The second round of the MLS Re-Entry Draft takes place today, completing the pre-New Year's portion of the player acquisition puzzle for MLS clubs. For Fire supporters, its primary use was providing a time-line for the re-signing of two long-serving players.
Rolfe, Pause returning!
The Chicago Tribune reported yesterday afternoon that the Fire have finalized the long-rumored contract extensions for Chris Rolfe and Logan Pause for 2014. Both CF97 stalwarts will return in the new year, thanks to deals that cut their salaries to more cap-friendly numbers. [EDIT: We have official confirmation of Rolfe's signing now, but no further news on Pause. We continue to believe the Tribune's report will be shown to be correct.]
Pause, 32, enters his 12th season in Fire red, and has served as captain for the team since the retirement of C.J. Brown after the 2010 season. An affable, conscientious defensive midfielder, Pause saw his playing time dramatically curtailed after a midseason injury problem in 2013, appearing in a career-low 15 games. Speculation about the future of the team captain centered upon his returning in a combination player/coach role, but it is unknown whether MLS roster rules would honor such a provision as a cap-saving maneuver.
Rolfe, 30, struggled in 2013, leading to speculation his return would hinge upon the player's willingness to come back at a lower salary. A clever, dynamic forward/winger, the Ohioan had trouble finishing chances last season, which stood in stark contrast to his lights-out play in 2012. Like Pause, Rolfe has only played domestically for the Fire, although he did spend three years abroad in Denmark plying his trade for AaB. Chicago drafted Rolfe in 2005.
Quick take: My feeling is that, as I've opined repeatedly, continuity is an important concept in building a great football club. Players need to feel that the expectations are high, and the rewards for success great - but that there's something more here than just cycles of celebration or retribution, that this really is a form of cultural family. Making a commitment to guys who've played their hearts out for the club - unless they want to leave, or really don't have it any more - is just the right thing to do, viewed through that prism.
It also means that acquiring players is serious business, since that philosophy means that, at some cultural level, you're adopting them. It's harrrrd!TM
With that in mind, I'm delighted to welcome Chris and Logan back to the club - not that they ever left, mind. Think of this as just finishing the paperwork. Hopefully the negotiations were amicable, and both can now prepare to prove lots of blog and message-board know-it-alls wrong in 2014.
Yallop in charge
MLSSoccer.com's Anthony Zilis has a nice short feature on Fire head coach Frank Yallop, his very busy offseason, and his journey to Chicago up on the league site. TL/DR: Yallop is very glad to have full control of football operations. It's good, though. Give the clicks.
EJ to DCU
The rapid-remake of the league's worst team continues apace, as DC United spent some of their mammoth Allocation Money treasure-trove to acquire USMNT striker Eddie Johnson from Seattle on Tuesday. Since the offseason, DC has acquired Bobby Boswell, Sean Franklin, Davy Arnaud and now Johnson, all experienced players who have (at least) been on the fringe of the national team conversation at some point.
Quick take: Like all ‘Let's get the band back together' concepts, this needs to click pretty quickly, but I really like the idea. DC's bizarre season - one of the worst teams in league history winning the US Open Cup - has resulted in them looting the allocation fund in an unprecedented way. It's like a weird combo deck going off in a Magic: The Gathering game - I suck all season, win a trophy, tap these two land for INFINITE ALLOCATION. And that money isn't gonna just spend itself.
This seems a good solution - surround your exciting, cheap young talent with quality players who have won titles. And, y'know, EJ, who as ever will be a huge question mark. Will he dominate, or will it go a different way?
Dynamo recruit Boswell replacement
Houston allowed Boswell to go in the Re-Entry Draft, then trades a fourth-round pick to Portland for a younger, cheaper player of similar type. David Horst, 28, was part of a really good Puerto Rico defense while on loan from Real Salt Lake, but his physical style was not a great match with the Timbers' pressure and possession game under Caleb Porter.
Quick take: Ehhh. Dom Kinnear will get a lot out of him, probably.
Klopas a candidate in Montreal?
Montreal head coach Marcos Schällibaum isn't officially fired, but the rumor mill has the brain-trust of Joey Saputo and Nick DeSantis lining up their next victim head coach - and the mill keeps making a croaking sound remarkably similar to ‘Klopas':
ESPNFC confirming that Klopas is indeed talking to Montreal about the head coaching position.— Guillermo Rivera (@FireConf) December 15, 2013
Quick take: If there's a guy who's used to being hog-tied by his front office and still trying to gnaw out results, I'll let this sentence finish itself, thank you very much.
Speaking of former Fire gaffers, one Juan Carlos Osorio just can't stop winning trophies in his native Colombia. He's led Atletico Nacional to wins in both stages of the league in 2013, as well as the domestic cup the last two years.
Quick take: Presumably his contract includes lots of flights to Manhattan so his wife can shop properly.