The Chicago Fire sent their capitan Dax McCarty to expansion side Nashville SC yesterday. In return, the Fire recieved $50k in TAM, $50k in GAM, and a 2nd round draft pick.
On paper, the move makes some amount of sense. McCarty is 32; toward the end of the year, it was looking like he was regressing in the quality of his performances. He was not the same player that he was in 2018 or even the beginning of the 2019 season. He lost a step and and his decision-making seemed to slow down, costing the Fire tempo in a world where they were most successful playing quickly. He was also more prone to turn the ball over at inopportune times, creating mismatches and more problems for a defense that was shaky at the best of times.
However, the move also leaves the Fire with some big problems and very few obvious solutions. The Fire now have as thin a central midfield as they’ve had in a long time. If no significant moves are made, the starting central midfield trio is currently Brandt Bronico, Djordje Mihailovic, and newcomer Álvaro Medrán. While this looks good on paper, it leaves the Fire with no real depth to speak of. The only other central midfielder on the roster is 32-year-old Michael Azira, who frankly did not impress in his limited minutes with the club last season. Unless Nelson Rodriguez gets his white whale in Juan Quintero (who is rumored to have received a huge offer by an MLS club) or find a player in free agency, the Fire could potentially be in huge trouble.
Much like with the David Accam deal, in a vacuum this isn’t a terrible idea. Getting a return for a player who was eligible to walk out the door for nothing is always a bonus, and $100k is not an insignificant amount of money. However, there’s no reason to suspect that this time the Fire brain trust will get it right when they’ve proven themselves incapable of doing so. It took the team a year to find a dynamic replacement for Accam, and by the time they did, the club had already decided to blow up the roster and start over. Again.
We’re heading into Year 5 of Nelson Rodriguez’ 3-Year Plan, and Dax’s departure sends a signal that the club is finally giving up on whatever the plan was. We’re barely a month into this offseason and we’ve already seen the exodus of the team’s most important players— Bastian Schweinsteiger, Nemanja Nikolic, and now Dax. This chapter is closing without a trophy and with plenty of heartache.
The Fire’s front office is sending a message that they’re preparing to start over, but the club can’t afford to do that. They’re moving to a new stadium with more seats and nowhere to hide. They need to win, they need to win now, and there’s no reason to think that the people currently in charge of building the roster can accomplish that.
Whatever the merits of this move are in a vacuum, context is key here. And in context, this is just one more problem that the front office doesn’t know how to fix.