Fire notebook - Rodriguez addresses draft, roster, more

This week's notebook is all about Nelson Rodriguez's Tuesday afternoon press tele-conference. There's a lot to digest, so let's get right to it.

Rodriguez on the lack of news so far

"I know that announcements haven't been publicized yet, I wouldn't want that to be misconstrued as there hasn't been work that's been conducted or results that have been achieved."

On the coaching staff

"We will look to make an announcement on the full coaching staff in about a week's time. We are still finalizing one position, but the staff has been working together and dutifully so, and we feel good about that."

On MLS Free Agents and new transfers

"In less than a week's time we will announce two MLS free agents with whom we've reached terms. We are simply just waiting on the requisite paperwork from the league. Those will be consummated, and in less than a week's time we'll be able to announce that. Our priority this offseason has always been, and remains to some degree, the centerback position. We have agreed to terms with a European centerback. That contract is not yet signed, but we have no reason to believe that there will be any hang ups.

"We have a standing offer out to a second European centerback. In that instance, we are competing with some Champion's League teams for him. We're hopeful."

On the Draft pick and a possible trade

"As has been the case every year as you get closer to the draft, intensity and scrutiny of the number one pick heightens. Just today, this morning, while at the field watching the last set of Combine games, we received two offers for the number one pick. That's in addition to the offer we had received about a month ago that we had rejected. There's also three or four other teams that have inquired about the pick, and I suspect in the next 24-48 hours that if we don't reach agreement to trade the pick, there will be one last attempt by someone to secure it. What I know about the number one pick is, whether we keep it or we move it, on Thursday we'll be a better team."

"We're definitely open to trading it and we're definitely not there yet. We have not made a decision as to who that selection would be if keep it. We believe that there are some very interesting players, all of who would help our squad."

"There are very few times when a club has power. In a sense that leads to leverage. Right now, we can choose any player we want that's available inside the MLS SuperDraft and that is very comforting. We know the player that we ultimately select will improve our team. We also know that it is a commodity, and that's been proven again by today and teams making independent offers to secure the rights to the number one selection. We need to be judicious in how we handle this unique moment in time, because quite frankly unless we trade for the number one in the future I hope to never have to make this choice again."

"We're evaluating (a trade) against what else we're doing to construct our team and what other moves we may be able to make within MLS. The two offers that we received today were extremely similar, which gives us an indication of how the broader market is viewing the value of the number one selection. I have no way of knowing whether they're evaluating the same player but we will continue to analyze those two offers and then go back and see if there is further action is required or not."

"I'm probably hurting our negotiating position but I believe in being honest and transparent. It is possible that we would accept one of those offers."

"The construction of a roster is a mosaic of a lot of different tiles, and good roster has variety in it. Variety of age, variety of experience, variety of abilities offered, and personalities in the locker room. (Signings) are very much integrated with what we do with the number one choice and what is happening with the rest of our plan. It is quite possible that something that we're trying to accomplish internationally could be consummated and could impact that selection."

On the potential for finding starters in the Draft

"I believe there are MLS starters in the draft and I believe there are maybe starters along all four lines - goalkeeper, back, midfield, and forward. That's why I'm confident, and we don't feel pressured to do anything with the first round pick because we believe we will help our team no matter what. What we've told teams that have inquired about the number one pick is that, we view it this way - if we're going to trade the number one choice overall, we need what we call an accelerator. That would be a player that would be a starter at a more advanced or better level than what the number one pick may project to be or we need a multiplier. That would be some combination of that which would allow us to secure at least two players. Whether that's a starter and a pick, a player and allocation or TAM money, two picks. Whatever the case may be, that's how we look at it. If we were to move it, and we have not made that decision, we would want something that we call an accelerator or multiplier."

On the number of players by training start of camp

"We're not driven by numbers as much as we're driven by quality, and as much as we're driven by ensuring that the people we bring in share our values. Share our appetite for the game. It's a long season. In an ideal situation you have 90% of your team in place by the first day of training camp. We might still be there. I don't mean to suggest that we can' get there or we won't get there but  we won't use January 25 as the deadline by which we have to complete moves. The season doesn't start until March 6, and as I've mentioned, it's a marathon not a sprint."

