It's safe to say that Florent Sinama-Pongolle, the Chicago Fire's latest signing, is looking for a new start to his career. The journeyman forward, now 29, first leapt to prominence as a 16-year-old wunderkind from Le Havre AC, dazzling scouts with sparkling performances in the blue shirt of France in both the UEFA U-16 European Championships and the FIFA U-17 World Cup, eventually signing with one of the true heavyweights of the world game, a little club known as Liverpool FC.
But that signing - part of former Reds manager Gerard Houllier's failed effort to tap into the French youth pipeline he helped build - has unfortunately become the highlight of a career characterized by a series of moves which haven't quite worked out. After failing to make much of an impact with Liverpool, Sinama-Pongolle moved on to Spanish side Recreativo de Huelva (usually known merely as Recreativo).
At Recreativo, he had the two best seasons of his career, netting 10 and 12 goals during the '06-'07 and '07-'08 campaigns, which prompted another move, this time to Atletico Madrid, where his career began to unwind a bit. After scoring four goals in his first five appearances for los Colchoneros, he was shuttled out to the right wing to make room for Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero, and scored only once more over 35 further appearances in the next two seasons.
More recently, Sinama-Pongolle has spent two largely lost seasons for FC Rostov in the Russian Premier League; over those two seasons, he made only 18 appearances and scored a pair of goals.
The terms of the deal make it clear that this is something of an extended try-out for the onetime phenom. The Fire are on the hook only for the remainder of this season, with the club holding options for both 2015 and '16. Combined with Mike Magee's just-announced season-ending hip surgery, Sinama-Pongolle should get a chance to show his quality wasn't a mirage for a Fire team very short in striking options. If he cannot, the stop is likely to be a short one, as Chicago is a team clearly retooling on the fly.
tl/dr: This is a low-risk move that both helps the club limp home in 2014 and allows the coaching staff to really evaluate Sinama-Pongolle as a potential squad member going forward. Brian Bliss, Frank Yallop and crew should be commended for finding a potential building block for the future at this late date. This also signals what most alert observers already knew: We can talk playoffs all day long, but the Fire front office are already thinking 2015.