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Chicago Fire add defensive depth

Former Colorado Rapids' defender Michael Harrington becomes Chicago Fire's first ever free agent signing. Former Chivas USA goalkeeper Patrick McLain returns to the MLS after spending the last two seasons in USL.

Former Colorado Rapids defender Michael Harrington figures to fight for minutes at right back with the Fire.
Former Colorado Rapids defender Michael Harrington figures to fight for minutes at right back with the Fire.
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The Chicago Fire added some defensive depth Monday, signing former Colorado Rapids defender Michael Harrington as a free agent and goalkeeper Patrick McLain, who is returning to MLS after spending last season in the United Soccer League.

Harrington is an experienced full back who will be entering his 10th season in the league. He started 14 matches for the Rapids last season and registered one goal. He started his career with Kansas City in 2007 and totaled five goals and 14 assists in 149 appearances with the team. Three of those five goals came in his rookie season.

The soon-to-be 30 year old then continued his career in Portland, starting all of the Timbers' playoff games in 2013 while leading the team in minutes.

For all of Colorado's woes, the Rapids did have solid defensive play in stretches. Harrington has proven valuable in those situations and with playoff caliber teams like the Timbers. But his age and decline in production could prevent him from being a first-choice starter.

Fire General Manager Nelson Rodriguez did hint at Harrington possibly starting, according to the club's official press release.

"With his soccer intelligence and team-first attitude, Michael can start for us in a few different spots," Rodríguez said. "He is solid on both sides of the ball and is an important addition for us."

I do not see Harrington getting many minutes at left back where Brandon Vincent should get the majority of minutes and Patrick Doody serving as a more than capable backup. Harrington will likely split minutes with Eric Gehrig at right back as the Fire does not seem inclined to target a right back in the international market.

Chris White, editor emeritus of Burgundy Wave, said Fire fans should be optimistic about the addition and Harrington would bring the stability in the back that the Fire missed last season.

"Harrington saw a surprisingly small amount of time with the Rapids last season, partially because of leaves and injuries and partially because Pablo Mastroeni doesn't like playing good players, but he looked his usual self when he was at his best with the Rapids last year. He's not a guy you're likely to hear from in a game very often, but that's a good thing. He's a solid two-way fullback that rarely makes much of a splash on a game, but will almost always put in a good shift for you. He won't have 10 assists a year nor will he spend the entire season clearing shots off the line or making brilliant slide tackles, but he's the sort of automatic starter that most MLS teams covet. He can play both sides as well, so you've got yourself a solid, versatile player who should serve as an upgrade for the Fire backline."

After the departure of goalkeepers Jon Busch and Alec Kann, Chicago is left with only Sean Johnson between the posts. The club rectified that situation with the addition of Patrick McLain Monday. The 27-year-old goalkeeper posted six shutouts and 1.25 goals against average with Sacramento Republic FC last season.

McLain spent the 2013 season with Chivas USA before heading to the USL for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Sacramento Republic FC ranked near the top in most goalkeeping statistics last season, but McLain will have plenty to prove in his new role.

Johnson is always at risk to miss time because of national team call-ups and injury, making the reserve spot rather important. This signing will be an early test of Rodriguez's scouting ability and whether he can truly spot under-the-radar talent.