OTF Roundtable: Shipp’s Sale
This weekend Fire Confidential broke the news that 3rd-year player and fan favorite Harrison Shipp would be traded to Montreal Impact for General and Targeted Allocation Money.
As a Homegrown Player who spent his childhood and most of his adult life in the Chicago area Shipp was devastated about the transaction, as were Fire fans who saw Harry as a sign of hope in a team that desperately needed something to cheer about.
(Ed. Note — Possible headlines I decided not to use: “Shipp’s Passing,” “Abandoned Shipp,” “Harry’s Situation”)
Prompt: Now that they have parted ways, what does the future hold for Harry Shipp and the Chicago Fire?
Harry Shipp personified everything about the Chicago Fire in his three seasons with the team. He grew up following the Men in Red, worked hard, was fan-friendly, but at the end of the day was not good enough to make an impact in MLS. My feelings about Shipp as a player have been played out many times over my reviews in 2014 for OTF and on social media. The trade to Montreal only affirmed the accuracy of them.
Given time and space, like set pieces for example, Shipp shows brilliance and creativity. The challenge for him is that he’s not nearly quick or strong enough to create his own space as a number nine. His field vision is not wide enough, nor is his decision making quick enough for him to be a true number ten. He is too slow and cannot cover enough ground defensively to be an outside/wing midfielder.
However, on a mediocre team like the Fire, he looks like a superstar surrounded by limited talent. As this team turns over into a complete rebuild, Harry became a player without a home in Coach Veljko Paunovic’s system and thus it was time to cash in while he still had value.
The biggest challenge facing Shipp as he moves forward with the Impact is to prove that he has not already reached his ceiling that most players that have four years of college soccer typically have. Shipp will never be a player on the national team or likely anything more than a fringe starter in MLS, which is a career trajectory that most can only dream of.
Now that everyone’s feeling less raw about Shipp’s departure, the thing that sticks with me most is how bad of shape the Chicago Fire Organization must have been in over the last few years.
With a new GM and a new coach coming in, most followers of the team knew there was going to be a significant shake up to the team structure but very few were truly aware how much of a “hard reboot” 2016 would become. (Note: Brace yourself Fire Nation, Shipp may not be the last casualty.)
Previous player departures seemed, at some level, understandable — Larentowicz just wanted out, Fire couldn’t afford a Free Agent Magee, Jones wanted a raise, Nyarko didn’t want to spend his final years in a rebuild, Watson and Palmer’s salaries had become a bit unwieldy — all of these moves were pragmatic, and understandable.
Harry’s departure, on the other hand, was one that showed the public how badly the Front Office needed to, for lack of a better phrase, “clean house.” The organization weighed Shipp’s potential, his skills and deficiencies, his local cache, his status as a HG (which meant his salary does not effect Salary Cap), and still decided he was worth dealing for MLS cash.
Shipp remains unrealized talent, and it’s increasingly obvious that any level of MLS is useless in a system that can’t accommodate it. Pauno’s system does not accommodate Harry’s skills, and previous Fire regimes were unable to develop or expand on those skills. The new organization was in the difficult position of taking a pass on a player the previous Org dropped the ball on. Disappointingly, the Chicago Fire failed Harry Shipp.
In dealing Shipp they’re getting a nice sum of fake money, and allowing Harry a second chance in a organization that values him more, and can afford to give him that chance.
We will never know if a Fire organization so focused on youth development like, NR and VP are now, could have helped a young Harry (and Victor Pineda, Chris Ritter, Benjo Joya among countless others) become better professionals, but I’m happy to see those opportunities available for Patrick Doody, Joey Callistri, Collin Fernandez, Mauricio Pineda and other pieces of the Fire’s youth system.
It’s never easy predicting the future, and especially in MLS, where the margin between the good teams and the bad teams is very slim.
In the near term, the future of the Fire at the attacking midfield position is largely dependent on how ready Collin Fernandez is to be the Fire’s #10. Did he pass up Shipp on Paunovic’s depth chart? Has he progressed enough to be given the keys to the Cadillac? Longer term, the Fire’s midfield is also dependent on whether GM Nelson Rodriguez can bring in an experienced international player to fill that spot. On a recent podcast, Rodriguez indicated that he’s working on some targets. But no one can know for sure how that will pan out until a contract has been signed.