"I think it would always be optimal to have your complete team on day one of preseason. I don't believe any club in our league will have that situation. For certain, some clubs are at a different point in time in the evolution of their team. Teams that don't have a new coach. Teams that have a veteran core."

"There are three or four other free agents from MLS that we are speaking with now and we have several other international options that we're speaking with. I think by the time January 25th rolls around, we're going to be at our max suitable number. If we weren't, I still wouldn't worry because the core and guts of the team will be there. The players that we add later will take a little longer to integrate. It's a long season."

On International spots

"I think over the course of the season we will end up using all eight international slots."

On the possibility of veteran adds such as Javier Saviola

"Not immediately. It has nothing with Javier and his abilities, it has to do with our priorities. Our priorities remain the center of the defense. I know we have been frustrating to agents who have are continuously submitting players for our consideration, and we essentially just keep turning them aside. We remain singularly focused on our plan and our process. We want to resolve the centerback position, We think we have enough firepower on the team as it is, but we need to improve the defensive side of our game. We'll look to do that and once we do, it will become easier to expand the parameters of our plan and start to incorporate several of those (other) positions of need."

"Overall we still need to improve the depth of our attack, but it will not come at the expense of the center of our defense. I would say it remains a possibility but only after we finalize our plans for the center of defense."

More on the Euro "DP" centerback

"The other centerback that we're interested in acquiring, we're competing against teams that are Champion's League teams. The player would not be a Designated Player. He would be a player that would be eligible for the new Targeted Allocation Money and the funds that come from that pool. We will be very excited in acquiring this player but obviously it's challenge. It's a global market and we're competing against that global market. I know that our offer is competitive, and I know that our project for where we're taking the Chicago Fire is competitive. I know that because the representative for that player has contacted us each of the last two days to say we remain interested in the Fire. Can you give us a few more days. Being as that we don't feel the need to impose a deadline, we also are exploring other centerback alternatives to that one so that we have contingencies in play and we will continue to work that. The second one would be another good one to go with the one whose terms we've agreed."

On the potential return of the Sting

"I'm not aware that there is a team - the Chicago Sting. The only Chicago Sting that I remember was in the former incarnation of the NASL. Honestly, we're just worried about assembling a team that will be the foundation of our championship program and that's where our focus is."

On core players

"I think right now we have three or four definite core players. Harry Shipp and Matt Polster, we believe are players that can become part of that core and we need to see continued development this season, so that we can count them and incorporate them into the core. We believe that in order to keep for a sustained period of time a championship level within MLS. you need seven to nine steady starters year in and year out. They need to be the same seven to nine guys. Our hope would be that by the end of this season, we start to approach that number. Not everything can be done in one year. It's a process. For sure if we have continued development, especially from some of the younger guys we mentioned, there's a few others that we believe could develop to becoming part of that core (as well), then we'll be in a better position earlier against our three year time frame."

On the MLS Combine

"For us this year the Combine was really important. Perhaps even more so than in previous year and perhaps more so than it will be in future years, essentially because Pauno did not have the chance to see as many players live as we would have liked, and he would have liked. Although he watched extensive video, all of the players at the Combine, and many others who were not invited the Combine, there is no substitute for seeing a player live. For seeing their behaviors off the field. For seeing their behavior off the ball. For seeing their reaction for things that might happen outside of the view of a camera lens. For us the Combine was really important this year because it gave him that first hand account. Candidly, t gave me the same thing. There were a great number of players I had not had the opportunity to see live, so being here was a big advantage. In the future, I think the Combine will still have importance but perhaps not as much because we'll have a far better developed and more robust scouting system. We'll have more detailed dossiers on every player before we get down here."

"We have to recognize that MLS ended in early December and we have been essentially dark as a league since then. I believe that the draft in any sports league provides something that is critical to every fan of every team, and that's hope. Whether it's the last person chosen or the first person chosen, it represents hope to every fan in the league, and to front office staff that hope that the individual selected will prove to be an instrumental contributor or even a difference maker to the present and the future of the team. The SuperDraft itself, is on almost a yearly basis, the number one traffic day of the year on I think introducing players to a fan base locally and nationally is really important. One need only look at the NBA and the NFL and what they've done with their draft and how that keeps those leagues relevant and consumer friendly at a time when their sports aren't being played. There is a place and a need for the Combine and a place and a need for the SuperDraft. I see that for the foreseeable future."

