Rodriguez on the SuperDraft, HGP's, and that "Boss" in midfield

The MLS SuperDraft will be held on Friday at 2pm CT and the Fire hold the 3rd, 11th, 47th and 69th picks. Nelson Rodriguez was very active last year while holding the first overall pick and he remains open to making moves again this season.

Rodriguez met with media via conference call this afternoon to discuss the SuperDraft, the offseason so far, and what the next few weeks may hold for the club.

Here’s a full recap of the call”

Rodriguez on whether or not the Fire are close to signing another central midfielder

“No. I would say we’re not. We continue to have dialogue. We continue to exchange ideas, proposals if you will, back and forth but I wouldn’t say that anything is imminent.”

Are negotiations more difficult than expected?

“No. These are generally complex matters. The players with whom we have interest have multiple suitors so there is always a process on both sides of evaluating options. The players in whom we have an interest, they are trying to discern between the various parties that have expressed a desire to acquire their services and for our part, we are always balancing the multiple targets and what it takes to acquire any one of them. At the moment, I would say it has gone along the path that we expected.”

On international spots

“We are at eight. We have eight internationals currently on our roster. We’re aware of the rules but we’re prepared to deal with it, should the need arise.”

On Polster’s role this year

“I think Matt, and Juninho, and Drew Conner, and Collin Fernandez all have to compete to win the playing time. My expectation, after knowing Matt for a year, is that he will report to camp in great shape and with great spirits. He’s a young man that’s very confident in his abilities. He has already demonstrated himself to be a capable player in Major League Soccer. I think that a lot was expected of him last year, which may have been a little bit unfair because he still remains a young player in only his second year but I think he now understands what our environment is like. My expectation is that he will be a very key performer.

On additions to the squad outside of CM and the need for a “Boss”

“I think that Juninho and Nemanja Nikolic are going to add a great layer of leadership to our locker room. Both are champions. Both have a strong desire to win more titles. Both are prepared to assume leadership positions. Both are prepared to assume a mentorship position for some of our young players. That would at least give us voices in two-thirds of the field. I think that with Johan (Kappelhof), Joao (Meira), Jonathan (Campbell) having a second year together that their voice, whether collective or individually can start to emerge. I feel much, much better about finding this “boss” type personality and voice within the locker room. If we can add to it, we will. In terms of where else we’d like to see improvements in the roster, it’s all over the field. We need to create a highly competitive environment where players have to understand that there are going to be people that want the spot in the eleven on a daily basis. If we look at just our forward line for a moment, with Niko, Michael, Lucho returning, and David Arshakyan returning, there’s going to be a lot of competition for playing time there. We’d like to try to replicate that all over the field. I think that we could still use some central midfield players, like we said. We could also probably add one or two players along the back line.”

On Homegrown Players

“Jonathan Lewis and Marcus Epps did not qualify as Homegrown Players on the basis of the rules that are established by Major League Soccer in relation to the amount of time that they have to be in your Academy or remain in your Academy in training days for those players to go to college. They were not eligible for Homegrown status. Both players have shown very well here at the Combine. Both players had very good college seasons and both players are very talented. With regards to Homegrown Players for whom we do have, if I could use the word control, Mauricio Pineda and Cameron Lindley, after discussions with and after discussions with their university and their families have decided to return to the University of North Carolina. Grant Lillard, after discussions with us and discussions with us and his collegiate coach, has decided to return to Indiana University for his final year at the university. We support these decisions. We actually believe that they are in fairly good environments. The coaching staffs at both UNC and IU do an excellent job and provide excellent coaching and excellent development. We have always viewed these decisions as needing to be family ones. These are decisions that can impact not just a career, but a life. We support those families decisions. We support those players. We have invited all three players to train with the first team this summer when their collegiate and student-athlete duties are completed for the academic year. We’ll continue to work with their college coaches ensuring there’s a comprehensive plan for their development.”

