After stuttering through the first seven matches of the season, reinforcements are on the way for the Chicago Fire.
Senegalese midfielder Khaly Thiam will join the team later this week on a loan deal with an option to buy. The move is pending league approval although the official announcement is expected soon.
The deal was in the works more than a month ago, but Thiam needed to finish his season with Hungarian team MTK Budapest before joining the Fire. MTK wrapped up its season on Saturday and finished fourth in the Hungarian league, losing out on a Europa League berth on the final match of the season.
“He is going to join us this week," Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said during his weekly conference call. "He is going to do physical and medicals. He’ll be here and he’s very important for us. We believe the addition of Thiam is very important to increase our competitiveness with all his qualities, especially he is very good on the ball. He is very good also in aerial duels and his presence on the field is very important. With him we will increase our competitiveness in the team and of course within the league.”
The Fire can use the help immediately after having four players miss out on Saturday’s 1-1 draw with D.C. United due to injury. David Accam is expected to be available against Vancouver on May 11, but odds are he won’t be able to start, especially on a turf field. Matt Polster, John Goossens and Alex Morrell were also out injured against D.C.
Thiam, 22, is a box-to-box midfielder who on paper would seem like a good fit to line up next to Polster as one of the two central mids in Paunovic’s 4-2-3-1 formation. This season for MTK, Thiam made 31 appearances, 27 starts, and scored two goals.
“He can play in different positions in the midfield," Paunovic said. "He can play in different systems. So far we were using 4-2-3-1 as our basic system, standard. In that system he can play either together with another midfielder (or in other roles). He’s going to increase that competitiveness. We can also switch to a 4-3-3, 3-5-2. Being adaptable he can play in different systems and roles, that’s something we value a lot."
He started his professional career in Hungary, playing the past four seasons in that league. He totaled 72 appearances and seven goals in that time.
Fire midfielder Arturo Alvarez played in Hungary before joining the Fire this offseason. A few weeks ago when the rumors started swirling, Alvarez was asked if he had heard of him. For what it's worth, Alvarez recalled him right away and described Thiam as a nice player, who was "tidy" on the ball.