The news that the Chicago Fire were among the first clubs sniffing around soon-to-be-dealt New England trequartista Lee Ngyuen reminds of the scene in The Departed where Matt Damon’s double-agent cop delivers a brief couplet for the ages on expediency: “Cui bono? Cui gives-a-shit - it’s got a friggin’ bow on it.”
A prospective Nguyen-to-Fire deal doesn’t sound close to done, but it would fit both a pronounced need on the roster and Nelson Rodriguez’s pattern in building same. Nguyen can play anywhere in the midfield, but he really excels in tight spaces around the goal - and unlike the elusive Juan Manuel Quintero, he can be had for MLS TAM/GAM funny-money instead of millions of actual US dollars.
If you’re looking for a one-sentence description of the 2017 Chicago Fire, you could do worse than “Dominant possession team that never figured out how to create good chances against packed defenses.” The roster’s lack of a difference-maker in the final third grew steadily more noticeable as summer turned to fall and the Men in Red faced a succession of packed, deep-lying defenses, a simple tactical puzzle the Fire never really solved. At least in prospect, the addition of Nguyen would make solving that particular puzzle a much simpler matter.
The downsides are also clear: This would be a Win Now move, full stop. Nguyen is 31, an age when one’s physical abilities can drop off sharply, which is always an alarming prospect. This wouldn’t be about development or year-on-year improvement. And there’s always the possibility that it just doesn’t work, that everyone’s a half-universe apart. But my takeaway is that the Fire aren’t sitting still, and they see what we see: Creators needed.