“Andrew (Gutman is not a possibility for this year). Andrew decided early on in the process in my conversations with his collegiate coach, that he wanted to remain in school. We did not have a discussion with Andrew or his family at this time. I’ll note that we believe there are many good environments in college. I know the trend, and the buzz, and the belief is that you have to be in the Academy or in the pro setting. I think that it’s a case by case basis. Signing a contract does not make someone a professional . I think what makes someone a professional is their mentality and the fact that they understand what it means to be an athlete on a daily basis. Each individual player arrives at that decision at a different time. We don’t believe in pressuring 18, 19, 20 year olds in making that decision. We commend all three of those young men for taking independent decisions that they believe are in the best interests for today. Some things that they may delay in acquiring by not being in a pro environment, they may get in other areas. Growth areas of independence. Becoming more self aware of how they are as young men and as aspiring pros. We feel good for them. At the end of their collegiate and academic seasons next December, we’ll go back and speak to them again and see where their mind is.”\

On Fire priorities in the SuperDraft

“We think this draft has several good players. There are interesting players. The roster that we have now has room in all lines to integrate at player of good quality. We’re studying the situation and will consider all selections or will consider changes if we can.”

“We have our plan built up for the SuperDraft. We have contingencies and we have options built with in that plan. We think there is a depth of talent that we feel very good about our selections at number 3 and number 11. We will consider all options made available to us. That might even include trading up or trading down.”

On the internationals in the draft

“The number and quality of internationals in the SuperDraft is because of the success of MLS. There are young players in other parts of the world that are looking at MLS as their priority.”

“That is in part a result of MLS Academy programs, where more domestic players are foregoing college or leaving college earlier, as a result the colleges in an effort to increase its standard and its level is recruiting more heavily in an international market. I also thinks it’s a reflection of MLS being a league of choice and more international players recognizing that a good pathway to becoming a pro is by entering MLS, and by first going to college in America.”

On international transfers

“We’re talking with three separate players at the moment. We’ll continue scouting and talking to people about other options for the remainder of January. We want the roster to be as complete as possible for the start of the season and not so much the first day of preseason.”

“We’re in active discussions with three players. We continue to scout. We continue to see what options may arise through the balance of January. Our goal is to have as close to a complete team by the start of the season, not necessarily by the start of training camp.”

On Jorge Bava’s addition

“We had a long list of goalkeeper candidates. Our goalkeeper coach, Aleksander Saric did a really good job of preparing that list and putting names in different buckets. We systematically went to see some of the goalkeepers play live. Pauno watched Bava play live twice. In our offseason they were still playing. We then received permission from the club to speak to the player directly. As I’ve said in the past, we value very much the individual that we’re bringing into the locker room. We were impressed with his desire for this challenge and his understanding that he would have to earn his way. There is an element of risk here for Bava. He has a family and he’s thirty-five years old. He’s always been in Spanish speaking nations but he understood the challenge that we have of resurrecting our club. He wanted that challenge. He understood the challenge of Matt Lampson being here and having some time as a starter for the club and having greater familiarity. Frankly, we were motivated by that motivated by the fact that he understood that very well. Despite having offers from other teams in South America shows up.”

On using an international spot on a goalkeeper

“Some of the characteristics that we are looking for in our goalkeeper are rarer among available American or domestic goalkeepers. We understood for some time that the likely solution that we sought was going to have to come from an international slot.”

On green cards for current players

“We do have players that are pursuing green cards but that is impossible for us to project. That’s a decision that’s completely based by the US government. I can’t put any time frame on those players that have initiated the process.”

On impact of players under contract and being pursued for the 3rd pick

“It forces us to be constantly be reevaluating best player or greater need. Ultimately we’re going to have to make a decision because the Draft is likely to come before we successfully close another player that we’re trying to acquire. There is an impact. It’s an inexact science. We also have to measure that we sit at 11, which is another favorable selection to have. If we opt to fill positional need at 3, do we hold our breath that perhaps a player that we may have ranked higher but had less of a need for is still there or vice-versa. I cannot say today that we’ve made our decision yet.”

On drafted players contributing this year

“The truth is, that with both of our first round selections last year in Brandon (Vincent) and Jonathan (Campbell) we did not necessarily select them believing that they would become starters or be starters at all. Jonathan, in particular, we had a plan for him to be a third or fourth centerback – for him to be given the benefit or learning a position through watching, through practicing, through studying, through hoping to have a mentor for him. At half time of game one that plan went out the window and he played virtually every game and every minute thereafter. Having said that, Jonathan has to come in this year and compete with Joao and Johan and anyone else that we may add to reclaim that starting role. I would prefer for us to remain consistent, in that whomever we draft will be given the opportunity to play. We’re going to continue to say this publicly and keep proving it in our decisions. Every day is an opportunity for a player to earn the coach’s selection. Those players that we think give us the best chance to win a game are going to be the ones that play. If that’s a young player coming out of the draft, so be it. We don’t go into it with a preconceived notion other than our intention is to build competition on this roster for every spot. Such that trainings make us all better.”

