Maloney introduced, Busch returns, Fire back to CSN, and more news

The first day of training camp proved to be chock full of news with the introduction of new Designated Player Shaun Maloney, the surprise return of goalkeeper Jon Busch, and the announcement of a new TV rights deal with Comcast Sportsnet Chicago. The flurry of activity and news has started the 2015 season with a flourish and has helped fuel newly found optimism if social media reaction is any indicator. Maloney’s signing will grab most of the headlines but it’s the return of the popular Busch that created much of the buzz among supporters this morning.

Here’s a rundown of all the goings-on in day one of training camp:

Maloney introduced

Scottish midfielder Shaun Maloney arrived in Chicago on Saturday, signed his MLS contract over the weekend, and began training with his new teammates this morning at the Bridgeview Sports Dome. Maloney cited his conversations with Frank Yallop about the move as the main reason for choosing Chicago over other offers in the UK. “I think it’s an opportunity of a life time really,” said Maloney. “I spoke with the manager in early January and on personal level got on very well with him. He discussed the vision of the club and I bought in straight away.”

A different challenge, in a different country, in a different league were all motivating factors in the decision according to the 5′-7″ playmaker but after meeting with Yallop he gave his word on a decision despite his former club, Wigan continuing to search for the best possible deal before the transfer window closed. Maloney was thankful to Wigan for helping facilitate the move but nothing could be finalized until a transfer fee was agreed to with the Fire. Yallop called the transfer negotiation a matter of getting to “a figure that Wigan were happy with” considering that Maloney had chosen his destination and could leave in July on a free transfer.

Maloney responded to questions about injury/fitness concerns by saying that he’s at 100 percent now and ready to go. Hip surgery in 2013 was postponed from the previous season in order to help the club’s standing and the surgery has allowed him to improve his form with the national team resulting in the interest from Premier League clubs. Yallop described him as a two-way player with a big work rate who “buzzes” all over the field. His playmaking ability is the main reason Yallop pursued him so vigorously however. “Someone like Shaun makes the team tick,” said Yallop. “The one piece that we needed, and the most important piece was getting Shaun.”

Maloney deferred to the coaches when asked what position he prefers to play but does envision himself as an attacker who will help in all aspects of the game.  “I know I play in a creative position on the field but I think part of that is you have to do your job defensively. I certainly won’t shirk that responsibility,” he said. Yallop has said he plans to use Maloney as a central playmaker underneath two strikers in what could be a 4-3-3 formation and his abilities seem to be well suited to that position.

The Fire can now work on refining that system with close to a full squad from the beginning of camp. David Accam, Sean Johnson, and Lovel Palmer were the only players missing today. Accam is participating in AFCON with Ghana, Johnson is with the USMNT for two friendlies, and Palmer will arrive shortly. Maloney knows there is work to do but likes the changes that have been made since last season ended. “I’ve seen the results from last season and I spoke with the manager as I said previously and I think the team is very different this year. There’s been a lot of new signings and I’m very hopeful that I can play a big part in bringing success to the club,” he said.

Unlike many previous Fire DP signings, he’ll have that chance from day one.

Busch returns

The club is close to finalizing a move for goalkeeper Jon Busch. The formality of signing a contract is all that remains in bringing the popular ‘keeper back to Chicago. He was released just days before the beginning of the 2010 season and he landed in San Jose where he earned the starting role in short time. Yallop was the coach in San Jose at the time and played a big part in bringing him to Chicago now. “I’m very excited, both myself and my wife are very excited to be back here. I never thought it would be a possibility but to be quite honest when Frank brought it up to me we were all for it,” said Busch. The move was agreed to a few days ago with the trade of Kyle Reynish to New York last week opening up a spot for another ‘keeper. Busch did brush off questions about his departure as something that’s “part of the business.”