The future of Shipp may be easier to map out. In his first two years in MLS, he has shown that he is an above-average player at this level. At age 24, he may be close to reaching his ceiling with respect to potential. He has shown flashes of brilliance, like the hat trick he bagged against the Red Bulls. But his “wow” moments were all too infrequent. Is he capable of being the difference maker in his team’s attack? My personal eye test leads me to conclude that Harry is more a piano mover than a piano player.
He’s gone but certainly not forgotten.
Hearing (more like reading on Twitter) that Chicago traded Shipp to the Montreal Impact had me going through the stages of grief where denial and anger played a huge part of the process. Given some time to truly take this all in, I’m in a better place.
Shipp was the hometown hero and everyone, including myself, was hoping he could lead the Fire out of this nightmare that owner Andrew Hauptman started. But just like that, he was gone. Now, Harry is looking to take his talents north… way north to Montreal where they’ll be getting a prime candidate with technical ability and a loyalty that few players have.
I looked at this and thought, “Man, the Fire just really did this,” but then I began to slowly look up and tip my hat to Rodriguez and Paunovic. Why? Well, they just did something they knew would upset fans but did it because they believe in their system and way of coaching that strongly. I want to give Rodriguez the benefit of the doubt and trust that they have something in store with all the money they have been able to bundle up.
They have been bold in every move they make and I have no choice but to keep supporting the direction they are going in. Only time will tell how this plays out, but I wish Harry the best of luck and hope he does just O.K. in Canada.
The Kübler-Ross model outlines five stages grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Fire fans ran through this range in a few short hours on Saturday. I was fueling up my car on a trip to Wisconsin when the news broke. I handed my phone to my wife and she analyzed and read the assorted tweets. They started out with many short exclamations of denial, disbelief and outright hostility toward the Front Office. Since I know our coach has far more soccer smarts than me, I’ve got to trust his decision.
That’s why I tweeted that there has to be a perfectly good reason why the club traded away a homegrown kid who grew up loving and wanting to play for the Fire.
Despite reading some despising and despondent tweets, my wife quickly noted that the tide was beginning to turn in favor of the move with people explaining why this was a smart decision. Some form of acceptance emerged with many tweets. I read a lot of comments about this from an MLS penned story. As my wife read more tweets it became clear that a majority of people who looked at this trade with dispassionate eyes saw this trade as a move that made sense.
In summary, the collective wisdom is that Harry is not athletic enough for coach Pauno’s proposed style of play.
Pauno’s been talking about high press & anaerobic fitness. His skills aside, it’s not hard to see how Shipp doesn’t fit this new #cf97 2/x
Harry’s numbers dipped last year and that’s not something that can be blamed on former Coach Frank Yallop. Maybe he saw the same thing that Pauno observed (albeit without Shipp being out performed by a younger Collin Fernandez). These same deficiencies Pauno and Yallop saw are likely the same reasons Jurgen Klinsman has not called Harry up to the US Men’s National Team — were they rely on a fast paced game.
Soccer is a beautiful and cruel sport. Here, a change in coaching staff means a complete reboot of the Fire and Harry was the most-recent causality. We all loved Harry, it’s impossible to say a bad thing about his personality, but at the end of the day he’s not the kind of player that fits Pauno’s vision. But such adversity does not mean either Shipp or his former team are doomed. This change could be the best thing for both parties.
After he emerges from the stages of grief he may come out more energized, or he may turn into an effective impact sub (a role he often played at Notre Dame). For the Fire, the future is now in the hands of a coach and GM who aren’t afraid to make hard decisions based upon soccer performance on the pitch.
The future is bright for both the Fire and Harry. If the new Fire Regime’s plan produces results, a majority of fans will quickly forgive the F.O. for trading Harry away for undisclosed MLS bucks. Some have said the organization lacked compassion in how they dealt with this transaction but the move may be the best thing for the Chicago product.
From what I’m reading, the Shipp is basically Pauno not wanting to destroy Harry’s career with a year on the bench #cf97
Final thought: Credit should go to Nelson and Pauno for keeping this trade under wraps for as long as possible. Clearly the internal marketing team and communications staff, who have been promoting the heck out of Harry, didn’t even know he was on the outs.