The full MLS schedule is set to be announced on Thursday and the Player Combine takes place this weekend so things are about to pick up in terms of news around the league and in Chicago. The Fire are pursuing help on the backline as a priority. Expect the most significant signings this offseason to come at the center back position.
There’s plenty of Targeted Allocation Money available if that addition is of “DP” level salary and it’s possible that Kennedy Igboananike could be bought down again as well. The Fire have enough MLS funny money available to have some options.
Nelson Rodriguez and Veljko Paunovic also need to address the right back position but that reinforcement might come via the MLS SuperDraft. According to the Washington Post, projected top pick Josh Yaro has agreed to a Generation Adidas deal with the league and should be available for the Fire a week from Thursday. Yaro, a 5’-11” Junior from Georgetown, is projected as a fullback by most MLS scouts although he played centerback throughout his college career.
Although the European window is open, it’s not likely that David Accam moves just yet. Nelson Rodriguez shot down talks of imminent transfer last week and it seems that the Fire are looking to keep Accam in 2016.
While the winger has made no secret of his desires to play at the top level, he doesn’t have the international experience to qualify for a UK work permit so a move to the Premier League seems to be out of his grasp for now. Unless the Fire receive a substantial offer from an unexpected place, he’ll be back in Chicago for the second season of his three year deal. If he continues to produce, and stays healthy, both sides could benefit from a 2017 move.
Contrary to reports overseas, the Fire have received no offer from Stoke City.
Fire Academy products Cam Lindley and Mauricio Pineda have received call-ups to the US U-20 camp in Miami ahead of games on January 8 and 12. Both players were part of the Fire’s US Soccer Development Academy national championship team last summer and have been regulars for the US U-18 side.
The U-20’s are coached by Tab Ramos, who was widely thought to be the lead candidate for the Fire’s head coaching position before Veljko Paunovic was selected.
Another candidate who expressed some interest in the Chicago job has found his way from the broadcast booth to the sideline. Brad Friedel has been named the head coach of the US U-19 team.
Free Agent moves
Former Fire captain Jeff Larentowicz is reportedly set to join the Los Angeles Galaxy and it appears that he’ll have some familiar company next season in LA. Sources indicate that Mike Magee is close to signing on with his former club.
Magee had interest from Sporting Kansas City, Vancouver, and Chicago as well. Another source indicates that the Fire were prepared to bring him back but only at a certain financial threshold.
Tech staff shaping up
The Fire are close to finalizing deals for Paunovic’s bench staff. Additions are forthcoming on assistants, goalkeeper’s coach, strength and conditioning, and support staff. One name to watch for is Paunovic’s former lead assistant with the Serbian U-20 side. Marko Mitrovic is a strong possibility for the same position here, as is Logan Pause.
One valuable hand that may not be around after the next few weeks is Technical Director Brian Bliss. Sporting Kansas City is said to be offering a similar position. Bliss was thought to have agreed to stay in Chicago until the conclusion of the SuperDraft but Rodriguez left the door open for a permanent stay in November when Paunovic was hired.
Update 1:15 Nyarko asks for trade
The current longest tenured player on the team is set to depart. Midfielder Patrick Nyarko has asked for a trade and the Fire are trying to accommodate his wishes. It seems the preference would have been to keep him but the player felt he needed a change of scenery. The request was apparently made before the new technical staff came on board.