The Chicago Fire have developed a stigma for being unable to close out deals in recent seasons.
It started with the Jermaine Jones fiasco, with the Men In Red losing the player after a blind draw. (Which might not have been a blind draw after all, but I’m not gonna get into that right now.)
Then, the Fire lost out on Didier Drogba, having to trade his rights to Montreal after the Ivorian decided he’d rather live in a French-speaking community.
Most recently, and most heartbreakingly, Chicago were unable to bring in exciting young attacking midfielder Juan Quintero, with the Colombian only using the Fire as leverage to get a better contract with River Plate.
Now Chicago has missed out on yet another target. One of the key storylines of the offseason surrounded the future of New England Revolution star midfielder Lee Nguyen, who had demanded a trade. The Fire were apparently the frontrunners to make a trade for the former US international, but Chicago decided to pass after New England’s reported #1 million evaluation. Late night Tuesday, news broke that LAFC had acquired the player for up to $950K in allocation money and a possible draft pick, forking out the amount of money the Fire wouldn’t.
However, losing out on the player might be a good thing this time, and passing on Nguyen is a risk worth taking.
If Nguyen would have come to Chicago, Pauno would have to make several changes to his lineup. The current formation used in the past few games does not utilize a proper central attacking midfielder, which is the Nguyen’s best position by far. He would force Aleksandar Katai, who likes to drift into the middle of the park, further out wide.
Dax McCarty and Bastian Schweinsteiger are indispensable in the midfield, so both would have to stay on the field. Mo Adams would have likely been taken out, but that would’ve been extremely harsh on the youngster. The Englishman has shined since getting his debut, and looks increasingly promising as the weeks go by. His development is a high priority, and it would’ve stagnated if Nguyen came to Chicago.
There are a number of players that already don’t get enough time on the field, and would be forced further down the bench if Nguyen arrived. Drew Conner isn’t getting as many opportunities as he should, while Brandt Bronico has only gotten a few minutes during the season. Daniel Johnson hasn’t even made an appearance in 2018. Also, the men in red will be getting two boosts in the center of midfield before the summer, as Michael De Leeuw and Djordje Mihailovic should be returning from ACL injuries around the beginning of June.
The Fire have saved a lot of money by not getting Nguyen, and the pressure is now on the front office to use that money properly. There are a number of players linked to the club, and passing on Nguyen opens up the possibility for a big summer signing. Fernando Torres has been the most prominent rumor, and would require a hefty salary to come to Chicago. Iker Casillas has been linked to the club for years now, and could finally come over midseason. Whisper it, but there is the tiniest possibility that Andres Iniesta could be an option as well. If he is ever an option, the Fire would need all the money that they could get to bring him to the Windy City.
Nguyen is an excellent player, and will most likely thrive in an attacking LAFC team. He would’ve helped the Fire in the short term, but Chicago have their eyes further down the line, and the front office will hope this choice pays off in the long term.