Fire trade to add defensive depth, but mostly stand pat on trade deadline day


Fire trade to add defensive depth, but mostly stand pat on trade deadline day

There were plenty of rumors, but no moves through the summer transfer window for the Chicago Fire.

That changed on the last day of the window being open. The Fire made a trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday to add defender Christian Dean. Going the other way, the Fire sent $50,000 of general allocation money to the Whitecaps with the potential for more depending on Dean’s appearances with the Fire.

If Dean, 24, makes 12 or more starts in 2018, the Fire will send another $50,000 of targeted allocation money to Vancouver. Vancouver also retained a percentage of any transfer fees the Fire may get by selling Dean to a team outside the league by 2020. Dean’s contract is guaranteed through 2018 with options for 2019 and 2020.

Centerback depth is something Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez has said was something the team needed since early in the season. With Dean, the Fire now have four players at the position to go with Johan Kappelhof, Joao Meira and Jonathan Campbell. In the short term, it would be surprising to see him get much playing time without an injury to one of the three players on the roster.

Dean, 24, was the No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft after playing three years at Cal. He played nine times in his first two years with the Whitecaps, with four of those being starts. In 2016, Dean suffered a broken bone in his foot just before the start of the regular season and missed the whole year.

This season, Dean has made three starts for the Whitecaps and four more starts for the club’s USL team. For what it’s worth, in Dean’s three games this year, Vancouver played to a scoreless draw, a 3-2 loss and a 3-0 loss in which he was subbed out when it was 1-0 in the second half.   

He started three of the first five Whitecaps matches before suffering another foot injury. The Whitecaps listed his injury as a stress reaction in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot suffered in training on April 25.

The Dean trade isn’t likely to be significant to the 2017 Fire’s chances of success in the playoffs, but depth is a welcome addition at a position the team was thin at. For the most part, the lack of big moves shows that Rodriguez and the Fire were more or less satisfied with where the roster stands.

“We always said that we work on our roster almost without stop,” coach Veljko Paunovic said after training on Wednesday.

The Fire had brought in some defenders to train with the team as trialists, but none of them stuck. Just under two weeks ago, Rodriguez said he didn’t feel “comfortable” with the options the team had as far as filling out that defensive depth. He also said they wouldn’t add a player “just to check a box on a list.”

“I think it’s very important in these moments that we remain disciplined,” Rodriguez said then. “We have spoken about and had a three-year plan that admittedly is accelerated a bit by our ability to be nimble and capture opportunities. But the other part of our plan is where we try to create a championship program and to have sustainability.”

Throughout the summer there had been rumors of the Fire chasing Colombian national team player Juan Quintero. That move broke down, for this transfer window at least, with Quintero extending his loan spell at Colombian club Independiente Medellín for six more months.

Rumors of David Accam’s exit were rampant throughout the last few weeks, but it appears more likely that he will stay through the end of the season. While the MLS trade and transfer window closed on Wednesday, that only restricts players coming into or moving within the league. The transfer window for much of Europe closes at the end of August, meaning Accam can still leave, though it appears less likely that will happen without the Fire being able to add another player in his place.

So while the addition of Dean does fill a need, the lack of other moves show that the Fire mostly stood pat with the team that is currently second in the Eastern Conference.

Fire rumored to be connected to former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas


Fire rumored to be connected to former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas

They don’t call it silly season in Europe for nothing.

The offseason rumors that pop up and, in some cases, happen make for good entertainment around the world of soccer. Sometimes those rumors are connected to MLS, whether or not the chances of them coming to fruition are high.

The latest example of this is Steven Goff of the Washington Post tweeting out a juicy rumor involving the Chicago Fire and former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Goff doesn’t sound very confident in it happening and there are plenty of reasons why, but there are also reasons why it could make sense. In this case, it makes sense for Casillas to be looking for a home to continue his career. When his contract at FC Porto expires at the end of this European season in June, he will be 37 years old.

It’s been two and a half years since he left Real Madrid, where he spent the rest of his career, and he’s not the elite goalkeeper he once was. If Casillas wants to keep playing he may not be able to stick at a Champions League club like Porto, and that’s where the MLS rumors come into play. It makes sense for Casillas to have interest in joining MLS.

On the Fire’s end, the team isn’t loaded at goalkeeper, although there are three keeprs under contract (Matt Lampson, Jorge Bava, Stefan Cleveland) with the possibility of a fourth (Richard Sanchez) also returning. The numbers logjam could be rectified without much problem if the Fire have a chance to snag Casillas.

His experience as a World Cup and Champions League winner (like Bastian Schweinsteiger), would be a nice addition to the team, regardless of age. Casillas was one of the best goalkeepers in the world and won Spain's La Liga five times and the Champions League three times in addition to winning the 2010 World Cup.

The question from the Fire’s perspective is if he could justify the high cost he would likely come with. Goalkeepers aren’t often highly paid players in MLS with the way the salary cap works. More flexibility has been added with more and more resources being given to teams from the league, but the cost of a player like Casillas may be difficult to justify at goalkeeper, even if he would provide another marketing and attendance boost like Schweinsteiger did.

This rumor makes for a good headline, but may not have much basis in reality. Still, there's a decent chance Casillas' name will continue to be connected with a move to MLS until he signs his next deal.

Fire's protected list for expansion draft hints at possible moves


Fire's protected list for expansion draft hints at possible moves

The MLS offseason doesn't take long to get in gear.

The Fire traded Arturo Alvarez earlier on Sunday, the same day which the list of protected players was to be announced ahead of Tuesday's expansion draft for Los Angeles FC.

LAFC will take five players in the expansion draft, which is set for 1 p.m. on Tuesday. A team can only lose one player. Each team can protect 11 players and homegrown players aren't eligible for selection. For the Fire that means Drew Conner and Djordje Mihailovic can't be taken.

The Fire protected David Accam, Jonathan Campbell, Johan Kappelhof, Dax McCarty, Nemanja Nikolic, Juninho, Matt Polster, Richard Sanchez, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luis Solignac and Brandon Vincent.

While Sanchez and Schweinsteiger are out of contract, the Fire have said they are negotiating with both players. Protecting Juninho is a bit of a surprise because it implies that the Fire have some intention of keeping him for next year, or at least keeping his rights to be traded.

The Fire left David Arshakyan, Jorge Bava, Brandt Bronico, Stefan Cleveland, Jorge Corrales, Michael de Leeuw, Christian Dean, Daniel Johnson and Matt Lampson unprotected. De Leeuw would be a worthwhile pickup for LA if it thinks he is worth it after his ACL tear suffered late in the season.

With only five players being selected it's fairly likely no Fire players are taken by LAFC, but it's arguable that de Leeuw will end up being one of the best five players available. The 31-year-old tied for the team lead with eight assists and scored three goals.