While player signings have come at what can feel like a glacial pace for the Fire this offseason, the roster overhaul has not been without some rapid elements.
Chicago added its second veteran from 2015's 19th-place Colorado Rapids squad, signing midfielder Nick LaBrocca to a one-year deal with a second-year club option. LaBrocca is coming off a season in which he played the fewest minutes since his rookie year, recording 607 minutes of playing time in 13 appearances and scoring one goal.
Despite making a grand total of 129 appearances for the Rapids in two stints with the club, LaBrocca's best years came with Chivas USA where he scored 10 of his 18 career goals in only 63 appearances and made an All-Star squad in 2011. Whether it was LaBrocca hitting his physical prime or a system that supported his skills, the 31-year-old found much more success with Chivas than with Colorado.
I would expect LaBrocca to bring similar qualities to the club as Razvan Cocis. A steady hand that won't blow anyone away offensively or defensively, but will play smart much more often than not. Still, it's hard to see LaBrocca beating out Cocis for minutes. He likely will not be featured as often as his former Rapids teammate Michael Harrington, who could potentially start at right back for the club.
For as much as general manager Nelson Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic talk about their vision and roster-building process, there is still a lot unknown about how they want to build a team. When fans of last year's 20th place team see two players come in from the 19th place team as part of a rebuild, it can raise some understandable questions about the club's ambition.
But, in the right situation, players such as Harrington and LaBrocca can offer important experience. Both men played sparingly last season so it is not as if they were major reasons for a difficult season in Colorado. The Fire just need to make sure proper pieces are in place for the likes of Harrington and LaBrocca to be effective contributors. If the Fire fails to get those pieces in place, this part of the rebuild will end up looking more like a desperate attempt to revitalize the club with players who are known commodities. If the rest of the pieces do fall in place, then these could be two sharp signings that help young players take a step forward while also stabilizing the team in the inevitable swings a young team experiences.
With all that said, the most important part of this is figuring out if LaBrocca is pronounced LaBROcca or more like LaBROCKa. I have heard both and I really want it to be the latter because I just want to refer to him as LaBrocca Flocka Flame.
So, welcome to the Fire Nick LaBrocca Flocka Flame!