On 2016 as a rebuilding year

"I don't know if it's rebuilding. We're introducing another dynamic that's very distinct. It's very important that we have within our group, players that love football. We want a culture that lives football. The only things more important than football are family and faith."

On what will make a successful season

"Our goals, just like any other team's goals will be MLS Cup. Our goal, just like most other teams, because I'm not sure all of them hold it in the same regard, will be the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. When you're a competitor you have to look at what the real prize is that you're playing for and those are the top two for us. Success will be measured in a lot of different ways. The most tangible, and the ones that matters the most to fans and perhaps the media, would be the minimum of common denominator of did you make the playoffs. And if you made the playoffs how far did you advance and the Open Cup might be another one. For us success will be measured by, are we at the end of 2016, are we according to our metrics and measures in doing things closer to our ideal scenario, which is where we're trying to be by 2018. We want to compete and make the playoffs. MLS has shown that once you're in the playoffs anything can happen and any team can find its way to win MLS Cup. We want to win the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup."

On fan discontent with silence so far

"I don't think the fans are frustrated, I think fans are smart. We don't conduct our business to win a day of positive PR. We conduct our business to win championships. It's more important to me that we remain disciplined with our process and we remain focused against our plan. That we remain nimble, so as to react to unforeseen circumstances or unique opportunities that may arise. I think fans appreciate that. They appreciate it better when it all comes together. The process can be viewed as either boring or slow but in the end no one is going to remember that we didn't make an announcement on January 12. They're going to remember what our record was and how we performed, and that's what drives us."


Filed under: 2016 Pre Season

Tags: Chicago Fire


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  • Thanks for the update G, we do appreciate it. I hope Nelson realizes that there are other ways to keep the fan base informed other than giving away secrets. To think we are not frustrated is folly.

  • Personally I like the facts of this call. Overall it was a good PR move by Nelson. I get that he may have miss-stepped a bit on the "fans aren't frustrated" thing, but it's a minor nick-picky thing to bash him on. Otherwise, this was mostly things I think the fans wanted to hear. Whether or not they have the capacity to deliver is another matter, but he said the right stuff for the most part.

    The one thing that does give me an ounce of hope is at least Nelson et al are smart enough to realize that CB was THE major issue with the team, which is something Yallop clearly was too vapid to recognize. At very least, this isn't a repeat of last season where we all are questioning the lack of backline reinforcements.

    Thanks for the write up. Lots of good little bits in here that were lost or creatively worded during the live tweets (but thanks for those too).

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    Thanks. It's tough to get the full gist of what was said in the context of a 140 character live-tweet sometimes. Trying to listen and accurately tweet takes at the same time doesn't always do it justice either.
    That's why I like to get most of the full answer into these posts.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Yeah, having it in this form is great.

    Another part that I find interesting is the actual definition of the "7-9" starters quote. Reading the tweets made it seem like they were saying they needed 7-9 new starters THIS season. This reads more that they want 7-9 guys (some who are already with the team, best guess SJ, Polster, and Shipp) who will be projected as starters for the next 2-5 seasons. For the reason that player carryover is fairly well linked to success in MLS. I read a couple disparaging tweets about how "they say they aren't rebuilding but say they need 7-9 more starters, what a joke" but that's just misinformed. Reading the actual statements leads to the conclusion that they are completely rebuilding the backline, yes, but would be reasonably comfortable starting a relatively similar mid/forward to last season (Accam, Polster, Shipp, Gilberto, etc), which, IMO, isn't the worst idea in the world.

  • Thanks for the update. I think that DerSting is right in that there are other ways to keep fans informed - let us know that there's something going on behind the scenes. I've been staring at the 2016 schedule on the website now for days and days.

    But this - really?:
    "We're introducing another dynamic that's very distinct. It's very important that we have within our group, players that love football. We want a culture that lives football. The only things more important than football are family and faith."

    I'm sorry, there's enough hot air circulating with a presidential election coming up. Spare me the campaign talk.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    So you want more PR without the PR bullshit? Mutually exclusive. Unfortunately "good PR" and pointless bullshit are synonymous. If you don't have actual league official news (which the Fire haven't, yet) then the only thing you can have IS pointless bullshit. You can't have it both ways. Y'all bitch about the lack of news and then bitch again when the "news" is just mostly fluff. So which is better- no news (because there is no news) or PR bullshit disguised as news (because there is no news)?

