Michael Stephens returns home to Chicago

The rebuilding process moved along today with the official announcement that former Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder and Fire PDL alum Michael Stephens has signed with the Fire. Stephens, a local product who grew up in the Naperville area saw an opportunity to play professionally at home and jumped at the chance. The decision was an easy one. "It wasn't very difficult. The negotiating process wasn't very long," said Stephens this morning. "I was excited to come back to my home town to play for a team that I've been a fan of for a long time."

After three successful seasons with Los Angeles, his fourth year was a bit up and down with a decrease in playing time that eventually led to the Galaxy not picking up his option for 2013. "Maybe I stuck around in LA too long," he said of his initial MLS experience. Stephens cited the competition for spots on a crowded Galaxy roster as a reason for taking a shot at playing overseas. He played for former Fire coach Bob Bradley at Stabaek and preformed well enough to contribute 7 assists over 30 appearances last season. "For me it was a good opportunity to go learn. Being one of the only Americans there (Bradley) was extra hard on me and kept me improving throughout the year. I think I saw a lot of progress there from the time I started there to the end of the season. I think I improved a lot."

The chance to return to the states and play in Chicago was too enticing to pass up so he approached Bradley and Stabaek about a release. "I had another year there so I just went to them and talked to them and asked them if they could basically do me a favor. It was a good opportunity for me. I felt with leaving Stabaek it was the right time. I think I went there and did a good job but I  didn't really see anything taking off from there. Once I heard about this opportunity I felt like this was a chance to continue to improve and establish myself in the MLS," he said.

Stephens was used mostly as a wide player for the Galaxy but he has played all over midfield. "My first five years professionally I've played in multiple positions during the season. I think my versatility is going to be able to help me. I'm not opposed to playing in different positions," said Stephens. "As far as expectations, I expect to play. Every team I've been on I've found a way to get on the field so I expect to do the same with Chicago."

"I'm a pretty well rounded midfielder. Defensively I cover a lot of ground. I have a good engine and offensively I like to think of myself as someone who can keep the play moving and keep possession. When I'm getting significant minutes (I'll get) some assists which I did last year as well as my rookie year when my playing time was increased." Stephens provided 8 assists in his rookie season in LA and tallied 2 goals and 12 assists over his four seasons in MLS. He was also part of the Galaxy back to back MLS Cup winning teams in 2011 and 2012.

"This was something that I've wanted to do. We've actually tried to make this happen before in the past but when we had the (opportunity) and everything lined up as far as Chicago having a roster space open and salary cap (room) things like that. It was a pretty easy decision for me," he said. If he can maintain his form from Stabaek last season he should be a player that can help a Fire team in the midst of a full on rebuild.

Comments

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  • As a returning MLS player, wouldn't Stephens be subject to the Allocation Order? What did we give to Dallas?

  • In reply to LtDan61350:

    Seems that didn't apply in this case for some odd reason. Stephens wasn't aware of any deal for his rights. I will ask Yallop next time I speak with him.

  • Lt Dan and Guilkermo,

    The allocation ranking only applies to returning USMNT players.

    No team held Stephens rights as he was out of contract after last year and appears wasn't eligible for Re-Entry because he was a year too young.

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/MLS_Re-Entry_Draft

  • In reply to seaside:

    Thanks seaside. I was wondering more about waivers since he's not subject to allocation as you point out.

  • Guys I checked with an over seas friend and he said that Stephens can run all day but his accuracy is frustrating. Bradley was not upset about losing michael Stephens. Don't we already have a work all day guy in watson? Could you please ask yallop when he plans on filling the center mid position.

  • Funny that Baggio Husidic went overseas from Chi and ended up with the Galaxy, while Michael Stephens went from LA to Europe and then Chicago. Both mid-career midfielders from Chicago, though I think Husidic is a couple years older.

    The most important difference, of course, is that Husidic now has a championship ring.

  • I believe Stephens passed through last year's end of season waiver draft for players not eligible for Re-Entry. That made him a free agent in MLS and he was already one outside of the league with him being out of contract.

    Since his contract with Stabaek was done he remained a free agent and he was re-signed by the Fire (maybe they put a discovery claim on him?).

    Either way, I've never heard of a returning non-USMNT player whose rights aren't held by any team having to go through any draft or other event to be assigned to a team. At least not in a long time.

    So many drafts and rules causes this confusion but I don't think the Fire had to do anything beyond put a discovery claim on him and sign the contract to bring him here.

  • I like this move. Stephens should do well when he gets on the field. He reminds me of a young Logan Pause. I dont think he will offer much offensively but will do the work defensively. He would do well with a more attacking central midfielder with him.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    Much better offensively than Logan Pause.

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