Fire notebook - centerbacks, midfielders, Vincents, and more

The name of the European based center back that Nelson Rodriguez referred to last week as one player that the club had reached an agreement with could be Portugese defender Joao Meira. Reports out of Portugal quote the 28 year old player as saying that he  is happy to be joining a club on the rise in Chicago. He has spent the last three seasons with CF Os Belenenses.

During a media conference call this afternoon following the final day of the SuperDraft, Nelson Rodriguez didn't name players specifically but he did address continued negotiations with at least two other players at the center back position.

"There's more than one that we're chasing," said Rodriguez. "We continue to have discussions with multiple center backs based out of Europe. We have those prioritized and we know that we're competing in a global market. The fact that we continue to have discussions is encouraging, but until we get a signed contract, it's ongoing."

Meira seems to match the profile for the first "nearly signed" player and the Fire are still actively pursuing Marcin Kaminski. There is also another option at the position on top of Meira and draft pick Jonathan Campbell. "We're looking to have a total of three, plus with the addition of Johnathan and the impending return of Eric (Gehrig) from injury. We would then consider ourselves well stocked at that position for the season," said Rodriguez.

When asked if that additional player could be an experience veteran, like say Nemanja Vidic, who MLS is in discussions with, Rodriguez remained a bit evasive."We are looking for experience out of that position," he acknowledged.  "We're looking for experience out of the people that we're bringing in out of that position because we see it as an important leadership role within the team on the field of play. The people that we have targeted are those that have a lot of games under their belt in top leagues and top competition."

The Fire appear to have interest in Vidic, but working him and Kaminski into the side from a budgetary sense may be difficult, even with the large stash of MLS funny money at their disposal.

Patience

Rodriguez doesn't seem to be in a hurry to rush along negotiations and get something done before camp opens next week. The closing of the European transfer window at the end of the month should help decisions along naturally. "There's a balance between patience and pressure. We are competing with the European transfer window, and so we understand that in certain instances players want to hold out and see what may come across the transom later in the window. We don't want to impose an artificial and unnecessary deadline. That said, we can't afford to allow all of our options to wither away while we wait for someone to make a decision. We juggle that balance on a daily basis. We juggle it with regard to all of the other plans that we have, and the other players that we're looking to secure. I believe that this would likely go into early February," he said.

The start of camp of January 25 won't necessarily determine who will be on the roster come opening day on March 6. "It's more important that we have them for the bulk of the season, in good form, and in good health, than have them for the first few days of preseason," said Rodriguez of the need to get players into training right from the start.

Rodriguez indicated that the Fire are prepared to pay transfer fees for players if the situation calls for it but not all of their targets at the moment will require a payment for immediate availability.

"The players we've targeted are out of contract in the summer. In some instances clubs are willing to let players go even now, for free. In other instances, they request or even demand a transfer fee to allow a player to go now. In other instances they won't accept a transfer fee and they want to hold the player through the end of his contract. We don't get to dictate those terms. We have to react to the terms expressed by the club that currently has the player under contract."

Allocation money gained via trades made last week could play a part in acquiring the two new center backs now.

"Part of the moves in SuperDraft day one, rounds one and two, were designed to give us greater flexibility from the monies we had already amassed so that we could try to change the terms of negotiations and change the tempo of negotiations for the current players that we're pursuing and also avail ourselves to more resources for a second list of players that we're looking at to help us in the central midfield roles," explained Rodriguez.

He continued to say that the club has a "not so short" list of internationally based players that could fill central midfield roles. They are also optimistic about completing negotiations with a couple of MLS veterans who are available now.

Draft picks

The Fire selected Creighton defender Vincent Keller and Butler midfielder Vincent Mitchell with the 57th and 62nd picks in today's final day of the MLS SuperDraft. "We like the name Vincent," joked Rodriguez. "After we made the selections I decided to look it up, and in Roman in means 'to conquer'. I like that even more. Vincent Keller and Vincent Mitchell are both versatile players. They can play multiple positions. Vincent Keller is very intelligent. Very competitive. We believe he could play center back or right back, although we likely view him more as a right back. That's in principle due to his size but he's got a highly competitive nature."

"Vincent Mitchell, we think can play along different spots in the attack. Very good pace. Very good nose for goal and ability to beat guys off the dribble. That's a dynamic that we think we needed to add to the team. Those players will be in heavy competition to make the final roster. Just being drafted is not enough, and it's not an automatic."