    Nope, the problem is that the Fire haven't had news they can officially announce yet and that's what's making everyone worried. But they had no way to avoid that without maintaining silence or peddling metric tons of bullshit.

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    Even if you don't have hard news, fluff stuff (QuincyTime, podcasts, what do players do during the offseason, etc, etc) would be a *huge* improvement over what we've had. I don't think it's been a lack of team news so much as it has been a lack of engagement with the fan base. For that, I give the FO a huge "fail."

    I know that Jeff Crandall commented several pieces ago about how slow news is and such, but on the same coin, I look at the creative ways he would add content and think, "He can do it, so can someone else."

  • In reply to BrianC.:

    I miss Crandall.

    I don't miss QuincyTime.

    Also they don't have any players, so how are they going to generate articles about what players are doing in the offseason?! Or a QuincyTime clone? (half joking).

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    That's where the "creative" in creativity comes in. Granted, I give that Crandall had a passion for what he did, and it showed (the best example is coming up with the "Behind the Scenes" segment. Who else would come up with smuggling himself around locker rooms in a gear bag?)

  • In reply to BrianC.:

    Do people still miss Jeff Crandall? I mean nothing against the guy personally, but he was kind of shitty at his job. He lacked even a semblance of charisma and wasn't terribly knowledgable about the game.

  • In reply to jefe de fuego:

    You're definitely in the minority with that opinion.

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    First let me say that I know you didn't direct this at me. I think the bitching is just symptomatic of fan frustration with years of mediocre, inconsistent, steadily downward trending on-the-pitch performance. Add to that the never-ending smiley-faced PR puke dished up by the Fire FO.

    At this point NR or the Fire FO would be hard-pressed to produce anything and get much positive response. So perhaps NR just doesn't believe in wasting time on it. It's going to be very hard to shift the currents of fan support until and unless they can accrue some wins. Since the season doesn't start until early March, they just have to live with the bitch-storm for a while, realizing & accepting that (organizationally) they've spent the last several years seeding those clouds.

    I liked most all of what I heard from NR. But until they produce meaningful MLS wins, these are just the same old positive words that we've fried in for years. Feels the same, sounds the same, tastes the same, smells the same. Hard to feel very positive about that. So far the only clear positive is that it's coming from new and, as yet, unsullied voices.

    As for myself, I'm trying not to bitch. But I have little else to say. It's either bitch or shut up until the weather changes. I'm not a PR guy and I never had any respect for salesmen. Don't look to me for unsupported words of blind faith or hopeful optimism. I just don't have it in me. I only deal in truth.

    So I don't think you should knock the negative comments. Any fan who wishes to spew is certainly entitled at this stage. At least they still care.

  • In reply to Arklow:

    Fair enough. I don't like bullshit PR, either. That's why I fine with the Fire's silence until they have something substantial to announce. Maybe someday they will.

    I just find those kind of contradictory statements frustrating. ("why is there no news?" and "why is the only news fluff?")

    And I guess I wanted to bitch about something too. Haha. What else can you do when your frustrated?

  • In reply to Modibo:

    The "family and faith" quote caught my eye as well only because my experience is that when leaders say things like that it isn't often the case. A true leader will live by those words; aspiring, "wannabe" leaders don't understand their meaning. I hope NR is the former and not the latter. Was it really that hard for NR to provide the information he gave in the press conference? That info, even though not specific as to players, is very specific as to the steps taken so far without compromising their plan etc. The silence thing is tiresome given the simplicity to satisfy the fan base with general information that gives the base faith and hope for the season ahead.

  • If folks want to listen to a soccer executive talk with candor, check out Soccer Morning's interview with Peter Wilt yesterday.

    He "gets it" in a way that seems to elude Rodriguez.

  • Guys rod reminds me of a senile priests. They love to talk and talk about absolutely nothing. All this talk about character and family just lost intrttijdtJohn Donovanis going to make me throw I up.does anyone think that old Blanco would pass his litmus test? As one writer stated earlier this morning. His lack of action has probably made the fire a worst team than it finished off. I am following his formula of purchasing season tickets in three years.

