Will he stay or will he go?
Hang on to your hats and buckle your seat belts because we are headed for some turbulence at Toyota Park. The first warning shot was fired yesterday when the Chicago Fire announced that the club had released forward Kheli Dube. This move preceded the team officially adding Brazilian Alex Monteiro De Lima to the roster when the transfer window opened at midnight on June 27th. It's now just 'Alex' on the team roster page. Earlier today, the Fire traded defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe to Real Salt Lake for a 4th Round Draft Pick. Both Dube and Watson-Siriboe did not see time in 2012. The only occasion either of them even made the bench was when Watson-Siriboe traveled to Portland but did not make a substitution on May 20th.
Now you might remember hearing about this new 'Alex' character. Chicago first boasted his signing way back on April 26. While the closure of the transfer window until June 27th kept the Fire from adding players officially, Alex participated in preseason games and he has been training in Chicago with the club since June 12th. He will be available for selection when the Chicago Fire take on Sporting KC on Friday. Frankly if he's not in the Gameday 18 at Livestrong Park, I'll be surprised. Like all players, Alex's impact on team play remains unknown until we actually see him out on the field in a competitive match but he has a pedigree relatively equal to Sebastian Grazzini's.
Comings and goings are always exciting and this past 24 hours have been just a prelude to what's up next until the transfer window closes again on July 27th. After the break we look at the who, what, when, where and how of the Chicago Fire transfer landscape.
First, a glance at the roster as it stands right now.
|Roster Spot||Team||Player||Position||Roster Type||Age|
|Senior (2)||CHI||Barouch Orr||F||Domestic||20|
||CHI||Friedrich Arne||D||International (2)||33|
||CHI||Grazzini Sebastian||M||International (3)||31|
||CHI||Pappa Marco||M||International (4)
||CHI||Pardo Pavel||M||International (5)
||CHI||Puppo Federico||F||International (6)
||CHI||Robayo Rafael||M||International (7)
|Roster Spot||Team||Player||Position||Roster Type||Age|
|Supplemental (1)||CHI||Anibaba Jalil
|Supplemental (2)||CHI||Berry Austin||D||Domestic||23|
|Supplemental (3)||CHI||Bone Corben||M||Domestic||23|
|Supplemental (4)||CHI||Gulley Kellen||F||Domestic||17|
|Supplemental (5)||CHI||Jumper Hunter||D||Domestic||23|
|Supplemental (6)||CHI||Kinney Steven||D||Domestic||24|
|Supplemental (7)||CHI||Pineda Victor||M||Domestic||18|
|Supplemental (8)||CHI||Tornaghi Paolo||GK||International (8)||24|
|Supplemental (9)||CHI||Walls Tony
Next, a little MLS 101 for those who might be confused by what's going on here. Each MLS team has a maximum of 30 roster spots. These 30 roster spots are split up into 20 Senior roster slots and 10 Supplemental roster slots. When it comes to who can play in MLS Regular season games, the slots don't matter. These are limitations MLS front offices have to work around for signings.
The guidelines are a little hazy for which players are senior and which are supplemental and in fact this list is an educated guess based on tidbits we have been able to acquire for our eyes to see. I'm displaying the roster like this so you can get an idea of what Technical Director and Head Coach Frank Klopas is up against when he is putting together a team. The one caveat to look out for is that it seems only players who are 25 and younger can take up a Supplemental roster slot.
There's a debate as if a player like Sean Johnson (23 years old) can be moved to the Supplemental Roster from the Senior Roster but even if that's allowed, you should be able to see that you can only add so many veteran players to the squad before you run out of young players to shift around. It's not like the Fire can add 5 or 6 veterans and cut the kids. That wouldn't even be a smart long-term move anyway. Here are some rumors and likely moves to watch out for.
One of the world's worst kept secrets is that Marco Pappa wants to try his soccer craft in Europe. His contract is up at the end of the 2012 season. Even if the Chicago Fire threw more money at him than European teams and they offered to make him a designated player from 2013 and beyond, I don't think he would accept it. Pappa believes that in order to take his game to the next level, he needs to go play in a league with higher quality of play. Rumors have it that teams like Villarreal (Spain), Feyenoord (Netherlands), Wigan (England) and Newcastle (England) are interested. Some of these rumors suggest that teams are interested in purchasing the last six months of Pappa's contrac.
If there's any truth to teams being interested in purchasing Pappa, look for the Fire to cash in on the transfer fee. Chicago is not in a luxurious position to decline. The Guatemalan would certainly be missed. After an inconsistent 2011 season, Pappa is tied with Dominic Oduro and Sebastian Grazzini for the goals+assists total of 7.
