Fire add Northwestern's Chris Ritter as Homegrown Player

The Fire have added the fourth Homegrown Player in team history with the signing of Northwestern midfielder Chris Ritter. Recently ranked as the 10th best college player in the nation, Ritter has been described as an excellent defender who is often tasked with marking the opposition's best player. He's also dangerous on the other end scoring five goals to go along with five assists in 19 games in 2013. At 6-2, 190 Ritter adds some size and could eventually help set piece defending and scoring, an area which was lacking last season. Ritter ended his collegiate career with 14 goals and 13 assists over 84 appearances and is currently ranked as the 76th best collegiate player by Top Drawer Soccer.

A natural holding midfielder, Ritter had an opportunity to sign a Homegrown deal with the Fire after his Junior year at Northwestern after discussions with Frank Klopas and Mike Matkovich but he decided to stay in school and attain his degree. At 23 years old, he has spent time with the Academy and has had an opportunity to train with the first team so he's familiar with the club. There has been some speculation that he could eventually play at center back due to his size and ability in the air but he told reporters this morning that he hasn't played the position at a high level although he doesn't feel the transition is a difficult one.

Ritter was the 2012 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

This signing means the Fire will have added two highly regarded college players this offseason without having to expend a draft choice.  The Homegrown rule may finally begin to pay some dividends for the Fire in 2014.

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  • this is good news, for sure. nice to see the team add two top players in addition the the one they'll add w/their draft pick.

    i've been contemplating the xavi rumors this morning though, and thinking of MLS in general with the defoe, bradley, dempsey signings of late, not to mention players like keane, henry, & beckham before them. the league is changing, and i think sooner than later teams will have to sign these big buck players to remain competitive, unless they are an unusually adept organization.

    i have to say, i am a bit nervous the fire are going to end up as a middle table team without some philosophy changes - though i understand it's too early to make any sweeping statements like that. but based on recent history and a generally quiet offseason, it's at least a somewhat reasonable "fear".

  • In reply to Drew:

    The next step in the development of the league is on the horizon with the new tv deal and a new CBA in place next season. Your "fear" is a legitimate concern. Clubs will have to adjust their thinking and grow with the league or be left behind as soccer in America evolves.

  • I'm on the same page as Drew on this. I love the Ritter and Shipp signings, and we feel we have to get more out of our academy than we have so far. But the Fire is never going to be Barcelona - we need to find players externally, and we will need increasingly to keep up with signings like Bradley, Defoe, Dempsey, Henri, etc.

    My fear is that as the cap moves up, we're going to see teams settle into their places, with 4-5 big-spending clubs at the top of the heap. The churn will be between the very bottom of the table and the middle. Relegation will not remove the worst teams, of course; instead, parity will ensure that bottom-feeding low-budget clubs occasionally get a couple good recruiting classes or bargain blue-chip signings and make a run into the playoffs, while other middling clubs lose a few key pieces on the field, on the bench, or in the FO and drop to the bottom for a couple years.

    But instead of being a total downer, as a fellow 'Cat, let me welcome Chris Ritter to the Fire! Fight! Fight! Fight!

  • Glad to see this signing but with the league constantly getting better I fear slight improvement may mean going backwards. looking back on the last 4 years it is amazing that the front office team that consistently misidentified foreign talent lasted as long as it did despite their unambigious failures. Hoping Yallop and Bliss do a much better job. we still need a striker and a few fullbacks and I will be chagrined if we do the July retooling approach yet again.

  • In reply to Celt:

    Crew owner Anthony Precourt addressed the team's interest in Bradley via twitter this morning by saying....."Yes we looked at MB. Extraordinary player. Our model for success will follow clubs like SKC, Port, RSL, HOU that don't break banks......We will be smart/determined/decisive/proactive. We will also be pragmatic. We have certain limitations/want to manage expectations."

    That's a good way of saying "we're not going to get crazy" without issuing a ridiculous editorial telling everyone that signing Designated Players is really hard. That being said they've spent some money (albeit not huge money) on quality DP's like Schelotto and Higuain who haven't broken the bank but have been outstanding. The Fire's problem over the last 7 years has been two fold. They've brought in the wrong guys under the DP tag and they haven't been ambitious enough in thinking and spending for a higher level player.

    The Crew probably won't ever be big spenders but it says something that they were at least in the game for Bradley. Sporting KC, RSL, and Houston have been successful with smaller budgets so it can be accomplished but the landscape is changing. They've now shown that they're willing to step up financially for one key player. The Fire haven't really done that since Blanco and to a lesser extent Nery Castillo.

    Until they actually get a deal done for an impact signing, that fear will continue to be expressed by supporters.Building through the academy is an excellent long term strategy but it probably won't really pay big dividends for years. The Fire are toiling in near obscurity in the Chicago market and that won't change waiting for the academy kids to fill the roster.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    this is pretty much exactly what i was thinking this morning. well said, G.

    now we have yallop in charge, and it's only fair to give him a couple of years to put his stamp on the team...though he certainly didn't come in with the cupboard bare. that said, my patience for the organization in general and ownership in particular is getting short.

  • I would expect the Fire to sign several mid impact players sometime this season, but probably towards summer rather than in January,
    as it is now mid-season for most leagues while its the beginning for MSL. They would have a higher chance of getting quality in July
    than now.

  • Any word on Pause? This is a bit more drawn out than I expected.

    And what is Yallop's track record with Homegrown Players? It has to be better than Klopas's was, which Ritter likely sensed in part when he decided to stay and finish at Northwestern.

  • In reply to Fuegofan:

    Pause will be back. No worries there.

    Yallop's San Jose teams were a mostly veteran side but it seems like he's willing to give these guys a shot. In speaking to Ritter yesterday it sounded like the decision was based solely on wanting to focus on his degree first.

  • The Fire have officially announced the re-signing of Kellen Gulley and Yazid Atouba.

  • more xavi rumors, now stated specifically as a possible target of NYCFC: http://www.soccerbyives.net/2014/01/report-potential-signing.html

    the good news is we still have the rights to puppo... ;)

  • In come Bradley and Defoe, but so does Bofo Bautista. The Fire can at least point to that. And to Camilo leaving Vancouver.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Bofo Bautista would have been a good signing for Chivas in 2008. The guy hasn't been effective for several years now.

  • What will we do if Magee has a great camp right now and the same run of form from last year and gets picked for the World Cup this summer. I feel like Rimando is the #3 for the MNT but what if Klinsmann wants Johnson to get the experience because he is the future. We could be without Magee and Johnson for the summer. Just a thought.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    Losing Magee for an extended period would be a problem. They'll probably hope that Shipp is the real deal if that happens. I don't see another "big" name coming in.

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