He’ll serve as the back up to Sean Johnson and should see some playing time if Johnson is selected to this summer’s Gold Cup squad. He’ll also provide some insurance should the Fire and Johnson find a suitor willing to make an offer on a move overseas. “Sean and I are actually real good friends. We talk all the time. We have a great relationship and I’m excited to be back to train with him. He’s the number one no doubt about it. I’m going to come in and do what I always do. Just work hard and train every day and try to get better as a goalkeeper. At the end of the day, if and when Frank needs me to play, I’ll play. When he doesn’t, I’ve got Sean’s back and I’ll help him in any way that I can,” said Busch. “There’s another level that Sean can get to and I want to help him be a part of that.”

He also recalled that supporters had provided him with a signed photograph upon his initial return to Toyota Park in 2010 as a member of the San Jose Earthquakes. Playing in front of those fans again is something Busch is looking forward to. “It’s giving me goose bumps just thinking about it. In my first game back here when I played for San Jose, they gave me a signed picture and it’s crazy how things work. As soon as we moved to San Jose we hung it up on one of the walls in our apartment and we still have it up there to this day.”

Shipp’s role

In the latest episode of the Fire Confidential Live podcast, Yallop indicated that Harry Shipp could start on the season on the bench with Maloney moving into the main playmaker’s role but the second year player would be given plenty of opportunity to get on the field. Shipp welcomed the challenge citing that new players and higher quality players raise the level of practice every day. He hasn’t specifically had conversations with coaching staff yet on where he fits in at the moment. “I honestly at this point don’t know,” said Shipp regarding what his role might be. “For me I’m focused on playing as well in practice every day as possible. If I play my best and play well, I’ll find a role for myself on the field somewhere.”

Discussion turned to negotiations related to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement since Shipp, Chris Ritter, and Jeff Larentowicz have all been involved in meetings to date. Free agency, or some form of will continue to be a major sticking point. “I’ve heard a lot about how it was five years ago and I think this year the players are so united in what they believe. I know you see on twitter and you see people interviewed about it but it’s honestly true. Everyone stands behind what we believe in and in order for us to take a stand like that it’s going to be real important for the league going forward,” said Shipp.

Jeff Larentowicz, an executive member of the MLSPU said that the sides are far apart but talks are ongoing. Both Shipp and Larentowicz were optimistic that issues could be resolved before the season starts in approximately six weeks.

Fire back on CSN

The Fire will be more visible in the Chicago sports landscape this summer, and for the next three years by virtue of a new television broadcast agreement. The club announced a return to Comcast SportsNet Chicago for television broadcasts. The new three year deal will include 21 games this season. Dan Kelly and Kevin Egan will return as the play by play team and CSN will feature a 30 minute pre game show along with expanded coverage on the station.

The deal includes shared digital content between the Fire’s official site and CSN. The team will also have more of a presence in nightly recap programming. The good news comes at a price however since the Fire are still paying for air time to broadcast matches although a successful stint featuring a team that wins and draws viewers could very well change that dynamic three years from now.


  • Yallop said Mike Magee is advancing well in his rehab and is starting some light jogging. Magee will travel to England with the team. His return to training could be anywhere from 4-10 weeks away depending on how he progresses. The Fire will be more cautious with Patrick Nyarko who is recovering from an ACL tear. Yallop previously had him on a June return.
  • Yallop has yet to name a head assistant to replace the departed CJ Brown. Head of Scouting Trevor James has been considered for the spot and was on the field with the team this morning although Yallop may have another option. “I was down the line with a couple of candidates but it didn’t quite work out,” said Yallop. An announcement on the permanent replacement for Brown is expected soon.


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  • Good news about Busch coming back.. and Maloney's 5'7"?

    Not starting Shipp is a bit weird.. he needs to be on the field and get used to longer minutes and longer season.

  • In reply to Bumsteer:

    If you have watched him play in the Prem, you will see his height is not an issue.

  • Thrilled that Busch is coming back. Hopefully he can retire here. Class act and a solid goalkeeper.

