Even when you know it’s coming, it still hurts.
After months of waiting and seeming inevitability, Chicago Fire midfielder/defender Matt Polster and Academy prospect Andrew Gutman are fleeing the country to avoid playing in Bridgeview.
Earlier this week, with the UK transfer deadline looming, Scottish Premiership giants Rangers FC announced they had signed Polster, a move that had been in the works since late last year.
Polster had hinted shortly after 2018 season ended that he was done with Chicago and was actively seeking new opportunities. He and Gutman were both seen training with Rangers back in December, with manager (and former Liverpool and LA Galaxy midfielder) Steven Gerrard being impressed with both of them. Gutman ultimately moved on— more on that in a moment— but Polster had clearly found his new home.
The Andrew Gutman situation was a bit more complicated.
Despite training with Rangers, rumors began to swirl placing the 2018 MAC Hermann Trophy winner with Old Firm rivals Celtic FC. Those rumors gained some steam and seemed all but a done deal by mid-January. Nelson Rodriguez seemed to confirm the move during press availability at the MLS SuperDraft last month. But the deal hadn’t been officially announced yet heading into transfer deadline day, and there was late word that work permit issues may torpedo the deal.
But a solution was ultimately reached. Celtic made the Gutman signing official, while saying that he had been immediately loaned out to “the USA.”
We can confirm the club has signed young Americans @_andrewgutman and Manny Perez on three-and-a-half-year contracts.— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) January 31, 2019
Both players will continue their development through loan moves back in the USA. Welcome to #CelticFC, Bhoys!
➡️ https://t.co/8pCaSEHqI9 pic.twitter.com/PiBPETO8nK
A short time later, his loan destination was announced— and it wasn’t Chicago.
These moves have been in the works for a while, and the club clearly had a plan for life after Polster and Gutman. But it’s hard to have even neutral feelings— much less optimism— about this. Polster was a vital part of the Fire’s 2017 squad, who, along with the now-retired Brandon Vincent, formed was was probably the best fullback pair in MLS. Losing such an important player will have ramifications for the Fire for years to come.
Meanwhile, Gutman was probably one of the most talented prospects going pro during this offseason, a young player many teams in the league would’ve jumped at for a chance to sign. The Fire had an opportunity to sign him as a Homegrown Player, and the fact that the FO didn’t rate him high enough to make a competitive offer for him and bring him into the organization is very discouraging. (Though no one who’s been following this club for the past decade or so would be especially surprised.)
But what’s done is done. At least we can all move on now.