With the off season quickly coming to a close - and the Fire seemingly nonexistent when it comes to player acquisition rumors - I thought I'd take a look at the current roster and make a pessimist's argument as to why we will not see a major addition until the summer transfer window.
Right now, according to the team's website, the Fire have 25 of 30 roster spots filled - Frederico Puppo isn't listed, but is under contract for 2014. Two of three Designated Player slots are used, and four of the eight international slots are filled. )The two international slots that were traded last off-season - to the RedBull and the Rapids for Lindpere and Larentowicz, respectively - have reverted back to the Fire so they now have the full complement of international slots.
So here is a run-down of the roster as it stands today:
Goalkeepers (3): Sean Johnson, Kyle Reynish, Alec Kann
Defenders (7): Gonzalo Segares, Stephen Kinney, Jalil Anibaba, Austin Berry, Hunter Jumper, Bakary Soumare, Lovel Palmer
Midfielders (9): Patrick Nyarko, Logan Pause, Victor Pineda, Alex, Jeff Larentowicz, Dilly Duka, Brendan King, Yazid Atouba, Chris Ritter
Forwards (6): Chris Rolfe, Quincy Amirakwa, Mike Magee, Juan Luis Anangono, Harry Shipp, Frederico Puppo
The international slots are currently being filled by Alex, Atouba, Anangono, and Puppo. 2 of 3 DP slots are currently being filled by Anangono and Puppo. Yes, Federico Puppo is still under contract through the 2014 season and counts as a DP.
I'm not an expert on the roster rules and regulations of the MLS, but who actually is? The rules and regulations for 2013 can be found here. With the annual increase of 5 percent to the salary cap, we will see the cap go up to roughly $3.09 million.
Here is my best guess of players that would fill the on budget slots 1-20: Johnson, Segares, Anibaba, Berry, Soumare, Palmer, Nyarko, Pause, Alex, Larentowicz, Duka, Atouba, Rolfe, Magee, Anangono, and Puppo. That's 16 of 20 slots, and this is where it gets a little gritty. Based on 2013 MLSPU salary numbers, with a modest 3% increase to all contracts, that makes the total spent for the on budget players $2.85 million. Let's assume we take off about $400k total through Rolfe's new contract, the Crew still picking up some of Duka's salary, the Union picking up some of Soumare's salary, and a new contract at some point for Pause; that brings the on budget number down to $2.45 million. This is just a hand-waving estimate of the savings we know the club has booked on those players, but it's good enough for our purposes. That would give the Fire roughly $600k of space to fill at least two of the remaining four on budget spots.
The question remains will we see a major signing before training camp starts on January 25th? To me, no. My definition of major signing would be a player that can make a difference in the team from day one - not necessarily a DP, but someone with the experience and skill to immediately improve the team. What about before the season starts on March 9th? Maybe, but Yallop has stated that the roster as is is very talented and has a good core moving forward.
Obviously working with the squad already -- it’s a talented team -- there’s no doubt about that but everything soccer-wise.
He has also stated that he is looking to bring in young players either on a transfer or on loan.
Namely Tottenham and Norwich – where there are people I know well and I’m just looking at young players that we’d have the possibility of signing or getting on loan.
The Fire's 2013 off-season saw inter-league trades (Duka, Lindpere, and Larentowicz) rather than signing talent from outside of the league. That was a dramatic change from 2012 and 2011, when CF97signed players from outside of the league (Puppo, Rafael Robayo, and Arne Friedrich in 2012; Josip Mikulic, Gaston Puerari, Diego Chaves, Marko Maric, and Orr Barouch in 2011). I just have a feeling that this will be another "let's wait and see where we are in July before we sign anyone" type of season - again.
Now why do I say that? Look at the past three seasons as an example. In 2011, the Fire's record by the end of July was 2-7-12 and we brought in Sebastien Grazzini and Pavel Pardo. In 2012, by the end of July the Fire were 9-7-5 and we brought in Sherjill Macdonald and Alvaro Fernandez in July - and loaned out most of the previous year's crop, waving goodbye to Puppo, Grazzini, and Robayo. In 2013 by the end of July the Fire had a 7-9-4 record and we brought in Anangono and Egidio Arevalo Rios while letting go Macdonald. All of these players were brought in as players that would seem to make an immediate impact for the team on the field. In some cases they were able to produce and help the club win and in other cases they failed miserably and were not kept around.
What do I see happening? With everything that Yallop has said, and the signings we have seen so far, we are not going to see that impact player before the season starts. Without really coming out and saying it bluntly what the plan is in store for the club, Yallop seems to be heading in the direction of building the club through youth. Signing Ritter and Shipp to Homegrown contracts while also holding the eighth pick in the draft is like having three top-8 picks in this year's Superdraft. Also, Yallop's statements that his trip to Europe was for finding young players does not bode well for those fans who want a veteran DP type player.
Could I be wrong? Of course, but all signs point to 2014 being like years past where we will be bringing in impact players during the summer transfer window, not before the season begins.