement to renegotiate, the Fire may have a bargain for the next two seasons. From a player/agent standpoint there will be no better time in Magee's career to look for a new deal than now. This bears watching very closely.

Patrick Nyarko - Signed a two year deal in spring of 2012 but the Fire hold an option for 2014. Few wide players in MLS provide what Nyarko does for the Fire.

Daniel Paladini - Presumably signed a three year deal in 2011 which expires in December. If there is an option for a fourth he's probably on the bubble.

Logan Pause - The captain inked a two year extension in 2011. If he's not back for considerably less than he made in 2013 we may have seen the last of Pause as a Fire player.

Victor Pineda - Signed as the club's first Homegrown player in 2010, his initial deal is set to expire and he may be looking at options elsewhere. Perhaps a new coaching staff can entice him to stay.

Egidio Arevalo Rios - Technically acquired on loan from Palermo for six months. The Fire have an option to buy with an additional two years on the deal but his salary will be considerable if they renew him. Yallop must decide if it's worth having a seven figure holding mid on the roster when Larentowicz is already on the team.

Chris Rolfe - An off year after rejoining the team in 2012. Likely has at least one year remaining on that deal.

Maicon Santos - Signed a deal with DC in 2012 before the Fire picked him in the Re-Entry draft last winter. The club explored several loan moves for him this past summer but nothing materialized. Almost certainly will be elsewhere in 2014 unless he's willing to take a considerable pay cut.

Gonzalo Segares - Reworked his deal this past winter after the Fire left him available in Re-Entry. In exchange for a lower base wage he received additional years. Likely signed through 2014 with options for additional years.

Bakary Soumare - With the Union picking up a major portion of his cap number in 2014 he comes rather inexpensively. The club holds an option for 2o15.

Wells Thompson - MLS utility man  acquired from Colorado late last year. Could be on the outside looking in considering his budget number and production.

Paolo Tornaghi - If Johnson leaves in the next 12 months, Tornaghi will get a shot at the first team job. Signed through 2015.

Mike Videira - Another MLS utility type on the bubble with a likely non-guaranteed deal. Inexpensive number may help him stick around into the next camp.


Leave a comment
  • fb_avatar

    Definitely do not want to Pause going anywhere, would love to see him stay and finish his career in Chicago. If Rios goes could do well to try and get him at a lower salary then keep him as a rotation option as a DM.

  • In reply to FireHearts:

    Nothing to base this on, but one has to think that Logan Pause, if cut loose, will end his career rather than go to another club. He's the modern-day ambassador/face of the club to many, one would think he could very well end up retiring from the game and moving up front in some capacity.

  • In reply to Jeff Krause:

    If they do this, I hope they do it in a classy way, not a clumsy way. While I am not convinced of his contributions on the field these days, he does deserve some respect for his years of service to the club.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Jeff Krause:

    I don't remember him ever talking about the want to coach some day, but he's always been a pretty smart player and a leader. If he can translate that into teaching the sport, I would guess he'd be a fantastic Academy head/director, and as mentioned- a club ambassador.

  • In reply to Reuben Hussmann:

    I've asked him about it. He said its something that would interest him but he thinks he still has some miles left as a player.

  • I don't know about anyone else but would they ever consider making Johnson a DP? It may be unpopular but next to Magee, Johnson was our best player this year. Poalo shouldn't be our number 1 and we will struggle terribly if he is. Johnson will most likely be the #2 USA keeper after the World Cup and possibly go to Brazil for this World Cup. I would really hate to see him go.

    This is a pretty solid MLS roster for Yallop to work with. We need that creative midfielder and another cb. I'd like to see Magee drop deeper into an attacking mid role for next season. Get him on the ball more and facilitate. There is no way we are going to get 20 goals out of him again so we need to use his vision more next year. My $.02

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    Making Johnson a DP would be akin to the mistake many saw in LA making Omar a DP. It's almost a guarantee that Johnson goes abroad at some point in the near future, so the club would be far better served using those aforementioned "retention funds" to re-up his deal so they could get a higher transfer fee for him than if they just extend his contract and get Marco Pappa'ed.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    I'm not totally opposed to Paolo as a potential starter. To me, it was just a matter of him getting back in the saddle. The last game he started (I forget who it was,) he was *just* reaching form after being basically inactive for a long while.

  • Did you hear whether Yallop wants a TD to have identification and negotiation duties like a GM who reports to Yallop or does he want to handle that himself with an assistant to do the scouting?

  • In reply to iron81:

    Nothing on that yet. Yallop will have final say on every deal although I suspect the GM/TD will handle the negotiating part of it.

  • Really great stuff, Guillermo.

    Sorry for so many thoughts, but here goes:
    *I like(d) Rios, but if I had to choose 1 midfield DP, I'd let him go, keep Jeff L, and sign a DP attacking mid.
    *That said, I'm always hoping for 3 DPs. Not my money. :) Rios, Anangono and an attacking mid would work w/what we have in my book. Although a central defender, Anangono and an attacking mid would also be a nice combo.
    *Keep Amarikwa & Paladini. Both provide solid depth.
    *Buh bye to: Bone, Francis, King, Kinney, Lindpere, & Santos.
    *Keep Pause if he's willing to stay at slightly above replacement salary...another good depth player if/when needed, who also provides leadership and continuity.
    *Oh Rolfe. What happened bro? Probably wouldn't bring back anything worthwhile in a trade, so keep him for depth too. But if someone bites on potential and an off year, adios amigo.
    *Keep Magee up top please, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
    *Toughest call of the offseason w/the current roster: Anangono. I imagine his purchase is a sunk cost, so $120k seems reasonable for '14, although the DP part is tough. But they already spent the money, so I imagine he'll be back and they'll roll the dice that after acclimating to the US and MLS, he'll be better next year. Let's just hope he has more motivation than Big Mac.
    * he willing to be the 5th defender? I hope so.
    *Anibaba...can someone tell me if he's better at CB? I know it's his "natural" position, but he seems better suited to RB imo. What do y'all think?
    *Segares...I'd love to upgrade LB, but I think you ride him out another year and focus on other positions of need.
    *Thompson...start him at RB. ;)

  • In reply to Drew:

    Thanks Drew. I hope you're not serious about that last one.