On HGP development

“There is a slight difference (for HGP’s). We want to keep all our players in the same way. We want all our players to know that we care for them as people. When you are signing a Homegrown Player there is a little bit of a different level of commitment because of history, because there has been more significant investment made in that individual as a person and as a player over time. That said, I don’t believe they get first team minutes. I think they have to earn them. We feel that game time is important and they haven’t earned with the first team and we have to look at other options for them, whether those be friendlies, whether those be scrimmages, whether we look to loan them for long term periods of time or short term periods of time to other teams. With the Homegrown guys, even though there is a slight difference, they will not be given minutes. They have to earn them.”



Filed under: 2017 Pre Season

Tags: Chicago Fire


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  • Well, this looks like its it. Bava; Vincent, Campbell, Meira, Kappelhoff; Polster, Juninho; Alvarez, deLeeuw, Accam; Nikolic. If Niko scores 15 to 20 goals, Fire might have a chance to squeak in the playoffs.

  • In reply to go fire:

    Nah that is not the final team. I don't think the fire are that dumb to leave the team how it is. It's not even halfway thru the window yet so there is still time. Be positive look at what Houston did so far to try and recover from the bottom compared to us. We did better so far.

  • guys all you have to say is David Arshakyan to realize how screwed up this management team is going to be this season. Yes they have added a decent scorer but you still have the weakest coach in the league and an owner that will not support his team. As a friend from the MLS office sasd to me Chicago is screwed they have an owner that just cannot play in the same league as the other teams. Pauno will be gone by the end of May.

  • In reply to Brokerman:

    You do have the part about Hauptman right but Hauptman isn't in charge of the tactics so you can't just predict Pauno to be a bad coach and be kicked out. Also Pauno isn't a weak coach, he attracted Nikolic which almost signed for Hull City but joined us. I know he would of had probably had flopped at Hull City and Nickolic himself thought that too probably, but the coach also plays the role of attracting players. Pauno did do some bad things like sign Arshakyan but even the best coaches in the world had those flops and we can't fix that. I myself had my own flops in FM as well. Who knows what they will do with D.A. They might even trade him for some GAM/TAM, only the future will tell.

  • In reply to DavidFromChicago:

    I refer D.A to Arshakyan

  • In reply to DavidFromChicago:

    Is Arshakyan Pauno's fault, or NR's?

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    In reply to Modibo:

    Not a fan of NR but i remember when they signed Arshakyan, NR made sure to distance himself from it, giving Pauno all the "credit". I just remember thinking, " well, that cant be good, almost seems like he is personally trying to distance himself from the signing of this guy..."

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    In reply to DavidFromChicago:

    I understand that last season was Pauno's first season as a pro coach but consider me underwhelmed. Like Hoiberg-style underwhelmed.

    He benched SJ in favor of Lampson and pissed him off enough that he asked for a trade, regularly played guys like Harrington/Labrocca/Thaim/Alvarez because they "practiced well" when superior talent was available on the bench, pushed hard to acquire both Thaim and Arshakyan, does not play HGPs, didn't push for us to keep JJ, gave his blessing for the Shipp trade (yet still won't play CF who he claimed made Shipp expendable), tactically chose to park the bus every game and lob balls up for Accam to run on to, apparently believes in relying upon his keeper to create more chances than his midfield and generally coached us to our second wooden spoon in a row.

    I know Pauno is not thee problem but I would hardly consider him to be a good coach because he was able to lure Niko here. Hell, Niko hasn't even suited up for us yet and we have no clue if his game will translate. Personally I think Niko is a good signing but what can I say, this organization has let me down before... That said I am willing to give Pauno one more season to show me he's learned from his rookie pro coaching mistakes and I hope he does well but I'm not holding my breathe.

  • In reply to Joe Brancato:

    I am giving him 10 games max. I think people are giving him too much leeway by simply saying "its his first job." This team was absolutely terrible last season. They did not play well for an entire 90 minutes one time. That is on Pauno. Sean, Accam, Johann and Polster were clearly our best players last year. You could arguably, and I cant stand him, say that Cocis could be on that list. Pauno only brought in Johan. His eye for talent is questionable to best. He seems to have no control and terrible tactics heading into matches. How many games did we start in one formation, assuming that was practiced and talked about at length for the week leading up to the match, only to be thrown out the window 10 minutes into the match because it was clearly not working. That tells me that he has no idea what he is doing.

