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.