A day after general manager Nelson Rodriguez talked about how he thinks the team needed improvements in multiple areas, Rodriguez finalized a trade to bring in a new player.
The Fire traded for midfielder Tony Tchani, sending $150,000 of Targeted Allocation Money to Vancouver. The 28-year-old midfielder could take on the role Juninho filled for the Fire last season, which was to fill in for either Dax McCarty or Bastian Schweinsteiger at defensive midfield or on certain occasions play alongside the duo.
Tchani isn't the playmaker Rodriguez talked about the Fire needing, but his addition could free up Schweinsteiger to play higher up the field. Coach Veljko Paunovic had talked about Schweinsteiger being more involved in the Fire's attack when Schweinsteiger was first added last season, but he gradually shifted into a deeper role.
Tchani was born in Cameroon and has represented the Indomitable Lions on two occasions, including an African Cup of Nations qualifier in 2016, but he has U.S. citizenship so he will not count as an international on the roster.
The University of Virginia product has been in MLS since 2010 and has played for four teams (New York Red Bulls, Toronto FC, Columbus Crew and Vancouver), but is probably most known for his five-year stint with the Crew. Tchani has made 169 MLS starts in his career and was a regular starter on Columbus' MLS Cup finalist team in 2015. Last season Tchani made 26 starts for the Whitecaps.
The price wasn't expensive (David Accam went for more than 10 times as much allocation money and Dax McCarty went for nearly three times as much a year ago), but Tchani should play regular minutes for the Fire in 2018, even if not as a consistent starter like he has been for the past few years of his career.
Defensive midfield depth likely wasn't the biggest hole on the Fire's roster. Rookie Mo Adams has had an impressive preseason and could have been a competent backup, but by adding Tchani, the Fire won't have to rely on a rookie to play significant minutes. That said, Tchani does give the Fire plenty of MLS experience and gives Paunovic some added flexibility with how he chooses to use the midfield.