Vancouver Whitecaps

After front office said additions were needed, Fire trade for Tony Tchani

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USA TODAY

After front office said additions were needed, Fire trade for Tony Tchani

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.

Preview: Fire hope to get back on track against Vancouver Saturday on CSN+

Preview: Fire hope to get back on track against Vancouver Saturday on CSN+

Winning was starting to become a habit for the Chicago Fire this season.

Since Bastian Schweinsteiger’s arrival in April, the team took some time to coalesce but had turned into a well-tuned machine through May and much of June, going through 10 matches without a loss (8-0-2).

However, Wednesday’s setback in the U.S. Open Cup at Cincinnati presents a new challenge for the team. A team which had gotten used to winning now has to regroup after a long game and just a few days of rest.

The Fire’s response against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday at Toyota Park could be telling for what’s ahead this season. The match will be live on CSN+ (channel finder) with coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m.

The game in Cincinnati represented a second time in June that the Fire were unable to score against a team that was defending deep. Coach Veljko Paunovic brought up the comparison between the Cincinnati loss and the scoreless draw in Orlando on June 4 and said the team spoke about that during halftime in Ohio.

“What we learned is the importance of one play, one single play,” Paunovic said.

Vancouver may not defend in the same manner as a minor league team (Cincinnati) or a team playing with nine men (Orlando), but the Whitecaps (6-6-3, 21 points) do have one of the better defensive records in the league with 21 goals allowed in 15 matches.

“We just got to make sure we’re a little bit more clinical in front of goal,” midfielder Arturo Alvarez said. “This game is cruel, it’s unfair so whenever you don’t put those chances in at the end you’re kind of wishing you had those back or what not. At that point it’s too late.”

The Fire (10-3-4, 34 points) have won seven straight at home, but have a few factors going against them on Saturday. For one, David Accam and Dax McCarty are still away on national team duty and will go up against each other on Saturday in a friendly between Ghana and the U.S. that should finish less than an hour before the Fire kickoff against Vancouver.

On top of that, the Fire will be playing for the third time in eight days, including the 120 minutes plus penalties they endured at Cincinnati. Most of the Fire’s regular starting lineup, including Bastian Schweinsteiger and Nemanja Nikolic, played all 120 minutes.

The Whitecaps will be without standout center back Kendall Waston, who had surgery on his right hand a week ago, and midfielder Christian Bolanos is questionable with a shoulder sprain after sitting out the last two games.

Fire vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.

TV: CSN+ (channel finder)

When: Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live

Records: Fire (10-3-4, 34 points), Vancouver (6-6-3, 21 points)