The Chicago Fire entered the summer transfer window on Tuesday needing to make major roster changes if there’s going to be any hope of the team competing for an MLS Cup.
Even with reports that midfield star Bastian Schweinsteiger may elect to hang around in Chicago for another year or two, the Fire field a side that knows their window of opportunity is now. Yet they sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference (though they’re only a point off a playoff position) and have suffered both from a lack of offensive firepower and disorganization in the back.
However, two days into the transfer period, it’s still unclear what the team is most seriously pursuing.
They could certainly stand to add help on the wing, a true No. 10, a starting goalie and a center back to pair with Johan Kappelhof
On Thursday, the Fire managed to make a move, signing Argentine central defender Nicolas Del Grecco. The 24-year-old has been with Honduran club Deportivo Olimpia since Jan. 22 and had previously captained Club Deportivo Libertad de Sunchales in the Argentine third division.
The Fire ultimately hope that Del Grecco projects to be a part of the bigger picture in central defense but, given the competition levels he’s played against, it’s far from a guarantee that he’ll become a fixture on the team sheet. So the organization still has just a few weeks to patch as many of the aforementioned holes as possible.
But do they even see themselves in the same light as general onlookers? Because the most serious play they’ve made at a major addition was with former Atletico Madrid star Fernando Torres.
Torres certainly would have given the Fire marketing department a little added juice after a long and successful career in the Premier League and La Liga as well as international fame with Spain. He could have provided additional scoring ability at forward, but it would have required a shape adjustment unless they planned on getting rid of Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolic.
Signing Torres also would have eaten up their final designated player spot and made it much harder to add a proven commodity in areas of true need. Particularly in the attacking midfield.
The good news for the Fire is that their permanent acquisition of Aleksandar Katai from Deportivo Alaves provided some salary cap flexibility, as Guillermo Rivera of The Athletic pointed out recently. It keeps Katai from becoming their third designated player and frees up the targeted allocation money they acquired by trading winger David Accam during the offseason.
However, now it’s up to Nelson Rodriguez to actually do something with that flexibility and TAM to produce results moving forward. But it’s hard to have a lot of confidence given the Fire’s issues of the last two seasons, how those issues were compounded by trading Accam and their general tentativeness in the spring transfer window.
There hasn’t been much convincing chatter linking the Fire to anybody of note at any of the four major areas of need in recent weeks. So seeing them limp into this transfer window by taking a shot in the dark on a central defender who has been playing in a Central American league doesn’t give the impression that they’re feeling the pressure they should.
And that’s just unfortunate because when they aced the Schweinsteiger and Nikolic signings last season, it propelled the organization forward at a pace few would have expected. Since things have stagnated and their position in the standings throughout the season has served as a live feed of the window to winning a championship closing.
This summer is their last chance of propping that window open for another season or two and even if Del Grecco is helpful at center back, that’s not the type of signing to do it.
There’s still time and so we’ll wait patiently to see how this all plays out. But you can’t help but feel like we’re going to be waiting all the way through the Aug. 8 deadline.