Nelson Rodriguez

Fire Talk Podcast: Roundtable interview with GM Nelson Rodriguez

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USA TODAY

Fire Talk Podcast: Roundtable interview with GM Nelson Rodriguez

Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez hosted media in person and via conference call to talk about the state of the club. He talked about the MLS All-Star Game at Soldier Field, the team’s recent struggles, what he hopes the team can achieve in the rest of the regular season and more.

This episode includes the full 45-minute interview. Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

With big game against Toronto looming, Fire first face trip to Montreal

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With big game against Toronto looming, Fire first face trip to Montreal

The Chicago Fire stormed through May and June without a loss in MLS play, but things have not gone as well lately.

As a result of losing three of the last four games, the Fire have dropped to third in the Eastern Conference and the chasing back isn’t far behind. That’s why general manager Nelson Rodriguez emphasized the importance of Wednesday’s game in Montreal, even with league-leading Toronto visiting Toyota Park on Saturday.

“We can’t look at Toronto yet,” Rodriguez said. “We have to look at Montreal. We just have to. I have to harp on that. A victory in Montreal makes the Toronto game all that more important on a lot of levels.”

The Fire (12-6-5, 41 points) face an Impact (8-8-6, 30 points) team that has won two in a row. The game will be live on CSN with coverage beginning at 6 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.

After losing at Columbus a few days ago, the Fire had a short turnaround. The busy week, with Toronto still looming on Saturday, comes at a time when the Fire are trying to look like that team from May and June again.

“It’s been an interesting few weeks since the (Gold Cup) break,” Rodriguez said. “Admittedly, we have not regained the form that we took into the break and it’s been a whole new set of tests for us. Certain tests, like just playing quality opponents on the road, such as New York City and Sporting Kansas City, in the two immediate games after the break. Tests that I wouldn’t say we failed, but certainly we didn’t pass and showed that there’s still room for improvement on our end.”

Left back Brandon Vincent will miss a fifth straight game due to a quad injury. Joao Meira is also listed as questionable with a calf injury.

For Montreal, Ignacio Piatti has already established himself as one of the best players in the league. This season he has 10 goals and four assists, but the addition of Blerim Dzemaili has given the Impact another dangerous weapon in the attack. The Swiss international has six goals and five assists in 12 games.

Montreal has suffered three losses at home, but the Fire have lost three straight on the road. The Fire’s recent road struggles was another topic Rodriguez addressed at a media roundtable on Tuesday.

“I think they demonstrate something deeper, which is collective mentality and again I think, look we need to win some games on the road to change that and to improve upon that,” Rodriguez said. “I think it comes from time together, being in the fox hole, falling behind and winning a game on the road, pitching a shutout on the road if I could borrow a baseball phrase. I think we still view being on the road as being on the road as opposed to viewing it as an opportunity to play our way as we want, when we want, where we want, how we want, and so there needs to be some more collective mentality that goes into that. That’s an area that we have to improve upon, and if we don’t, and if we make the playoffs, it will be a short stay.”

Chicago Fire at Montreal Impact

Where: Stade Saputo, Montreal

TV: CSN

When: Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live

Records: Fire (12-6-5, 41 points), Impact (8-8-6, 30 points)

Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez still 'searching' for potential summer additions

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Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez still 'searching' for potential summer additions

The summer transfer window in Major League Soccer has been open for a couple weeks and the Chicago Fire may make a couple moves before it closes on August 9.

Those moves may not necessarily affect the regular starting lineup, but Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez said on Friday that they continue to seek out options to add depth to the team’s defense and that they may need another goalkeeper with Jorge Bava possibly being out for the season.

Bava, a 35 year-old from Uruguay who joined the Fire in January, has been out with what the club is calling left elbow tendinitis. He started the first eight matches of the season, but lost his starting job to Matt Lampson in May. He hasn’t been available as a sub since he was the backup June 4 in Orlando. Bava has been limited in training recently while wearing a brace on his left arm.

Rodriguez said Bava will go on the disabled list. While he is on the disabled list, he would not take up an international spot but would still count against the team’s salary cap.

“If he ends up needing surgery, which I think is likely, then his season will likely be lost and that international spot will open up, but there’s no budget room,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez added that if Bava is out for the season that will “require us to consider looking for another goalkeeper.” The Fire have two others on the roster in Lampson and rookie Stefan Cleveland, who hasn’t played for the Fire and has made only one appearance for USL affiliate Tulsa.

Slightly further up the field, defensive depth is something Rodriguez mentioned the team needed more of back in May. There are still only three centerbacks on the roster in Johan Kappelhof, Joao Meira and Jonathan Campbell. A significant injury to any of those three would significantly hamper Veljko Paunovic’s options and flexibility, especially considering his tendency to use all three on the field in a tactical shift on occasion.

Justin Bilyeu, a 23-year-old former New York Red Bulls defender and former college teammate of Fire defender Matt Polster, has been training with the Fire for the past couple weeks. Bilyeu spent most of the past two seasons with the Red Bulls’ USL team before being waived on June 28. In addition, Cuban left back Jorge Corrales, who is currently a Tulsa player, was in training with the Fire this week, but is set to return to Tulsa for the Roughnecks’ next match on Monday.

“We have brought a couple players in on trial this week,” Rodriguez said of the pursuit of defensive depth. “We’ve spoken to a couple teams within the league. We continue to follow some targets, but we have not settled on a specific player to pursue. I don’t think we have yet felt comfortable with what we have in the pipeline, but we’ll keep searching.”

Rodriguez said the team is also looking at improving the midfield, but believes they are “pretty set” at forward. He wouldn’t comment on the rumors of Colombian playmaker Juan Quintero. The latest on that front is a tweet from Taylor Twellman saying the deal isn’t dead even though Quintero extended his loan with Colombian club DIM.


With the Fire sitting in second place in MLS, Rodriguez admitted his three-year plan for the team has been “accelerated a bit.” Rodriguez has a chance to put the cherry on top of a roster that has proven to be one of the best in the league to this point in the season. Is there more urgency to try to boost a team that appears to be a championship contender?

“There’s always a temptation to think ‘Oh man, we’re right there and if we get this piece it will just push us over the top.’ We remind ourselves all the time to refer back to our plan, to look at the opportunity to try to calculate what the knock on effects, positive and negative may be for the future, because ultimately we want to keep this good thing going for a run and a run isn’t one season.

“If something makes sense to us when you think it fits into the development of that championship program, we’ll do it. Just as we’ve been unable to add that backline depth all year long, we won’t do something just to check a box on a list. We’ll only do it if we think it makes sense in the overall context of what we’re trying to achieve.”