GM Nelson Rodriguez explains Fire's deadline moves

GM Nelson Rodriguez explains Fire's deadline moves

The Chicago Fire had a busy transfer deadline day on Wednesday.

Once all the dust settled, the Fire made three moves, including playing a part in the biggest one of the day, and added two players in David Arshakyan and Luis Solignac.

General manager Nelson Rodriguez talked about the busy day with reporters on Thursday. He opened by saying the team had two primary objectives this transfer window.

“One was to find a target forward, someone who could play in a more advanced position to Michael de Leeuw and another was just to overall improve our attacking depth,” Rodriguez said. “In terms of specific targets we hit both objectives with top choices.”

At 6-foot-4, Arshakyan could be that target forward and both players provide much-needed depth. Rodriguez said he thinks both fit well with de Leeuw, the only other true forward on the Fire roster.

Arshakyan was identified by coach Veljko Paunovic. After Paunovic identified Arshakyan through video, the Fire scouted him in person and he scored a hat trick in that game, according to Rodriguez. He comes from the Lithuanian league, which is not a very well-known or well-regarded league.

“You always make judgment as to whether you think a guy is ready or will fit or not fit,” Rodriguez said. “We feel really good about this one. It has a higher degree of risk, yes, but we also think we might have a higher degree of reward.”

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The Fire had been after both players for a while. Solignac was viewed as a player that the Rapids would be willing to part with since he hadn’t been playing as much. Solignac, who has a club option on his contract for 2017, made no starts and four substitute appearances in the Rapids’ last six games.

“His goal-scoring productivity hasn’t been great for Colorado and this is not a criticism of Colorado, but he has never settled into a regular role there,” Rodriguez said. “That’s something that hopefully we can provide. Hopefully this change will energize him.”

Solignac is flying to Salt Lake to meet the Fire there for Saturday’s game at Real Salt Lake. Rodriguez said he expects him to play. Arshakyan will join the team once he gets his visa.

The bigger national news was Alejandro Bedoya signing with the Union. The Fire played a role in the move, acquiring allocation money and a first round pick from the Union for the top spot in the allocation order.

The allocation order is part of the long list of complicated and often confusing league rules. Rodriguez explained the Fire’s involvement in the transaction and how close they were to adding Bedoya.

“We considered adding Alejandro’s services very strongly and Pauno had a conversation with him and it went very well,” Rodriguez said. “Following that conversation, Alejandro through his representation suggested that ‘Hey you know what, Chicago does have something. I wouldn’t mind going there.’”

During the All-Star break last week, before the Fire had talked to Bedoya, the Union came to the Fire with the possibility of swapping spots in the allocation order. Two other teams also made offers to the Fire, but those were rejected.

“In the end, Philadelphia made a fair offer,” Rodriguez said. “Clearly an offer they were comfortable with and we made the decision that we felt was in our best interest.”

When asked about what team needs going forward, Rodriguez said “a dominant central midfielder” and more depth on the wing. Considering the Fire had a chance to get Bedoya, but ultimately did not land the U.S. national team midfielder that need remains, which raises the question of what type of player the team can acquire in the winter.

“I believe that we’re in a position, should we choose to do so or should we find the right player, that we can look to make another high-quality impact acquisition for next year,” Rodriguez said. “All of these moves through this window were done in such a way that we also didn’t need to use any general allocation money in this window to fit our roster budget together, which I think is a good sign.”

MLS, U.S. soccer suspend play in response to coronavirus


MLS, U.S. soccer suspend play in response to coronavirus

American soccer is going on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MLS announced on Thursday they are suspending the season for 30 days in response to the coronavirus. U.S. Soccer later announced that they have suspended men's and women's national team games through April.

The Chicago Fire kicked off their season on March 1 and were scheduled to make their home debut at Soldier Field on March 21. 

The NBA announced the indefinite suspension of its season Wednesday after a Utah Jazz player was diagnosed with the virus. The NHL has advised teams to cancel practices and meetings.

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

NBC Sports Chicago

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

Manchester City is coming off a season in which it dominated the English Premier League to the tune of a record 100-point season.

City is kicking off the preseason of its title defense in Chicago. City takes on Borussia Dortmund at Soldier Field on Friday night.

The last time the reigning Premier League champions were in Chicago was when rivals Manchester United came to Soldier to take on the Chicago Fire in 2011.

The Citizens won’t have the full arsenal of stacked stars for its U.S. tour, which also includes stops in New York and Miami as part of the International Champions Cup. Many of the team’s best players are getting a break after playing in the World Cup. Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne, one of the stars of the tournament, is one of six Man City players to reach the semifinals.

Paul Dickov, who played for City for nearly 10 years between 1996 and 2008, is on tour with the team and talked about City’s preparations.

“The reason the clubs want to come to the States and play in International Champions Cup is the facilities are fantastic, the training facilities, the hotels, the treatment they get and just give them the best preparation going into what’s going to be a hard season,” Dickov said. “Nobody has won the Premier League back-to-back titles for nearly 10 years now so it’s going to be tough. Coming here and being able to prepare the way they can in the United States is going to put them on a long way to regain the title again.”

City brought the Premier League trophy to Wrigley Field on Thursday for the Cubs-Cardinals game. Dickov got to throw out the first pitch. The Scotsman threw a strike, much to his relief.

“I was quite calm beforehand, but I must admit when I got out there and I had to walk out there both hands started getting a bit sweaty,” he said. “I managed to make it and I got a fantastic reception off the Chicago Cubs fans so thank you to everybody at Chicago Cubs for having me there. It was great. Something I’ll never forget.”

Dickov compared Cubs fans to City fans in the way both teams struggled for a long time before finding success.

“They stuck by us through thick and thin when things weren’t as great,” Dickov said of Man City fans. “I suppose it’s a little bit like the Chicago Cubs here in Chicago. The fans turn out, they get 30-40 thousand, great atmosphere, back their team.”

While promoting the game, the Premier League trophy made multiple stops in Chicago, including with the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on an off day.

City also took the trophy and new signing Riyad Mahrez, who just joined Man City from 2016 champions Leicester City, to Haas Park in Logan Square. Haas Park includes a soccer field donated by Manchester City and the American embassy of the United Arab Emirates in 2012.

“The outcome of it has been great,” Dickov said. “Thousands of children and families benefiting, not just from the soccer part of it, but the education program as well. To be down there the other day for the full day and seeing the joy in the kids face seeing soccer here and the other activities that are on is great because, yeah, football is fantastic, soccer is fantastic and when you’re out there and you play you want to win, but it’s important, especially from Manchester City’s point of view, the city and the community. The stuff that they do off the field is second to none and it’s giving something back.”