    It is clear to see that he is not the man that is going to take us and move our club forward. He is clearly in over his head and this season will be another dumpster fire. There is so much that is needed to improve this team and I have absolutely zero faith in Pauno to complete that task.

  • Jesse Marsch to RB Salzburg? Chris Armas to RBNY? CJ Brown to Orlando City?

    TRADITION, honor, passion.

    If the ownership really took those words to heart, the team might better retain some of those leaders within the organization. Logan Pause is a good representative, but we've bled leadership talent in part because we haven't made opportunities for them, for example through a USL team.

    Who's left now to retain? What players can or would want to hang around after their playing careers to be part of the FO? What players would want to return?


  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Modibo:

    Got to throw Denis Hamlett's name in there too. He's inline to become the next coach or technical director at NYRB

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Modibo:


  • Guillermo, if the Staff want to get more International Slots, do you think that the trade would trade our pick in the draft ? I predict that one of those picks in the draft will go for a International Slot plus some more GAM/TAM will be given to us. I would take that trade because then there is more funny money to bring down Accam's or Juninho's contract so we will have an extra DP spot.

  • In reply to DavidFromChicago:


  • In reply to DavidFromChicago:

    I would not be surprised if they trade picks for TAM/GAM or spot.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to DavidFromChicago:

    I can't say I understand why anyone would trust NR to trade any more assets for TAM/GAM when we likely have stockpiled the most in the league and are not spending it... At this point I'd much rather have two top 11 draft picks on our roster than more league funny money that just keeps AH from having to spend any of his own actual money. How many years have we been promised a Keane-money player with no follow through now? 5 or so? Last spring NR told us to wait until this spring for a big acquisition and he publicly stated yesterday that we are not close to signing BS or any other player that would require Keane-money. I'd much rather get rid of one of our currently useless Intl players (like Arshakyan) than trade a high draft pick or simply buy another Intl spot with our seemingly endless TAM/GAM. I do fully expect NR to trade our #3 overall and get completely fleeced in the process tomorrow though. Watch Minnie give us an undisclosed amount of funny money for the 3, get Jackson Yueill (a CM we could totally use) and it'll be Jack Harrison all over again... Considering his track record I'm pretty sure every GM in the league wants a run at NR, my money says it'll be Minnie for the win this draft.

  • Blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah.

  • fb_avatar

    Jeee what a bunch of negative miserable people come here to comment on a team they claim to not care about. Reading the comments in these articles are almost unbearable at times.

    I'll say it. I like how NR and pauno are building the team this year. They are not buying just to buy like years past or like Houston this offseason. They are taking their time on players since they are investments. Exited to see Niko and DeLeew up top. Cavan setting fire in the left. With pollster and Juninho and whoever else working the mid. And a defense that has been decent but a year working Together. Bava is a great goalie according to some of my family that knew about him. And just reading on what people had to say online. But hey off-season is halfway and it's a different ballgame come march. So we ll see

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to AbeCalder:

    I think the signings so far have been very good (Bava will be a coin flip), its just that there is still a long way to go. They still need to sign:
    1. Starting quality RB
    2.Depth or starting quality on the right wing (depending on your opinion of Alverez)
    3. Depth on the left wing
    4. With no homegrowns signing, they now need one additional CB for depth (most likely will use their 2nd round pick on this).
    5. Additional help in midfield, preferably a CAM but i dont think they will use a true CAM. Even if they do not sign a CAM or another big name in midfield, they still need at least two more center mids on the depth chart.
    6. Depth at right back (so we can sleep easy knowing Harrington will not see the field).
    Alright so the last one isnt gonna happen, but the point is, that is a lot of needs to fill in 1.5 months and given the history of this management team, its rather hard to be optimistic that it will all be filled with quality in that short time period and with all international slots filled *at the moment.* But who knows, we shall see.

  • In reply to Carl Miller:

    Word is that RB pool is strong in this draft class. It'd be a good way to fill that position.

  • In reply to AbeCalder:

    Ur so right every time I come it's '' Oh the Fire will finish last again" which just so negative and pissing me off too. We shouldn't only trust the Fire staff to fix this team, we need the fans to break this mentality of thinking we will finish last and step up.

