It's been a busy week for the Fire. First word of CJ Brown's departure came Monday, followed by a DP signing in Kennedy Igboananike yesterday, and now Frank Yallop has apparently filled one of the missing pieces in the back line with the addition of left back Joevin Jones. The Trinidad & Tobago international has been capped 37 times by his national team and most recently completed a loan spell with Finish first division club HJK Helsinki.
At 23 years old, the Fire are adding another young player to the mix who has also played in midfield. The move also could signal the end of Gonzalo Segares' tenure in Chicago. The veteran defender's option was not picked up although the Fire were hoping to bring him back at a considerable discount from his 2014 wage. Segares may have better options through the MLS' Re-Entry process. Yallop did not completely close the door on Segares returning during a conference call this morning but did say that the club was looking to get more athletic at several positions. "Once we get moving in the signings department we'll get a look at the squad. Never say never. Gonzo's been a very, very good player for this club and I like him very much. I thought in that spot we needed to get more athletic and push the attack especially at home and Jones does that. Gonzo's a good servant for the club and has is a good guy so we'll see," said Yallop. He described Jones as an attacking left back.
Yallop said he's been scouting new DP Kennedy Igboananike for some time now. "I've seen him for three years. I saw him playing for (AIK) and liked what I saw. Last season wasn't the greatest in terms of goal scoring for him. I think the time is right to make the jump and for us to bolster our attack," he said. Igboananike compared his style of play to that of Seattle Sounders striker Obafemi Martins when asked which player he feels his game resembles.
The new striker said he wasn't worried about the pressures of scoring or carrying the team as a Designated Player but Yallop did urge fans to express some patience when judging the signing as a virtual unknown locally. ""You've got to allow the players to play first and then make a decision on that. I feel he's set up to do well in this league. It's normal for fans to want to have a go before he's even started but let's give the players a chance to play and gel together and see how we go. I want to add some exciting players for the fans to watch and we're going to win games," he explained. "I'm not just going out there spending money just for the sake of it, I want to get players that will win games and try very hard for this club. I think Kennedy's the start of it."
Igboananike isn't overly familiar with MLS or Chicago but has watched a handful of games. He needed some convincing about MLS from Yallop because he still has aspirations of playing in a bigger league in Europe. Yallop relayed the following message to him regarding his potential. "You can still go to Europe from here but I want you to score a ton of goals here and if someone buys you for a ton of money, great. If not you stay here forever and you do great."
DP's and more signings
"We're working on deals as we speak," said Yallop. "Mainly in the forward area. In our attacking areas we want to add assists and goals to our wide players, central players, and our forwards". The other position they're looking at is centerback but Yallop is still looking at signing two more DP's. "Those two spots are very important for the way we're going to play.
Those signings will likely come in this upcoming transfer window rather than the summer window as the Fire has done in the past with Designated Players, although a marquee name isn't expected at the moment. "I don't want to be waiting around to try to get a name player to come in and we miss out on some players that could help us on the field. In the end it's about what he does on the field. I understand that the two players that we've signed so far, nobody's going to know them but hopefully they will get to know them and enjoy the way they play. Nobody knew Valeri from Portland before he joined and he's had a pretty good run of things," said Yallop.
When asked about the club's efforts to produce a signing that may help on and off the field, Yallop replied that he does take that into consideration but results are his first concern. "What I don't want to do is get caught up in trying to sign a name and he's past his sell by date and he can't get it done on the field. Then we're in trouble. The answer is I've got my eye on that. I'm trying my best to get players that the fans can relate to and enjoy."
He also pointed to leagues in Scandinavia as a good option for players at the moment since player contracts are up now rather than in the summer. "We want to hit the ground running in January and not wait til June to see what we get in June. We've got to get going." Yallop pointed to the period before the holidays or early January as a target for additional signings.
When asked about players such as Wigan's Shaun Maloney and Norwegian striker Marcus Pedersen, Yallop was non-committal. "There are a number of players that we're looking at and trying to talk to. I don't want to comment on any players that are at clubs and have a contract so there's nothing on that right now," he offered.
The Fire do expect to be active in the MLS Re-Entry draft with players whose options have been declined by their clubs. A centerback may come from that pool of available players. Yallop did mention that Jeff Larentowicz is still slated to be one of the starting half backs but that could change. "As of right now he (Larentowicz) ended the season as a centerback and he's up on my board as a centerback. We've got to see what's in the re-entry and what's bouncing around in the next few weeks. Maybe Jeff goes back in the midfield. I think he did a nice job in the centerback role and he's a steady partner back there. I look at him as probably playing at centerback but again I hate to put all my eggs in one basket and say he's going to play there and then all of a sudden he's not."
"We weren't quick enough in certain areas and we weren't athletic enough for our league," said Yallop. Igboananike and Jones seem to be the start of that change.