Fire places claim on dynamic midfielder
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The Chicago Fire has filed a discovery claim with MLS on a 19-year-old Ecuadorian midfielder the club found on a scouting trip to Argentina.
According to Andell Holdings' Javier Leon, the player is a two-way midfielder who can play the middle or right side and is "very dynamic, like Patrick Nyarko."
Leon declined to name the player until he signs.
Coach Frank Klopas leaves Saturday on a scouting trip to Spain, Switzerland and Germany, where he will meet Fire midfielder Pavel Pardo at Pardo's former club, Stuttgart, to take advantage of Pardo's connections there. Klopas said he might also travel to Italy.
In Spain, Klopas and Leon will drop in at Atletico Madrid — a La Liga club with which the Fire has a partnership agreement — not only to scout first- and second-team players who might be available to go on loan to MLS, but also to see how Atletico Madrid trains and operates.
"I think that's going to pay dividends in the long run," Klopas said, adding, "We're looking to add depth up front with the forward line and also provide depth in the midfield."
Leon said Nyarko and Marco Pappa could train at Atletico Madrid in January, another way the club hopes to take advantage of the partnership.
Klopas said he also hopes to find someone to back up Gonzalo Segares at left back, though that player could come from MLS via next week's re-entry draft or trade.
The Fire also will need to find a couple of goalkeepers to back up Sean Johnson after choosing not to pick up the option on the contracts of Jon Conway and Alec Dufty. That will be especially important if Johnson misses games next spring to go through Olympic qualifying.
Get out the passport:
Sean Johnson will head to England next week to train with English Premier League side Everton.
"I think it's good," Klopas said Thursday. "It's a good opportunity for him, even if it's a week, to experience and see different things in training."
Johnson will work with American goalkeeper Tim Howard and U.S. national team goalkeeper coach Chris Woods at Everton. The experience should benefit Johnson in every area of his game, Klopas said.
Johnson, 22, seems a good bet to join U.S. U-23 coach Caleb Porter's team as it goes through Olympic qualifying next spring. Johnson saw time with the senior national team under former coach Bob Bradley, but he has yet to be called up by new coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Klinsmann has been a big supporter of training visits such as the week at Everton that Johnson will enjoy.
Goodbye to Baggio:
Here is what Frank Klopas had to say on the decision not to pick up the club option on midfielder Baggio Husidic's contract:
"You've got to make decisions. They're not very easy. When you make decisions like that you wish the players nothing but the best."
On the world stage:
The U.S. men's national team will begin 2012 with a pair of friendlies. The United States will host Venezuela on Jan. 21 at Glendale, Ariz., then travel to play at Panama four days later. Next summer the United States begins CONCACAF qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
Follow Orrin Schwarz's reports on Twitter @orrinsoccer.
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