The 2014 MLS Expansion Draft proceeded quickly and - to a Chicago Fire supporter's ears - uneventfully this early afternoon. Orlando City SC and NYCFC each plucked 10 players off the rosters of other MLS teams; none of CF97's players were taken.
But the dealing wasn't over when the draft was done. With their last pick in the draft, OCSC selected Eric Gehrig from Columbus Crew, then traded the right of first refusal for the out-of-contract defender to the Fire in exchange for the Fire's second-round pick in the 2016 SuperDraft. Should contract details be ironed out - and we are told the technical team "don't foresee there being any snags" - the Crown Point, Indiana native becomes the fourth player acquired by the Fire since the end of the 2014 season.
Gehrig, a central defender with the speed and passing ability to play on the right, was a three-time All-Horizon League player at Loyola University Chicago; he also played for Chicago Fire Premier in the PDL between NCAA seasons.
After college, Gehrig failed to catch on after a couple of tryouts with the then-Kansas City Wizards before grabbing a chance with Columbus with both hands. He's made 46 appearances for That Yellow Team over four seasons. Injuries derailed his 2013, cutting into his appearance totals, and 2014 saw him shuffled to the outside for a team that spent a lot of money on centerbacks (Michael Parkhurst, Emanuel Pogatetz).
Should the contract get finalized, Gehrig will joins a Fire roster in an opposite state. The Men in Red currently have no dedicated center backs on the roster, save possibly Jeff Larentowicz, whose conversion from defensive midfield late last season helped stabilize a floundering unit.
Hot (Time) take
Patrick Murphy, of Columbus Crew blog Massive Report, had this to say about Gehrig:
"Gehrig is a hard-nosed defender who will provide the Fire with versatility along the back line. Last year he played at both center back positions and at right back for the Crew and was fairly successful at both. He also has the ability to play central defensive midfield, the position he played in college. He is not the league's most skilled defender but he can provide cover when needed and was a starter at right back for Columbus during a nice run towards the end of the season.
"The biggest thing about Gehrig, and something many don't realize, is what he means to the locker room. He is a high-character guy and became one of the favorite in Columbus. Even when he wasn't playing consistently, Gehrig worked hard as if he was and it paid off when he was called upon. He brings a lot to the training ground and keeps the energy up. He believes in himself and has the attitude, as an undrafted player, that he needs to prove it every single day. If it gives you any indication what he meant to his teammates, midfielder Wil Trapp used two tweets today to express his disappointment that Gehrig was leaving and how much he will be missed by everyone involved with the Crew organization. I think Chicago got a guy who will have a positive impact both on and off the field."
There seems to be a trend here. Experienced young professional player: Check. Chicago ties if possible: Check. Affordable: Check. Hard-working leader-type: Check.
There is still a ton of room on the roster, but the early returns on this offseason are both rational and encouraging.
- Former Fire man Jalil Anibaba was also selected by Orlando City in the Expansion Draft, then immediately dealt to Sporting Kansas City as the 'player to be named' portion of the Aurelin Collin trade.