There is a lot to digest after a long day of wheeling and dealing. Round one and two of the 2017 MLS Superdraft comes to an end and as the sun sets on the west coast Nelson and Pauno should be happy with the results. Some analysts are still not convinced with the picks that were made but the players seem to be a pretty good fit to me. It was the first time the league used a new policy of transparency, disclosing exact amounts when it comes to GAM and TAM transfers (MLS funny money). It was also a classic NR move to be the first one to implement this policy. Pick three of the draft was given to NYCFC for $250,000, not the first time Chicago has given their early pick to this team (see Jack Harrison). Fire fans might find this frustrating because they’re very used to trading away fan favorite players for GAM and TAM, most recently Sean Johnson. Personally I find this a good move and frankly a surprise, I will take $250,000 for a potential young talent any day, that is a lot of money that could go towards filling the roster with proven talent. This was an expected move that I talked about earlier this week which Fire fans should not be surprised by.
Supporters didn’t have to wait long for Chicago’s next pick. The 11th overall pick in the draft went to the most impressive display at the combine, Daniel Johnson. Johnson tried his luck in the West Ham United youth system but failed to get a contract due to problems with work permits. Johnson is a very promising winger, a spot Chicago needed to fill, who can also work in the middle of the field. Throughout his college career, he has proven his ability to be a finisher and provide opportunities for his teammates. As the roster continues to form, Chicago is a team that seems to want to be flexible in formations. By being able to play inside and out, Daniel is a great addition to the team. MLS armchair analyst, Matthew Doyle, has said that Daniel Johnson’s performance in the combine is the best he has ever seen.
Louisville's Daniel Johnson had as impressive a 45 minutes as I've seen from any field player in the 5 Combines I've been to.
— Matthew Doyle (@MLSAnalyst) January 8, 2017
The first round came and went, Chicago getting GAM and a promising young winger. The Fire didn’t have a second round pick going into the draft but it didn’t take long for it to get interesting again. Chicago traded for Toronto’s 26th and 27th overall picks in exchange for $75 of that $250 thousand they got earlier in the draft. They then used the first one of these to pick up a young third string goalie to learn from Jorge Bava. Stefan Cleveland, a 6′ 2″ 22 year old Keeper who started his career at Dartmouth and transferred to Louisville for his senior season. There is a lot uncertain about the keepers in this draft but I like the idea of this move in general. With the Veteran Jorge Bava battling with Matt Lampson for the starting spot, Chicago needs a future in the position just incase Lampson doesn’t workout. Expect Chicago to bring in another young keeper to battle in the preseason to be Chicago’s project for the future.
In the 27th spot Chicago picked up another player who really impressed in the combine. Guillermo Delgado showed his ability to push the defensive line and make speedy runs. The big positive from this pick is that I think he slipped really far in the draft and that it was a steal for Chicago. The negatives, he does take up an international spot and its not a position that the Fire needed to fill. It is probably an example of taking the best available talent at the time. Either way Chicago would need to open an international spot in order to sign Guillermo. If Chicago manages this he would be a great super sub, a responsibility that formerly belonged to Joey Calistri.
Chicago still holds the 4th pick in the 3rd round and the 5th pick in the 4th round of the draft which will take place this coming Tuesday via conference call. There is still a lot of young raw talent to pick up here and Chicago should not underestimate this, look Chris Wondolowski and Sean Johnson. Don’t sleep on Tanner Thompson, Tucker Hume, and David Goldsmith for late round gems.
Overall, I give Chicago a B+ on this draft because for the most part they filled the right needs and took a lot of potential but that’s it, just potential. For this reason and the fact that we still have to wait to see what they will do with all of the GAM they got from NYCFC (how much is Mourinho asking for?) I won’t give them any higher than a B+.
This weeks conference call with Nelson Rodriguez elaborated on what what Chicago plans on doing with all this GAM TAM for the rest of the January window. Nelson said that The Men in Red still have three international targets and are looking to cover Center Midfield and Center Back. We also know that there is a mysterious right back from outside the league that Chicago hopes to bring in. There wasn’t any clear answer to when we can start seeing these targets role in but they didn’t sound close to them just yet. Either way Chicago is already over their maximum amount of international players allotted and needs to deal with that before they can think of signing more international players. With Rodrigo Ramos also an option that Chicago is looking at, Green cards will be key. Green card applications and talks are on going with Johan Kappelhof, Michael de Leeuw, and now Guillermo Delgado. Another major topic that came up in the conference call is of the Homegrown player status, which is that there is none. All four potential signings have decided to commit to another year at their respective Universities. Probably the better choice to develop for UNC Freshmen Mauricio Pineda and Cameron Lindley. Indiana’s Andrew Gutman and Grant Lillard are also choosing more development and consistent playing time over a homegrown contract for the Fire’s 20th season. The most interesting thing to be taken from the call is the status of Matt Polster, Nelson is making it no secret that they are still looking to bring in a starting Central Midfielder even though they already have Polster and newly signed designated player, Juninho. This either means Chicago wants to play a 4-3-3 or Matt Polster is not going to be as much of a staple in the starting lineup this season. Nelson seemed to be leaning towards the later, not to say both can’t be true. NR was very insistent that Polster is a wonderful talent but there was too much pressure on him as a young player. Mr. Rodriguez is trying to make a competitive team at every position and this means that Polster will seemingly need to put in a real fight to make that starting eleven.
-Honorable mention to the 286 capped midfielder, captain, coach, VP, and dear I say legend in Logan Pause. Logan will be taking his coaching career to LAFC and their USL affiliate. I had the pleasure to work with Logan directly this summer on the PDL team and know he will have a very successful career in coaching. We here at internsports wish Logan all the best in LA.
-Chicago Draftees are not yet signed but with the addition of these three players, Chicago’s average age would be a very young 25.52 years old.
-Chicago gets a solid B+ and I give the A to only 4 teams; Atlanta, Columbus, Dallas, Minnesota, and one A- to Montreal.