Matt Polster, CM/DM
6-ft-0, 170 lbs., 23 years old
Selected from SIU-Edwardsville in the first round (No. 7 overall) of the 2015 SuperDraft
2016 MLSPU salary: $99,000
27 appearances, 24 starts, 2107 minutes, 2 goals, 2 assists, 5 yellow cards
57 appearances, 51 starts, 4529 minutes, 2 goals, 2 assists, 15 yellow cards
NFL scouts would rave about Polster’s ‘motor,’ and with good reason - he runs all day ... decent first touch and a deft ability to solve battles for the ball in space ... a better passer over long distances than in tight spaces ... enthusiasm gets the best of him at times, leading to positioning problems reminiscent of Michael Bradley’s struggles at the 6 for the USMNT ... body type recalls another Fire player at that position, Chris Armas - thick-legged, sturdy ... if Polster continues to improve, he will be a solid MLS pro for a decade or more
Despite the Fire’s inability to make a large jump forward and grow as a unit this term, there have been a few individuals who have progressed greatly in their development. With a fan base largely down on itself, one has to look hard to find signs of hope. One of those signs should be Matt Polster. The 23-year-old midfielder has made his mark on a campaign that has been quite forgetful for the club. His consistent performances in the middle of the park have been one of the only things his manager can count on week after week.
After being drafted with the 7thoverall pick in the MLS Super draft, Polster earned praise for his work rate and defensive ability. While the Fire struggled as a whole it did not hinder Polster from having a successful rookie campaign. It was clear that the Fire had an asset on their hands, someone who was willing to put the work in to make his mark. However that still left some questions as to where he could fit in long term.
While he was defensively strong and adept in covering a lot of ground, there were some reservations about his offensive ability on the ball. That area of his game is where he has improved most this year. Playing in a deep lying midfield position, being able to track back, win tackles and put the team in a strong defensive shape makes a very good midfielder. It is extremely valuable to any squad. When that same player can add the tools to maintain possession and distribute the ball, it can turn a good midfielder in to something special.
Fire fans have seen some young standout players come and go for various and often debated reasons. However it feels like we may have something different on our hands here. The role that he currently occupies and is growing in is of obvious importance to building a long-term core for any club. His eagerness to get on the ball and his confidence and distribution when he does so has improved greatly since he first came on to the scene. The occasional burst forward that he has shown recently has been a pleasant surprise and an added element of spontaneity for a team that can be one-dimensional at times. He is always moving off the ball in midfield, willing to provide his teammates an outlet.
So as this MLS season winds down to a close with a rather gloomy outlook for Fire Fans, there may be just the smallest of light at the end of that tunnel. Even at this point the front office should have a very clear idea of the direction they want to go in the off-season. Good or bad, there are certainly going to be some signings to further add to the squad going in to next year. Let’s just hope they do not overlook a young and promising player that they already have with them. Building a strong core from front to back is crucial to any future success this team may have, and Polster should absolutely be a part of it.