  • fb_avatar

    When I first heard that Rios signed with cf97 it aggravated me because I thought "great, another Dmid." But holy hell has he impressed me since he came on. I think this man is worth the money we pay him. He's better than Logan, Lindpere and Big Red. I hope we see Rios in Fire Red nest season.

    What I'd like to see:

    Keep: Magee, Johnson, Duka, Nyarko, Rios, Berry, Tornaghi, Alex, Atouba, Pineda, Amarikwa, Anangonó, Anibaba, Jumper, Paladini, Segares.

    Cut/Trade: Bone, Francis, Kann, King, Kinney, Santos, Videira, Thompson.

    Renogotiate for a lower salary if not, cut/trade: Pause, Lindpere, Baky, Larentowicz, Rolfe.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Freddy Coba:

    My understanding is that Soumare's 2014 $ is guaranteed, thus they wouldn't be able to bring his salary down. The good thing is that Philly will pay approx. $150k of his $350k salary.

  • Speaking of the Fire, former Fire midfielder Cuauhtémoc Blanco was interviewed in a Spanish television said that he loves acting in Spanish soap operas and now he is looking forward towards doing musical but he isn't sure how he will fit in his schedule. Can you imagine Blanco "The Singer?"

  • fb_avatar

    I'd have to think a huge priority is going to be defensive depth. While there are currently some utility player options with the club, Gonzalo Segares seemed a bit slow to me this year (and he's always been one to rely on catching up to a player with slide tackles), and I still think Jalil Anibaba deserves starting minutes as a Center Back. Make the CB spots a toss up between Berry, Anibaba and Soumare - assuming we get either solid coverage for Segares and a proven Right Back.

    I really want to see Arevalo Rios back with the Fire next year- despite him missing up to six weeks due to the World Cup. He's the best Defensive Midfielder in the league as far as I'm concerned, and I actually loved how he paired with both Alex and Larentowicz this past season.

    While Mike Magee played more as a striker, I think Yallop has proven throughout the years that he wants the ball to get to his biggest offensive threats as quickly as possible- which is why San Jose the last few years would either bomb the ball up the field to target forwards like Alan Gordon or that Big Bird lookalike to control and play off to Wondolowski, or they'd push their Wing Backs up to send in crosses. Magee will play more of a reserved attacking spot, and make runs off of either side (starting more centrally) in order to have the ball at his feet and in a dangerous spot more often than if he was always playing up top and relying on service. Anangono impressed me for the most part, and I think him playing just a bit more with the core squad that is here already is going to make his timing that much better (assuming he doesn't Sherjill MacDonald himself into an extra 30 pounds and significantly slower through the off-season).
    Therefore- if I had to guess a "scheme" Yallop will follow, and assuming the players I'm about to list are with us, the team will take a 4-2-3-1 formation:
    Back Four
    Larentowicz and Arevalo Rios
    Nyarko Magee Duka
    It will be a concerted effort to rely on the skill of Larentowicz and Arevalo Rios to work with Magee to control the central midfield while Duka and Nyarko help push the play forward and make runs off of each other and Anangono's hold up play.

  • I have serious doubts that Anangono is the striker that will turn the club into a strong contender, like at the start of last season we still need another quality defender, an attacking midfielder, and a consistent striker, although the current lineup is much stronger than at the start of last season. What I find scary is that Lindpere, although he looked awful at times, lead the team in assists, in a somewhat limited playing time. I'm not implying that he should stay, but the woeful lack of play from the center midfield position.
    Nyarko still seems to be somewhat off form since coming back from his injury.

  • In reply to lonecoyote:

    Agreed there. That's something Nyarko admitted to as well when we talked w/ him in early October.

    As to the other points....a solid central attacking mid would solve a multitude of issues. I think, as unimpressed as I was with Anangono this season, giving him another year and going after a solid CAM would be the best litmus test for this current squad.

    And yeah, defensive depth is a close 2nd.

  • In reply to Jeff Krause:

    By solid central attacking mid you mean a solid central defensive mid?....oops sorry, I'm still stuck in the mind set from 2 weeks ago. ;)

  • Unfortunately a MLS/player's union agreement will keep non playoff teams from training past this morning, so the Fire will not continue training as originally planned. Frank Yallop will conduct player interviews through the end of the week.

    Yallop will address media tomorrow at a press conference.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Maybe Yallop will announce the pre-contract signing of Kaka tomorrow and then we can see someone eat a scarf?

  • In reply to penapirata:

    I'll add a game used sock to the menu if that announcement is made today ;)

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Also if you are going to be at the presser, could you ask him if he will take the 2014 USOC seriously?

  • In reply to penapirata:

    Hear hear.

  • No news on that press conference yet? God help us if Yallop is resigning already. :(

  • In reply to Arklow:

    I have some updates on twitter, but I'll have something up on it today.

  • fb_avatar

    Rolfe will probably be here next year, but veterans of his stature cannot be having off years.

Leave a comment