    The writing was on the wall for Shipp. Hopefully he can learn a lot from Maloney. I'm hoping that a) Maloney is the second coming of Peter Nowak and b) Shipp develops enough to take over from him sooner rather than later.

    So not happy about the CSN deal. I know I'm in the minority, but I don't have cable. With the My50 deal I could catch most of the matches during the year. Now what, I'll get to see a few on UniMas? Or I can pay for MLS Direct Kick and watch the matches three days later?

  • In reply to Fuegofan:


  • In reply to BrianC.:

    Oh sure, but a) the quality and b) I haven't figured out how to stream that onto my television for my comfortable viewing pleasure.

  • In reply to Fuegofan:

    b) apple tv (prolly the others like chromecast as well)...

    i bought direct kick last yr, i'm out of market so it was decent. but i'm not likely to buy it this year since so many games are blacked out when its a national feed. many of the top non-fire games are too. i didn't read the fine print before i threw down and was pretty frustrated and disappointed. so for anyone considering that route, be sure to note that before hand (and to be fair, it's the same with all the leagues).

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    In reply to Fuegofan:

    There are a lot of bars showing the games.

  • Not starting Shipp is ridiculous. He was our best field player last season. The only bright spot. And he was only a rookie. With Shipp not starting, who will be on the right? It's absolutely insane. I can't wait until Yallop is gone.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    Yeah, I'm a fair bit upset about that.

    We'll see how it shakes out. I have a feeling Shipp will see more minutes than we fear. Especially before Magee and/or Nyarko get back. Cause like you say: who plays on the right?

    That said, I was really happy they signed Maloney. I'm considerably less happy if it means Shipp's growth is stunted.

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    Also, a lot of the papers describe Maloney as a right winger. I can see him and Shipp lining up, one on the right, one in the center, and swapping back and forth.

  • In reply to Fuegofan:

    Oh sure.

    I was hoping that was the plan, until Yallop's most recent comments. Now I'm worried it's not.

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    In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    Shipp was our best player much of the time, but he also had a significant slump and was a late-game sub for at least a third of the season. He's good and very promising, but you don't put all your eggs in one basket, especially when that basket is a second-year player.

    Besides that, in discussing his planned 4-3-3, Yallop has been clear that he intends to play with 2 attacking midfielders at home. There's no reason to think that it wouldn't be Maloney and Shipp lined up side-by-side in the middle. Beyond that, both players have plenty of experience playing on the wing. In fact, Shipp's most successful games last season were when he was on the outside with the freedom to cut/drift in.

    Shipp will get plenty of playing time, and his development will be even better for having a guy like Maloney to learn from.

  • In reply to Mark M:

    A 433 with 2 CAMs? I doubt it.

    Anyway, Yallop said he expected Shipp to start the season on the bench. Which some of us think shouldn't happen. Simples.

  • In reply to Mark M:

    Shipp went through a slump because the entire team was in a slump. Its hard to play when the players around you cant make a 10 yard pass. He was the only player that can make a final pass on our roster last year. The problem was that our defenders decided that they would be better off kicking the ball as high and as far as they could, every time they got the ball. Playing a 433 with 2 attacking mids would not be very smart. Whoever Yallop picks to play in the middle is not good enough as it is, so having only 1 guy the defensive work would be tactical suicide. I wouldnt put it past Yallop to do that because he is the same guy that watched Matt Fondy play and then chose to sign him. Also, if Shipp and Maloney are the two attacking mids, Accam is on the left and Igboananike is up top, who is on the right? I guess it might be exciting to see a 4141 formation...

  • WOW! Actual coverage of the opening of Fire training camp and the Shawn Maloney signing on WBBM TV news! In ENGLISH even!

  • With Jon Busch coming back and AH opening up the wallet to get Maloney, the FO is slowly taking away things for me to be PO'd about.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    How about Dan Kelly's play by play? That should bug you.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    AH is learning, at least I hope so.

