As the blooming of wildflowers heralds the fullness of spring, so too do writers' roundtables signal the approach of the business end of the early-spring soccer season. We at Hot Time are aware of all internet traditions; to that end ...
Which player brought in during this offseason are you most excited about?
Giuseppe Gentile is who I have my eye on. He was a waiver acquisition and a relative unknown but has impressed in preseason. I look forward to seeing him get some minutes and push Anangonó and perhaps have an influence on how the formation is shaped.
I want to see what Benji Joya can bring to the team - I'm sure I'm not the only one. For someone who has developed his skills with one of the premier clubs in Mexico, he should be able to add that much needed center midfield presence in the attack that we have lacked for the past few years. If everything goes well I could actually see Benji playing like Piotr Nowak did for us. He could be that box-to-box mid that we desperately need, as long as his work rate remains high and he takes pride in playing for Chicago.
I am most interested in Benji Joya and Harry Shipp. While these are fairly straightforward, obvious picks, they have both shown extremely well in preseason so far. The youngsters have flashed glimpses of dynamic play in midfield that the Fire haven't seen on a consistent basis since the departure of Sebastian Grazzini. Considering that the current biggest need of the Men in Red is a true CAM, both of these players can definitely grow into this role in my opinion.
I think the Fire were extremely fortunate to get a hold of Joya. It's a good move that has already been paying off, even if it is only preseason. We must keep in mind that, if both players develop as we think they can, the Fire have a couple of guys that could be in Fire red for a very long time to come. And as with any young player in most sports, they are going to be very cheap for the next couple of years at least. This provides incredible bang for the buck for the Fire, at least until their contract is up for renewal.
Despite the lack of a big name signing again this offseason, the youth movement brings a warmth to my heart that we just didn't see under Frank Klopas. Many have long been pining for Victor Pineda to get his shot, and he will certainly be in the mix too. It can only be a good thing in my book to have young, hungry players fighting for roster spots. This should mean that anyone not named Mike Magee or Sean Johnson should feel their seats getting very warm. The message is clear: step up your game or step out of the lineup. The kids are here, or, as we are prone to say at HTIOT: "The Kids Are Alright". I am tired of other teams having fun developing players from their youth academies into MLS stars. It's our turn now. We have a rich soccer history and culture/landscape in Chicago. It's time to tap into that instead of misusing it as has happened in the past.
Unequivocally, the player I'm most excited for is Harrison Shipp. Before preseason even started, there was a huge amount of hype for this kid, and the farther Notre Dame went in the Tournament, the more excited people got. and The Fire didn't even have to use a draft pick on him, signing him as the third (?) ever home grown player in club history.
And then training camp started. Even against college kids and MLS reserves and second stringers, Shipp as impressed and seems to pass all the tests the coaching staff has for him. And that low hard freekick goal of his is something that the team has been missing, a goal threat from mid to long range. He also has great vision for picking out passes. If he's not at least on the bench for the opener at Chivas USA, I'll be disappointed.
For me, it has to be Benji Joya. Getting a 20-year-old kid from Santos Laguna and the USA U-20 team for free is a great deal. He has more experience than most other 20 year olds in the league. Benji has to be one of the most exciting youngsters in the league.
I know it has only been the preseason but he has been bossing it in the midfield. It is nice that he won't have to thrown into the fire (see what I did there?). Yallop can slowly bring him into the team as he gets more acclimated to the team. There is no reason to rush a 20 year old.
Arguments could be made for Harry Shipp or Gentile but this kid is 20 years old, comes from a well-known academy and has great experience with the U-20's. I can't wait to see what he can do.
Let me start off by saying that I'm very excited by all the young talent; Joya and Shipp are like manna from heaven. But for someone who spent 2013 bleating incessantly about the lack of a covering centerback on the roster, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado is very exciting indeed.
Now, granted, he's not the 2009 JKH. That guy was a world-class covering back (17 pace! 17 marking! shout out to my FM nerds); this one is simply MLS-Best-XI class. All preseason he's looked quick, clever and decisive. As good as the kids look, we're not going to score 4 goals a game. For me, Hurtado is the new guy I think will make a difference.
Which new addition are you excited to see? What would you have done differently?