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Wells Thompson’s ill-defined middle ground

Real Salt Lake v Colorado Rapids

COMMERCE CITY, CO - AUGUST 04: Wells Thompson #15 of Colorado Rapids controls the ball against Jonny Steele #22 of Real Salt Lake at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on August 4, 2012 in Commerce City, Colorado. The Rapids defeated Real Salt Lake 1-0. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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While we were all focused on the the U.S. men’s national team, there was a trade in Major League Soccer. On the surface, Wells Thompson to Chicago (for a conditional pick) looks innocuous, but there’s a twist: Thompson had requested the trade.

When you think of players demanding trades, you think of contract disputes. You think of players of a certain status feeling disrespected. Or maybe you deduce there must be some personal issue motivating the move.

Thompson’s situation is a strange one. He’s generally considered a plus guy to have around (he was Colorado’s humanitarian of the year). His work ethic is top-shelf, one which sets a great example for teammates. But he’s not a prolific scorer, and beyond his engine, Thompson doesn’t possess any plus qualities on the field.

Thompson falls into the same category as Mike Magee and former teammate Brian Mullan. They’re great guys to have when you’re filling out a team. They can even be part of a championship squad. But they’re not players you’re going to shift shells for. That’s strange middle-ground: Not good enough to build around, but potentially valuable.

But shell-shifting is what Thompson wanted. Reports are his trade request was a result of insufficient playing time. After starting regularly last year, Thompson was seeing diminished time this season. At 28 years old, Thompson may feel it’s now or never.

For a struggling Colorado team, it’s an easy decision. Why would you start shifting things around for a 28-year-old you see as a part-time player?

Starting tonight, Thompson gets to live his “now” with Chicago. The Fire are visiting Toronto at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. While you’d assume the Fire wouldn’t have acquired Thompson without being prepared to play him, it’s hard to see Thompson as a sure starter. Chicago has a number of players capable of playing in Thompson’s spots. Are they ready to inject Thompson into the starting XI of a playoff team?