The competition for spots on the first team roster will likely come from recent Homegrown additions Drew Conner and Joey Calistri.

Loans

The players who don't earn first team spots with the Fire this summer seem destined to spend some time with USL partner Saint Louis FC. The final agreement to renew the association for 2016 hasn't been formally finalized but the Fire are set to begin a second season with Saint Louis serving as a port for young players. "We have had a lot of discussions with our affiliate (Saint Louis FC). We suspect that there are going to be players that we provide to them and they did such a great job last year with Alec Kann, Kingsley Bryce, and Patrick Doody, and we know they'll do a great job for us again this year. It's important that we did communicate and talk about what needs they may have in their roster, so that did play a part in how we drafted and who we drafted. Saint Louis has been very good in stressing to us that our needs fall number one and that they will work with us. At the same time, we want to make sure that we deliver value to the relationship as well," said Rodriguez.

Two members of their coaching staff will join the Fire in Tampa for preseason. Saint Louis FC coach Dale Schilly was also at the combine and provided input to the Fire technical staff.

Priorities for reinforcements

Center back and defense remain the first order of business over the next few weeks. Rodriguez reiterated the need for more experience in midfield although there are young players on the roster who will have opportunities to see plenty of time.

"If and when we close the center back spot, we want to address central midfield. We have some great in-house options. Harry Shipp, Matt Polster, Drew Conner, but those are very young players and we'd like to add a veteran presence in the center of midfield as well to help us. That's an area that we'll be looking at. We also have some young international players that we're spying quite closely, who we think have great potential and could fit in well with what we're doing. We're active along all four lines - goalkeeper, back, midfield, and forwards - but in terms of priority it would be center back, central midfield."

Are the Fire better?

It's hard to say without seeing what the final roster will look like in a a few weeks but Rodriguez believes they're already improved on the team that finished 2015 in last place.

"I believe that with our coaching staff, with the players we've added that we're already improved. I also believe that what we've added is more than just what these players bring on the field. It's the intangibles that we sense and the character of the people that we're bring in. I dare say that Brandon Vincent wanted to be with us. We had a great interview. I think he really liked our vision, and our values. I think it played into how he is as a man. All of our draft picks follow a similar trend line. Intelligence, versatility, winners from championship programs. It's not an accident. We even had a few players that we passed in the draft that came by and said - 'I kind of wish it had gone differently'. We believe that our vision and our values driven approach is resonating. The people who are with us are those that want to be here, and want to be a part of this project. I don't think that should be underestimated."

The look and style and play of the squad is also a work in progress and will continue to be so as things develop over camp and preseason.

"Coaching staff ideas right now are subject to change based on the performance of the athletes and based on how certain combinations may click or not. I want to reiterate that the process of building a team is not designed to coincide with the first day of training camp. It's designed to maximize our potential for the year and for the three year plan that we have in place. So that's not misconstrued, that doesn't mean that we're not seeking to be competitive in the first year, because we are. Our fans deserve that. The players that we have are competitors and want that for themselves but it is a process. We stay and try to remain focused on that process. Sometimes we get excited and a little impatient for ourselves because we see the potential for bigger gains more quickly but then we quickly try to step off that cloud and part our feet back on the ground and firmly look at where we are and where we need to get."

Filed under: 2016 Pre Season

Tags: Chicago Fire

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  • All this vague boilerplate about "vision and values" is quite annoying, as if other teams lacked whatever that means. I'll be happy if their eye for talent is considerably better than the 2 Franks'. We will have to see what they do with all their money.

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    Whats the latest on filling out the coaching staff and other technical staff positions? A couple weeks ago, I thought they said they were close to announcing several of these positions but now it seems like they were put on the back burner.

  • In reply to Carl Miller:

    They won't announce until the last spot is filled. They only seem to announce package deals...

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    I'm assuming the two Vincents picked up yesterday will occupy international spots if signed? Also, if they get loaned out to STLFC will they still take up international spots?

  • In reply to Jimmy Garcia:

    Per a Fire rep, neither have green cards so they would count against the international totals if they make the team.

    Waiting for clarification on loans and international counts.

  • I like what I see and hear so far but having lost all faith in this operation am reserving judgement until we see what manifests on the pitch. Talk is cheap and we've heard a lot of fine talk of optimism over the last several years only to see, ultimately, a continued downward spiral of results. So far all we have to judge is the same old new management members, players and fine words.

    They're about out of rope if they don't make something of it this year.

