It was only one year ago that I was telling myself how excited I am for Chicago’s revamped roster to take the field in 2016. Gilberto and Igboanike up top together would be a nightmare for defenders, Sean Johnson would be returning from a year of injuries, and Harry Shipp would have a breakout year because he would finally be able to play in the middle. One year ago was also the only time I can recall three Fire players all in a USMNT camp (Johnson, Polster, Vincent). What really happened? Igboanike and Gilberto didn’t make it to the end of the season and both disappointed, Sean got his spot taken by a no name, its still too painful to talk about Harry, and none of the above mentioned players have been called back to the team since last January. Before I get into all the news I think it is important to take everything I’m about to say with a grain of salt. Okay, here we go!
Did somebody say Dax? Seriously Dax McCarty? The RBNY captain Dax McCarty?! This is a huge signing that should not be overlooked. He is probably the most effective defensive midfielder in the league and has captained one of the best clubs in Major League Soccer for the past few years. Dax brings leadership, work rate, and most importantly possession to Chicago. McCarty is also in the prime of his career at 29 years old. The additions of players in their prime such as Nicolic, McCarty, and Juninho tells me that the front office is ready to win. That should be music to Fire fans ears, we have waited long enough. I will take an undervalued and underpaid Dax McCarty over an injury prone, expensive, and aging Schweinsteiger any day. Chicago played this one smart and were sneaky at the draft. If you paid attention then you saw RBNY coach Jessie Marsch talking to Chicago’s coach Paunovic while we were on the clock for the third overall pick. It was clearly part of the plan when they decided to trade away their pick for $250,000 of general allocation money. The $400,000 that Chicago spent on McCarty was in my opinion a steal compared to what they got in return for their draft pick.
Think about it, would you rather have $150,00 of GAM and an unproven 22 year old or would you take a league all-star and team leader who has proven he can take a team to the playoffs. You can pretty much consider Dax McCarty Chicago’s first pick in the draft. Because of this, I lift Chicago’s B+ draft grade to an A.
The later rounds in the draft happened this Tuesday and I’m personally still confused why no one picked up David Goldsmith but Chicago seemed to truly think they found a gem in the third round with Brandt Bronico. To finish the draft Chicago used their fourth round selection to bring in Matej Dekovic. Bronico got high praise from MLS analyst Mathew Doyle. Dekovic is a Croatian international who has a high upside but would most likely count as an international. Not much to report on either of these players but expect them to go unsigned into the preseason and have to really impress for a contract. All international draft picks will have to hope green cards go through.
Chicago is close to a team that can make a playoff run but it doesn’t have it quite yet. Birmingham City just reported a new right back signing which clears the way for USMNT player and rumored MLS bound defender Jonathan Spector. However Chicago apparently is not the favorite for his signature, Orlando seems to be the most likely destination but im going to hold my breath. Spector would fill a spot that Chicago still needs, right back. If Chicago were to sign Spector and add their third DP on the right wing, we might just have ourselves a season. However, Nelson doesn’t want to rush signing his third DP and it might have to wait until midseason. The backup plan for right back seems to be picking someone up from the MLS free agency list and we could still resign Rodrigo Ramos.
-Chicago has ended their affiliation with St. Louis FC and has began a new one in Tulsa. Tulsa placed last in the USL last year and we can probably expect regular playing time for anyone that gets sent on load there. Nelson continues to mention that this season there will be playing opportunities on loan for some of the younger guys to develop.
-Matt Polster seems to have lost his starting spot unless Chicago goes for a very defensive looking 4-3-3. Pauno has recently commented on Polster’s ability to play multiple positions. Hopefully he gets playing time in midfield or right back this season to continue to develop.