Nelson Rodriguez's wheeling and dealing during the MLS SuperDraft has resulted in the addition of Stanford left back Brandon Vincent, North Carolina CB Jonathan Campbell, and North Florida midfielder Alex Morrell. By selecting Jack Harrison with the first pick, it also enabled the Fire to gain allocation money from New York City FC along with Vincent via trade.
If you consider Josh Yaro a right back, as many do, one can argue that the Fire's haul included the top left back and center back available in the draft today. Rodriguez wasn't done with that first deal. He also sent Joevin Jones to Seattle in exchange for even more allocation money and the 15th pick. He then dealt the 15th and 33rd picks to Colorado for the 12th selection that landed Campbell, and the 22nd that brought Morrell. That move also included a swap of allocation spots with the Rapids, who are reportedly interested in Alejandro Bedoya.
The Jones deal may have caught some by surprise and there are indications that he was looking for a substantial raise over his 2015 salary, but Rodriguez said that didn't play into the move. "Joevin Jones was a player that was coveted by many teams around the league, and over the course of the entire off season there had been steady offers being made for his services. Through the Combine, and as we got closer to the Draft, those offers increased. It got to the point where, in the scenario we thought could be viable, securing Brandon Vincent could enable us to move Joevin's service and in return get a draft pick that we felt we could convert into a player and add more money to our allocation war chest," said the Fire's General Manager.
We may likely never know what the amount of allocation money acquired today was but Rodriguez says it was substantial enough to get further into the transfer market for an attacking midfielder. "Now we can go back into the international market, and in addition to hopefully the finalization of our center backs, look at some central midfield players. Players that we believe can make a difference. Players that are very hard to find domestically. We believe the results of today's dealing having accelerated our program," he said. "An important factor of all of the allocation money we received today, is that it also allows us to make mid season moves if it's necessary or if it's desired."
The Fire needed to address the back line and they've done so today. Vincent, who is currently in US National Team camp, and Campbell seem to be players that can compete for time now. The selections are not an indication that the international defenders the team is looking to add aren't coming either. The Fire have at least one center back signed and an offer pending to another. Rodriguez still sounded hopeful on the second European center back.
"We think Jonathan (Campbell) is a good player, who could become a really good player," he said. "In an ideal world we'd love for him to play a bit, but ultimately learn from the center backs that we bring in. This is part of building a championship program where you start to build succession planning. We have said that our priority is center back and we expect to introduce some experience to help the younger players."
On Monday, Rodriguez said that he wasn't concerned with the perception of inactivity by some fans because he felt a plan was in the works. That plan was on full display today as he helped initiate one of the more active and interesting days in MLS Draft history. The trades may be done for a while, but there is more to come shortly.
"We're not actively looking to trade any of the players we have under contract. With that said, we will always consider offers that may improve our team," replied Rodriguez to an inquiry about the other signed players on the roster.
The next week will also be busy as the Fire prepare for players reporting on January 24.
- The Jones trade leaves the Fire with only two internationals on the roster. Gilberto and Kennedy Igboananike. David Accam has a green card.
- Campbell said that he has some versatility and can play outside if needed. He played in a three man back line in college.
- Vincent played left back in high school and freshman year in college at center back.
- Rodriguez credited Matt Pearson for excellent scouting. Pearson is Director of Youth Development for Fire Juniors West.
- Stay tuned....