  • Also, I get what they are shooting for as far as the team. The focus is core foundation/formation. I expect the playoffs are the pushing point as far as goals go. If they make a deep run, extra gravy. The Open Cup is the only real tangle hardware they can expect to get. I think, like it or not, our season is going to be watching a team in development and we get to live with the frustrations of such.

    I'm going to be doing lots of gameday drinking this year.

  • The last part of your statement confuses me. Are there years when you don't do a lot of gameday drinking? I ask sincerely, because that has not been my experience.

  • In reply to DDT5583:

    I suppose my statement is a metaphor for: we suck- therefore I'm going to remain divorced from the activity on the field, and along that same track, will consume more adult inebriants than I otherwise would normally consume on gameday. In essence, reliving the 2015 experience. Divorcing myself from the results on the field and focusing solely on friends at the tailgates and other supporters in the stands was the only way I could get myself to attend games.

    I guess there's no assurance of a stellar season. Only the "intended direction" by upper management.

  • In reply to DDT5583:

    And we're stuck for the ride- again- whether we like it or not.

  • In reply to BrianC.:

    Yep. That all checks out. I'm with you now.

  • over at, Doyle is proposing Diskerud and the #4 for our #1 pick. Rodriguez could shut a lot of people up by making that happen.

    also love the mooted 4-3-3 with a Polster-Diskerud-Shipp midfield

  • In reply to DDT5583:

    That would be pretty nice. Diskerud had a tough year in NYCFC but he was Yalloped* there pretty hard. I think he'd be quite a solid member for the "Fire Core."

    Also, Yaro is probably not that much better than whomever the Fire would grab at 4 in that hypothetical, too.

    *Yallop - v. when a player is played out of position and subsequently fails

  • That probably wouldn't be a bad deal getting Diskerud and a #4 if the Fire has already identified and close to signing a solid CB.
    Yaro if he is exceptional would be headed to Europe after several years anyway. It could work out well depending who the Fire has in the pipeline. Given NR focus on European defensive help, may be a hint towards trading the #1 spot.

  • In reply to lonecoyote:

    I agree. It's likely that a really good player will still be available at #4. Diskerud upgrades our midfield significantly and he may believe that a new club makes sense, seeing how he was shunted out of position when Pirlo and Lampard finally arrived.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    I know, right?

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:


  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Eddie Waitkus rises again

  • LA Galaxy have announced the signing of Mike Magee.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    The Gals also just sent the 12th overall to Colorado for TAM. I feel like that's a move we should have made considering how much TAM we've aquired over the last 6 months... I sure hope there's some truth to Mix and the 4.

  • In reply to Joe Brancato:

    No, that was completely made up. The Mix thing. Purely hypothetical.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to TomazPP:

    I know, Doyle was pretty clear about that in his article. That said him and Ives both are reporting that NYCFC are trying hard to move up to the 1. NRod also has been leaking to the media that he likes Harrison at the 1 which is who NYCFC want. Mix just seems like he could be the odd man out on that team and I could see NYCFC making that deal. I'm just really, really hoping it happens but know it's all just hypothetical.

  • Campbell and Vincent are excellent picks. Any thoughts on the player to be named later?

  • Guys it looks like old nr did a pretty good job.

  • We just got paid off the top pick. I know its a good deal, but it kinda feels that way.

  • In reply to waamsy:

    I think the way to look at the trade is that NYFC wanted Harrison and the Fire took him off the table forcing NYFC to make the trade. They end up getting a Vincent who has a very solid player w/o a question as to what position he will play. Yaro is a wonderful player who is headed toward confusion as a right back. Better, in my view, to draft a solid player without questions as to position. This raises a question for me as to who will be the player traded to Seattle. Since Vincent is a left back, are they going to send to JJ?

  • In reply to Krasov:

    I'm curious to see how the Harrison/Doody fight for LB unfolds.

  • In reply to Krasov:

    Joevin Jones was the player to be named going to Seattle.

  • I took the "fans arent frustrated" comment as a really smart way to say to fans "calm down, quiet down, give me a chance to fix this mess, it's going to take some time" without sounding like he is critizing fans

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