It's understood that the Chicago Fire are staying around town for the duration of the playoffs. New head coach Frank Yallop has said he plans to use the time to evaluate his players, his staff, and the whole setup at Toyota Park.
Yesterday afternoon, the ‘staff' part of the evaluations apparently wrapped up, as Yallop fired coaches Mike Matkovic and Leo Percovich and goalkeeper coach Aron Hyde. Also let go in the front-office cleanout was Director of Scouting Rafael Carmona. It is understood that Yallop had the final say in these decisions; clearly the project of cleaning house and starting afresh for 2014 is now fully underway.
Matkovic is a long-time Chicago soccer notable; as Executive Director of the Chicago Magic youth soccer club, he has helped build a robust pipeline for talent. Magic alumni include Brad Guzan, Eric Lichaj, Perry Kitchen, Ricardo Clark and Ned Grabavoy.
Galileo Galilei Percovich Lopes - also known as our Leo Percovich - hails from Uruguay, where he earned six international caps during a 14-year career as a keeper in Uruguay's domestic league. He has been in the USA for years, though, and had previously been a ‘keeper coach for Colorado and Chivas USA before coaching outfield players with Toronto and Chicago. Percovich's influence back at home may have had something to do with the Fire's pronounced ‘Uruguayan pipeline' of the last several seasons.
Goalkeeper coach Aron Hyde is perhaps the most surprising of the releases. Generally credited with Sean Johnson's maturation into a national-team prospect, Hyde had been with the club since 2010. Carmona's firing, on the other hand, was assumed to be at hand; nothing in his 15-month tenure suggested that any of the ‘ideas and practices' he promised to bring from Atletico Madrid were bearing fruit.
A DP for 2014!
EXCITING NEWS that ... oh, wait. Never mind. The Chicago Fire are guaranteed to start 2014 with at least one Designated Player, but don't get all het up: It's just Juan Luis Anangono. Team scribe Jeff Crandall confirmed Monday that Anangono WILL count as a DP in 2014, just days after team sources indicated the opposite.
Despite a salary around $130,000 - well below the DP threshold of $385k - Anangono counts as a DP because of the transfer fee paid to El Nacional of Uruguay for his rights. Transfer fees are not reported, but the fee was rumored to be in excess of $1 million. Apparently Chicago hoped to get that expenditure off the books, thereby freeing up one of the three precious DP slots each team may utilize; instead they are being order to amortize the fee over the years of the contract, raising its total value per year above the threshold. This announcement took that glimmer of hope out back and buried it in a shallow, unmarked grave.