  • NR is starting to remind me of a used car salesman.

  • Nr reminds me of a pastor that knows he has to sound encouraging with the bombers on the way. Man this guy should be a lawyer rather than a Gm. He would have the hourly so confused by the end of the case that every trial would end in a confused tie. The Portuguese central defender helped the team to the top division then they dropped him because they did think he was first division talent. If we don't get the polish kid we are back to last year.

  • In reply to Brokerman:

    1 article said he was dropped while other say he left to find a different club. Tomato, Tomato

  • In reply to Brokerman:

    How can you say we are back to last year? Last year we had the 2 worst centerbacks in the league. We had to sit through Adailton, Gehrig, and Big Red for the entire season. Nothing is can possibly be that bad again. Every move that has been made has been a positive step forward for the club. The way Yallop Yalloped this club was incredible. The only way he could have Yalloped us even more would have been giving those players longer deals. Thankfully we were able to get rid of everything and start new. WE WILL BE TERRIBLE THIS SEASON. There is no way around that. We have to rebuild an entire squad from the ground up. We are years behind the better clubs in the league. A couple decent signings to put around our small core, can make for a decent watch for small stretches this year. We are on a 3-5 year plan. You should try to find some positives here and there because it is going to be a long couple of seasons.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    They do need to show some improvement over last season or they're not going to be long in their jobs.

    Three years, five years, whatever. Hauptman's ego doesn't have that amount of patience.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    So far all we've got is new people making personnel moves that give us hope. Same as we've seen happen for several years now. Nothing more than the usual dose of hope for the fans to get us to consider buying tickets. I think it's premature to pronounce anything an improvement until we have on-the-pitch results to consider.

  • In reply to Arklow:

    I think it's worth mentioning, however, that to me the difference between this rebuild and all the others we've seen is that the moves they are making actually make logical sense. Unlike: transferring in Larentowisz and Lindpere when central midfield was fine; or transferring out two average young defenders for two crappy old defenders; or buying all the forwards and not improving central defense. Just to name a few obviously bone headed moves during the last 3-4 years.

    So it's not exactly the same as the last few seasons.

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    Exactly the point that I am trying to make. Every move so far has been made with the future in mind. Bringing in decent young players and trying to surround them with experienced veterans. Develop a young core and fill in pieces to help them develop. I am excited by the moves that they are making. We are going to struggle this season. I dont think there is any way around that. At least we will be young.

  • I'm willing to give this management team some slack to see what happens. If they're successful, well, good. If not, my fun is not dependent on what happens on the pitch. If this venture turns into an unmitigated disaster...I'll wait until we cross that bridge.

    PS- I saw it mentioned that Grazzini is a free agent. Any feet to that?

    **still munching on popcorn**

  • This report claims the Fire have an offer on the table for Deportivo La Coruña midfielder Haris Medunjanin.....

    http://www.marca.com/futbol/deportivo/2016/01/20/569f7d70ca4741ef5f8b4624.html

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Sounds like he hasn't played a minute this season and Deportivo are desperate to get rid of his salary so they can sign someone else in the transfer window... A Bosnian, also.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Looks like he is in one of those situations were there was a coaching change which caused him to fall out of favor, rather than being strictly performance based. Otherwise he's got a good track record in first division leagues and on the Bosnian national team. The thing I wonder about is that a bunch of the comments mention he can't/won't defend. The Fire seem to need an 8 more than another 10, but we'll see.

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    That said, a lot of those comments were really enthusiastic about the guy. It sounds like, to use an American phrase, he can unlock defenses. But yeah, complete defensive liability is the sense I got.

  • What happens if N-Rod fails in signing his European targets? Is there any guarantees that he has actually signed any of them. He mentioned that they have agreed to terms but what if the player backs out? Is there a scenario that you see this off season go horribly wrong?

  • In reply to penapirata:

    That's why he won't give names...nothing is done until the deal is signed. I think the CB he's referring to is a formality and there won't be a case of the player backing out. The other guys are still being negotiated.

    If they don't sign any Euro targets, this will be a long season.

