OTF Roundtable: 2015 MLS Summer Transfer Window
On the coasts, LA introduces Stevie G to the Galaxy crowd and we see Pirlo smooching in a NYCFC luxury box… what moves do the Fire need to make when the window opens on July 8th.
Who is most likely to “get moved”? Who is definitely going to stick around?
In MLS, there are two types of teams. One type of team will spend whatever money it takes to bring in the most talented players they can find. The other type signs second-tier players who have the potential to be stars in MLS. Seattle, New York City FC and Toronto FC are in the first group, and Sporting Kansas City, Columbus and Portland are in the second group. And then there is Los Angeles, a club who is not afraid to spend, and who has the capability to identify talented second-tier players.
Where do the Fire fit in? They are not in the first group, for sure. But in order to be successful with second-tier players, your talent evaluators must be top-notch. During the pre-season, Frank Yallop reminded us of Diego Valeri, the Portland playmaker who is not a household name, but is arguably the best attacking midfielder in MLS. Valeri is proof that a club does not have to break the bank to get a great player. Unfortunately, none of the Fire’s Designated Players in 2015 have performed at the level of Valeri.
The Fire’s most urgent need is for a central defender who can take charge of the back. Using converted midfielders (Jeff Larentowicz, Joevin Jones) and players who were previously benchwarmers (Eric Gehrig and Lovel Palmer) has made the Fire defense porous. Arne Friedrich, you don’t know how much you are missed.
I’ve given up trying to figure out what the FO is going to do, so rather than listing the players I think should go, I’ll list the few I’d like to see stay and have a new team built around.
Sean Johnson should stay until he re-finds his form and can be sold for a huge profit (assuming that happens), and Jon Busch should stay as the veteran keeper who can step in when needed whether temporary or permanently.
Larentowicz needs to stay as one of the few players with any heart, and Joven Jones needs to stay to his left as the surprise standout for MVP this year in my book. Combine them with Shipp and Maloney in the midfield and the Fire might finally become the attacking team we’ve been praying for this last half-decade or so.
Magee, David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike can stay up top due to the different attack options they provide and rotate them throughout the season to make sure we don’t end up in a situation where we have to play the same eleven every match.
Other than that, blow it up. Sell, trade or waive everyone. Instead of buying up all of the talent without a plan to integrate them (Business As Usual), build a team around the attacking options you have that have started to click. It may require a new technical director, but so be it. We’re overdue for one as it is.
Earlier this year, at my most angsty, I stated that everyone on this team was replaceable. That may have been a bit hyperbolic, but one thing is for sure — there is no piece on the current roster that wouldn’t be moved if the price was right. The only pieces that would be shocking to see go would be the Fire’s sole attacking threat, David Accam, and players currently out-playing their contract; Joevin Jones, Harry Shipp, Matt Polster, and Razvan Cocis.
Even though Igboananike has turned the corer, Chicago clearly needs an actual striker, but because strikers are expensive it’s just not going to happen. (Twitter, btw, is abuzz about Polish striker Lukasz Gikiewicz). Magee has shown he has the uncanny ability to be in the right place. Guly Do Prado has shown the opposite ability — being everywhere he’s not supposed to be. It’s likely Guly, with his size, could be trade bait, while I’m sad to say hustler Quincy Amarikwa will also be on the block.
The midfield has depth, and competition is always good, but no one has really taken advantage of those opportunities. MIchael Stevens is still hobbled so he is not an attractive trade for anyone, so If anyone goes it’s probably going to be utility man Matt Watson, who has backfilled admirably but is now excess to requirements with Polster, Ritter, Cocis and the aforementioned Stevens.
The defensive line is likely where we’ll see some movement, especially because it’s clearly the weakest part of a weak team. Much like Offensive Lineman in Football, good CB’s are hard to find because they’re (relatively) cheap to own, and can play at a high level later in their career. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Fire try the open market for another (sigh) “high upside” guy. Converted CDM Larentowicz still has league cache, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see him dealt, putting Eric Gherig back at CB, and look for a right fullback that can be a threat moving forward. Perhaps dangle Larentowicz in front of his old team New England to shore up the absence of Jermaine Jones?
As the summer transfer window opens, I think the biggest move the Chicago Fire need to make is with their bench boss and not so much with their player personnel.
The first one is pretty self-explanatory. Frank Yallop, the President of Soccer Operations, needs to relieve Frank Yallop the manager of his duties. All too often this season, Coach Yallop has been overmatched tactically by his opposition counterpart. This could be explained in the first season as just adjusting to the deck he was given, but this season this is not the case. This is his roster. If he cannot utilize the talent he has, then he should no longer be in charge. At this point, he should find some new,energy and vision for the on-field product. I like the idea of bringing back C.J. Brown, Chris Armas, promoting Logan Pause from parking lot attendant, or promoting Clint Mathis from within. If the season is going to be a lost cause, let the future learn the ropes.
As for the players on the field, I am not as sure as a move is needed other than better health. This team has shown flashes that the talent is there, but it has not been collectively healthy. Once they were close to getting Magee and Patrick Nyarko back, they lost Maloney, Accam & now Larentowicz. The knee-jerk reaction is to look for a center back; however, unless you can find a difference maker for years to come, that is a bad play. This team has some potential future center backs in Chris Ritter, Matt Polster and Patrick Doody. I would find out what this team has before overspending on a lost season.
Yes, it is a lost season. Under the current coach, this team will not make the playoffs. Therefore, time to look more at 2016 than 2015.