After passing on players available in today's Waiver Draft, the Fire will have another chance to add to their roster on Friday with Stage 1 of the Re-Entry Draft taking place at 2 pm CT. While it doesn't sound like they'll be active on Friday either, Nelson Rodriguez and Veljko Paunovic are continuing their scouting travels outside of the US. Central and South America appear to be the current regional focus.
With 16 players under contract at the moment, the next few weeks should provide some news although it's likely that most of the "big" additions will have to wait until January when the European transfer window officially opens.
The Fire are still in for Manchester United's Bastian Schweinsteiger but two major obstacles remain in the way before that can be finalized. Schweinsteiger is under contract until 2018 and a buy-out agreement between the player and club doesn't appear close to being settled. Various reports have set United's buy-out offer at $11 million but it appears that Schweinsteiger's side is holding out for more. MLS/Chicago isn't looking to pony up an exorbitant transfer fee to help Manchester United recoup Schweinsteiger's $17m/year wage either. According to several sources, the current package on the table would land Schweinsteiger at somewhere in the vicinity of a $7m/year annual cost assuming a buy-out is completed.
United Manager Jose Mourinho has engaged in recent public support of the player by adding him to the 18-man squad for a match earlier this week and telling reporters that he "expects him to stay" at the club. This could all be posturing by Mourinho as options for a player he doesn't intend to use appear to be drying up. Chances are this won't be resolved until some time in January considering the parties and dollars involved.
The Fire's other major target this offseason is Legia Warsaw striker Nemanja Nikolic. The Yugoslavian-born Hungarian attacker has publicly stated that he's looking to make a move but appears to have suitors in Turkey, China, and England. MLS or China are the current front-runners with an expected resolution before the New Year. Nikolic and his agent appear to be more interested in Chicago but are looking to maximize the offer before deciding.
The back-up plan for Nikolic is indeed Panathinaikos forward Marcus Berg as reported by ESPN FC's Jeff Carlisle last week. Like Nikolic, his contract runs through 2018 and a transfer fee would be involved but the numbers are more manageable than the dollars thrown around in a potential Schweinsteiger move.
Should none of these top three targets work out, the Fire still hold a Discovery claim on Andres Guardado but talks with his preferred destination in Atlanta are dead regarding a January move. Guardado, who also has another year remaining on his contract has apparently priced himself out of an MLS move this year and PSV Eindhoven is looking to retain him or cash in with a substantial transfer fee. A move for him to Chicago, or anywhere else within MLS at this time seems highly unlikely.
Plans to pursue Brad Guzan as a replacement for Sean Johnson apparently backfired when Atlanta accepted a trade for Johnson only to resume interest in Guzan after agreeing to the deal with Chicago. The expansion side now seems set on using their top Allocation ranking in order to add Guzan following a trade of Johnson to New York City FC. Shrewd business on Atlanta's part landed them extra MLS-funny money but they still need to sign Guzan, who may prefer playing closer to home if given a choice with even money.
The current situation leaves the Fire without a clear number one goalkeeper but don't expect the Fire to spend big on that spot. One player that is not under consideration is Club America 'keeper Moises Munoz. The 36-year old is not on Chicago's radar despite rumors to the contrary.
Rodriguez and Paunovic still need to fill spots at right back, goalkeeper, and midfield even if the top two targets are in Chicago come the opening of camp in late January. Some of those spots could be filled by MLS veterans, but again those deals aren't likely to be formalized until January. Saprissa midfielder Marvin Angulo has been rumored as a target with both Rodriguez and Paunovic spending some time this winter scouting in Costa Rica.
David Accam, who is currently under contract for this year plus an option for 2018 has been looking to increase his salary to the $2m/year range which has resulted in an impasse in extension negotiations with the club. Accam is expected to be with the team this year under the terms of his current deal regardless of whether or not an extension is negotiated.
On the Homegrown front, University of North Carolina Freshman Cameron Lindley could join the team this summer if he decides he wants to leave school after one year. The decision is up to Lindley, as it is with UNC teammate Victor Pineda. Once again, those decisions won't be finalized until January. Lindley is a highly regarded box-to-box midfielder who was the only Freshman named to the the NSCAA first, second, or third team Division 1 best eleven rosters last week. He was selected to the second team and named Top Drawer Soccer's Freshman of the Year this week. Pineda is a center back who can also play outside.
With training camp opening in a little less than 6 weeks the offseason will heat up shortly.
Fire training camp dates/locations set
Following Stage 1 and 2 of the Re-Entry Draft on December 16 and 22, the MLS Combine from January 7-12, and the SuperDraft on January 13, the Fire report for training at the Private Bank Fire Pitch on January 23.
They will train there until January 28 before departing for the next phase of training at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Florida from January 29 until February 10. The final phase of camp will take place at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida from February 13-26.
The annual Season Kick-Off Luncheon is set for February 27.
The preseason game schedule has yet to be announced.
The 16 players with 2017 contracts are:
DEF: Campbell, Kappelhof, Meira, Vincent, Harrington, Doody
MID: Accam, Alvarez, Goossens, Polster, Fernandez, Conner, Calistri
FWD: De Leeuw, Arshakyan
The league released the guidelines and parameters for the next round of expansion today. Fire owner Andrew Hauptman is listed as one of the five members of the expansion committee reviewing applicants.
Teams 25 and 26 will pay an entry fee of $150 million with 10 markets currently in the running.