    I can see that FY can put a team together. My lone "unanswered"- and it's a REALY far-off question to be answered concerns the follow through: will this squad turn into a San Jose that sparkles and then fizzles? As someone mentioned previously, 2015 will define a lot of things.

    Regardless, I think this year's going to be fun.

  • Guys so far yallop has done a tremendous job. I was listening to extra time radio yesterday. They were tring to predict the 4 teams that would not make the playoffs. Believe it or not the fire was not one of the teams.

  • In reply to brokerjohn:

    Agree, Yallop has done a fine job turning over a crap team and remaking it. Yes Shipp was likely the best player and Amarikwa was the best goal scorer last year. It is great that they are having to fight for playing time as means we are improving the team. Shipp will get his time due to injury or upping his game. Hopefully he can learn to play better on the outside as was not as impressive there as he was in the middle.

    Am actually excited for season to start and would not have not bet I would bet there at end of last year when it was a slog the second half of the season.

  • In reply to fraslin:

    So instead of improving our weak parts last season like our midfield and defense, Yallop decided to get new players up top and not worry about the rest. Butts in seats I guess. There is no reason that Shipp should have to fight to get on the field when someone like Cocis, Watson, Ritter, Stephens will be playing every week for 90 minutes. Yallop also was a major factor to that team being crap last season. Where we were the worst, in the middle and in the back, were problems that he caused. The CB's that he brought in were so bad that he had to move one mid season and then take our best CM and move him to CB because the other was equally as bad. The players that played well (Shipp, Quincy, Sean) were Klopas signings. The most important players on the field, center mids, are the worst. We will lose that battle every game. It will probably be a lot of long balls over the top, same thing that happened last year with that same midfield.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    You did the "Klopas signed Shipp" thing again.

    I don't disagree with a lot of the points, and I know you meant "Yallop didn't sign Shipp so much as Shipp fell in their laps" but facts is facts, yeah?

    Really good point about one of Stephens, Watson, Ritter, Alex etc. starting over Shipp.

    That point hits you like a ton of bricks. Even if Shipp suffers a sophomore slump or something, there's no sense in upgrading a well filled position (meaning Maloney starts so Shipp doesn't) while neglecting a poorly filled position (particularly cdmid, IMO).

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    Yes, I meant anything but Yallop signing Shipp. Id rather call him a Klopas signing than a Yallop signing. I can just see March 6 coming and Watson and Cocis starting while Shipp is sitting on the bench. Im going to lose my mind. If I could only keep one guy from the roster last season, it would be Shipp. Id take him ahead of Johnson because he is fun to watch. I just hope Yallop doesnt ruin this season too.

  • fb_avatar

    The one move I'm actually not happy with is the TV coverage (surprise). I have been able to watch nearly every game over antenna for many seasons on My50. Now the games are moving over to ComCrap Sports Network.

    Does the F.O. even realize how many people are 'cutting the cable' these days, with younger generations leading that charge?

  • In reply to Jeff S:

    The younger generation also understands how MLSlive plus a foreign VPN means no blackout for even national broadcasts.

    We'll see how espn handles their out of market coverage, but there are ways of questionable legality around these things, without resorting to the crap quality, virus laden, definitely illegal streams.

  • CSN is going to give them far, far broader coverage than sandwiching a game between King of Queens and Big Bang Theory.

    The tv deal is also long term, which is something they've never done. It'll expand their weekly presence too, with the club working on a number of digital fronts with Comcast as well to bring more coverage of the team to the masses.

    Yes it impacts those who watched via antennae, but the benefits outweigh all that, and it will work towards providing the level of coverage everyone complained didn't exist previously.

    Can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs.

  • In reply to Jeff Krause:

    Based on my research watching games on My50 Chicago & being to lazy to find the remote after the game's ended: Leah Remini ("King of Queens") >> Kaley Cuoco ("Big Ban Theory").

