It's increasingly clear that, at the highest levels in the organization, the performances of Messrs. Yallop, Bliss & Co. will not be judged by consulting the MLS table for 2014. No, this season is likely to play out as an extended preseason of sorts, players sorting themselves into 'wheat' and 'chaff' through the day-in, day-out grind.
We see some examples of that sorting process playing out in the last week, specifically at the perpetually-troubled target striker position. First, waiver draft pickup (and presumed long-term development project) Giuseppe Gentile was let go; Yallop's comments afterward indicated that Gentile "wasn't up to the speed of MLS play."
Then, the latest in an impressive lineup of Designated Player 'misses,' Juan Luis Anangonó, was shuffled off to always-willing partner LDU Quito in Ecuador, seemingly ending his time with CF97 less than a year after his acquisition. Yallop couldn't agree to Anangonó's desire for steady playing time, and declined to waste any further minutes on a player he'd sorted into the 'chaff' pile.
All of which brings us around to the acquistion of Matthew Fondy, one-time Division III All-American for the Banana Slugs of UC Santa Cruz. Fondy's a grinder, a hard-working forward whose career as a professional has taken place mostly in USL Pro. He's managed 16 goals in 51 appearances at that level, but none in eight for Chivas USA since getting a chance in MLS last fall. Essentially, he's a guy who's guaranteed to work hard in practice, who fills a role the club needs filled, but whose long-term prospects as a professional are not the stuff of dreams.
Which points us to the truth about 2014. Teams in the mix for the playoffs - teams whose leadership expect to be judged by the results being produced right now - don't offload a frustrating but still fairly effective DP while the transfer fee is still being amortized. They especially don't replace that guy with a long-shot grinder from USL Pro. Which tells us - as if we needed further proof of the idea - that Yallop & Co. don't believe they'll be judged based upon MLS results in 2014.
Let's face it: The Chicago Fire are rebuilding. We're not 'a couple of tweaks' away from being a consistent winner in MLS. And these moves put a bright line under that point. For this season, the plan is to get the salary cap under control, evaluate players in a rigorous way, and make a plan for 2015 and beyond. These moves are part of that process, and should be evaluated with those thoughts in mind.