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.