Fire coach Frank Klopas liked what he saw of Alex Monteiro De Lima on a scouting trip to Europe last summer, and he also liked what he saw of De Lima in his clubs preseason training in Florida.
It took until Thursday, however, before the Fire could land the Brazilians services on loan from FC Wohlen, a second division club in Switzerland.
"We tried to get him (in January), so hed be with us from the beginning, said Klopas, "but he was an important part of his (Swiss) team and that club didnt want to lose a key player at a critical point in its season.
The Fire will get De Lima on June 27, when the international transfer window opens. Hell stay in Switzerland until Wohlens season is over, then can train with the Fire until hes eligible to play. His eligibility begins a month before Argentine midfielder Sebastian Grazzinis contract expires. He was signed to a one-contract in July, at the opening of the 2011 transfer window.
While theres no guarantee that Grazzini, 31, will move on, at least De Lima will be available as a fill-in. Like many Brazilian players, De Lima prefers to go by just his first name, "Alex" for soccer purposes.
"Its all about depth. Hes just a good, young striker or attacking mid(fielder), said Klopas, following Thursdays training session in Bridgeview. "Hell be a good addition. He has a lot of good qualities.
Unlike Grazzini last season, De Lima wont be a total newcomer to the Fire roster. Though he wasnt released from his Swiss contract, Wohlen did allow De Lima to train for two weeks with the Fire and he played in two preseason games.
"I had been in Europe to look at a couple players, and he was one of them," said Klopas. "He had a good chance to be in our environment, with our players in training."
The Fire hasnt had much luck with the few Brazilian players that have been good enough to make the roster. Rodrigo Faria was highly touted at the start of the 2003 season, but left after five games to tend to family matters and never returned. Thiago (full name Thiago De Rosa Correa) had nine goals and 10 assists spread over 67 matches and four playoff games from 2005-07. William Oliveira got into eight matches, four as a starter, in 2007 and scored a goal.
De Lima, 23, hopes to do more. He began his professional career with FC Gossau in the Swiss Challenge League, scoring two goals in 18 matches from 2009-10. The 5-8, 155-pound DeLima was then transferred to Wohlen, where he has seven goals in 44 appearances over the last two seasons.
"Im looking forward to joining the Chicago Fire," said De Lima, speaking through a translator in a statement released by the Fire. "I hope my skill and experience will help as the Fire pushes for a playoff spot...I am excited to rejoin Frank and the team in June.