The Fire have acquired Brazilian forward Gilberto off waivers from Toronto FC, the club announced Monday afternoon.
The news comes hours after the Montreal Impact procured Didier Drogba's MLS discovery rights from the Fire in exchange for a "substantial amount of targeted and regular allocation money" Sunday afternoon.
Those reports were verified, as the Men in Red acquired general and targeted allocation money in exchange for the Ivorian via a sign-and-trade deal with the Impact. Gilberto will occupy the Fire's third designated player spot, as the club opted to buy down Kennedy Igboananike's salary.
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"Gilberto is in the prime of his career and can immediately help our club push toward the MLS Cup Playoffs this year and for years to come," head coach Frank Yallop said in a press release. "We've been tracking Gilberto for some time now and knew he could become available due to Toronto FC's Designated Player situation. He's shown he can score goals in this league and we look forward to him joining our club here in Chicago.
"With regards to the trade, we felt this move was in the best interest of our club. We received a significant amount of allocation money from Montreal, giving us the spending flexibility to find another player in this window or down the line. We respect Mr. Drogba's professionalism throughout this process and wish him luck, but we are excited to welcome Gilberto to the club and move forward toward the MLS Cup Playoffs and the U.S. Open Cup Semifinals."
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After signing on with Toronto as a Designated Player on Dec. 13, 2013, Gilberto tallied seven goals and five assists in his rookie MLS season, starting 21 and appearing in 28 regular season matches overall in 2014.
The 26-year-old was then sent on loan to Brazilian Série A side CR Vasco de Gama on Feb. 20, where he failed to score in 890 minutes across 12 games. In 13 appearances during the team's run to the 2015 Rio de Janeiro state championship -- the Campeonato Carioca -- his nine goals spearheaded Vasco to glory in May.
Coach Veljko Paunovic still went with a second-choice lineup to start the Fire's preseason match against USL expansion team Nashville SC on Wednesday, but the second half featured the first preseason action for Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Schweinsteiger came on for the second half, along with Nemanja Nikolic, Johan Kappelhof and a few other Fire regulars. The German sat out the first four preseason games, but looked sharp in his 45 minutes.
One of the highlights was this smooth move between two defenders:
Schweinsteiger also had an impressive switch pass to set up a shot for second-round pick Diego Campos in the final minutes of the game. Campos drilled the shot on target, but was unable to beat the goalkeeper.
The team did not say Schweinsteiger was injured despite the repeated absences in matches. The Fire have dealt with injuries to Matt Polster, Luis Solignac, Daniel Johnson and rookie Grant Lillard this preseason. None of those four, along with Dax McCarty, played in the 0-0 draw.
The Fire next play Saturday at Orlando in a final match in Florida before returning to Chicago. The Fire also play Tulsa, the team's USL affiliate, at Toyota Park on March 3 before taking on Sporting Kansas City in the season opener on March 10.
It may be a good thing that the Fire’s originally scheduled season opener March 3 at Colorado got moved back.
The Fire’s preseason has been riddled with injuries to key players and the extra week may end up being needed to get the team ready for the season. Four players (not counting the already known long-term injuries to Michael de Leeuw and Djordje Mihailovic) sat out Saturday’s game against Florida Gulf Coast University due to injury: Daniel Johnson (a right ankle injury suffered in a game against Philadelphia on Feb. 8), Grant Lillard (left knee), Matt Polster (left knee) and Luis Solignac (left hip).
Polster’s injury is especially notable because he has had recurring left knee problems since first suffering a sprain in the 2016 season finale at Toronto. Polster missed the first nine games of 2017 due to the injury and missed three more in August due to a related injury.
The 24-year-old, who is now the longest tenured player on the team and the only player remaining from before general manager Nelson Rodriguez’s tenure began at the end of the 2015 season, arrived with the Fire after playing with the U.S. national team in January. He played all 90 minutes on Jan. 28 against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Bastian Schweinsteiger still hasn’t played in the preseason and the team hasn’t listed him as injured.
All the absences, combined with rest for some of the team’s regulars, resulted in a starting lineup against Florida Gulf Coast that featured two players who have appeared in an official match with the Fire. Three trialists and four draft picks started.
Four of the Fire’s seven scheduled preseason matches are in the books. The Fire lost 2-1 to Montreal on Feb. 14. One of the bright spots was a rare set piece goal after the Fire trailed the Impact 2-0. Dax McCarty headed in a free kick from Diego Campos. Campos has been dangerous on set pieces, hitting the post with a free kick and assisting a goal from a corner kick in Saturday’s 2-0 win against Florida Gulf Coast.
Next up is a match against USL expansion team Nashville SC on Feb. 21. Next Saturday the Fire play at Orlando to finish up play in Florida.
The Fire close out the preseason March 3 against the team’s USL affiliate, Tulsa, at Toyota Park before the season opener on March 10.