The Fire's top target this past winter, the center piece of an offseason rebuilding program, lasted less than one full season with the club. Shaun Maloney has been transferred to Hull City after only 14 regular season appearances in which he produced a meager 3 goals and 2 assists.
Frank Yallop told the Daily Herald after training on Thursday that Maloney was headed back to the UK for "family reasons". He also inferred that the transfer fee paid by Hull will recoup the Fire's original investment in fee paid to Wigan to bring Maloney to Chicago last January.
Although the Fire have yet to confirm that a deal has been completed, Hull City manager Steve Bruce told the Daily Mail that a deal could be wrapped up by Monday. "Shaun will hopefully be on a plane this evening and hopefully we can get it done. I've always been an admirer of his ability. He wants to come back and make sure he gives himself a better chance to play for Scotland," said Bruce. A league source tells Fire Confidential that the move being completed is "just a matter of time."
Whether it's for familial issues or national team placement, Maloney has wanted out for at least a month but the Fire didn't have time to find a replacement before the summer window closed and wanted to keep a full squad available for US Open Cup competition. Teammates were well aware of his desire to leave and it may not have played a part in the USOC loss to Philadelphia but it certainly didn't help a locker room that has become fragmented and disillusioned during the course of a difficult season.
Now the Fire will have at least one Designated Player spot open this winter and could have more if they can find a taker for Kennedy Igboananike. It seems that recently acquired Gilberto, who has another year left on his original MLS deal, is the more likely to return despite not having played in one regular season match yet. David Accam has been the most productive of the latest round of club DP acquisitions but his penchant for injury has made him less than a resounding success. Nevertheless, should they decide to completely start over again, Accam has drawn interest from Euro clubs despite his alarming injury rate.
Igboananike's difficulties and now Maloney's departure are the latest in a long line of DP flops since Cuauhtemoc Blanco left the club following the 2009 season. Failed attempts at signing Jermaine Jones and Didier Drogba haven't helped public perception but there is no denying that the Fire can't afford another botched window this coming January. With fan unrest building the club is coming to a crossroads. Continuing to choose the wrong path with numerous important decisions to be made over the next few months will drive more supporters even further away.
Nothing illustrates the Fire's failure in the DP market than numbers in black and white.