The Chicago Fire were one of the most active teams on draft day, trading more than just the No. 1 overall pick.
The Fire made three trades during the MLS SuperDraft and wound up dealing away left back Joevin Jones, the top pick in the draft and the top spot in the player allocation order. In return the Fire ended up with allocation money from two different teams and three draft picks: Stanford left back Brandon Vincent (No. 4 pick), North Carolina center back Jonathan Campbell (No. 12) and North Florida midfielder Alex Morrell (No. 22).
Here’s a breakdown of the three trades:
Fire trade No. 1 pick Jack Harrison to New York City FC for the No. 4 pick and allocation money.
The Fire kicked off the day in seemingly normal fashion by selecting Wake Forest winger Jack Harrison No. 1. He stepped up to the podium in a Fire scarf while on national TV and spoke briefly. Just minutes later the traded was announced, but instead of naming Harrison, it was just a player to be named later. The Fire then selected Vincent at No. 4.
Vincent wasn’t in attendance in Baltimore because he was in camp with the U.S. Men’s National Team to train as part of the U-23 group ahead of the Olympic qualifying playoff in March. That camp includes new Fire teammates Sean Johnson and Matt Polster. Vincent already seemed to have a grasp of the club, mentioning honor and tradition and Section 8 without being prompted.
He spoke with general manager Nelson Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic on his only day at the MLS Combine before being called into the national team camp.
“It seemed like we had a good back and forth and some good conversation that we both liked what each other were saying and had similar views going forward with the organization and how I could impact that,” Vincent said. “They had the mindset that they wanted to completely change the whole way the organization worked and change it to a winning culture. I was a part of that at Stanford and I want to do the same thing here.”
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Eventually it was revealed that Harrison was in fact headed to New York.
“The scenario that unfolded today was one that we foresaw, discussed and in essence tried to create alongside with NYCFC and we feel very, very good about it,” Rodriguez said. “We informed Jack Harrison and we informed his agent prior to the start of the draft that we saw a scenario where we would select Jack No. 1 and we might not retain him. In that instance we would move him only to NYCFC. We tried to be sensitive to a young man and his family.”
Fire trade Joevin Jones to Seattle for the No. 15 pick and allocation money.
While trading the top pick was not a surprise, this move was. Initially Jones wasn’t announced as part of the deal because the Fire wanted to contact Jones before announcing the trade. Soon after the draft Rodriguez confirmed the move, saying the team had been able to get in touch with Jones’ representation, but not the player himself yet.
While it is hard to evaluate the trade without knowing the amount of allocation money sent to the Fire, it does make sense that Jones was thought to be expendable after the Fire took Vincent, another left back.
“Joevin Jones is a player that was coveted by many teams around the league and over the course of the entire offseason there have been steady offers being made for his services,” Rodriguez said. “Through the combine and as we got closer to the draft those offers increased. It got to the point where the scenario that we thought could be viable. Securing Brandon Vincent would enable us to move Joevin’s services and in return get a draft pick that we felt we could convert into a player, which we did and again add more money to our allocation war chest. For us it was a natural flow of events, and part of things and part of scenarios that we had outlined prior to walking into the draft room today.”
Jones, 24, was one of three players on the Fire roster taking up an international slot. General manager Nelson Rodriguez had previously indicated that he expected the team’s eight slots to fill up this season, so that extra flexibility is another benefit of the trade for the Fire.
The Trinidad & Tobago international made 28 appearances, 26 of which were starts, in MLS play last season.
Fire trade the No. 15 pick, the No. 33 pick and the No. 1 spot in the player allocation order to Colorado for the No. 12 pick, the No. 22 pick and the No. 2 spot in the player allocation order.
This trade appears to be simply the Fire getting something out of nothing. The allocation order is only useful if you’re interested in the player that first becomes available. Colorado likely has a player in mind that the Fire may not have been interested in.
The Fire then drafted Campbell at No. 12 and Morrell at No. 22. Rodriguez asserted that he expects both players to compete for time and not be simply roster depth.
“We think Jonathan is a good player who could become a really good player,” Rodriguez said. “This is part of building a championship program when you can start to build succession planning. We believe that Jonathan gives us the opportunity to contribute right away, but at the same time learn from some of the players that we will bring in and learn from Pauno himself such that we’ll be very deep in that position for several years.”
Morrell is only 5-foot-7, but is known for his speed and athletic ability.
“Alex Morrell is a dynamite athlete and a very intelligent soccer player,” Rodriguez said. “He can play multiple positions. That versatility is very important to us as we build our adaptable style of play.”