The MLS summer transfer window opens tomorrow, and the Fire are in desperate need of reinforcements. While the defense has remained solid, adding midfield and attacking options will be crucial if the team is to turn the season around. We’re going on our fifth month without any real threat coming from the wings, and performances in the midfield have been too hot and cold for a team hoping to make the playoffs. However, rumblings from inside the club suggest that help could be on the way. I’m hearing that the Fire front office intends to sign three players this summer. Specifically a striker from within MLS, a U-22 midfielder or winger (a move they’ve been working on since January), and one more depth piece somewhere. Let’s dive in, shall we?
This window will once again be spearheaded by Georg Heitz. His record as Sporting Director is shaky, to say the least. His only real hits in terms of signings have been Rafa Czichos, Federico Navarro, and for the time being Chris Mueller. Jairo Torres is yet to prove his worth, and Xherdan Shaqiri is most definitely a bust. The other signings have been mediocre at best, with players like Stanislav Ivanov, Chinoso Offor, and Gaston Gimenez being total duds. Also, the scouting and signing processes were carried out lazily to begin with. We were all marveling at the signing of Shaqiri when it first happened, but if you look beyond the surface level you can see how easy it was for him to complete the signing. It was the easiest option for a big-name DP signing. Shaqiri and Heitz have known each other for years, back from their Basel days, of course Shaqiri would be inclined to move here. So no real hard work was done there. Rafael Czichos’s contract was expiring and he always dreamed of living in the United States. No convincing was needed there. The club got absolutely rinsed on the Chris Mueller deal. Half a million dollars to a club he had no intention of returning to in the first place (Orlando City) is shocking stuff. The money spent on Shaqiri and Torres raised asking prices on other players they wanted to sign at the time, eventually leading to the moves falling through. This is Georg Heitz’s third season at the club and he has failed to build a winning team with every attempt. There are some huge question marks around his understanding of the league and around his ability to be efficient in the market. Transfers take him and his staff ages to complete most of the time, and on the occasions they do happen fast it’s because the move is rushed.
But, it appears that the Fire want to complete moves quickly and efficiently this window, with the first one slated to be done by the end of the first week. I don’t have any confirmed names, but the MLS striker is one with experience in the league that they’re hoping will slot in right away and be the starting number nine, playing most minutes. Kacper Przybylko obviously hasn’t panned out the way we all thought he would (add him to the list of transfer flops by Heitz), and Hendrickson isn’t the biggest fan of Jhon Duran. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Duran at the nine, but the coach doesn’t see him as the solution there. A striker that’s been getting minutes and has bagged a handful of goals this year is the ideal solution. I’m just spit-balling here, but players like Jaroslaw Niezgoda of Portland Timbers, or Patryk Klimala of New York Red Bulls, or Kwadwo Opoku of Los Angeles FC would be ideal. It would be difficult to convince their clubs to let them leave but, for a pretty price, anything can happen. Or if they’re feeling bullish and want to go big, maybe see if you can pull off a stunning move for Josef Martinez of Atlanta United, who is having a relatively quiet season. Bringing back CJ Sapong from Nashville is also not a bad idea. Fanendo Adi, Jurgen Locadia, and Kekuta Manneh are the best strikers currently in MLS free agency. Daniel Salloi, Andre Shinyashiki, and Benji Michel all have contracts expiring at the end of the year, which could be used as leverage to sign them now but for a smaller fee.
The club has a long list of names for U-22 Initiative options, but the move I think they’re going to make is to revisit the deal for Venezuelan winger Yerson Chacon currently at Deportivo Táchira in the Venezuelan Primera Division. The Fire got priced out of signing the young winger in the winter after his club inserted a release clause into his contract once they heard what the Fire paid for Shaqiri and Torres, but I would not be surprised if they went in for him again. They rate him highly. With 16 goals and 9 assists to his name at barely 18 years old, you can see why. The other options appear to be similar players currently playing in South America. It would be interesting to see them sign a young guy from a well-known European team like Columbus did with Cucho Hernandez from Watford, but they appear to be intent on finding a gem in South America.
As for the third player, it looks like they want to add a depth piece either in the midfield or in defense. Judging off of past Fire acquisitions, this will probably be a player we’ve never heard of from a random team in an obscure soccer nation. I think if they can find a versatile defender that can play all along the backline, they should do that. If not, another midfielder would be helpful, maybe one that can play box to box. They could do with another holding midfielder, but an attacking one could be good for rotation as well. Honestly, the most versatile player they can find that will be okay with simply being a rotation player is the best option. A player that can fill in multiple positions should injury and suspension become an issue.
Fans should definitely be skeptical about Georg Heitz. I’m not sure if he can be fully trusted to oversee another transfer window. I do trust head coach Ezra Hendrickson though. I know it’s not how things work in this league, but if I’m Joe Mansueto I go straight to Ezra Hendrickson and ask him which players he wants and then I sign those players. We can’t afford for Georg Heitz to have another shambolic transfer window. If the signings don’t happen or don’t have the necessary impact, we can write this season off.
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