Here it is, the last leg of the positional preview. I finally manage to get around to talking about the forwards. There are several issues with trying to evaluate the forwards. The last road pre season game, the one I expected to have the closest thing to the starting eleven that we were going to get, never happened. Thus I'm left with a bit of an issue. Screw it. I'll do my best after the jump.
Lets start off with the known quantity. Dominic Oduro's 2011 was the best season had by a Fire forward in many, many years. Add him into the hilariously large group of strikers who have found success after Dominic Kinnear cast them off (Kei Kamara, Chris Wondolowski, even Nate Jaqua). Can he do it again? For much of the preseason Dom looked to be in solid goal scoring form. He managed to put a few away in the early pre season and was dangerous in some of the other games. He looks ready to go. A comfortable and confident Dom should be able to replicate most of his form from last season. The Fire desperately need Dom to become their Wondolowski. A reliable striker that the opposition defense is forced to pay attention to. This need is even more pressing since Chicago decided to not bring in a high level striker signing and instead opted for a different solution.
Everyone's favorite Israeli American is in an excellent position to capitalize on a solid 2011. Orr Barouch took his opportunity in 2011 and ran with it. He showed more than Cristian Nazarit and Diego Chaves which is why his option was purchased from Tigres. Many of us were screaming for Barouch to get more playing time. With those two players removed he is now in the mix as the second striker behind Dom Oduro. A huge vote of confidence for the 21 year old player. Barouch's pre season has been a bit mixed. Before he left for the Isreal U21 training camp he showed off his typical solid movement but banged a few shots off the post. A harsh reminder of how he was busy hammering posts for large parts of 2011. On the bright side he had a solid performance with the Israeli U21 team where he scored the opening goal in a 4-0 victory against Ukraine. Orr is still very young but should be able to provide some goal scoring punch this year. While his inexperience will probably show at times I think he can get 5 or 6 goals this season. Hopefully he gets a chance to start next to Oduro at some point. I think a big hold up striker playing next to a speedy counterpart could work wonders in MLS. I'd at least like to see Klopas give it a run out at some point during a game this year.
The big question mark up front is new signing Federico Puppo. He did score a goal in the last pre season game played but other than that didn't show much. Asking him to show something right off the bat in preseason is a bit harsh for a striker. Especially when the first team midfield didn't exactly play together (Grazzini barely played in pre season matchups). I really have no idea what to expect out of Puppo. I know that Klopas is going to use him. He looks like he will be part of the gameday 18 and could possibly be a member of the starting 11. He is a player that could be a very shrewd signing or he could end up like Diego Chaves. Lets hope he scores 8 goals this year. If he can get that his signing was a huge success.
Kheli Dube was brought in via the re-entry draft. Dube is a solid bench striker who should fit in well. Khelli has never really been given a chance minute wise. After scoring 8 goals in 1700 minutes for the Revs in 2009 he was only given 1000 minutes in 2010 and his goal total dipped to 2 that season (yet providing 5 assists). Last year he only made 5 appearances amounting to a little over 100 minutes played with zero goals and assists to show for those 100 minutes. In his defense the Revolution were an absolute mess as a franchise over this time period. Perhaps a fresh start here will restart his career. I'm not expecting anything out of Dube but it is possible that Klopas and company could have found another solid contributor from the MLS scrap heap.
Other guys who are in the striker mix. Youngster Kellen Gulley is around. I would expect him to see limited action this season as the Fire will look to continue his development on the practice field. Klopas has said young Gulley needs to work harder. Lets hope he starts doing that. Currently unsigned rookie draft pick Lucky Mkosana is also in the mix if the Fire decide to offer him a contract. Klopas has been critical of Mkosana's decision to finish out his semester while trying to make the team. Yet after the draft Frank was very positive about Lucky and felt his strike force was complete. I expect him to be signed unless there is a player that gets waived late that the Fire want instead. Even if Mkosana makes the roster he is going to have an uphill battle getting any playing time.
Please note that I do not consider Patrick Nyarko a striker. He is strictly a midfielder no matter what Frank or anyone else says.
The Fire's decision to go with a lesser named signing in Puppo and then adding in Dube looks initially to be a shaky decision. After taking a look at this I can see the logic. Klopas is looking to build a team that builds off of last year's late season chemistry. Instead of adding any volatile players to that mix he instead added a player with a decent pedigree and a former Colombian club champion captain. Players who are going to fit in and work within the team framework. Considering the difficulty of adding a proven goal scorer or a high profile summer signing this is the more prudent direction to go.
I have hope that this group of strikers will manage to be productive. Unless Oduro turns into a 17-20 goal a year type scorer help will still be needed from the attacking midfielders. Grazzini, Pappa, Nyarko and Robayo all need to contribute in the goal department for this team to ultimately be a success.