The Fire's signing of Mexican forward Guillermo Franco is a win-win situation for a team looking ahead to the MLS playoffs, but don't expect a slew of goals in what remains of the season.
The Fire announced the two-time World Cup veteran's addition to the roster Friday. He will see his first action with the club in Tuesday morning's reserve game against FC Dallas.
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"I'm very happy," Franco said after training Friday. "This is definitely something I was looking forward to in my career. Just being able to be here because this is a league that is growing very much, and from what I've seen the American people always look for excellence in anything that they do, and that's one of the reasons that I'm here."
While someone like Andrei Shevchenko, who the Fire courted earlier this season, would have expected to start games, the 35-year-old Franco arrives fully aware that he is no longer a 90-minute player, that he might not even be listed as a substitute for some of the seven regular-season games remaining.
He brings professionalism, with his ego tucked away.
"It's just an experienced forward that it's good to add at this point in the season," Fire coach Frank Klopas said. "He brings a lot of experience, many matches and games that were high-pressure games, and it's just good to have a different option with a little bit different look. A good guy in the box, good in the air, plus a good attitude, good mentality, a good guy. All of those things are important."
"We didn't want to upset the locker room," Fire president of soccer operations Javier Leon added.
Considering the relatively low salary Franco will collect the final few months of the season, the Fire had little to lose by signing him.
"My expectations are pretty tempered," said Franco, who is only signed through the end of this season -- for now. "I know I'm coming in toward the end of the season. I know I'm not going to have a whole lot of time to catch up, but it's my expectation that I will contribute my experience to this team, and that's what I'm here to do, so I can get to know them and they can get to know me for the future."
Franco, who has requested the No. 10 previously worn by Sebastian Grazzini, also can help the Fire draw fans from the Hispanic community.
"There's quite a lot of excitement (in the Hispanic community) because he's a player with quite a bit of history of having played at the highest levels," Leon said.
Klopas can call on Franco late in tight games, and if a playoff game goes to penalty kicks, Klopas certainly will want Franco to be among the five players selected to shoot. The club learned that lesson in its last playoff appearance three years ago when it lost to Real Salt Lake on PKs. In 2009, the Fire had to call on players such as defender Brandon Prideaux to shoot.
He could take even more playing time from Dominic Oduro, who scored a dozen goals last year and was a starter early in the season but lost that role to Sherjill MacDonald after the Dutch forward joined the team at midseason. Oduro has 5 goals this season.
"Oduro's got a lot of pace," Klopas said, noting teams often play more defensively in the playoffs. "I don't think he's going to outrun Oduro. But maybe he's better in the air, in the box. All that stuff. Just another dimension we can use depending on how games are and how teams play against us."
With the MLS roster freeze deadline Saturday afternoon, Franco is almost certainly the last player added to the roster, leaving the team with 27 players, three below the league maximum.
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