The release of the trialist list is always a fun little endeavor to partake in (at least in my opinion). It's a sign that pre-season is in full swing, and the season in inching closer. To me it has always been interesting to read about the players fighting for a roster spot.
Before I get to the player list, I want to give a generous hat trip to our friend Jeff Crandall for the list he released today. If you want to see the full article at the official Fire site, click here. We wanted to get the news out as quick as possible, so for now what follows is just the list and a couple of my thoughts on the trialists. I am sure one of the other HTIOT team members will weigh in with their feelings too. Feel free to voice your own thoughts in the comments. Without further ado, here are your 2013 Chicago Fire pre-season trialists:
Known trialists: Yazid Atouba, John Gallagher, James Belshaw, and Caleb Konstanski
The rest of the field:
Ian Joyce (27) - Having began his career in the lower leagues of English football, Joyce (right) signed with the Colorado Rapids in 2010. The Kinnelon, N.J. product appeared in just one regular season game for the club before passing through the Re-Entry Draft in December.
Fire fans will know him as the goalkeeper that was blinded by a "guise of smoke" on Jalil Anibaba's game winner in a 2011 U.S. Open Cup qualifying victory over the Rapids.
Alec Kann (22) - Kann was part of the Fire's preseason roster in 2012 but ultimately was cut following the first phase of camp in Ave Maria, Fla. After spending that season with USL Pro's Charleston Battery, the young ‘keeper will returns to Florida with the Fire in hopes of locking down the third goalkeeper shirt.
Rich Balchan (24) - After two seasons in Columbus, Balchan was claimed off of waivers from the Crew this past off-season, meaning the team has his league rights but he isn't currently signed.
The former Fire PDL product appeared in 19 matches at right back for Columbus during his rookie year but multiple sports hernia surgeries kept him from first team action last season.
Still, the Indiana University alum has been given a clean bill of health and will be expected to provide the top challenge to Jalil Anibaba at the right back spot.
Rauwshan McKenzie (26) - Another former Fire PDL product, McKenzie is a center back that has spent time with Kansas City (2008-09), Real Salt Lake (2010-11) and Chivas USA (2012). Having played sparingly over his first four seasons in the league, the local Hoffman Estates product appeared in a career high 20 matches for the Goats last season.
Eric Robertson (22) - Added to the training camp roster following Tuesday's Supplemental Draft, the 6-3 center back appeared in 62 games over four seasons for Brown University
Luke Boden (24) - A product of the Sheffield Wednesday system, Boden made spot appearances for the club's first team from 2006-11 before going out on loan to a number of lower league English sides.
In 2011 he came stateside and has been a constant in the lineup for USL Pro's Orlando City Lions, appearing in 40 matches over two seasons and helping the club to the league championship his first season.
Colin Rolfe (22) - A native of Plymouth, Mich., Rolfe (right) was selected 18th overall by the Houston Dynamo at the 2012 MLS SuperDraft but never appeared for the side before being waived in December.
A 6-2 forward, Rolfe was a highly touted prospect out of Louisville University (where he teamed with Austin Berry) and was even named as a finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy his senior season.
No, he's not related to Chris (thanks for the clarification on that Jeff, I am sure many people would have wondered).
Sam Archer (24) - The club's Open Tryout winner, Archer was a standout at Rutgers University from 2008-11 and went undrafted in MLS last year before being one of the last players cut from Colorado Rapids preseason camp.
It's interesting to see some English influence in camp this year. Belshaw, Joyce, and Boden all have some experience overseas which should help when trying to adapt to MLS. I fully expect Belshaw or Joyce to be able to win the 3rd string keeper position. As some pointed out the other day, it is a bit odd that the Fire have a backup GK using an international spot, let alone two spots if we brought Belshaw aboard. Combined with the fact we have traded spots away, it would seem unwise for the Fire to keep Belshaw around.
However, I can't see why the Fire would have used a pick on him if they weren't at least going to give him a serious look. As Tweed pointed out the other day in his comment, now that Arne has gotten his green card, Paolo Tornaghi could be next in line, which would free up another international slot. That's not to say it will be used on Belshaw, but right now I would say he might be the favorite to win the job, with Joyce on his heels.
In the defender realm, I expect Balchan will win a roster spot. If he is truly healthy again, his depth at RB would be a massive boost, as well as giving a kick in the pants (hopefully) to Jalil to help bring out his best. If we have 2 (and possibly 3 with a healthy Kinney) RB options fighting for a spot, everyone should be on the top of their game. And that can only be a boon for the Fire.
McKenzie seems like a pretty decent bet to make a spot, and again we desperately need CB depth behind Arne and Austin. I think McKenzie could fit the bill here. I don't know much at all about Robertson, so I see him as more of a long shot to make the final roster. The size would certainly be welcome though, especially on set pieces (both offensive and defensive). To say the Fire have struggled defensing corners the past couple of years would be an understatement at best.
Luke Boden is an intriguing name for me. He definitely has a good pedigree from England, and seems like he was successful with the Lions too. If he has a successful pre-season, I can see him making the club. I know, I know, we already have a village of midfielders. I still expect a move or two yet this year, so we could see a body or two leaving yet. I don't think it will be a big name, but that could make room for Boden. If everyone does end up staying, this could make things tough on Boden, as there simply wouldn't be room for him. I will be keeping a particular eye on his play this pre-season.
In the forward category, I think the prospects are a bit better for adding one of either Rolfe or Archer. We still need to bodies up front, and both seem like they could be helpful to a Fire team needing someone to help spell the starters from time to time. From what I heard, Archer was head and shoulders above the others at the tryout camp, so let's hope he has a good pre-season and shows some promise.
Rolfe is interesting because he was pretty highly touted as Jeff noted. So, I have to wonder what reasons lead to him being waived. Obviously there were young players in Houston blocking his way (like Will Bruin). I am really hoping Rolfe shows some good play in pre-season and can stick with the team. It would be nice to have a young, tall, dangerous option off the bench. And the Louisville connection with Austin couldn't hurt either. So here's to the wish that whatever caused an issue in Houston isn't present in Chicago (or Ave Maria, as it were).