Just about the time that simultaneous reports indicated a changing of the goalkeeping guard was underway in Chicago, Peter O’Rourke reported on ESPNFC that the Fire had beaten Premier League strugglers Hull City to the signature of Nemanja Nikolić.
Nikolić, 29, is a Serbian-born striker who has clawed his way to prominence the old-fashioned way: By scoring a huge number of goals. His resume is deeper than the Golden Boot he won in the 2015-16 Polish Ekstraklasa for Legia Warsaw with an astonishing 36 goals in 55 appearances.
The raw numbers tell a story out of an old Boys’ Life sports fiction: 11 goals in 14 games for semi-pro Kaposvölgye VSC; 30 in 49 for Kaposvár; and finally, 87 in 149 appearances for Hungarian power Videoton.
Hot (Time) take
Let me just respond by rubbing my hands together and grinning maniacally ... weirdly, that’s not coming across on the page. If I had to do an elevator pitch for Nemanja Nikolić, it would be ‘younger, slower Robbie Keane.’ He moves intelligently - a trait that will have a combinatorial effect with Michael de Leeuw - and finishes cleanly with both feet and his head.
Now say the words ‘proven goal scorer’ over and over again. This guy was one of the leading scorers in UEFA last season. If the O’Rourke’s report bears out, then the last couple of days constitute a statement of intent by the Rodriguez/Paunovic front office: The Fire have money to spend to build a winning side.
While we’re being optimistic, these notes from Mr. Matt Doyle:
Fire fans: Your team has been keeping regular tabs on Lindley, Pineda, Gutman, Lillard & will have staff at the UNC game tonight.— Matthew Doyle (@MLSAnalyst) December 2, 2016
Head scout has been a multiple games this year for each of those top 4 prospects. Should be an interesting offseason in Bridgeview.— Matthew Doyle (@MLSAnalyst) December 2, 2016
If the Fire can pull off these signings, and woo the cream of the Academy to put pen to paper, it’s possible to imagine a vastly better 2017.
Yes, we’ve been here before. Yes, we remain guarded in our optimism. But on current evidence, the Fire are on a promising trajectory toward relevance in MLS.