  • In reply to c0quito18:

    This made me laugh.

  • In reply to c0quito18:

    c0quito wins. Shut it down. Haha.

  • Will the fact that the TV deal is for 3 years mean that the Fire might get some off season coverage which is basically zero now? I think that because CSN Chicago is is owned by the owners of Cubs, Sox, Bulls, and Hawks, the Fire will never be an equal partner or get equal coverage. Does anyone else think it is odd that the Fire are not using their own sports dome for pre-season training this week? I thought that that was the point of building the thing.

  • In reply to Krasov:

    They can't use it full time because it doesn't have locker room space for the first team. I believe they are working on that this year, but it wasn't going to be ready for preseason. They're using the new dome Wednesday and Friday this week, and should be there a few days a week while they're in town before they head abroad.

  • In reply to Krasov:

    The Fire won't get equal time for several reasons. One is as you stated, the other teams competing for the sports dollar in Chicago own the station. They also don't have the following that those teams have in terms of sheer numbers. CSN also don't have on air staff that can speak about the team and MLS with the level of knowledge that they can about the other teams.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Then why can't they just do what ESPN does and have like guests analysts etc...

  • In reply to waamsy:

    I think if CSN sees that there is an audience for them you'll see more coverage. They also have to win to be interesting enough to draw more demand past the core fan base.

  • The Jon Busch signing is now official.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    So we're 3rd on the allocation order for USMNT players returning to MLS (as long as they're below a "certain threshhold" to be determined by MLS). Rumors have Tim Howard returning Stateside.

    I'm supposing he's going to fall above the thresshold for the USMNT allocation order. But who's left over there that might fall to the Fire? Agudelo apparently wasn't in the allocation mix because of his offer from the Revs when he left... Cameron seems to be doing ok, Rubio Rubin is lighting it up, Jonathan Spector is playing... While I get some schadenfreude thinking about Klinsmann kicking his dog every time a USMNT player comes to MLS, poor Fritz must be in a body cast by now and the Fire don't seem likely to benefit from the US-bound movement anytime soon.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Tim Ream is a useful name that comes to mind.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Don't see him moving unless Bolton get relegated. even then i would expect him to want to stay in england at this point.

    The "Americans abroad" market is tapped out mosty, but there still is the returning MLS player (like Pappa was last year). Not sure who might be on that list.

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    Agree....I don't see him moving any time soon. Just threw it out there as a name on the list of potential returnees.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Also don't forget south of the border: Corona, Garza, Arriola, Torres...Bornstein...

  • Spector would continue the repatriation of Chicago area players. He spent his freshmen year of high school at St. Viator in Arlington Heights before heading out to Bradenton

  • Good point Tomazpp! Would love to see some of our MNT players from ligaMX brought to MLS! GR-why don't we see much of that? Money? Style of play?

  • In reply to shortpasses:

    Money is probably the big reason. They wouldn't get DP money here and stand to make more playing in Mexico than they would at a mid level salary here.

    (See Herculez Gomez)

  • In reply to shortpasses:

    Also there's a chance they'll get injuried or just not played by the coach for no (readily apparent) good reason and it might put their career in jeopardy like, oh IDK, Joya or something...

    That's obviously a hyperbole but I just think it's funny one of the two guys that I can think of who came into the league from Liga MX was Joya (the other, Beasley)

  • Tab Ramos comments on some of his U20 players including Joya.....

  • Are the Fire still planning to fly out of Chicago to England tomorrow?!? If they were smart, they left today!

  • Guillermo,

    With regard to the CSN deal: what happens with conflicts between Fire games & Sox/Cubs/Hawks/Bulls, etc....?

    I guess those other teams have multiple broadcast outlets so maybe they deal with the conflicts that way. But what happens if, say, an afternoon baseball game on CSN bleeds into kickoff for a Fire match?

  • In reply to Roti2000:

    CSN plus (which is now a full time channel) will host games with conflicts.

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