Fire

I-55 rivalry? Fire learn opening U.S. Open Cup opponent

I-55 rivalry? Fire learn opening U.S. Open Cup opponent

A potential I-55 rivalry in Major League Soccer is looking less likely after St. Louis voters didn't pass a stadium bill that was a key part of a push for an expanion team, but the U.S. Open Cup has come to the rescue.

The Chicago Fire will start its 2017 U.S. Open Cup campaign against Saint Louis FC, the Fire's USL affiliate last year.

St. Louis beat PDL club Michigan Bucks 2-1 in Pontiac, Mich., on Tuesday to advance to the competition's fourth round against the Fire. The Fire will head to World Wide Technology Soccer Park in suburban Fenton, Mo., for the game on June 14.

The June 14 date will slide in between a Fire home game against Atlanta on June 10 and a trip to New England a week later. This will be the first time the Fire will play a team from St. Louis.

Last year, a number of Fire players went to St. Louis to play on loan. Patrick Doody, Collin Fernandez and Drew Conner all spent extended time with the Missouri club. Fernandez is back on loan this year with the Fire's new USL affiliate, Tulsa.

St. Louis is 3-3-3 in the USL this season.

To advance, St. Louis got a pair of first half goals from Sebastian Dalgaard, but the Bucks got back into the game with an early second half goal. St. Louis held on, but not before the bizarre dome in Michigan (where the Fire lost a cup game in 2012) played a small part:

Fire and David Arshakyan mutually terminate contract

arshakyan-1218.jpg
USA TODAY

Fire and David Arshakyan mutually terminate contract

Once heralded as a potential diamond in the rough when he was signed in the summer of 2016, the Chicago Fire and forward David Arshakyan mutually agreed to terminate the Armenian player’s contract on Monday.

Arshakyan was initially signed upon the recommendation of coach Veljko Paunovic, who was credited with identifying the player. He signed on Aug. 3, 2016, less than two weeks before his 22nd birthday, from Lithuanian club FK Trakai.

The 6-foot-4 forward failed to score in nine games, three starts, in 2016 and saw his playing time diminish in 2017. Arshakyan made seven regular season appearances totaling 27 minutes. His 20-minutes sub appearance in the playoff defeat to the New York Red Bulls was his longest appearance of 2017. He finishes his Fire career without scoring a goal.

“I saw a couple of games that he played,” Paunovic said soon after Arshakyan’s arrival in 2016. “I found him very interesting in terms of his soccer qualities. Of course the profile he has, a big guy who can keep the ball, who can score goals, which is most important for a striker. The profile is something what we need.”

When the Fire picked up Arshakyan’s option this offseason it was seen as a surprise, but things have since changed. General manager Nelson Rodriguez gave a direct comment in the club’s press release about the transaction.

“Despite the best efforts of both sides, these past 16 months did not work out as either would have hoped. We wish David the best of luck as he continues his career,” Rodriguez said.

According to a club source, there was no buyout and the move will not make a hit on the Fire’s salary cap. Arshakyan’s departure will free up an international slot and clear up some cap room. He earned $178,850 in guaranteed compensation 2017, according to the MLS Players Union salary numbers.

The Fire are now somewhat thin at forward with Nemanja Nikolic and Luis Solignac the only healthy true forwards on the roster. Solignac players multiple roles in 2017, including playing on the wing. Michael de Leeuw is another option at forward, but is expected to miss the first few months of 2018 after tearing his ACL late in the 2017 regular season. Look for Rodriguez to add a forward, if only for depth, before the new season begins.

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

iker-1214.jpg
AP

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.