Can Fernandez ignite sputtering offense?
This was no time for a vacation.
Desperate to find someone capable of igniting its stagnating offense, the Chicago Fire made a trade Friday afternoon, acquiring playmaking midfielder Alvaro Fernandez from Seattle Sounders FC for allocation money.
"The opportunity was there," Fire coach Frank Klopas said. "I know a lot of people worked very hard, especially (Fire executives Javier Leon and Guillermo Petrei). They didn't sleep much these last couple of days."
When your club has been shut out in its last two MLS games and scored just twice in its last five games, something has to be done. Fernandez doesn't bring the name recognition of an Andriy Schevchenko — who had talks with the Fire during the just-closed summer transfer window — but he is in the prime of his career and a proven commodity.
Unlike off-season acquisitions Federico Puppo and Rafael Robayo, Fernandez has shown he can play well in MLS. Puppo and Robayo proved to be disappointments and were loaned back to clubs in their home countries earlier this week.
Fernandez, 26, brings a dimension the Fire lost when Sebastian Grazzini went on a leave of absence at the beginning of July to attend to family matters in Argentina. He can create scoring opportunities for the likes of Dominic Oduro, Chris Rolfe, Marco Pappa and the newly signed Sherjill MacDonald. Like Fernandez, MacDonald, a Dutch forward, is signed to a big-money Designated Player contract.
Much will be expected of both DPs as the Fire tries to end a two-year playoff drought. The Fire (9-7-4, 31 points) sits in fifth place, which would give it the final playoff spot from the Eastern Conference if the season ended today.
"He can create and he can score," Klopas said of Fernandez, who has scored 13 goals in 55 MLS regular-season matches since joining Seattle in 2010 after making four appearances in Uruguay's run to the World Cup semifinals.
Fernandez became available when Seattle signed German midfielder Christian Tiffert as a DP. He has struggled this season, with just 2 goals and 2 assists in 14 appearances. The Fire hopes the change in scenery rejuvenates Fernandez.
"He gives us more flexibility with options," Klopas said, noting Fernandez can play centrally or wide in the midfield. Klopas sees the 6-foot-1 Fernandez as a two-way player who is good in the air.
Fernandez is expected to be in San Jose on Saturday night (9:30 p.m., NBC Nonstop) for the Fire's match, but Klopas said he is not likely to play. MacDonald also made the trip.
It's not the first time the Fire has found a DP in Seattle. The Fire acquired Freddie Ljungberg from the Sounders two years ago.
Follow Orrin on Twitter @orrinsoccer
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