We’re mere hours from the transfer window closing on everyone in MLS - when the clock strikes midnight at Soccer Haus, it’s over. It’s the last chance for managers to add that crucial player who can make a difference down the stretch, although patching in new additions after midseason is never a simple process. Fortunately for us, the Fire are in the unusual position of not really needing to do much to strengthen their side, thanks to the fantastically productive nature of their three previous transfer windows.
Chicago, under Nelson Rodriguez, has rather abruptly arrived at the point where the roster tinkering is more about adjustments on the margins than any substantial change in emphasis or chemistry. The first rule of tinkering with a winning team is ‘Do no harm,’ and the Fire seem likely to heed that wisdom, with only rumors of a depth centerback among the morning’s tidbits.
Should they choose not to stand pat, though, there are some players around MLS who could prove useful to the Fire. Some would be reinforcements for the grueling stretch run of the MLS season, while others would be youthful depth that could develop into something more in years to come. Let’s kick some names around, shall we?
The Fire currently have 12 guys who are in contention for the gameday XI; I’d call this group the starters, and it includes Matt Lampson, Brandon Vincent, Joao Meira, Johan Kappelhof, Matt Polster, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Dax McCarty, Juninho, David Accam, Michael de Leeuw, Luis Solignac, and Nemanja Nikolic. As reserves they have Patrick Doody, Jonathan Campbell, Drew Conner, Djordje Mihalovic, Arturo Alvarez and Daniel Johnson.
This is a reasonably balanced roster, but perilously thin in some areas. Conner, for example, covers both right back and defensive midfield. When Vincent is out (as now), Doody is literally the only option now that Michael Harrington has apparently completely lost the confidence of the coaching staff. And If Niko needs a rest or a partner, it means shuffling the attacking midfield to move de Leeuw or Solignac up.
I could continue to analyze these roster permutations for several thousand more words, but in the interest of brevity (as the deadline looms o’er us!), let’s move this along. Here’s my best estimates for needs for the Fire in this window:
- A true No. 10-type: This is almost a gossamer fantasy, but Chicago’s pursuit of Juan Quintero tells me that the front office sees what we all see - that this edition of the Men in Red could use someone with enough quality and vision to unlock packed defenses.
- Defensive depth, both in the middle and on the wing: In the middle, the Fire are one injury away from having no options on the bench, and on the right, it’s a defensive-midfielder posse
- Either a wing forward or a pure forward: Someone to either replace Niko when he needs rest, or replace Solignac or de Leeuw when they move to striker
Nelson Rodriguez is at his best when dealing for talent within MLS. His knowledge of MLS’ byzantine rules structure and volume of in-league scouting contacts has leveraged great deals like the McCarty-for-some-allocation into existence. For that reason, I’m going to keep my suggestions within MLS.
Lee Nguyen, attacking midfielder, New England Revolution
My first two suggestions come from the Revs, for a few reasons: 1, The Revs have talent; 2, The Revs are awful and just coming awake to that truth; 3, You know that if you give Robert Kraft the chance to save some coin, he’s probably gonna jump at it. So why not try to strip-mine New England of some of that lovely, wasted talent they’ve got? And there’s maybe no one in the league who’d fit more seamlessly into a Fire side than Lee Nguyen, using his immaculate touch and creativity around goal to surprise and unsettle packed defenses. Sure, he’s almost 31; this is a ‘win now’ move, full stop.
Juan Agudelo, forward, New England Revolution
Is there a forward in MLS with a more complete skill-set than Agudelo? The Colombian-born all-rounder has the strength and touch to hold up play, the pace to get in behind, and a finisher’s instinct, but he’s never been accused of being especially driven. Could the Fire lure him west?
Saad Abdul-Salaam, right wingback, Sporting Kansas City
Perhaps you’ve noticed that the Fire like to play their outside backs rather high up the pitch. Perhaps you’re wondering who would do that effectively if Polster is ever hurt again, since Conner seems to get the yips on the attacking wing as career defensive mids often do. Might I suggest this barely-used flier, drafted two years ago out of Akron?
Emmanuel Boateng, winger, LA Galaxy
The Ghanaian-born Boateng has been on the outskirts of the Galaxy XI for two years now, two years in which the Gals have done little but shop for other wingers. Now in a rotation that includes both Dos Santos brothers and Romain Allesandrini, could he be available for the right price? It’s not often one looks at LA and thinks “maybe they need a fire sale,” but here we are, eh?
Amobi Okugo, defender/midfielder, Portland Timbers
Okugo is most familiar to Fire fans as a member of some really terrible Philadelphia Union sides - but the kid’s only 26, can play all over the defensive side of the ball, and isn’t getting minutes for the Timbers. As depth, Okugo would be an intriguing possibility.
Patrick Nyarko, winger, DC United
Of course Patrick is having injury problems, Of course he’s nearing the end of his playing career. But if you’re talking about needing a winger who can create chances and attack at pace when Solignac moves to forward, can’t you just see Patty as that winger? Rescuing one of the Fire’s most underappreciated talents of the last few years from the sinking ship that is DC United would be a magnificent gesture, and one with some footballing rationale behind it.
You’ve got better suggestions? Get down in those comments and show us how right you are!