Speaking of the 'Magic Man'... Even casual fans have heard that Grazzini's contract runs through the end of June. He is scheduled to travel with the team to Kansas City this Friday but that could be it for the Argentine creator. Klopas and company have an option to extend Grazzini's contract but that's where things get complicated.
Grazzini appears to want to stay in Chicago. Klopas appears to want to keep Grazzini in Chicago. The hold up seems to be what the '& company' is looking out for. Klopas supposedly has total control over personnel decisions but he still has to work around payroll. We also don't know if Grazzini's option would take up one of the Fire's three designated player slots. The Fire already have one designated player in Federico Puppo. If Grazzini's option makes him a DP all of the sudden, this causes two problems.
First, there's the obvious problem of having only one designated player spot left. What if the Fire have identified two DP caliber players out there who are better than Grazzini but they want to make sure the paperwork is just about done before letting Grazzini go? There's little reason why the team shouldn't use the same 3 days the transfer window is open and Grazzini is still under contract to their full advantage. It could be the team has a creative attacking midfielder that is better than Grazzini and that's that. The other problem if Grazzini's option makes him a DP is that teams must pay $250,000 to the league just to use that third DP slot. That's not an insignificant amount of cash.
I think Grazzini ends up staying but I also think the Fire are using these next couple of days to swing for the fences and work out the accounting.
Each MLS team is allotted 8 international slots to sign foreign players. Obviously players that were born in the United States are exempt and count as domestics but green card holders or other individuals with certain special statuses inside the United States are exempt too. The 8 internationals on Chicago are Alex, Arne Friedrich, Sebastian Grazzini, Marco Pappa, Pavel Pardo, Federico Puppo, Rafael Robayo, and Paolo Tornaghi. (*If you are ever wondering who is an international player and who is not, there is always a widget on the left hand side of the HTIOT front page with that information. It kills me how often I see this question asked).
In order to sign more internationals (and almost every rumor right now involves these kind of players), the Fire would have to release an international player, trade an international player to another MLS team or trade for an additional international slot. It would be a rare event for Klopas & company to trade for an international slot (just not something they really do) but there's a first time for everything. I would rather see the Fire part ways with Federico Puppo because he is subpar and he is taking up a designated player spot (the Fire paid a somewhat pricey transfer fee to acquire Puppo and that's what makes Puppo a DP). However, I'm afraid he has the same amount of bizzaro sticking power Marko Maric had last year.
Chicago has been attached to a couple of big names since the last transfer window closed. Michael Ballack, Didier Drogba, Pippo Inzaghi, and Andriy Shevchenko have been the primary names. That would make a great diamond if it was 2006 and hey, even in 2012 let's be honest, those guys still have the ability to be an above average MLS player. Drogba especially would have been very exciting but he signed with China's Shanghai Shenhua. I'm not sure Ballack was ever a real option but I do think the Fire have at least approached Inzaghi and Shevchenko.
It would be great to get a guy in his prime instead of an aging vet but all MLS teams run up against major factors with these signings. Price is obviously the big issue. Like all organizations, MLS teams are looking for a return on investment. If I sign Player X, how will I recoup the money that is going to Player X's salary? Will there be enough jersey sales? Will we sell out the stadium if Player X signs? Will we sell out the stadium once we win championships with Player X? How long does it seem like Player X wants to stay here and what is his motivation level going to be when he gets on the field? Every team wants a David Beckham like player who will contribute at a high level across the board in all of those categories but the notoriety a player must have before coming to MLS to be like David Beckham is basically non-existent.
That's how we get rumors about players like Dutchman Sherjill MacDonald. MacDonald is a 27 year-old, 6-foot striker, who hails from Amsterdam. He bounced around from some decent clubs (Anderlecht and West Bromwich included) until settling in at Beerschot AC of the Belgian Pro League since 2009. His 7 goals and 7 assists last year suggest he could be a solid addition to Chicago. Right now I see a lot of people who are underwhelmed by the idea of signing this guy but Sebastian Grazzini didn't strike fear in everyone's heart when his signing was first announced. MacDonald is younger than Grazzini and comes with a slightly higher league pedigree. Because of motivation, team chemistry, fitness and other factors mentioned above, I can't say if MacDonald would be as good as Grazzini but there's little to suggest this would be a bad move. Guillermo Rivera's Fire Confidential reported that Klopas confirmed the team is interested in MacDonald. Rivera also hinted MacDonald is not necessarily plan A.
The departures of Kheli Dube and Kwame Watson-Siriboe open two domestic roster spots but the Fire are still handcuffed from adding international players just yet. Most fans would pay for the plane tickets to get Rafael Robayo and Federico Puppo out of town but it's Pappa who seems most likely to leave right now. Could a Carlos Bocanegra homecoming be in place? Domestic players like Bocanegra demonstrate that moves don't always have to involve someone who was born overseas.The transfer window is open again. Let the fun begin.