Another summer, another failed Designated Player by the wayside.
Today's announcement that the Fire and recently absent forward Gilberto have agreed to mutually part company and terminate the Brazilian's contract opens up new possibilities for this summer and beyond. Gilberto and his agent have been looking for a move back to Brazil for several weeks and it seems they'll get their wish. By avoiding a negotiated transfer to a Brazilian club, which didn't seem likely given the apparent financial capacity of the teams interested, Gilberto can cut whatever deal he can make for himself and the Fire can move on without tying up valuable cap/budget space or wasting resources via a buy-out. His former club, Santa Cruz appears to be very interested in bringing him back into their side.
The agreement to mutually part ways opens up a DP spot, an international roster spot, and most importantly the budget space with which to replace him with someone of some stature. Sources indicate that the Fire have been scouring both the international market and the MLS trade market for a "target" forward.
While Nelson Rodriguez has indicated that he would prefer to wait until the January window to pursue another Designated Player, he has left the possibility open for another substantial addition now if the opportunity arises. Gilberto's departure could expedite that search if the Fire are willing to move quickly as European players with expiring contracts become available on June 30. Rodriguez has also alluded to still having some allocation funds available this summer to facilitate moves if necessary.
With the Fire in the market for another attacker to complement Michael de Leeuw, whom they see as more of the "9.5" or "10" player that he described himself as in his introduction to Chicago, it seems that the focus for now is in finding someone who can fill the traditional "9" position. Several MLS teams have inquired about Portland's Fenando Adi, but the Timbers don't seem to be willing to move him within the league.
Of the players on the international market available now, one such player who has been in contact with MLS about a future is Atletico Madrid's Fernando Torres. Sources indicate that the league has been in discussions with Torres about a move stateside for some time and his destination would be Chicago if he were to accept an offer from MLS. That seems unlikely now however, as Atletico's President Enrique Cerezo told media this week that Torres' signature for a one-year extension to stay in Spain was "very close" and pending the closure of "a few loose threads."
If the Fire don't go "big" now to replace Gilberto, it's possible that another TAM level player could be brought in to complement the current squad and the DP tags will be revisited in the offseason when decisions need to be made on Kennedy Igboananike, who has an option, David Accam, who has aspirations of playing in Europe, and de Leeuw and Johan Kappelhof, who are both below the DP threshold this season because of Targeted Allocation Money.
Should the Fire not find a forward to fill a fairly substantial goal scoring void now, they could also look at an outside player capable of helping on both sides of the pitch. One such player whose name hasn't cropped up in connection to MLS yet and would make sense in Chicago is Borussia Dortmund's Jakub Blasczcykowski. A fixture in Poland's National Team since 2006, Blasczcykowski may not have a place at Dortmund or at Fiorentina, where he spent the last season on loan. At 30 years old he may not have many big European options but would still make an impact in MLS, particularly in Chicago where he has family connections. Blasczcykowski has played a big part in Poland's Euro 2016 run and has two years remaining on his deal at Dortmund but could look to move.
There has also been speculation about US goalkeeper Brad Guzan, whose future at relegated Aston Villa is uncertain. The Fire still hold the top allocation spot and theoretically could claim the Evergreen Park native if he decides to return to MLS. That would make little sense however, based on the needs of the team and the amount of resources or allocation funds needed to fit him into the side when there are already three goalkeepers on the roster. Pursuing Guzan, despite his hometown connections, would be an odd choice to say the least.
Chicago can use help at forward, in the playmaking role, and on the right side of midfield. Whichever way the Fire go in filling Gilberto's spot, it's sure to arouse some interest and speculation.
Let the latter begin.