January window approaches - what's next for the Fire?

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:

GK: Lampson

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.

Filed under: 2016 Post Season

Tags: Chicago Fire


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  • fb_avatar

    Thanks for the updates as always GR.

    So we're working at a loan for CF while we have literally no CAM on the roster let alone depth at the position? I'm 100% over Pauno as a coach... His track record regarding playing HGs will likely keep future prospects away. He really shies away from domestic players which is lame because the HG program is likely our best option moving forward under AH ownership at securing good young prospects... Wow I wish we would make a run at Bob Bradley again!

    I also just read that we signed Bova? What's your take on him GR? I'm guessing we will be drafting a GK?

  • In reply to Joe Brancato:

    The Fire have not signed Bava yet.

  • Do LD or Keisuke Honda do anything for you, GR? While not "scarf-worthy" I think he would be a good playmaker and more of a fit than Schweinsteiger (I actually spelled that right on the first try without needing to look it up! Thursday win!).

  • In reply to c0quito18:

    The better fit being Honda, not LD. I should've made that more clear. And at 30, it wouldn't be that bad of a move.

  • In reply to c0quito18:

    Honda would be excellent. I can't say that I've verified actual interest at this point however.

  • In reply to c0quito18:

    I saw that note about Honda on the MLS trade tracker.

    Something about our recent signings makes me think that "we prefer MLS" probably means "MLS would be great, but I didn't even know there was a team in Chicago - go find someone in the Hungarian league."

  • Question for the board. What if the Fire pick up a CAM. Someone like Honda or Lodeiro. Where does he fit in the lineup? Is he next to Juninho or does he push out deLeeuw? What lineup would be best if a true CAM is on the team?

  • In reply to go fire:

    I mean think about it. Wouldn't you want a strong bench as well for the fire. Maybe Michael can be that super sub for us. Remember a team can't only trust their starting 11, they also need a good bench as well which the fire didn't really have last season. How much goals were scored from the bench last year? If we were to get Bastian, I would move Polster to the bench and put Juninho next to Bastian in the cm role. If Bastian comes in, is that all the DP spots taken?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to go fire:

    This is just my reading of things, but I feel like the Fire are not necessarily looking for a CAM, but someone who can "boss" central midfield and control the game. I feel like Pauno sees the CAM spot as De Leeuw's, even though he's more of a second striker. We may be looking at something like this:

    Accam, De Leeuw, ?????
    Juninho, Schweinsteiger

    Personally, I would be happy with a high-quality DP right winger instead of Schweinsteiger, allowing Polster to remain in the line-up. Create chances from the wings rather than the middle.

  • In reply to Dan Koev:

    Pretty much this.

  • In reply to Dan Koev:

    How perfectly would Nyarko fit into that attacking 4? Of all the moves the last 2 years, i miss patty and (will miss) sean johnson the most.

  • In reply to Dan Koev:

    Speaking of Schweinsteiger I have to agree with GR's Tweet. It could be posturing but it seems increasingly likely that Mourinho will not let Schweinsteiger leave. I can't see the MLS/Chicago Fire making the size offer that would change his/Man Utd's mind.

  • In reply to Marlin:
  • In reply to Marlin:

    Mourinho will not let Schweinsteiger leave


  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Dan Koev:

    Agreed, a DP level RM the likes of say Aaron Lennon (still over a year left on his contract but could probably get him for $5-7 mil transfer and a lower salary than Shweinsteiger). Underrated and would would be a perfect compliment to Accam on the left but less selfish.
    This is part of the reason I dont believe they are really in for Shweinsteiger, because if they were really willing to shell outthat kind of $, there are far better options.

  • fb_avatar

    Why aren't more players trying to get their green card?

  • Heard from reports that Bava, a 35 year old Uruguay Keeper with no senior caps for Uruguay will be signing for the Fire in a couple of hours. Is this good? I know he is 35 with a lot of expierience but is this someone the Fire should be having at that high age of 36. Also if he does come we will most likely have to get a gk next year if he plans to retire and have to worry about that position.

  • In reply to DavidFromChicago:


    He is actually good at distributing

  • In reply to DavidFromChicago:

    My bad I actually watched the video and did pretty good with his decisions. The only thing I found negative about him is he doesen't talk like Sean did to his backline.

  • In reply to DavidFromChicago:

    To me, he acts to create a dominating presence in the box, either collecting the ball or knocking it out, which I like- it implies he won't play passively in the net. I'd like to see is more instances of in-the-box pinball moments and what happened in the times the opposing team scored; however, it could be promising if signed. I'm very curious to know what Saric could do with him.

  • In reply to DavidFromChicago:

    They've talked to Bava. It wouldn't surprise me if they sign him, especially since he won't be a big budget hit.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    I don't really mind anymore as long as the gk we get is good with his feet and could communicate with the back line and obviously save some important shots.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    His games per season ratio suggests that he was rarely an outright starter everywhere he went. If signed, we could still be looking at Lampson challenging for the starting spot. Seems like a typical Fire unenthusiastic signing not inline with the last two if you ask me. Also, unless he has a green card it seems like it would be a massive waste of an international slot...

  • In reply to Carl Miller:

    My barometer of Bava to Lampson would be: if Lampson were on Nacional's roster, how many starts would *he* have earned?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to BrianC.:

    Very fair point. I guess my thought is (and Im actually really happy for Sean cause I think he desperately needed a change) why trade away a very solid keeper and create another void when you already have several others to work to fill. All they did was create more work for themselves and open another door for potential criticism. They can talk about distribution all they want but the glaring fact was that he made more $ than they wanted to pay him.

  • Guillermo,

    Ant insights about why the new regime was so down on Sean Johnson, pretty much from the moment they arrived?

    He ha his flaws, but is it not fair to say he was an above average MLS starter?

    What specifically was their issue with him?

  • fb_avatar

    There are a few theories about the SJ situation:

    1)Apparently Pauno thought since he had no creative service from our midfield (or defense even) that he could provide it via GK distribution. Some how he believed that Lampson's (supposedly) superior distribution skills would revive our offensive stagnation even though every aspect of Milk's GK game was and is better. If this is the case Pauno's judgement of talent is questionable at best.

    2)Pauno liked to start players that "practiced well." Maybe Lampson practiced really well for a while and his reward was to be a starter. A professional coach should rarely (if ever) do such when there is superior overall talent available. This is acceptable at the amateur/youth level but not for pros. Players that are not that great but "practice well" should be rewarded with garbage time in games. Hopefully we can chalk that noise up to being the learning curve of a rookie professional coach.

    3)Milk was (supposedly) injured for a portion of the season. I forgot what the injury was but it seemed suspect.

    4)AH really is just that cheap and since Milk has consistently been our best player over the last 5-7 years he may have wanted to get paid. The FO very well might have pushed Lampson on Pauno and he had little choice but to start him. If this was the case the FO sure as hell should have just paid the man.

    I think a bit of each of these theories are true and that SJ finally just got sick of it and quietly asked management for a trade. Regardless of any of this he will be missed.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Joe Brancato:

    To point #4, SJ's salary is covered by the league as he isn't a DP. None of the money would come from AH. If he wanted DP money then they were right to drop him. There's similar talent to be had for non-DP money.

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