The Fire are in need of scoring punch and the transfer deadline pursuit of Kei Kamara by clubs like Vancouver and New England spurred fan hopes via social media that Chicago would enter the fray for his services. That was never likely, given that the Fire currently have all three Designated Player spots spoken for. The allocation money certainly appears to have been available to pursue him if they chose to do so but a move for a long term contract on a 31 year old forward with a reputation as a locker room headache doesn't seem to mesh with Nelson Rodriguez and Veljko Paunovic's stated rebuilding plan. A deal for Gilberto straight up would have been a match in terms of dollars but looking at the package that New England gave up for Kamara, any deal for one of the Fire DP's seems like a pipe dream.
With MLS' primary transfer window closing at the end of the day yesterday, the Fire failed to add more than midfielder Khaly Thiam to the roster. After weeks of negotiations with FC Groningen and Michael de Leeuw sources have indicated that Chicago has come to an agreement on personal terms with the player but were unable to come to an accord with the Dutch club weeks ago that would have ensured his arrival during this window.
The hope was that FC Groningen would not qualify for the Europa league playoff scenario by finishing eighth or higher in the Eredivisie thereby releasing de Leeuw to be available before the close of the MLS transfer window yesterday at midnight. That plan backfired when Groningen moved up the table in unlikely fashion and finished seventh.
Eyebrows were raised this morning when de Leeuw was unexpectedly excluded from the 18 man game day roster for Groningen's playoff match against Heracles. The official word from the club is that he was scratched due to a bout with stomach flu however. If that's the case, and a deal wasn't reached before midnight yesterday, the Fire will have to wait a little longer to add another attacker.
Groningen will face Heracles in the second leg of the series on Sunday after a 2-1 victory at home. If they advance, there are two more games next week.
De Leeuw has been coy about his future destination after announcing that he had declined a two-year contract extension to stay put several weeks ago. He has indicated that no deal has been finalized with Chicago but did concede last week that the Fire were currently the only club involved in negotiations with him. He's even discussed the team and the city with former teammate Johan Kappelhof, whom the Fire purchased from FC Groningen earlier this year.
No deal may be "signed" yet but Kappelhof seems to think that de Leeuw will arrive at some point.
"He asked me about the city, about the club and the way that we play," Kappelhof told Fire Confidential earlier this week when asked about the conversations with de Leeuw. "He wanted to know about houses. Some normal things about apartments and everything. I gave him some tips. I think he's looking forward to come here."
The Fire have seven games on the schedule before the summer transfer window opens on July 4. De Leeuw could be potentially have some down time between seasons in order to be fresh for the second half of the year, but how far will the Fire be from serious contention by then?
"He's a player that works very hard. He runs a lot and he's a goal scorer. I think you can see him as a shadow striker or striker. He's just works very hard and he scores amazing goals. That's his quality," said Kappelhof.
The Fire could have used the help now.