Corben Bone and the Elusive Search for “El Pibe”

Corben Bone: Chicago's next CAM?

Corben Bone: Chicago’s next CAM? (photo:

On The Fire’s contributing writer Rob Thompson inquires about Corben Bone, the CAM role, and gives us a little history lesson from Argentina.

Chicago Fire made no moves on eligible players in the 2nd and final round of the MLS Re-entry Draft last Friday afternoon. This is not too surprising, as the club paid the full price of $114K for the services of forward Maicon Santos when they selected him in the first round of the MLS Re-entry Draft a week prior. Because Santos was the only player selected in the first round, the Chicago front office seemed anxious to shore up their attacking corps before the start of the 2013 season. But what about the midfield?

Despite Chicago’s inactivity in Round 2, an unanticipated move surprised Fire nation. After being placed on the Re-entry Draft list a week prior, young midfielder Corben Bone opted out of the draft and will take a pay cut if he returns to Chicago in 2013. While the Fire front office may believe Bone can be a worthy contributor, he won’t be earning any where near $161K (his 2012 guaranteed compensation) if he decides to return to Bridgeview.

Corben Bone was a highly touted, pedigreed player when he came to MLS from Wake Forest University in 2010. However, during his third full year as a professional, he logged a mere 26 minutes in 2012. As such, a cloud of mystery surrounds Bone and how he might into the Fire midfield if he returns. 

Since the 2012 mid-season departure of Sebastian Grazzini to the greener pastures of the Pampas in Argentina, Chicago has been unable to fill his void. Seba’s abrupt departure left the Fire without a true central attacking midfielder (at least one that manager Frank Klopas was willing to play), or “CAM” if you like. But that may soon change. With Bone’s return, it appears the Fire coaching staff will groom him to learn and play the CAM role, which happens to be the former Demon Deacon’s preferred position in the midfield.

However, if Klopas continues to employ tactics that include two defensive midfielders, and rely upon counter-attacking offense, it is unlikely Corben Bone will play a significant role for the Fire should he return next season. With Logan Pause on the wrong side of 30, and Pavel Pardo on the wrong side of 35, “The Gaffer” must address his system of play sooner rather than later. If he does, Corben Bone’s chance will come. And if it does, the little Texan must prove that he is truly the player who warranted a first-round draft pick and Generation Adidas contract some three years ago.

Do you miss my tango?

Seba: “Do you miss my tango?”

Manager Frank Klopas recently returned from scouting trips to Europe and Argentina. And while the Fire need to shore up their defensive depth with the retirement of Cory Gibbs and the release of fan favorite Dan Gargan, it is likely Frank set out to discover an offensive-minded game changer. Seriously, what would Fire Nation give to have a player like Columbus’s Federico Higuain pulling the strings from the midfield? Argentina’s not just about the tango, good steak, Boca Juniors, and Patagonia folks. It’s also the land where play-making CAMs are born and bred.

All this CAM talk reminds of an Argentinean tale called “El Pibe.” El Pibe, which translates as “the boy,” has remained a part of  Argentinean folklore since the 1920’s, and was adapted into a tango called “El Sueno del Pibe” (The Dream of the Pibe) in 1943. El Pibe is the story of a small boy with long, matted dark hair who learns to play soccer on bumpy urban spaces; spaces where individual creativity, rather than collective discipline, is paramount. It is often said this style of play was born in the imagination of a child and grew to infuse itself into Argentina’s collective consciousness. It is the Argentines’ gift to the soccer world. 

Argentina’s first player to earn the affectionate, laudatory nickname of “Pibe” was was the inimitable Diego Maradona.  A few others followed, but failed to equal Maradona’s panache and prowess. However, Argentina’s new Pibe, Lionel Messi (although not a CAM), may one day equal Maradona’s legend with a World Cup victory. 

Last year, Fire Nation had its own Pibe in the form of Sebastian Grazzini. Although Seba is not at the level of Maradona or Messi, he was an effective CAM for the Chicago Fire and a competitive player in MLS. For whatever reason, Grazzini’s tenure in America did not last long, and Chicago fans were left yearning for another man to effectively play the central attacking midfield role. Is Corben Bone that man? Or must the Fire technical staff continue to traverse continents to find Chicago’s next “Pibe?”

– follow On The Fire’s new contributing writer Rob Thompson @roblthom66


EDITOR’S NOTE: If you want to see some truly mind-blowing skills from “El Pibe de Oro,” Sr. Diego Maradona, check out these videos courtesy of the boys over at one of the best soccer blogs around, In Bed With Maradona

8 thoughts on “Corben Bone and the Elusive Search for “El Pibe”

  1. If Bone can’t even get on the field, I don’t really see him contributing at all and he’ll be out of the league in a year or so. Lots of high-level college players can’t cut it in the MLS because their strengths as a collegiate player don’t exist in the MLS. They may be quick and strong in college, but in the pros, everyone is quick and strong. Speed only counts if you’re extremely fast (e.g. Oduro). Add a lack of physical advantage to a dramatically lower level of skill in the college game and it’s a recipe for a college-to-MLS struggle. Most of the players who have made a successful transition from the college game have been defenders as, in general, defense requires reaction and not creation.

    Looking across the MLS, there are very few creative talents that came from college. Being generous, I’d count seven players currently playing CAM-ish guys who played in college: Chris Pontius (more of a box-to-box, but we’ll count him), Brad Davis, Sacha Kljestan, Graham Zusi, Benny Feilhaber, Michael Farfan (jury still out on his quality) and Mehdi Ballouchy. The guys pulling the strings in the MLS are imports or direct-from-high school.

    So Chicago friends, don’t hold out hope for Bone. Do hope that Klopas and co. can find a replacement for Pardo.

  2. I’ve always had a love and fascination with all things Argentina because they’re basically Italians-that-speak-Spanish, just like me! And I’ve been thinking there’s no way they can fill Corben Bone in a Grazzini-sized hole in my, and alot of cf97 fan’s hearts. Maybe we can sign Messi when he’s of MLS-age in 25 years.
    By the way, you guys are conjuring up quite the writing staff!

    • I knew someone would finally understand the concept of the ‘Pibe’. Doesn’t have to be CAM. Just a playing style of Tevez, Aguero, Messi, and etc. One can say that the lack of Argentina’s success recently has been too many pibes and not enough role players. My intention for the article was to give Corben his props, but to also point out that I too miss Grazzini as part of the Fire and the role he played for the team.

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