    I mean, what can go wrong? This is the Fire. ;)

  • My impression so far this off season is that NR is an incredibly hard working person. He is only as open as he wants to be, but he does not play games with the fans i.e. no false hopes. If I read between the lines regarding the draft, NYFC wanted Harrison but would not trade for the first pick. The Fire said, "Fine, if you won't trade the pick, we are picking the guy you want. We are open for a trade afterward, but it will cost you a bit more." NYFC didn't bite, so the Fire called their bluff and got exactly what they wanted. No Fire front office would have pulled this off. I think NR's experience in the league office has given him insight into how to manipulate the MLS trade and funny money market. The Fire have needed this ability for as long as I have followed the team. They are already better today than the team was last season. I have no doubt in my mind about that. If they field a team with players who are comfortable in their positions, i.e. not playing a DM at CB for example, the team will perform better. They may not win, but they will be more competitive.

  • I would argue Hurtado wasnt crappy until he put on a Fire kit. The two young defenders we shopped at the time were our only assets, and imo both of them have proven since leaving that they are subs at BEST in MLS.

  • In reply to AJties:

    Barry and Anibaba?

  • In reply to AJties:

    So two defenderss that are under 25 years old, one ROTY and the other the runner up a year later, for a small amount of funny money and 2 old defenders was not a terrible move? You say that Berry and Anibaba are subs at best in this league but Ianna and Hurtado were awful. Those trades were the beginning of the downfall for the previous 2 seasons. I would like to have both Anibaba and Berry back at the club.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    ROTY because of Arne, he ended up in Korea d 2 right? Tired of people hailing Berry. And anibaba is no different than palmer or other average roster fillers. Im not trying to say we should have kept Yallop. I just think people point at giving away Berry and Anibaba as terrible moves when imo we traded young guys who didnt pan out for veterans that didnt have any left in the tank. Basically a wash because the extra capmoney spent on those washed up vets were contracts that were short.

  • In reply to AJties:

    I've made this argument over and over here. (Not that is wasnt a bad trade...it was, but that Berry and Anibaba kinda suck). Never gets much traction.

    Berry is now in third division back here in the states (USL). Anibaba is with his fourth club in four years.

    I wouldn't mind Anibaba on a roster for depth.

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    Wasn't the Berry trade forced because the Fire needed allocation money in order to sweeten Magee's contract? After winning MVP, Magee sought a raise and the Fire had little cap space to maneuver. Berry was a highly sought after target because of the reputation earned as ROTY, and because his salary was $70K (IIRC).

  • In reply to StaryByk3:

    Yeah. People lump him in with the trade w/Seattle all the time.

  • In reply to StaryByk3:

    To be fair, I'm guilty of it too haha. I think it was more the idea that without Hurtado and Iannis salaries on the books the Fire wouldn't have needed to transfer Berry to keep Magee.

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    Former alum and GA Corben Bone is also playing with Barry in Cincinnati.

  • The Fire and Saint Louis FC have officially announced that their partnership will continue this year.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    “Our USL affiliate provides a valuable opportunity to develop young players,” said Fire general manager Nelson Rodríguez.

    Wouldn't a Fire II team be even more valuable to develop young players than Saint Louis?

  • Jon Busch has joined Lovel Palmer and signed with Indy Eleven.

  • According to this, the Fire have pulled the offer for Haris Medunjanin because of "bureaucratic and paperwork" issues.....

    http://www.marca.com/futbol/deportivo/2016/01/22/56a216cf22601dee178b459c.html

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    MLS gonna MLS.

    However, as long as they aren't standing pat on cmid, I don't mind. I'd rather see them going after a two-way mid anyway.

  • meaning.. transfer fee?

  • Okay the training starts on Monday and at this point we only have 14 players signed. I don't know about anyone else but this is starting to look like a bigger joke than last year. It fun to follow the other teams. It appears as if the league minus the fire has done a great job of marketing itself. I just can't get past the idea that ah is going to dump the team. How many pro teams have absolutely no pr working approx 6 weeks before the first home game.

  • In reply to Brokerman:

    Despite my previous mutterings here, I believe the greater possibility is that the league will take the Fire out of the hands of AH. I also believe AH has already decided he does not intend to spend the money to prevent MLS from that decision and that this is the greater driving force behind the obvious lack of signings. AH simply sees this approach as minimizing his losses. If he expects to no longer hold the franchise by opening day, what does he care whether they have enough personnel for a scrimmage? From that perspective he would see a fully staffed squad as unnecessary payroll. Thus we only see him picking up a few cheap bodies to try to sustain the league's hope/trust for as long as possible at the least expense.

  • In reply to Arklow:

    You guys should call Oliver Stone; ya got yourself a great conspiracy theory going.

  • In reply to jlatwell:

    And, seemingly, just as believable as most of his...

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