The additions of Nemanja Nikolic and Juninho make the Fire a better team but there is still plenty of work to be done to get back into serious consideration for a playoff spot next season. Goalkeeper, right back, right mid, and that "boss" in central midfield that Nelson Rodriguez referenced last week are still on the shopping list.
The biggest question remains about the biggest target identified this winter. Will the Fire be able to land a significant third Designated Player?
All indications are that a potential MLS move for Andres Guardado this January is dead. Whether it be Chicago or Atlanta, this one isn't happening in this window. The Fire remain in the hunt for Bastian Schweinsteiger but there hasn't been significant movement there in the last two weeks. MLS/Chicago may have to wait out Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho's bluff that he intends to make the German midfielder a useful part of his club going forward. As the clock ticks in January this could come closer to reality as Mourinho stares down the prospect of eating another 18-months of Schweinsteiger's huge contract for essentially showing up to training.
The German veteran has the upper hand at the moment. He can continue to play the good soldier and show up when called upon while collecting a big payday or he can force a buy-out for a move. Manchester United's buy-out offer hasn't met his number and they aren't likely to get much of a transfer fee to help recoup their losses.
What the Fire's back-up plan is if Schweinsteiger falls through isn't quite clear yet. They continue to explore other options and could certainly use a playmaker that can exert influence from the middle of the pitch at some point. Neither Schweinsteiger or Guardado were exactly that but they would potentially have filled the "boss" role that Rodriguez is looking for. On and off the pitch.
Goalkeeper is another big question mark. Matt Lampson is the only 'keeper currently on the roster with Patrick McLain being chosen by Orlando City in the Re-Entry Draft. The Fire are currently looking at options outside of MLS. Uruguyan Jorge Bava is a possibility.
The backline also needs to be addressed, particularly on the right side if Johan Kappelhof moves back to the middle where he was more successful last season. Rumors overseas have the Fire expressing interest in veteran fullback Antonio Rukavina but that doesn't seem likely. He'll be 33 to start the season and seemingly will cost more than what the Fire have to budget at that position. International roster spots are also at a premium, with six of the eight available openings currently spoken for.
Kappelhof, Meira, Goossens, de Leeuw, Arshakyan, and Nikolic are the internationals on the roster at the moment. The Fire could get some relief if Johan Kappelhof is able to obtain a green card in the near future. He has started the process. The club is also looking into bringing Rodrigo Ramos back on a reworked loan agreement. Ramos fell out of favor last season due to concern with his off-field commitment more than his play on the field. He would occupy an international spot however. There does appear to be funds available for another TAM player though.
The bench could also be bolstered with Luis Solignac returning on a reworked deal. The Fire protected him this winter and kept his rights. A green card will make him more attractive in a potential return.
Additional Homegrown Players are a possibility as individuals make decisions on their next steps professionally as opposed to college. One of the Fire's current HGP's, Collin Fernandez is currently training with Peru's U20's. He will be away until mid-February competing in the South American Youth Football Championship. The club is already exploring potential full-season loan deals in order to get him minutes for a full season. If Peru finishes in the top four, they will advance to the U20 World Cup this coming summer in South Korea.
The 2017 MLS Player Combine begins on January 7 and concludes on the 12th, one day before the SuperDraft on the Friday the 13th. The Fire were very active last year and could be so again this year with the 3rd and 11th picks in the first round. They have have the 47th (3rd round) and 69th (4th round) picks. It's possible that a right back could be targeted there as Brandon Vincent was on the left side last year.
Last year's second round pick and 22nd overall selection, Alex Morrell has signed with the USL's Tampa Bay Rowdies.
The current Fire roster:
DEF: Campbell, Kappelhof, Meira, Vincent, Harrington, Doody
MID: Accam, Alvarez, Goossens, Polster, Fernandez, Conner, Calistri, Juninho
FWD: De Leeuw, Arshakyan, Nikolic
Player movement across MLS hasn't been overly active but things will surely pick up in the next few weeks.