  • In reply to Firefan5819:

    21 wins in the last 102 games will do that to people.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Winning can do wonders.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    61 points in two seasons when the Supporter Shield this past season was set at 60 will do that to people.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    yeeeesh, thats the first time I heard that stat but

  • In reply to Firefan5819:

    The fans have been there and stepped up while the FO has slumped. Maybe its time for them to step up. IMO

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to penapirata:

    Nailed it.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to AbeCalder:

    So you're a new fan?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Joe Brancato:


  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Joe Brancato:

    It depends who you ask. I was born in Chicago but grew up elsewhere. Came back and started following the Fire / MLS in 08/09. So I've only seen the worst period of the Fire's history. I Rarely miss games and don't come here or twitter to bash my team to the extremes that other people do. Maybe it's because I never seen them win anything. Idk but I'm pretty optimistic for this season.

  • In reply to AbeCalder:

    If you want negativity, you should go to Big Soccer threads (disclosure: I post there as well.)

    With the Bava signing, I wouldn't be surprised if they took a GK in the Super Draft.

    I also think that they would choose a "boss" at centerback (I'm thinking ala Arne Friedrich as a recent example- god, I miss him,) over a big name right back, given Kappelhoff's capabilities on the wing. If they don't get that "boss" CB, we're gonna be shoestringing on the backline a bit, no discredit to the current roster.

  • GR - just wondering when the next media call with N-Rod would be? Next time can you ask him the goals he is setting for the team this season and a point total that the team he thinks the team should achieve this year? Thanks.

  • fb_avatar

    "We're talking with three separate players at the moment" You think all three are players that have already been rumored (i.e. Schweinsteiger, Joel Obi, and Rukavina ...yea Honda and Rossi have also been rumored but those are just pipe dreams)? Would also be currious to know if they are trying to sign all three or if they are Plan A, B and C.

    GR, who would be your top pic at #3 in the draft (aside from TAM/International roster slot)? I dont know a whole lot about the top potential picks but if Abu Denladi is still available, seems like he would be a good pickup for depth on the wings...

  • In reply to Carl Miller:

    Obi and Rukavina are not in the three. Neither are Honda and Rossi.

  • Seems that if they get any of the there 3 players that they are talking to, they will stop pursuing the other 2.

  • From MLSSoccer article talking about the task Chicago has to build and continue to shape the team:


    “...There’s no message I can verbally deliver that [Fire fans] should believe or find satisfactory, because they’ve heard it,” he said. “Six out of seven years without the playoffs, they’ve heard it all. To try to spin something isn’t even worth it to me and this might be – I’ll be 52 next month; if I fail at this I could honestly sense that my career in MLS or in professional soccer could be over, because the league and pro sports is trending younger, and this is my one shot at it."

    He's finally finished his walk around the block and understands what the score is with this Club. (And I love his blunt honesty. I'll continue to take it over his predecessor.)

  • In reply to BrianC.:

    I think this is a quote from NR. Regarding negativity, I get that fans have a "sky is falling" attitude about the Fire. I think that comes from being one of the premier organizations in the league to basically the worst organization. That is hard to accept. I do not think that Pauno is a bad coach. He tried to structure the strategy based on the talent he had. The players last year lacked the skills to maintain possession and build out of the back. He had no choice many times but to park the bus. This year the team, in my view, is incrementally better than where they were at this point last year. Harry Shipp was not the answer to Fire success. He was to slow and could not help defensively. I disagree with those that thought Joevin Jones was not a good player. He has some gaps in his game, but I would have far preferred him to Vincent. Nonetheless, I think overall, the team is improved from a talent perspective to where we were a year ago. I believe that Vincent will close the gap on Jones this year and will continue to improve. I think Campbell is the real deal in will also improve. I do not think hat Joao Meira is the solution at CB but he and Campbell played well together. Campbell and Kappelhof are a far better pairing. If they can acquire a RB and draft a young, speedster for RW, the team will be decent. If they can get a play making CM, that would be awesome. However, Polster and Junhino in the middle will be best CM combo the Fire have had in 5 years.

    So...have we been too negative? probably. Do we have a right to be? definitively. Is the the team better from a talent perspective? marginally, yes. Are there fewer gaps to fill now than last year? I think definitely. Go Fire!!!

  • In reply to BrianC.:

    Yeah, so as Krasov said, those are NR's words.

    I wonder if that honesty is any better coming from NR than if it came from Pauno.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Modibo:

    I would say yes simply because its a rarity coming from NR. Every time he holds a media conference, you can catch at least two blatant lies...

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