Chicago Fire start (all the right?) off-season moves

Welcome "Striking Overlord Mike Sanders, aka Maicon Santos!"

Welcome to Chitown “striking overlord Mike Sanders, aka Maicon Santos, football’s non-Incredible Hulk!” (photo: mlssoccer.com)

Ladies and gents, boys and girls, please welcome contributing writer Rob Thompson to On The Fire!  Hi-o!

The body isn’t even cold after the 2012 MLS Cup Final, and off-season player movement has already started in full swing for the teams in MLS. The Chicago Fire front office wasted no time in surprising their supporters by throwing some of their veterans into the MLS Re-entry Draft mix and picking up journeyman forward Maicon Santos from DC United while at it.

It’s wise at the present time to discuss the dynamics surrounding the MLS Re-entry Draft. Basically, the Draft is a process where club teams can off-load players that are out of contract without extending a new offer, or clubs may decline options on players’ contracts. Such players then enter into the MLS Re-entry Draft.  Without getting into too much detail on the process, basically the players on the Re-entry list may be selected by other teams in a two-staged process.

Back to the Fire. Chicago initially worried most of their supporters by placing veteran left back Gonzalo Segares on the Re-entry list.  However, both parties did agree to a new contract at the last minute and Sega was subsequently removed.  Most supporters were relieved by his resigning and it will be comforting to have the starting veteran’s services back with the club in 2013.

Welcome back Sega! Fist pumps all around.

Guess who’s back? Fist pumps all around! (Photo: mlssoccer.com)

However, for financial reasons, there was no hiding that the Chicago Fire front office thought third-string goalkeeper Jay Nolly, Generation Addias midfielder Corben Bone, and veteran journeyman defender Dan Gargan were expendable components to the existing squad. With Segares removed from the Re-entry Draft list due to the renegotiation of his contract, it was a surprise to the supporters that fan favorite Dan Gargan was added to the list at the proverbial eleventh hour. 

My expectation is that the Fire will sign a third-string keeper on the cheap via the MLS Draft in January after the second round. Nolly is expendable due to the depth at goalkeeper with Sean Johnson and Paolo Tornaghi. Corben Bone never lived up to expectations for the Fire and he never saw much time with the first team. Though in his defense, Bone is still young, and at the age of 24 I expect that a team will select him for depth.  As for Chicago’s depth, I expect that veteran Dan Gargan will be selected by another team as well later this week. One thing for certain is that Fire supporters will surely miss the chant “Release the Gargan” when Dan is gone.

Unfortunately, this may actually happen - in a bad way. (Image: @JoelBiden)

Unfortunately, this may actually happen; though not in the way we wanted. (Image: @JoelBiden)

In a surprisingly bold move, the Fire went after Brazilian forward Maicon Santos from DC United, who happened to be the only player selected in the first round of the MLS Re-entry Draft last Friday. Santos came to MLS in 2009, previously plying his trade for clubs in the first divisions in North Africa and the Middle East. In MLS, Santos had been on the rosters of Chivas USA, Toronto FC, and DC United.  He has scored 21 total goals in MLS, including 7 in 2012.

With Santos, Chicago selected a player that will add depth to the forward line. I think this move ensures that Guillermo Franco will be gone from the club soon. This is not too surprising because Franco was purchased for the end of the season run and was never really intended to be on the roster for 2013 anyway.  There is also disinterest from Dominic Oduro, who has made it all but clear that he wants to be moved if he does not have a starting position in 2013. In selecting Santos, the Fire bought themselves some insurance if Oduro’s implicit threat becomes reality.

The Dommer: trade bait? (mlssoccer.com)

The Dommer: trade bait? (mlssoccer.com)

Maicon Santos scored seven goals last year for DC United. Regardless how you add it up, this would have placed him one goal behind Chris Rolfe and second on the scorers list for the Fire. However, with the current system (read: empty bucket) that manager Frank Klopas likes to play, I find it difficult to have Maicon in the starting eleven due to what is essentially a one forward target system. However, with Santos, I do believe the Fire grabbed a compelling player who is in the prime of his career at twenty-eight. Let’s hope he gets the opportunity to be a productive, goal-scoring force for the Fire faithful.  As they say in financial prospectuses, past performance does not guarantee future results, but with seven goals to Maicon’s name last season, Chicago Fire is willing to hedge their bets on a $114k gamble.

Trader and soccer coach by day, rabid #cf97 fan by night, follow Rob and his Chicago Fire hockey mask @roblthom66

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